Sally Lopez of Lemoyne, PA displays a copy of the DVD that came in the mail.

by Erik Ose, The Latest Outrage, September 12, 2008

This week, 28 million copies of a right-wing, terror propaganda DVD are being mailed and bundled in newspaper deliveries to voters in swing states. The 60-minute DVDs, titled “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West,” are landing on doorsteps in a campaign coinciding with the 7th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks. Funding is coming from a New York-based group called the Clarion Fund, a shadowy outfit whose financial backers are The program was originally shown on Fox News in the days leading up to the 2006 mid-term elections, and right-wing activist David Horowitz toured the country screening the film on college campuses during 2007. Mainstream religious groups have called Obsession biased and divisive. It cuts between scenes of Nazi rallies and footage of Muslim children being encouraged to become suicide bombers.

Talking heads in the film include infamous anti-Muslim, self-proclaimed “islamophobes” like Daniel Pipes and Walid Shoebat. In 2001, Pipes claimed the “presence” and “enfranchisement” of Muslims in the U.S. presented “true dangers to American Jews.” Shoebat is an evangelical Christian who falsely claims to be a former Muslim terrorist. Last year, Shoebat told the Missouri Springfield News-Leader, “Islam is not the religion of God – Islam is the devil.”

As detailed in an OffTheBus report on HuffPo two days ago, the DVDs were distributed last weekend in national editions of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal within selected swing states. These included Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia.

Here in North Carolina, another battleground state that John McCain must win to reach 270 electoral votes, 160,000 copies of the DVD are to be distributed tomorrow by the state’s leading newspaper.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported yesterday on its Under The Dome politics blog that the paper is preparing to bundle copies of the DVD with this Saturday’s newspapers. Jim McClure, vice president of display advertising for the N&O, said the “ultimate decision” to distribute the DVDs had been made by publisher Orage Quarles, and compared the propaganda to harmless household samples.

“‘Obviously, we have distributed other product samples, whether it’s cereal or toothpaste,’ he said. He declined to say how much the agency paid.”

The News & Observer recently announced deep buyouts and layoffs for its employees. It is owned by the struggling McClatchy news chain, which is slashing newsroom jobs and pages at the papers it owns around the country. Advertising revenues have plummeted during the ongoing economic downturn, and it appears the N&O is now auctioning off its journalistic integrity to the highest bidder.

The paper’s announcement touched off immediate criticism from angry subscribers:

“A box of cereal? Toothpaste? Does a box of cereal or a tube of toothpaste encourage me to look with hatred and suspicion on my law abiding neighbors who have a different religion than mine? Does cereal and toothpaste lead to pogroms, religious harassment, fear and intimidation? The trailer for this video is about hate, pure and simple, and shows the video has only one goal — to instill fear and hatred of neighbor against neighbor.

If I receive this DVD in my paper, that day, after 22 years of receiving the N&O, will be the last day of my subscription.

Please, please reconsider this decision!”

Although supposedly a 501 c(3) non-profit, this week the Clarion Fund’s website featured an article supporting John McCain. Yesterday, the Patriot-News in PA reported on the DVDs showing up in Pennsylvania, and noted:

“On Wednesday, though, there was an article on the group’s new Web site, www.radicalislam.org, that backed Republican presidential candidate John McCain. The article discusses 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 Gregory Ross, director of communications for the Clarion Fund, the article “crossed the line” and would be removed.

Where else exactly are these DVDs landing, and who’s funding the Clarion Fund?

If you’d like to let News & Observer executives know how you feel about their participation in this shameless propaganda campaign, executive editor John Drescher can be reached at (919) 829-4515, or drescher@newsobserver.com. Or ask for publisher Orage Quarles at the paper’s main phone number, (919) 829-4500.

Erik Ose is a veteran of Democratic campaigns in North Carolina and blogs at The Latest Outrage.