Honestly, if you’re trying to grasp our strange new world, this Washington Post headline gets you at least part of the way there: “New NSC Chief of Staff Is From Group That Believes Muslims Are Plotting to Take Over U.S.” No, that NSC isn’t the National Student Clearinghouse or the Norfolk Southern Corporation or the National Sports Center. It’s the National Security Council, the outfit that advises the president on, well, national security, and that happens to be headed by new National Security Advisor John Bolton, a man who never saw a country he couldn’t imagine bombing. Now, as its Bolton-appointed chief of staff, it has a genuine Islamophobic crackpot by the name of Fred Fleitz. He previously was vice president for policy at Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, an outfit that, as the Post puts it, “propagates the conspiracy theory that Islamists have infiltrated the U.S. government in a plot to take over the country” (and that’s barely to crack the surface of its mania about Islam).
By the way, you remember that flap about Roseanne Barr calling former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett a spawn of the Planet of the Apes, right? If not, it’s not your fault. Since that controversy exploded across the Twitternet (“Muslim Brotherhood & Planet of the Apes = VJ”), our president has been transforming himself into King George III, claiming unprecedented powers over this country and, if he has his way, the world, while there have been so many other manic explosions in our media world that it’s mindboggling. On such a planet, attention spans are understandably short. Nonetheless, it might be worth revisiting the Barr controversy briefly, in light of the Fleitz appointment, since the racist comparison of Jarrett, an African American woman, to an ape proved explosive, yet the other half of Barr’s insulting equation (“Muslim Brotherhood”) was barely noticed.
As the invaluable Juan Cole writes at Informed Comment, however, Barr seems to have picked up much of her Jarrett slam from Gaffney and Fleitz’s center, which has worked hard to “single out Jarrett as a baleful influence on Obama and… connect her to Iran [where she was indeed born], and then implicitly to the Muslim Brotherhood. (Only, the Muslim Brotherhood is a Sunni Muslim organization and Iran is Shiite).” Oh yes, and Jarrett isn’t Muslim.
Well, small points indeed in an American world where wearing the label Islamophobe seems to disqualify you from nothing — certainly not the presidency or becoming secretary of state or, for that matter, chief of staff of the NSC. It’s no longer a problem at all, as TomDispatch regular Arnold Isaacs makes all too clear today.