A network of conservative websites has spread malicious attacks intended to demonize one of the co-chairs of the Women’s March, which mobilized millions of Americans to resist President Donald Trump’s administration.
Linda Sarsour is a Palestinian-American Muslim racial justice and civil rights activist. She is a mother of three children and well-known for her work in New York. She was a prominent surrogate for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign in 2016.
The smears against Sarsour are not particularly new, but the effort to make them seem fresh and circulate them widely is a response to the success of the Women’s March that eclipsed the inauguration of Trump.
Each of the websites pushing attacks have reputations for publishing anti-Islam propaganda. They hope to tarnish the Women’s March by tying them to a “radical extremist” or push Women’s March organizers to condemn statements she has made in the past.
In a more pernicious sense, they would like American Muslims to be even more afraid of engaging in dissent. Such focus on an individual is aimed at further narrowing the confines of what is acceptable speech and activism in the United States.
The smear gaining the most traction was promoted by The Daily Caller, a site that was founded by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson as a kind of response to Huffington Post. A post, “Women’s March Organizer Recently Met Ex-Hamas Operative, Has Family Ties To Terror Group,” was shared by over one hundred thousand people on Facebook in two days.
It was picked up by Gateway Pundit (“Organizer For DC Women’s March, Linda Sarsour Is Pro Sharia Law with Ties To Hamas”), Jihad Watch (“Women’s March organizer Linda Sarsour has family ties to Hamas, recently met former Hamas financier”), American Thinker (“Terrorist tied co-chairman of Women’s March relies on the stupidity of liberal American females to push sharia”), FrontPage Mag (“The Anti-Semite Who Organized The ‘Women’s March on Washington’), Newsline, and PJ Media.
Daniel Pipes, a well-known player among an industry of people promoting fear of Islam, updated a post about Sarsour with a link to the smear.
FrontPage Magazine is edited by the rabid right-wing firebrand David Horowitz. He has committed the past fifteen to twenty years of his life to countering what he views as the radical left by demonizing college professors and spreading fear of Islam in order to turn more Americans against the presence of Muslims in America. He believes there is no racism in the United States, but plenty of black people, who are racists.
The post on FrontPage Mag clearly demonstrates the objective: make Sarsour unpalatable to the millions of Americans, who potentially took to the streets for the first time. Alienate them by presenting her dissenting views, especially her support for the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli occupation in Palestine. Make them uncomfortable because these are not popular views in American politics, and then go a step farther by tying her to foreign Islamic extremists whether there is proof or not. Convince them she is an agent of some insidious “enemy” they must fear.
It comes from a countersubversive tradition in America, as highlighted in Ellen Schrecker’s Many Are The Crimes: McCarthyism In America.
In the McCarthy era, the supposed threat was dehumanized. Anti-communist individuals drew upon hostility to the American left that was always a part of politics to advance their agenda. Similarly, this network of websites recognizes that hostility still exists today among swaths of the population.
More significantly, these sites recognize they have a countersubversive president. He shares their appetite for an anti-Islam crusade.
If the Senate confirms Senator Jeff Beauregard Sessions to the position of Attorney General, they will have a man at the Justice Department, who is a big fan of Horowitz and considers him to be a “brilliant” man. That could deeply influence crackdowns on radical activists, including people who share the views of Sarsour.
However, the Women’s March organizers and others responded on Twitter with steadfast solidarity against the malicious attacks.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) January 23, 2017
Carmen Perez, a Women’s March co-chair, declared, “We will always stand together because our liberation is bound in one another’s!” Activist Imraan Siddiqi reacted, “The bigots think that smearing Muslim activists will quell interfaith/intersectional solidarity. But we’re onto their game.” Amnesty International USA stated, “#IMarchWithLinda because [Linda Sarsour] embodies the spirit of a true activist. Stand up against hateful rhetoric. Do not let fear win.”
Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights responded, “#IMarchWithLinda so if you’re coming for her, you’re coming for all of us and trust me, you REALLY don’t want to do that.”
Thus far, the establishment media ignored the baseless smears spread by the network of conservative and anti-Islam websites. However, with this show of solidarity with Sarsour trending on Twitter, it is unlikely the mainstream press will ignore it entirely. That means the network will probably see much more prominent news outlets weigh the claims.
The attacks really aren’t only attacks against Sarsour. They are also a desperate effort to undermine the resistance against Trump by shifting attention to a single organizer. The best way to beat this back is to defend her activism, character, and rights without apology or hesitation, and then, shift immediately back to the target, President Donald Trump’s administration.
Linda Sarsour’s speech at the Women’s March: