On the evening of Sept. 7, some 30 New York City activists gathered outside the premises of the Brooklyn Commons on Atlantic Ave. to protest the appearance there of the latest 9-11 conspiracy guru, Christopher Bollyn—who happens to be even more overtly anti-Semitic and tainted by neo-Nazi connections than most 9-11 conspiracy gurus. Many carried signs reading "Another Jewish anti-Zionist against anti-Semitism" and "No platform for bigotry." The door was guarded by a taciturn muscle-man who spent most of the two hours of the event menacingly punching the air with an exercise hand-grip, only stopping to open the door for approved attendees. Some protesters did manage to infiltrate the event, and were roughly ejected. There were a few brief scuffles outside as well; Brooklyn Commons management called the police, and one protester was arrested. Photos are online at Storify.
The page promoting the event on the Brooklyn Commons website, "Christopher Bollyn: 9-11 and Our Political Crisis," gives you an idea where Bollyn is coming from: "Bollyn's message is a rare voice exposing the neocons and their Zionist partners-in-crime who had the means, motive, and opportunity to pull off this game-changing event. Bollyn provides hard evidence that these same people (or their proxies) to this day continue to foment terrorism and war, domestically and abroad." Did you catch that "rare voice"? Cute, eh? As if this improbable jive hasn't been endlessly recycled by the 9-11 conspiracy industry for 15 years now.
But Bollyn's Jew-hatred isn't always couched in such coded language. His ugliness was first called out by JewSchool, and later by The Forward. But the most comprehensive account is provided by independent journalist Spencer Sunshine:
Bollyn worked for the Liberty Lobby from 2000 to 2006, which was run by Willis Carto, who for decades was one of the most important racists on the US Far Right. His media group included the Spotlight (now the American Free Press), a White nationalist newspaper (where Bollyn was a staffer), as well as the Barnes Review, the main periodical helping spread Holocaust Denial in the United States (where he was a contributing editor). Bollyn has also appeared on David Duke's radio show, and has praised the racist paramilitary patrol, the Minutemen Project…
But without even clicking on anything, the front page of Bollyn's site is filled with lines like "9-11 is a massive Zionist Jewish crime," and that NPR is run by a "cabal of Zionist Jews." Bollyn's website and other writings include such antisemitic gems like:
- "Great nations, like the United States, France, and Germany, once had anti-Masonic and anti-Semitic political parties that acted to challenge the pernicious influence of secret Masonic and Jewish organizations. Today we no longer have such political parties to counter these secret networks and find ourselves ruled by B’nai B’rith and Jewish Freemasons."
- "The 'false flag' terrorism of 9–11 is a monstrous Jewish-Zionist crime of our time. The true culprits of this heinous crime are clearly being protected by a gang of like-minded Jewish Zionists in the highest positions of the U.S. government."
- "It seems like being a Jew is a lot like being a wolf."
- He openly cites the Protocols line that: "Not a single announcement will reach the public without our control."
- "I suspect that Arlen Specter is a high-level agent of the B'nai B'rith, the secret organization of Jewish Freemasons which I consider to be the real Elders of Zion."
(Note: I won’t link to Far Right websites, but you can easily google up all this information.)
We have no such scruples. American Free Press is right here, and its wacky-sinister nature should be evident from the briefest glance. Many more such gems can found on Bollyn's own website. On other online fora, he has boasted of exposing "the fundamental Jewish method of corruption and political control."
According to one attendee who spoke to this blogger on the way out, at the Brooklyn Commons event Bollyn talked about his thesis that the War on Terrorism is an ideological creation of the state of Israel imposed on the US by its lobby. The source ingenuously asked me, "If he says that only some Jews were behind 9-11, is that anti-Semitism?"
Despite its deceptive name, the Brooklyn Commons is not remotely a commons, but owned by one Melissa Ennen, who runs the cafe and lecture/performance space on the first floor, and also rents space to various lefty organizations on the upper floors. Alerted to the situation, most of these organizations put pressure on Ennen to cancel Bollyn's appearance. In fact, most or all of Bollyn's other appearances on his current attempt at a tour were cancelled due to such pressures—e.g., his planned gig at Busboys and Poets bookstore in Washington DC. But Ennen remained intransigent.
Ennen issued a letter defending her decision not to cancel the Bollyn gig on "free speech" grounds, and accusing the protesters of "censorship." (As if a venue that purports to be "progressive" has a responsibility to provide a platform to neo-Nazis.) Sickeningly, she writes: "I never intended for The Commons to be a safe space at all times."
Most of the Brooklyn Commons tenant organizations—including Jacobin, The Indypendent, the Marxist Education Project and Brooklyn Institute for Social Research—issued a joint letter, signed by their representatives, and stating pithily: "As organizations that work out of the Brooklyn Commons, we reject the antisemitic politics of Christopher Bollyn. We do not have any say in event booking and management at the Commons but agree that such politics should have no place in leftist spaces."
However, contrary to appearances, WBAI Radio, while appearing among the signatories, has not dissented from Bollyn's appearance. BAI board member Jim Dingeman told this blogger on Facebook that he signed the letter as an individual, not on behalf of the station. This raises some ambiguity about whether the others have signed as individuals or as representatives of their respective institutions.
One tenant organization, Families United for Racial & Economic Equality (FUREE), issued its own strongly worded statement, removing all ambiguity. The Baffler magazine, which has an upcoming release party scheduled at the Commons, issued a similar statement. FUREE and The Baffler are to be applauded for this.
Possibly in response to the controversy, the "organizations" page on the Commons' website appears to have been taken down.
WBAI's official silence on the matter is unsurprising. This blogger, who was a producer at WBAI for 20 years, was banned from the station in 2011 after objecting on the air to precisely such conspiranoid and anti-Semitic programming. It is perfectly predictable that Bollyn's rise to stardom on the conspiracy circuit was actually facilitated by WBAI. In March of this year, he was a featured guest on the conspiracy-obsessed program Guns & Butter, produced at KPFA in Berkeley—like WBAI a part of the "progressive" (sic) Pacifica network. Guns & Butter also airs on WBAI, bringing Bollyn's toxic crap to the New York airwaves.
We call upon WBAI and all other organizations associated with the Brooklyn Commons to make their position on this matter clear.
Jezebel on anti-Semitism at Brooklyn Commons
More details on Bollyn's gig at the Brooklyn Commons from Jezebel, which had a reporter there… It also notes dishonest damage-control measures taken by the Commons in response to the controversy…
Saving Brooklyn Commons self-censorship from Memory Hole
Melissa Ennen appears to have deleted her statement on the Bollyn affair—the page on the Brooklyn Commons website is now blank. We used the Wayback Machine to preserve the text for posterity:
Local press on Brooklyn Commons scuffle
Brooklyn Paper runs a not strictly accurate report on the scuffle between protesters and security at the Christopher Bollyn gig. They also ran a lead-up piece on the controversy.
Brooklyn Commons imbroglio makes Current Affaris
Current Affairs magazine makes note of the Christoper Bollyn affair. "Many were baffled by why the Brooklyn Commons would hold such an event. Why on earth would a progressive café provide a platform for a blatant racist? It was yet another confirmation of the (true, and depressing) fact that in certain parts of the radical left, it's not terribly uncommon to find anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists." And that segments of "the radical left itself" have been "unwilling to purge anti-Semitism from their ranks."
Unfortunately, under the title "Let the Kooks Speak," it argues for allowing the Brooklyn Commons to be turned into a platform for neo-Nazism. This libertarian argument is missing the point.
I have no intention of watching this, but just for the record, Bollyn's Brooklyn Commons presentation is preserved for posterity on YouTube. There's the link. So nobody can accuse us of censorship. But YouTube doesn't purport to be a "progressive" or "leftist" forum. Bollyn can go find his own soap-box.
Daily Beast on Brooklyn Commons imbroglio
The latest entry on the affair is from Daily Beast, which refreshingly notes the anti-Zionist politics of most of the protesters, and quotes one saying: "Free speech is the principle that the government should not ban people from talking. There is no obligation for anyone to provide a platform for bigotry, Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism etc. Even as a bad excuse it doesn’t register on the scale."
Media links on Brooklyn Commons imbroglio
Spencer Sunshine has put together a page with links to all the media coverage of the Nazi hate-fest at the Brooklyn Commons. He writes:
Of course WBAI, seemingly the only tenant at the Commons not to have repudiated the Bollyn appearance, would give a platform to Ennen's defense of her turning the "progressive" space into a forum for a neo-Nazi.
New physical confrontation at Brooklyn Commons
An activist posts on Facebook:
The Forward on new physical confrontation at Brooklyn Commons
Kudos to The Forward for staying on top of this case—complete with damning video footage. Check it out.
Systemic Disorder on Brooklyn Commons imbroglio
Systemic Disorder has a farily in-depth write-up of how the Mark Bollyn affair exposes the eclipse of an actual class analysis by ugly conspiracism. It doesn't quite answer its own question: "What do we do when a neo-Nazi speaks at a Left venue? "
Call for boycott of Brooklyn Commons
The Brooklyn for Peace website has issued a statement, with plenty of signatories, in defense of Melissa Ennen and her decision to open the Brooklyn Commons to a neo-Nazi. Some of the groups that came together for the protest in September, now under the name Common Decency, have issued a call for a boycott of the establishment.