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Think Progress Scrubs Troubling Rhetoric from Website

8:05 AM, Jan 26, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER
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With the Center for American Progress’s Think Progress blog under scrutiny for publishing what some would consider borderline anti-Semitic content, it would seem likely that bloggers over there might be careful about the content. (Even Think Progress’s editor Faiz Shakir admitted that some of the language used by employees of the liberal institution is anti-Semitic, according to an email obtained by the Jerusalem Post.) At least, one would think, the higher ups are presumably now being more careful, considering they backed away from the controversial content last week, as the Washington Post reported at the time.

But it seems that no matter how careful they might be, some bizarre and disturbing rhetoric is continuing to slip past the watchful eyes of editors and higher ups—that is, at least, for a little while before it gets scrubbed.

Consider this paragraph in a recent post by Eli Clifton and Ali Gharib on a film called The Third Jihad that is about radical Islam and was screened at the New York Police Department:

The film, the Third Jihad, was created by the shadowy Clarion Fund, which did not return the Times’ requests for comment. Clarion was started by Israeli-Canadian Raphael Shore, who, along with other early Clarion employees, is tied to the Israeli orthodox evangelist organization Aish Hatorah, which works within Israel’s right-wing and settler movements. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg has referred to Aish Hatorah as “Jewish extremists.”

Seems pretty odd, right? I mean, a group (the Center for American Progress’s Think Progress) with a suspected Jewish problem is creating an international conspiracy theory—starring Jews, naturally—of shady folks who have disproportionate influence over others. But not so fast, the authors seem to be saying in the last sentence, they can even justify their suspicion by citing a Jew (Goldberg!), so it must be OK.

Yet something odd happened sometime after this piece was published on Tuesday. Somebody at the Center for American Progress’s Think Progress realized that what had been published was completely inappropriate. Within what seems to have been a few hours, the post was scrubbed. The paragraph cited above now reads:

The film, the Third Jihad, was created by the shadowy Clarion Fund, which did not return the Times’ requests for comment.

No comment in the post indicated that the substance had been dramatically altered sometime after publication. But it seems likely that someone realized they had (once again) crossed a line.

Indeed, it wasn’t even the only instance of post-publishing editing in this piece. Consider this original paragraph (emphasis mine):

But the Third Jihad is not Clarion’s latest project: its focus since shifted to Iran with the 2011 doc Iranium. Written and directed by Alex Traiman, an Israeli-American resident of an ideological settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, “Iranium” prominently features hawkish experts from two right-wing Washington think tanks, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

And now compare that paragraph to how it now reads:

But the Third Jihad is not Clarion’s latest project: its focus since shifted to Iran with the 2011 docIranium. Written and directed by Alex Traiman, “Iranium” prominently features hawkish experts from two right-wing Washington think tanks, Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy and the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Hmm. So the good news is that there seems to be at least one grown up at the Center for American Progress. Whoever he is, he can control what the bloggers are saying that might be interpreted as being borderline anti-Semitic. He can clean things up for outsiders—and make it look a little more mainstream than perhaps the institution really is.

The bad news is that the grown-up is not always in the room (even if he corrects things when he returns!) and that the stable of bloggers over there have some biases that must be cleaned up by some unknown shady figure.

But given the fact the content had to be scrubbed in the first place, it is clear the problem still remains: A think tank that is allied with the Democratic party and the president of the United States—in other words, an organization in American politics and in policy discussions—is pushing troubling rhetoric.

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