The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

New Report Details Funding Sources Behind Anti-Muslim Fearmongers

By Robert Steinback on August 26, 2011 - 1:00 pm, Posted in Anti-Muslim, Extremist Propaganda

The rising tide of Islamophobia in the United States is not a natural or spontaneous outgrowth of popular fear of Muslim fundamentalist terrorism, nor is it the product of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Rather, it is the design of “a small, tightly networked group of misinformation experts guiding an effort that reaches millions of Americans through effective advocates, media partners, and grassroots organizing,” according to a powerful investigative report released today by the progressive think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).

Entitled “Fear, Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America,” the 130-page report asserts that five “experts” are primarily responsible for the dissemination of false facts and materials used by political leaders, grassroots groups and the media to generate unreasonable fears about Muslims and Islam. Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, seven foundations have provided over $42 million in support for this focused campaign, the report determined.

“This small network of people is driving the national and global debates that have real consequences on the public dialogue and on American Muslims,” the report said. “Due in part to the relentless efforts of this small group of individuals and organizations, Islam is now the most negatively viewed religion in America.”

The five key misinformation experts identified by the report: Frank Gaffney at the Center for Security Policy (see also here); David Yerushalmi at the Society of Americans for National Existence (see also here); Daniel Pipes at the Middle East Forum; Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch and Stop Islamization of America (see also here), and Steven Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

Their research – which is routinely exaggerated, deceptively selective or outright false – empowers key “grassroots” activists, particularly Brigitte Gabriel of ACT! for America, Pamela Geller of Stop Islamization of America (see also here and here), and David Horowitz of the David Horowitz Freedom Center; and a small group of “validators” of Middle Eastern extraction, including Nonie Darwish, Zuhdi Jasser, Walid Phares and Walid Shoebat, the report said.

The report reaffirms and amplifies several earlier analyses, including this one (see also here) by the Southern Poverty Law Center, regarding the roles of these key players in inflaming public animosity against Muslims. In meticulous detail, the report debunks many of the central tenets put forth by the “experts” of Islamophobia, and tracks how their flawed assertions metastasize through the right-wing media and political echo chamber.

In addition, the CAP report is the first to peel back the shroud obscuring how this cast of characters has financed its activities. The top seven foundations identified by the report are the Donors Capital Fund; the Richard Mellon Scaife Foundation; the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation; the Newton and Rochelle Becker Foundation and Newton and Rochelle Becker Charitable Trust; the Russell Berrie Foundation; the Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund; and the Fairbrook Foundation. These funding sources have also allowed the leading peddlers of Islamophobia to personally profit handsomely from their work, the report shows.

These organizations “provide critical funding to a clutch of right-wing think tanks and misinformation experts who peddle hate and fear of Muslims and Islam – in the form of books, reports, websites, blogs, and carefully crafted talking points, which dedicated anti-Islam grassroots organizations and some right-wing religious groups use as propaganda for their constituency. These foundations and wealthy donors also provide direct funding to anti-Islam grassroots groups,” according to the report.

The report acknowledged that in some cases, donors and foundations may be providing only general-purpose support to the think tanks, and thus may “have no knowledge of the hateful and inaccurate [anti-Muslim] propaganda generated with their money.”

“We don’t know what level of awareness the donors have about the various Islamophobic activities that they are supporting,” report co-author Faiz Shakir told Hatewatch in an E-mail. “Do they agree with Gaffney and Spencer’s hate campaigns against Muslims or not? By revealing the donors’ names and documenting their connections to the hate, we are giving the foundations an opportunity to explain what their position on anti-Muslim prejudice is. Hopefully, they will join us in helping to end Islamophobia.”

The largest and most insidious single contribution cited by the CAP report was an $18 million donation in 2008 by the Donors Capital Fund to the Clarion Fund, which distributed copies of the controversial propaganda film “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West” to 28 million swing-state voters in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election. That DVD was described by a Florida distributor as “the single most powerful piece of media over the past five years in persuading average Americans to the Islamist threat.”

The authors hope this report will be a first step toward counteracting what to date has been a shrewdly designed campaign to build irrational fears about Muslims and Islam, Shakir said. “The problem is that the network is very committed to their cause. They will hold rallies, publish blog posts, and make calls to congressmen. We need that same level of commitment if we’re going to marginalize their influence. After reading our report, I hope people will help disseminate it to their networks via Twitter, Facebook, and email lists. Our success depends on getting the truth out.”

  • Dick Lancaster

    Islamic fundementalists simply tell us their goals and the process they plan to undertake to attain them. Those of us who have ears and brains of our own don’t really need others groups to tell us what we should fear.

    The Center for American Progress report sounds like fearmongering towards those who actually believe the islamo-fascist promises.

    Keep your head on straight and perhaps you won’t lose it.

  • kate

    The uber-rich and corporatists have one goal in mind: to distract the people and keep them fighting amongst eachother over trivia such as skin color and religion. All the while they rape the country and the people of everything they have.

    What is worse, is that the more they gain, the more money they can direct toward themselves and away from the people. It is a never-ending cycle and as long as the people continue to fall for the trap (of divisiveness and infighting) instead of understanding what is really going on, it will continue to get worse.

    The strategy is successful and unfortunately I don’t see an end to it anytime soon.

    Might I add that the foundations listed in the post fund many mainstream projects, such as PBS programs and the like, hopefully they will learn to keep a better watch on where their grants go.

  • Paul

    Richard Farnsworth,
    Are you really incapable of distinguishing between supporters of a major world religion and people who systematically spread slanderous lies about that religion?
    And who has said anything at all about the “evil White Man” in relation to this topic?
    As a person of northern European descent, it has been my life-long experience that the only people who complain about about “unfairness to Whites” are RACISTS who resent being called out for their racism.

  • Richard Farnsworth

    SO who is behind all the funding promoting the Moslem Faith in America?>>Who is financing the building of multi-milliopn dollar cultural centers?..Lets put BOTH sides of ALL the issues out there and be fair about our journalism.Lets not just concentrate on the evil White Man…EVen though the Whites have done much bad,theres plenty of dirt to go around…

  • Robin White

    “misinformation experts”–I like that.

  • Linnea

    So glad these haters are being exposed, and that SPLC is getting some help doing it. You know what they say: sunshine is the best disinfectant.

  • skinnyminny

    Matthew Bright,
    I think what is happening, in re Murdoch’s and Saudi Royal…they are helping the people of hate speech become their own victims of self-destruction. Most people from other countries know or at least think, that all Americans want is money, power, sex and drugs. To kinda explain this, remember when OBL said that we would end up bankrupting this country with the wars in the ME. That is what is happening, is it?

    But wait, there’s more, see this story, Kashmir vs. West Bank, and to think that it stops at Murdoch, you know that Beck has a ‘tv’, here is something else (***note, I have not looked at this, but you may want to) “British National Party Television,” here a speech was given by Nick Griffin, and lastly, here is something else (***note, I have not read this either, I usually don’t pull up pdf files) “How a BNP government would impoverish, divide and bankrupt Britain,” and while you’re at it for hurryupharry see the story, “Repairing Richard Silverstein’s World on 8-24-2011, and you will see the racist comments this blogger said about Jesse Jackson Jr. visiting Israel, this blogger is in Seattle. As the commenter above, Hugo, said about Jim Crow, this blogger made some horrible remarks about this. You’d be surprised by what is really going on, that is why I read SPLC and hurry up harry, because this is bigger than you think! It doesn’t stop or begin at OUR waters edge.

  • Matthew Bright

    I’m not a conspiracy freak, but consider that the largest shareholder of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corps, besides Rupert Murdoch himself, and which provides the most important outlet for these purveyors of hate speech, is a member of the Saudi Royal family.

    Stirring up hate has always been a tool for the both the world’s super rich and the Republican Party in the US, and I suspect that if the Saudi government and Arab despots around the world didn’t have an Israel to blame for the necessity of their vicious and underhanded juntas, they’d have to invent one.

  • Reynardine

    Vast right- wing conspiracy? No: highly concentrated, intensely focused, fearsomely organized, forethoughtfully malicious, RICH conspiracy. What do they REALLY want? Why do they think they’ll get it this way? Figure that out, and you may have done this country the greatest service since the Union won the Civil War.

  • Ramses

    It’s not been a full day yet and Think Progress has already been “attacked” by David Horowitz, who called Think Progress “fascistic” but did not offer any logical rebuttal of the Center for American Progress’s (CAP) findings beyond the same brand of conspiracy-mongering speech he’s used.

    Robert Spencer has also chimed in and called the CAP report a part of the “Islamic Supremacist Propaganda Machine,” as reported on Think Progress.

    Obviously, CAP hit a nerve with these cranks. Sadly, it’s further proof that you can get people to say ludicrous – and in this instance, patently threatening – rhetoric if you give them enough money.

  • Hugo Carmichael

    The hatred being incited against Muslim Americans is rising to almost a fever pitch. As an African American, I recognise the parallels to the Racial hatred incited against my people during the era of Jim Crow. I refer to the progressive dehumanising of Muslim Americans by people who should know better. People like David Yerushalmi a Jewish American who should not do to Muslims, what has been done against Jewish People for centuries.
    During Jim Crow, the open public hatred of African Americans made it easy for white mobs to riot, lynch and murders us. It was Jewish Americans and other White Americans standing side by side with us that put that shameful era behind us. I call on Black Americans and White Americans to stand beside Muslims Americans and not allow others to deny them their Civil Rights given to ALL Men by our Creator.