Reza Aslan, fired by CNN after directing a June Twitter outburst at US President Donald Trump, has said he’s “shocked and dismayed” at the network’s decision to hire a controversial neoconservative activist for its “investigation’s unit.”
Aslan, a noted expert on religion, was dismissed after he labelled Trump a “piece of sh*t” and “an embarrassment to America” following the president’s call for restoring his Muslim travel ban in response to a terror attack in London committed by a British national.
The decision to let go the best-selling author and TV host, who is himself a Muslim, came as CNN found itself under tremendous pressure from right-wing influencers who refused to accept the pundit’s apology. At the time, Aslan took the judgment on the chin, saying, “I recognize that CNN needs to protect its brand as an unbiased news source.”
However, upon learning of CNN’s move to hire Michael Weiss, described by the progressive news magazine Alternet as a “Muslim-bashing neo-con operative,” Aslan expressed outrage. He told the popular outlet he was “shocked and dismayed that CNN would choose someone with such a clearly documented history of xenophobia and anti-Muslim activism like that to represent the network.”
— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) August 16, 2017
“Weiss was hired despite his having organized a major anti-Muslim rally that attracted help from Pamela Geller, an Islamophobic demagogue identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead,” according to Alternet.
“Weiss has described the rally as one of his proudest achievements. Held in the heart of New York City, it was organized in support of Danish cartoonists who had depicted the Islam’s Prophet Mohammed as a mass murderer and terrorist, and who painted Muslim immigrants as unassimilable fanatics,” the portal continues.
Everything Is Possible
The activist is also known to CNN viewers as a self-styled ‘Russia expert,’ a trick he manages to pull off despite the fact he can’t speak Russian and has apparently never been to the country. He also can’t speak Arabic, but this hasn’t prevented him from also becoming a ‘Syria expert.’
Weiss’ checkered past is laid bare in a lengthy Alternet expose which details his “strange transformation from political public relations agent to credentialed reporter.”
After graduation, Weiss began blogging in support of George W. Bush’s illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq on his ‘Snarksmith‘ site, noted for its painfully pretentious writing style. With his neoconservative credentials established, this led to some work at William Kristol’s hardline ‘Weekly Standard.’
In 2006 came the rally outside New York’s Danish consulate “to demonstrate solidarity with the 12 Danish cartoonists who drew images of Mohammed for the center-right publication Jyllands-Posten.”
Alternet reveals how Weiss proudly marched with Pamela Geller, “perhaps the most vitriolic and prominent Islamophobic blogger and activist in the English-speaking world,” showering her with praise afterwards.
The Southern Poverty Law Center describes Geller’s activities in stark terms, saying she “has mingled comfortably with European racists and fascists, spoken favorably of South African racists,” and “spoke at an event in Paris put on by the Bloc Identitaire, which opposes race-mixing and ‘Islamic imperialism.’” Weiss described her as an “Ayn Randian champ” in his gushing endorsement.
CNN introduces new definition of suspicious activity: Dating Russians (Op-Edge by Bryan MacDonald) https://t.co/mFnoXRF0FZ
— RT (@RT_com) May 26, 2017
The Menace Of Unreality
While Geller continued her progress on the far right, Weiss moved to London in 2008 joining an outfit venue named ‘Just Journalism,’ dedicated to harassing journalists suspected of being sympathetic to the Palestinian cause.
Just a year after the movement started, its director, Adel Darwish, resigned, complaining how “the project suffered from the start [from] the absence of any analyst or researcher with journalistic experience.” He was especially disappointed that hires like Weiss “lacked the experience of being reporters on the ground and were never exposed to newsroom culture.”
Weiss held on until 2010, when he joined Britain’s Henry Jackson Society, a neoconservative lobby group founded by Sir Richard Dearlove, the former head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, among others.
At this point, it appears Weiss suddenly reinvented himself as a ‘Syria expert,’ despite never having demonstrated much of an interest in the country up until this point.
By August 2012, the activist “suddenly materialized on BBC as a ‘Syria analyst’ for the Henry Jackson Society,” evidently preferred over pundits with genuine expertise on the subject. According to Alternet, he “had just returned from Aleppo, the Syrian metropolis where rebels had taken several districts by force from the government. The rebel units included hardcore Islamist groups like Liwa al-Tawhid and Ahrar al-Sham, as well as Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda.”
Shortly after this, Weiss began appearing in mainstream US publications such as The Atlantic, teaming up with Elizabeth O’Bagy, of the Syrian Emergency Task Force (SETF), a State Department-funded lobbying arm in Washington, calling for illegal strikes on Bashar Al-Assad’s air force.
Now a young man in a hurry, Weiss would soon become a ‘senior editor‘ of the Daily Beast and team up with Hassan Hassan of the Middle East Institute lobby group to publish a book on ISIS.
His former Henry Jackson Society colleague, Marko Attila Hoare, said that “Weiss is not, be it remembered, an academic expert on Syria and the Middle East… but merely an activist with strong views who follows events there closely.”
Shortly before the US-backed “Euromaidan” movement, which led to the 2014 coup in Ukraine, Weiss suddenly appeared on the Russia-focused beat. With Hoare noting that, “Weiss has reinvented himself also as an expert on Russia – about which he has no more academic expertise than he does about the Middle East.”
Nothing Is Real
In mid-2013, ‘The Interpreter‘ appeared; a ferociously anti-Russian smear blog which masqueraded as an online translation service. Weiss used this platform to harass and defame journalists and academics who refused to tow the American line on Russian and Ukrainian affairs.
Initially, the set-up was funded by the disgraced former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky, but in 2015 it transferred control to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the US state-owned broadcaster; which, as Alternet notes, “made Weiss a de facto US government employee while he oversaw a raft of articles at The Daily Beast purporting to expose Russian influence on American politics.” Today, The Interpreter is bankrolled by NATO’s Atlantic Council.
Also in 2015, he teamed up with British lobbyist and author Peter Pomerantsev to call for an “internationally recognized ratings system for disinformation.”
Described as “a recipe for censorship” that has since inspired crank online blacklists like PropOrNot… Weiss and Pomarantsev also argued that “media organizations that practice conscious deception should be excluded from the community.”
The Nation’s James Carden noted how “organizations that do not share the authors’ enthusiasm for regime change in Syria or war with Russia over Ukraine would almost certainly be ‘excluded from the community.’”
This year, Weiss took up his full-time role with CNN. However, a few weeks after he was hired, Lex Haris, the CNN Investigates executive editor who brought him on board, was among three employees fired by CNN for their role in publishing fake news, accusing former White House press secretary Anthony Scaramucci of colluding with Russia.
3 CNN journalists behind retracted Russia-Trump story resign https://t.co/ylugew4C3c
— RT (@RT_com) June 27, 2017
“Since being hired by the mow-disgraced Harris, it is not clear if Weiss has worked on a single investigative project,” Alternet notes.
Before revealing how “Weiss’s Twitter profile now identifies him as a ‘CNN Analyst for International Affairs,’ suggesting that he was demoted just weeks after being promoted.”
The profile concludes with a prescient observation: “Whatever direction Weiss takes with the network, he can count on the support of a small but especially dedicated base.“Thanks for your patriotic work on this Michael,” Louise Mensch, the notoriously paranoid godmother of anti-Russian conspiracism, told Weiss. “You are an unsung hero, but those who know, know.”