For the modern left, the concept of political warfare abroad engenders a kind of squeamishness, if not revulsion; using propaganda to shape the public’s perceptions recalls outrage at the CIA’s information operations during the early years of the Cold War. While feigning shame for the history of robust promotion of America by the clandestine services in prior decades, inside the United States their desire to engage in sophisticated political warfare against their enemies is performed eagerly without the slightest hesitation.
One method of political warfare involves stoking a controversy and building a wedge between a constituency and an otherwise-favored candidate. As transparent an example you will find this year is Salon’s recent article “Perry: The Pro-Sharia Candidate?” — complete with the suggestive question mark. It was an attempt to divide a sizable portion of the GOP base from Texas Governor Rick Perry. By seizing on a local story highlighting Perry’s relationship with the Ismaili community in Texas, Salon’s Justin Elliott set out to create a fake controversy meant to alarm the millions of Americans concerned with radical Islam and homegrown jihad in America.
Elliott picked up his story’s framing from the Houston Chronicle, Politico, and other media outlets. As we’ll see, this manufactured dispute is intended to damage more than just Perry’s candidacy and the unity of conservatives ahead of the presidential election. It also benefits the Muslim Brotherhood groups many of Perry’s new critics rightly warn about.
Unfortunately, some conservative bloggers took the bait against Perry, bashing him for his links to the Ismailis and his support for the Muslim Histories and Culture Project, a curriculum co-sponsored by the Ismailis’ spiritual leader, the Aga Khan. In addition, some have seized on the endorsement of Perry in an earlier race for the governorship by Farouk Shami, a Palestinian-American businessman on the board of an anti-Israel group. Another is Perry’s sharing the stage in a program on taxes with Grover Norquist, whose troubling connections with Muslim Brotherhood groups are becoming better known. At their most generous, critics point to the sum of these associations as a kind of “proof” establishing Perry’s unwitting compliance with the agenda of the Brotherhood. On the other side of the spectrum, overheated words have overtaken level heads. Using the Salon report as a springboard, some have accused Perry of “systematic sedition” and, in a follow up, doubling-down with, “Yes, Perry is the 5th Column Candidate.” Obviously, based on the evidence provided, Perry is neither.