Ever wonder what happens when reactionary extremist rhetoric blows up in everyone’s faces? Aaron Proctor could probably tell you a thing or two about that. Last month, the 29-year-old blogger took to his page on Examiner.com and accused the Council on American-Islamic Relations of being nothing but a bunch of terrorists: “CAIR is an Islamic group that forwards the false belief that Islam is a religion of peace when it is simply a terroristic world-dominating political movement and not a religion at all,” the Philly resident wrote.
And then he called out a politician, Republican Rep. Pat Meehan, whose 7th District covers Delaware and Montgomery counties. You see, CAIR’s Philly chapter is having its annual banquet in Delaware County this weekend, so naturally Proctor wanted to know Meehan’s thoughts. Specifically, if he was “with us or against us.”
It’s the first time Proctor, who makes a living off his daily Libertarian rants has called out a public official, even though he writes about politics all the time. His editorials show up in Google News regularly, and he’s spoken at a number of Tea Party protests. He has even appeared on Fox News as a commentator. All of this must have been impressive enough to get the freshman representative to respond because “his press secretary emailed me,” Proctor recalls, “and was like, ‘Oh, hey, you should have called me.’” And apparently, Meehan has “major concerns about the [March 12] meeting’s featured speakers,” the congressman wrote in a note to Proctor. “The event is sponsored by … a group which the FBI severed ties with in 2009 after CAIR was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial regarding the funding of terrorist organizations.”
Chalk that one down to either inexperience or naivety on Meehan’s behalf. And since Meehan has refused to comment on his comments, he probably knows it.
And then, of course, there’s CAIR. Moein M. Khawaja, executive director of CAIR-PA’s Philly chapter, fired off a letter to Examiner.com’s news director, Jay Keller, saying Proctor’s statements are “eerily similar to those who have committed hate crimes against Muslim Americans.”
The organization, which called Proctor “an amateur fear monger working to make a name for himself” and “a bigot who has found an audience,” claims to have handed over a picture of Proctor to police and security for banquet. Apparently, CAIR believes Proctor is a physical threat to the “families and children” in attendance.
“[The Proctor matter] was not something I wanted to do and we certainly are not advocates of censorship,” writes Khawaja in an email to PW , “but when a writer is slandering you and falsely calling your event a terrorist gathering, there is a real danger that someone who is not mentally together, or on the edge, may read that and act out on it.” Still, Khawaja says he’s satisfied that Proctor has gone on to discuss other things.
When Proctor found out he’d been suspended (then later reinstated), he went back to read his blogs. ‘This isn’t unlike any rhetoric you hear on talk radio,’” he recalls after reading them. “What’s the big deal?” The big deal, he realized, was that Meehan, a public official who’s already gone on record attacking Islam, had gotten involved. And in light of upcoming Congressional hearings, CAIR may have seen its chance to attack the politician for his knee-jerky reaction.
“They want to go after Meehan,” Proctor says. “And what better way to make a guy look bad than to put him in with an unknown weirdo like me who can easily be dismissed as a right-wing Glenn Beck guy.”
And Khawaja’s comments suggest Proctor may be onto something. “The matter we do not consider closed is with Congressman Pat Meehan,” he writes. “He was very quick to respond to a clear-cut bigot, Mr. Proctor… he has not responded to another constituent of his, us, CAIR-PA…We would also like to ask Mr. Meehan if he does indeed believe Islam is not a religion.”
But Meehan remains silent. He hasn’t responded to CAIR. And Proctor says he, too, can’t get in touch with the politician. “I just wanted to get him on the phone and say, ‘Can you believe this crap?’” Proctor says—and never got a response.
Here’s what’s bothersome about Meehan’s comments: He was appointed chair of the counterterrorism and intelligence subcommittee by Republican Rep. Peter King in January. This week, Meehan, King and others will begin a series of McCarthy-esque hearings studying the alleged “Radicalization of Muslim Americans.” The hearings come on the heels of 13 states attempting to ban Sharia Law, legislation that is bizarre as it is meaningless.
Further, Meehan’s labeling of CAIR as an “unindicted co-conspirator” is ripped straight from Bush Administration prosecutors back in 2007 when listing 307 American Muslim organizations and individuals as such in a criminal conspiracy to support the terrorist organization Hamas. “Unindicted of course,” reads CAIR-PA’s rebuttal statement to Proctor and Meehan, “because there is zero court-admissible evidence to suggest that they are in anyway related to terrorism.”
The story is way too typical of today’s swift reaction—from all sides—to extreme rhetoric that’s become the norm of national media politics. Meehan’s congressional hearings are pretty much like a big witch hunt; CAIR is well-known in right-wing media circles for silencing critics; and Proctor is admittedly an Islam nonscholar. So the war of ideas goes on, but for the time being, it’s only Proctor, who’s silenced himself on CAIR-related matters, really learning the lesson. “They alluded to me using violence on kids, which is obviously something I wouldn’t do,” he says. “So, yeah, I’m nervous about the event. What if someone does something stupid or invokes my name? I don’t know. I’m just not going anywhere near Delaware County for anything.”