Complaints about the Obsession DVD inserted into Sunday Denver Post
A banner from the Obsession website.
Denver Post subscribers found something extra stuffed into the advertising fliers that bulked up this past Sunday's edition: a DVD entitled Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. A "pre-release one-hour edition" of a larger documentary, the DVD is touted as "a film about the threat of Radical Islam to Western Civilization. Using unique footage from Arab television, it reveals an 'insider's view' of the hatred the Radicals are teaching, their incitement of global jihad, and their goal of world domination. The film also traces the parallels between the Nazi movement of World War II, the Radicals of today, and the Western world's response to both threats."
In other words, it's a highly conservative screed (previously aired on Fox News) that's infuriated groups struggling to convey the message that all Muslims aren't terrorists. And it didn't just turn up in the Post. According to a piece in the Miami Herald, which also distributed it, the disc went out to 28 million households under the auspices of seventy newspapers nationwide. Given a different economic climate, many of these papers probably would have steered clear of such a deal. But today, with ad dollars scarce, they said "yes" -- and are now dealing with the resulting criticism. Here's how Gary Clark, the Post's managing editor, responded late Tuesday after I e-mailed him questions about the doc:
I was out today and just caught up to this e-mail. I'm familiar with the DVD. We've received a lot of calls and e-mails, but I don't have the precise number. We referred them to Greig Smith in advertising. We didn't review it and, as far as I know, we weren't informed it would be in the paper (some folks got it last week). Don't know if Greig knew.
At this hour, messages left for the aforementioned Greig Smith, vice president of national and majors advertising for the Denver Newspaper Agency, haven't been returned. If and when they are, I'll provide an update. In the meantime, Clark attached one of the e-mails he noted in his message above. As he points it, the note "suggests that the responsible parties have not fully disclosed why this is being distributed."
Below, find the note, which came atop a blog about Obsession that's also included. -- Michael Roberts
From: truenature [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, September 16, 2008 10:30 AM
To: Clark, Gary
Subject: Propaganda DVD in your paper
I would like to offer my complaint about Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, the DVD that was sent out in your Sunday paper. 28 million were sent out nationally, paid for by the Clarion Inc, supposedly a 501c3 but they fail to mention their board of directors anywhere. The film was produced a few years ago but interestingly finds its way into papers across the country in swing states, weeks before the presidential elections. It feels partisan as the films or it's makers/producers endorse John McCain. When I received your paper yesterday, my first reaction was that you had sent out a piece of propaganda. Please do something about this.
Peace, Branden Cohen
From Popular Progressive blog
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 13
Who is the "Clarion Fund" and why is it paying for placing 28 million copies of "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West" DVD's in swing state newspapers?
The Clarion Fund, whose website only identifies the group as "a 501(c)(3) organization. We are independent and do not accept funding from the U.S. Government, political institutions, or foreign organizations." It does not identify who its board of directors are, but says its "mission is to educate Americans about issues of national security." Their focus "is on the most urgent threat of radical Islam. By utilizing the following three mediums, Clarion Fund is helping Americans understand that the mainstream media is not adequately conveying the reality of radical Islam."
Through some web digging, I was able to identify three players, Raphael Shore who is a Canadian citizen who is the producer/co-writer of the film and founder of the Clarion Fund, Wayne Kopping, a South African national, the director and co-writer and Gregory Ross, who is the communications director of this New York based non-profit group. Ross was "originally from Los Angeles and have lived overseas for many years. I moved back to LA from New York after 9-11, and a stint on Wall Street, and started working in the Hollywood Entertainment community." Ross does not disclose how the film was produced, but is quoted as saying "The film was financed by a concerned citizen who has a long standing relationship with our organization. The cost was under $500k and it took over a year to complete." Something about this group doesn't pass the smell test, particularly when no information is available about its donors and board of directors.
Maybe most concerning about this film is that, according to Ross, "I know that the U.S. Department of the Navy uses the film and that it has also been shown on Capitol Hill on many occasions in order to education politicians. We have also screened it at countless universities and colleges. However we are unsure as to if it is being used in their curriculums – we certainly hope it is."
By law, 501(c)(3) organizations are not permitted to engage in political activity, endorse or oppose political candidates, or donate money or time to political campaigns, so it was surprising to learn that there was an article on the group's new Web site, www.radicalislam.org, that backed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The article discussed both candidates and concludes:
"McCain's policies seek to confront radical Islamic extremism and terrorism and roll it back while [Barack] Obama's, although intending to do the same, could in fact make the situation facing the West even worse."
According to Clarion Fund director of communications Gregory Ross, the article "crossed the line" and was removed.
Gregory Ross also said in an interview with Frontpage magazine, a right-wing online publication, "we are just a few weeks from completely our next documentary, “The Third Jihad” - though it is not a sequel. This new film will take a look at radical Islam’s activities here in the U.S. We should be releasing the film in early October. So stay tuned."
Stay tuned indeed, as this group tries to scare voters with their own form of psychological terrorism.
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