Keith Ellison’s Tears And Epistemic Closure

Rep. Peter King’s hearings on “radicalization” of the American Muslim community, and his contention that the community doesn’t cooperate with law enforcement, was both a waste of time and tax dollars. The affair didn’t produce a single insight into the actual and urgent issue of radicalization and extremism.

If King expected to come out of hearings as some sort of hero, he failed. Two of his witnesses offered largely anecdotal evidence which didn’t support the premise of his hearings and another embarrassingly implied that only people who have something to hide seek legal counsel.

Los Angeles County Sherriff Lee Baca reiterated yet again the point that the Muslim community in Los Angeles has done a lot to help his agency combat all sorts of crime, a point that undermines the case that Muslims have adopted some sort of ‘stop snitchin’ mentality.

The undisputed hero of the day was Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison, who stole the headlines away from King after offering an emotional testimony in which he shed tears recounting the story of a dead 9/11 responder who some accused of being in on the conspiracy for the simple fact that he was Muslim.

Hearings that were supposed to make the country suspicion of their brown-skinned doctors and cab drivers actually produced the opposite result. The story Ellison recounted stole the show and whatever anti-Muslim narrative some of the hearing’s biggest supporters were hoping for, went with it.

That couldn’t stand. Some sort of controversy had to be manufactured to put the narrative back on the right. Ace conservative reporters took to the task of looking for that controversy. Naturally, their first tool was Google. The National Review Online’s Matthew Shaffer took to the internet, found that only one newspaper backed up Ellison’s story and concluded in a piece that the Congressman was a bigot. Wait, what?

Follow the logic here. After doing some searching around on the internet, Shaffer could only find a New York Post article that cast suspicion on the 9/11 hero. Therefore, Ellison was wrong. No, in fact, he is a bigot. Because the testimony he gave wasn’t backed up by much proof.

The problem, of course, is that had Shaffer used LexisNexis, he would have seen that other media outlets had in fact reported on the issue, including the New York Times and the New Yorker. After these other articles were brought to his attention, he issued a correction. In typical conservative style, however, he did so by attacking those who asked him to be set the record straight.

The damage, however, had already been done. The original article was picked up by other conservative sites, including by some of the vilest, most contemptible people on the face of the planet. Rep. Louie Gohmert, of terror baby fame, actually read the article on the House floor. In less than 24 hours, a lie created by a lazy writer became the narrative that was being used to discredit Ellison. The lie is now part of the Congressional Record.

The next hatchet job was by the Daily Caller’s Matthew Boyle. Boyle’s piece actually makes less sense the Shaffer’s. The article is billed as an exclusive but it seems that it’s only exclusive in the sense that only an exclusive number of brainless and logically-impaired people would actually make the argument that Boyle is making.

Boyle charges that the Muslim Public Affairs Council, a Muslim advocacy group, gave House democrats talking points to use during the King hearings. In order for this to be a story, you need to ask two important questions: First, Is there something wrong with an advocacy group briefing lawmakers? The answer is obvious. But since the group is a Muslim group, this very routine practice of giving lawmakers talking points is some nefarious conspiracy.

The second question. Did the lawmakers actually use the talking points? Boyle asks the people involved and they all deny any coordination. Ellison, who Boyle says “regurgitated all the MPAC talking points” denies that he even received the memo. At this point, the story is dead.

But being the enterprising reporter that he is, Boyle investigates some more. He sees similarities between this leaked memo and some of the questions that Democratic members of the committee raised. At this point, he once again has a story. If lawmakers echoed an advocacy group’s talking points word for word, it might interest some people. But that didn’t happen. So Boyle concludes that when Rep. Al Green brought up the KKK, it was clearly because of the fact that the MPAC memo told lawmakers to suggest that the hearings hurt our national security.

The fact that Al Green is the son of a Christian minister, and most likely has some knowledge of the KKK, as well as the fact that he has a large Muslim constituency in Houston, isn’t why he bought up the KKK. It was because MPAC told him to do so by suggesting to lawmakers to highlight the threat that the hearings posed to national security.

Every single point that Boyle sees as possible collaboration is actually a point that the editors of some of the largest newspapers in the country made. Whatever memo MPAC might have been spreading likely contained the same language as the memo of every other group opposed to the hearings. Those opposed to the hearings had a very coordinated message. That’s one reason why the hearing produced nothing of substance.

That bothers conservatives a lot.

The Washingtons Post’s Dana Milibank has, in my opinion, written the absolute best piece on the hearings.