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BuzzFeed And The ‘Tongues Of Fire’

When BuzzFeed posted an article attacking Max Blumenthal by using his father many were left in shock and awe. The author, Rosie Gray, and Blumenthal had a combative history, but using someone’s dad to attack them? That takes the politics of personal destruction to whole new level, surely this was the worst kind of personal attack.

Or was it?

Perhaps Ms. Gray had a point. Perhaps it is appropriate to look at people’s background and relationships when evaluating their journalistic work. So let’s begin.

Gray’s editor at BuzzFeed is Ben Smith. Smith is the son of shady right wing judge and has a long relationship with neoconservatives. The most obvious example would be Smith’s work at the New York Sun, a ultraconservative newspaper where Smith apprenticed with neoconservative Seth Lipsky. Lipsky, to put it lightly, has a right wing agenda. An agenda which appears to include advocating the banning of abortion, for certain people at least.

Needless to say Blumenthal’s new book Goliath probably did not win him a place in Lipsky’s heart. Though it looks as though Lipsky has won a place in Smith’s heart as Smith wrote in favor of giving Lipsky a column at the New York Times.

One of Smith’s colleagues at the Sun was problematic reporter Eli Lake. Lake may be best known as one of the 2003 Iraq War’s most vocal cheerleaders insisting – even after the invasion and numerous fruitless searches – that Saddam had in fact had WMDS. Though, to be fair, his inappropriate relationship with a Georgian lobbyist seems to also be following Lake around. It’s a toss up as to what journalistic fail he is most famous for.

Though it is worth noting that Lake, being a committed serial fabulist, has continually tried to one up himself on credibility-killing stories even claiming recently that Al Qaeda was involved in a “Legion of Doom” like conference call. Seriously.

Eli Lake’s relationship with Rosie Gray is also a matter of some concern. It is widely believed Lake has been schooling her on the ways of neoconservatism and shoddy reporting, including giving her leads on stories. Though according to a former intern of Lake’s at the New York Sun, writer and researcher Charles Johnson, Lake may be having a romantic relationship with Gray. * Johnson, also an associate of Gray, claims that she gets a lot of her stories from her “boyfriend” Lake. That certainly constitutes an important relationship then.

So if we are following Gray’s logic we see she is influenced by two writers with neoconservative leanings. Anyone else? Let’s go back to the beginning. Gray believed Blumenthal’s father was an important influence, what about hers?

Peter Abrahams, Rosie Gray’s father, authored what can fairly be described as a racial blood-lust fantasy called Tongues of Fire. The book is a tough read if you enjoy reading things. If one were looking for an equivalent somewhere both in mentality, tone, and plot The Turner Diaries would fit. Though Abrahams does have a particular style to his work not found in most works that rely almost entirely on prejudice to make any sense.

In what may be a family tradition, Abrahams likes combining his sex and his politics – as seen on page 116:

And in that moment he felt a flooding of desire in his penis so strong, so quick, that it sucked in all his energy and made his mind a haze; and he knew without thinking that he had reached the shore of a dangerous land, more dangerous than the Battle of Haifa, more dangerous than Abu Fahoum’s bodyguard in the night. And danger found him right away: In the haze he saw Naomi’s face as it was in orgasm. His penis, not quite fully hard, fell like a bird shot at the instant of takeoff.

Well, that’s just terrible writing.

But the plot is even more disturbing than the prose. The book celebrates a character whose goal is to destroy Islam. Or as the book is advertised “The son of an Israeli will lead Islam to its doom!”

The book not only paints Arabs and Muslims as monsters to be slain, but Americans as crude opportunists. The book opens with the destruction of Israel in which America is blamed for double-crossing Israel and letting it be destroyed because “regular gasoline is six dollars a gallon at the pumps in Cleveland, Ohio.” When one of the main characters, Isaac Rehv, is rescued by an American boat as Israel burns the American sailors act like apathetic goons. Later we learn that America has a deal with Arab-controlled Palestine to send Jewish resistance fighters that are captured in America there for torture and imprisonment.

After being rescued by those awful Americans, Rehv becomes a professor of Islamic studies in America and sets out to take his revenge. Instead of trying to take back Israel, Rehv will try to take control of Islam and destroy it from within by using his knowledge of Islam. Don’t think about it, you’ll hurt yourself.

Rehv’s master plan involves fathering a son with a prostitute to become the Mahdi who will later be revealed to be the son of a Jew and a whore which will throw Islam into crisis. After paying a dark skinned prostitute named Paulette to have his son, Rehv trains his son to play the role of Mahdi for a tribe in the Sudan. The tribe is fooled and begins worshiping Rehv’s son as the Madhi, so many Muslims believe it that the government of Sudan collapses and the Madi takes control. It’s just-that-easy.

The story continually drifts back and forth from cartoonish cultural stereotypes and non sequitur sex scenes to the point that one is forced to wonder if the author had any reference material for the subjects he is writing about or whether it all came to him in a wet dream.

In any case, if we are to follow Rosie Gray’s logic that the works of the father are a key to understanding the child then Tongues of Fire is required reading for anyone trying to understand much of BuzzFeed’s political reporting.

* After objections from BuzzFeed Editor Ben Smith this line has been changed.

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Dan Wright

Dan Wright

Daniel Wright is a longtime blogger and currently writes for Shadowproof. He lives in New Jersey, by choice.