On Monday, CNN’s Jake Tapper joined the alt-right.
The man who famously pressed Donald Trump more than 20 times in a single interview about his racist comments and one of the ten journalists to face the most anti-Semitic harassment online in 2016, according to the Anti-Defamation League is now with the likes of Richard Spencer and Pepe — at least according to Linda Sarsour.
The woman widely considered the face of January’s Women’s March and the larger intersectional resistance movement against the Trump administration took aim at a journalist from the news network the President has all but declared war on because Tapper raised a serious question about the state of intersectional feminism.
Monday afternoon, he retweeted a message from the Women’s March celebrating the birthday of the “revolutionary” Assata Shakur. The warm illustration of Shakur against a pink-to-purple background didn’t mention her conviction for murdering state trooper Werner Foerster when he pulled over a car with Shakur and two other members of the Black Liberation Army. Shakur escaped prison and fled to Cuba, which granted her asylum. As The Daily Beast’s Michael Daly noted in a 2014 report, “The FBI continued to consider her [Shakur] so dangerous that it offered the $1 million reward in 2005 and put her on the Most Wanted Terrorists List” in 2013.
So Tapper called out the Women’s March and specifically mentioned Sarsour and the Chicago Dyke March — the group that proudly expelled marchers for carrying flags with Stars of David in a gesture that many (including me) have criticized as blatantly anti-Semitic — for throwing their support behind Shakur: “Shakur is a cop-killer fugitive in Cuba. This, ugly sentiments from @lsarsour & @dykemarchchi ...Any progressives out there condemning this?”
Sarsour tweeted back that Tapper “joins the ranks of the alt-right to target me online. Welcome to the party.”
Yes, apparently, all it takes to qualify as a member of the utterly repugnant and hateful alt-right is to disagree with Sarsour.
This is the left’s version of Trump’s favorite bogeyman, “fake news.” Sarsour, like Trump, cheaply and falsely defames those who raise legitimate concerns or report non-favorable information about her.
There is a real alt-right, and people do share fake news, sometimes with violent ramifications (the Comet Ping Pong pizza shooting is proof of that). This is something else.
Sarsour challenged Tapper to “please share my ‘ugly’ sentiments? Unapologetically Muslim? Unapologetically Palestinian? Pro-immigrant? Pro-justice? Shame.” Tapper responded by reminding the internet that Sarsour had attacked anti-female genital mutilation activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali, saying she wished she could “take [her] vagina away” and that she didn’t “deserve to be [a] wom[a]n.”
Sarsour’s ridiculously weak attempt to slander Tapper as a member of the “alt-right” was not the first time she has tried discrediting negative reports about her by falsely attacking the character of those voicing them. Last week, it was reported that the damaged Jewish cemetery that Sarsour had professed to help raise money for had not, in fact, received funds. Sarsour suggested she would sue the people reporting this (another Trump go-to move) and declared that she was the “target of the right wing, alt-right, right wing zionists.” That’s a mean feat of inverted intersectionalism.
The concern Tapper raised — about progressives standing with violent radicals — speaks to a much larger problem regarding the intersectionalist approach to social justice movements. On the one hand the intersectional feminist movement has been making strange bedfellows; on the other, it has been increasingly hostile to those who question those additions.
When Sarsour was asked in an interview in The Nation about whether Zionist feminists were welcomed in the modern, intersectional feminist movement in March, she said they were not. “I would say that anyone who wants to call themselves an activist cannot be selective,” she replied.
That means no support of any kind for Israel. No criticism when the the Women’s March formally champions a convicted murderer like Shakur.
None when the International Women’s Strike touted Rasmea Odeh as one of its original and main organizers. Odeh, a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which the State Department officially considered a terrorist group, was convicted for her involvement in a 1969 bombing at Hebrew University that killed two students.
Odeh, though, has found allies in many so-called progressive groups that claim to support immigrant and civil rights. When I reached out to the International Women’s Strike in March about Odeh’s involvement, Cinzia Arruzza praised Odeh and decried “the persistent harrasmment [sic] by the US government and zionist political forces” she allegedly faced.
Just as the President and other Republican leaders are called upon to forcefully denounce the alt-right, and criticized when they fail to do so, the left needs to be held to the same standard.
That isn’t so yet. The American Civil Liberties Union last week Tweeted praise of Sarsour with the trendy #IStandWithLinda, and linked to an essay in praise of intersectionality with hardly a mention of the civil liberties the group is nominally dedicated to protecting. New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand praised Sarsour (and her fellow Women’s March organizers) in an article for Time.
Perhaps, Sarsour’s attempt to slander a journalist at CNN for asking questions — rather than to answer the question — may be a much-needed wakeup call for feminists and others on the left about the destructive tactics that the intersectionalist left appears to be picking up from its counterparts on the alt-right.