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:
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.