A Progressive’s Second Thoughts

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Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Mark Tapson, the writer’s assistant and researcher on, among other projects, The Stoning of Soraya M. and the controversial miniseries The Path to 9/11. His experience on The Path to 9/11 prompted his political conversion from leftist to conservative, as noted in the documentary Blocking the Path to 9/11. Today he writes about the intersection of Hollywood and terrorism for NewsReal Blog, FrontPage, Big Hollywood and other websites, and has begun a book on the topic. He is currently writing a documentary for renowned terrorism expert Steven Emerson.

FP: Mark Tapson, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

I would like to talk to you today about your journey into the progressive faith and then your journey out of it.

Let’s begin with your youth and how you entered the leftist vision.

Tapson: Jamie, thanks for having me. I wish I could say that my embrace of the leftist vision was the result of something more interesting than mere intellectual laziness. But in fact, I grew up in Arkansas in the 60’s and 70’s and rebelled against my fairly conservative surroundings by moving to San Francisco and wanting to be a rock musician. I was never an especially political person, even long into adulthood; instead my focus was always the arts. And since the default political stance of the artistic community is left-leaning, I thoughtlessly adopted that stance and the intellectual arrogance that comes with it.

FP: Tell us what began your second thoughts and what evolved after that.

Tapson: My second thoughts began, like they no doubt did for many Americans, with the attacks on 9/11. It was still a long time before I really understood the depth and breadth of the Islamic threat; initially I just felt a surge of patriotism and a desperate desire to commit myself to fighting back in some useful way, to doing my share for my country.

And I began to distance myself from the Left, who were claiming that we’d brought the attacks on ourselves through our imperialistic arrogance and capitalistic exploitation, blah blah blah. At the time I didn’t understand the real roots of global jihad, but I understood that leftists were simply using 9/11 to justify their own attack on American democracy and values, and they began to disgust me.

I’ll fast forward to the turning point that impacted me far more, both intellectually and politically. In late 2004 I began work as the researcher and assistant to my good friend, screenwriter Cyrus Nowrasteh, on a project he was writing for Disney/ABC called The Path to 9/11 – essentially a dramatization of The 9/11 Commission Report and other sources. The miniseries began with the 1993 WTC bombing and threaded through the 90’s to the morning of 9/11, and for that project I found myself consumed by studying the history and ideology of the Islamic threat. That was hugely eye-opening for me and became my passion to this day. And when the Left campaigned hard to censor The Path to 9/11 and discredit the filmmakers for a supposedly conservative bias, I was appalled by their viciousness and blatant lies.

That led me to really examine and reassess the bigger political picture for the first time, and I began to realize that the Left’s intellectual positions, methods and aims were indefensible and ultimately destructive. I looked back over the years and realized that, while I was ignoring politics and engrossed in artistic and literary pursuits, the radical Left had become the mainstream Left, and they shared a multiculturalist mission with fundamentalist Islam to tear down the West. So that pushed me completely into the conservative camp.

FP: Share with us the intellectual arrogance that a leftist feels and the self-gratification you yourself felt about being a member of the progressive faith. Share with us how you regarded conservatives and what you thought of them. At the peak of your membership in the faith, what kind of frightening feelings would imagining being a right-winger instill in you?

Tapson: I think even more than moral superiority, progressives feel an intellectual superiority over conservatives. This is completely undeserved, but the Left clings to this stereotype of the Right as being stupid hicks in order to ridicule and dismiss anyone who disagrees with them – that way they don’t have to debate conservatives on the merits of their arguments, or answer for the havoc that their own beliefs have wreaked on the world. It’s the kind of arrogance exemplified by Obama’s statement about Americans “who cling to their guns and religion.” It’s the arrogance exemplified by Katie Couric asking Sarah Palin what magazines she reads. It’s the hateful arrogance Bill Maher has built an entire career on. It enables the Left to pat themselves on the back and think, “We’re so much more evolved than those conservative troglodytes between the coasts, with their country music and their flags and their lack of subscriptions to the New York Times.” Once I realized I had bought into this elitist superiority to some extent and had misjudged the character of both the Left and the Right, I was ashamed and began to look with a fresh eye at – and then reject – the left-leaning assumptions I had uncritically adopted.

I suppose what would have frightened me about being a “right-winger” was the thought of being trapped in the parochial existence of those narrow-minded hicks in the American heartland. Of course, it’s actually the Left that’s close-minded – even viciously intolerant – and when I saw the light about that, I happily sided with those decent, good-hearted, fair-minded, and yes, intelligent Americans who are so relentlessly demonized by the smug, self-congratulating Left.

FP: Your reaction to 9/11 is not one a real leftist would have. You were not really a leftist — even though you thought you were. Illuminate for us some of the ingredients of your character that defined your response to 9/11 that separated you from true believers. In other words, as you reflect on yourself, what was it inside of you that really always separated you from leftists? You obviously always had something non-Left in you. Perhaps you shared it earlier, when you said that real conviction is not what made you gravitate toward the faith in the first place?

Tapson: It’s true, the Left’s hold on me was tenuous and I just didn’t realize it. The 9/11 attacks and my subsequent involvement in the miniseries highlighted for me a few characteristics that I didn’t share with them. One was their anti-American anger, and their condemnation of Western civilization in general. This didn’t resonate with me at all. I had a lifelong appreciation for, and fascination with, European history and culture, for example. And their anti-Americanism couldn’t even stand up to factual scrutiny; it was simply grounded in hatred and bigotry.

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  • Chezwick_Mac

    Jamie gets to the heart of the issue by pointing out that Tapson was never a full-blown Lefty…more of a "cultural" one. This allowed him to see the light once an epiphanous moment like 9-11 came along.

    But so many others – including members of my own family – have invested so much of their lives in the Leftist narrative that in their minds, walking away from it would delegitimize literally decades of their lives, including the nostalgia they have for their youth. In short, it's much more about psychology than it is about politics or intellectual conviction.

    I made the turn in the 90s, when I was in my 30s. My entry into the Right was predicated on one thing: A fascination with Slavic culture and more specifically, Soviet Communism. By the time I became aware of Islam as a political force in the early 90s, I had – through my studies of Stalinism – already been sensitized to the scent (actually, stench) of sociological evil…and I could recognize almost any variant of it a mile away.

    My liberal inclinations melted away as it became obvious which side of the political spectrum was more interested in a robust defense of human freedom. Already a foreign policy hawk, I was finally prepared to eject my liberal illusions on domestic affairs too.

    My great regret has been my inability to illuminate reality to my loved ones, who cling stubbornly NOT to guns and religion, but to a false and ultimately destructive narrative. I still love them deeply, but it's become impossible to discuss politics with them. We might as well live on different planets.

    One thing is obvious to me: For all the cultural sophistication of liberals, politically, they tend to be woefully uninformed.

    • Spider

      Yes welcome to the land of the good guys. You are now among friends who are freedom and liberty loving people and not brainwashed nihilistic believers in a socialist utopia -or should I say nightmare?

    • MIk

      Perhaps better written, but my story exactly. My turning point was a summer in Eastern Europe during grad school. I began as a Green, advocating moral equivalence, seeing no difference between Reagan and Breshnev.

    • Reda

      Great comments. However, I don't feel the liberals are necessarily "culturally informed". A man I know with an IQ of over 160, has always had scholarships and grants, never worked out of academia, is a physics professor emeritus and very liberal. I, on the other hand, am a business person who had my first real job at age 16, put myself through college, have had various jobs both as an employee and employer. There is no way he can relate on a "cultural level" as to what the struggles of "real" life are about because in academia you are always taken care of.
      Further, less than 8% of Obama's good buddies have any business background, the lowest in any President's history. Government employees, over 50% now of all employees, are allowed to have unions now. That was not always the case. The government and unions play the role of 'parent', taking care of the employee. This is not independence nor is it 'the real world' as it should be.

      • Chezwick_Mac

        Thanks for all the feedback, folks.


        My reference to the "cultural sophistication" of liberals pertained not to business, but to the arts, i.e., music, film, etc. Most are as bereft of any real understanding of business as they are of current events.

    • Guest

      "My great regret has been my inability to illuminate reality to my loved ones, who cling stubbornly NOT to guns and religion, but to a false and ultimately destructive narrative. "
      Paraphrasing Tolstoy: "…most men…can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have … woven thead by thread, into the fabric of their own lives."

  • therealend

    Welcome brother. Enjoy your stay.

    • http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/mtapson/ MarkTapson

      Thanks my friend, glad to be here!

  • TheZeeker

    Mac hits on an important phenomenon – how to talk to one's historically "left" family and he even says they can't talk, and he's right. It's the same thing in my family. My conversion from left to right came after reading over 50 books on 9/11 and coming to a realization of what our enemy is.

    My observation is that those committed to their leftism base it on what i call a "couplet". That is, two conjoined ideas that are so selfish and forceful they overcome reality and common sense.

    A couple of the couplets in my family are hatred of the religious right (my brother and sister-in-law oppose anything the religious right is for, period the end) and abortion (as in, I want my kid to have that option and don't talk to me about "killing babies" even though I've seen sonograms with the pregnancy and birth of my two kids) and hatred of the religious right and teenage gay suicide (as if only gay teens commit suicide – all teen suicide is awful – but it's still suicide).

    These couplets overrule things like the millions of people enslaved and murdered (by their own governments) under Communism (which is godless at it's core and which goes immediately after religion upon its initial rise and subsequent power…as it does the family and freedom and prosperity…but who's thinking about that when the right to an abortion could be in jeopardy…).

    When i point out the support for Israel (I'm Jewish and so is my family, although there are a couple of inter-religious marriages mixed in), the response is that Israel isn't always right and look at what they're doing to the poor Palestinians, etc, etc.

    The irony is that if this country made it all the way to the end game of what the left wants for it, all the "couplets" would be abolished and my family members wouldn't have the things that keep them supporting the left to begin with. In fact, it's really the freedoms we have under our current system that even allow those couplet drinkers to partake of their couplets.

    How would John Stewart fare under totalitarianism? Chris Matthews would be safe – he's an apparatchik if ever there was one.

    My new tack is to speak up at family affairs in an innocent, almost dumb way by interjecting facts into the conversation. For example, at Rosh Hashanah dinner the conversation turned to the Ground Zero Mosque. I asked the lead speaker what Cordoba meant. Of course, as most Muslim sympathizers don't know any Muslim history, he didn't know. After I explained it there was silence. Then it was right back to the "freedom of religion" business. So I brought it back to the meaning of Cordoba, the victory mosque, and what that really means and why it's doesn't have anything to do with freedom of religion, which by the way, is part of the system the left despises, isn't it?

    Well, it seems with the firing of Juan Williams maybe there will be the beginnings of a real conversation on Islam's true nature and our system vs totalitarianism. I was naive enough to think there'd be a national conversation on Marxism with the Obama-McCain race. One can always hope…

  • Samurai Hit Woman

    Jamie is right in calling the Left's ideology a faith because that's exactly what it is. This ideology follows every guideline a faith follows like, for example, no matter how often it fails in practice believe in its efficacy continues.

    What transformed me from the Left's ideology "faith" was it offended my common sense.

    I wanted to be "superior" but just couldn't I was stuck with who I was—"inferior" until I understood by following conserve leanings that their claim of being "superior" was just another lie.

    Oh, I could swallow their ideology but it wouldn't stay down my Christian upbringing proved the Jewish scriptures correct where it says, "bring up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it."

    I wasn't old when I got my head on straight but old enough to have acquired common sense.

  • Samurai Hit Woman

    You have to be an intellectual to by pass common sense. Just think you're way around it.

    I've been called an intellectual but I deny it.

  • Poet

    When a caller makes a illogical argument Denis Prager assumes the caller went to college. If the argument is illogical and self-destructive he assumes grad school.

    • Jimbo

      Prager is a masterpiece. He very politely and lovingly shreds the liberals that venture on his show with his abundance of common sense and intelligence. Woe be unto thee that show up on his program unprepared with the usual intellectually lazy liberal talking points. I'd write a check of $500 if he ran for prez.

      I make the assertion that if you listen to Prager for 1 month, your common sense and thought process will be significantly enhanced. He's that damn good.

  • http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/mtapson/ MarkTapson

    Thanks flyingtiger, you can check out my FrontPage pieces by finding me under "Columnists" above, and also my Big Hollywood pieces here: http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/mtapson/
    I also have a new piece about Charles Martel at BigPeace.com tomorrow…

  • Stephen_Brady

    I came close to going left, in spite of growing up in a religious/political conservative home. Studying philosophy, and going to "church" at the Methodist student center, on campus (whose minister was a self-announced Marxist), I almost embraced some of the Left's beliefs.

    The day of the epiphany, for me, was when I said something at the Student Center (I don't even remember what), and the "minister" said, "Atta boy! Now, you're on the slippery slope towards godless liberalism!" It hit me like a dagger, and it was the last time I ever went there.

    Mark: Will we ever get to buy the entire documentary? Will Disney ever release it?

  • Arthur Field

    I think Leftists put themselves at the center of everything while believing they put others at the center of their thoughts, etc. And the result of that is always the same. When self is at the center, then the heart takes over, and the mind is governed by the feelings. So, their thoughts are limited to what they feel rather than think – hence, name calling rather than debate on substantive issues, etc. This is natural thinking and its thining on a limited narrow plane, which does not take into consideration all the facts.

    Leftists giving way to their feelings, not intellect while thinking they do otherwise. Their stock in trade is vanity, ego, name-calling, put-downs, and even hatred to the USA, to others like and unlike them and sadly, to themselves. All of which drives them into increasing distress and despair. They attempt to be logical, but only on this one plane of thought, related to self. That is why they miss the point so completely (and the reason they can't go ever let go of their beliefs b/c it would be a repudiation of self as well).

    continued next msg …

  • Arthur Field

    cont from above post …

    But, you may ask, aren't emotions a part in everything we do? Yes, of course they are. The heart is a powerful factor in human thinking. But when the heart, the emotions, and feelings get hold of us, and control our thinking, then we discover that we are helpless to reason properly.

    Leftists thinking is necessarily limited because they feel their way through problems rather than think wholly through them. And forget about including God in any otheir thoughts. That's a non-starter for most all of them. So, by default, Leftists have not at all what's necessary to make correct decisions: A broadened vision to take in every aspect of truth.

    This kind of thinking is cubical thinking (as opposed to "flat" thinking, I suppose). Truth is not a single level of thought; it is a cube. It has sides, other aspects, which need to be considered. All truth is related to other truth. You will discover that as you relate a fact to other truths that touch it on every side of the cube, you see this fact in a different light from when you consider it by itself.

    cont next post …

  • Arthur Field

    cont from above post …

    Leftists don't like to think, yet they call themselves superior to those who depend on another — God — to do their thinking for them in a manner of speaking. The common man has faith in his creator. Leftists believe not in God but only in themselves. Sad, really.

    And it's an old story … they all end in tragedy of course.

  • MKS

    "Come, let us reason together," God graciously invites in the first chapter of Isaiah. Looking at history, it seems to me that those who appreciate this invitation are blessed to discover wonderful things – including the best of scientific exploration and civil liberty.

    Those who prefer to reason apart from God often deify reason, rather than God, and then eventually forsake reason for assertion and attack.

  • Rifleman

    I never tire of reading, seeing, or hearing about how people noodle out for themselves that socialist thought is both morally and practically wrong. Often it seems something peripheral, like islamic terrorism (though there are many similarities with socialism in the basic thinking/perspective) will be the wait-a-minute moment that starts it.

    I’ve borrowed and seen “The path…” (the owner wasn’t about to forget I had it, and has never been so on top of getting one back before), and it’s high on my “To acquire” list. Well done, you should feel flattered Iger decided he had to suppress it. If it wasn’t, he wouldn’t.

  • Chezwick_Mac

    Mark, were you present at the filming of 'The Stoning of Sonaya M'?

    • http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/mtapson/ MarkTapson

      No, I wasn't actually there for the filming, unfortunately…

  • Stephen_Brady

    Thanks for the personal message, Mark. At the very least, as long as there is a chance that Hillary will ever occupy the big desk in the Oval Office, nothing potentially harmful to her will be allowed out.

    By the way, I know that it's a docudrama. I just like calling a "documentary" because it tweaks the Left's collective noses! Also, I taped the broadcast version, and watch it with my wife, on every anniversary of 9/11.

    • http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/mtapson/ MarkTapson

      Excellent, Stephen, glad you taped it. It's a powerful piece, isn't it? You know, that was ABC's original intent, to air it every 9/11 anniversary – until the leftist attack on it changed ABC's mind.

  • michele

    Great piece Mark – I've gone through a very similar enlightenment and evolution. There are many of us and I believe our numbers are growing. I don't know the stats, but I feel confident that a whole lot more folks go from left to right than the other way around. I hope to hear more from you.

    • http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/mtapson/ MarkTapson

      Thanks Michele, I agree with you that there are more converts this way than the reverse. As for hearing more from me, I gave this info to someone else above too:
      You can check out my FrontPage pieces by finding me under "Columnists" above, and also my Big Hollywood pieces here: http://bighollywood.breitbart.com/author/mtapson/
      I also have a new piece about Charles Martel at BigPeace.com tomorrow…

  • http://thesupernaturalist.com/ABSOLUTE/PURPOSE.htm SPOOFPROOF

    First delivered as 3 separate lectures by C.S. Lewis, "The Abolition of Man" was subsequently published as a book in 1947. The lectures describe causes, effects, and results Dr. Lewis sees occurring if certain educational policies (new at that time) were followed to their logical conclusion. Without ever referring to it directly, "The Abolition of Man" is an evisceration of every argument ever employed in the defense of Marxist Communism. Play ball!

  • BS61

    Great article! We can hope that Allen West runs for President some day – he has a clear understanding and communicates well the threat of Islam. I remember hearing him respond about Islam history after the Helen Thomas uproar. He makes no apologies!

  • Liberty Clinger

    Some of the Soviet dissidents, who were in a unique position to observe the ideology and actions of Marxists, came to the conclusion that Marxist Socialism is in fact a religion. Unlike the American Founding Fathers, Marxism and Islam share intolerant religious conviction to a totalitarian self-serving collectivist political ideology.

  • Liberty Clinger

    “The religious aspects of socialism may explain the extraordinary attraction of socialist doctrines and their capacity to inflame individuals and to inspire popular movements. It is precisely these aspects of socialism which cannot be explained when socialism is regarded as a political or economic category. Socialism's pretensions to be a universal world view comprising and explaining everything also make it akin to religion. A characteristic of religion is socialism's view of history not as a chaotic phenomenon but as an entity that has a goal, a meaning and a justification. In other words, both socialism and religion view history teleologically… Finally, socialism's hostility toward traditional religion hardly contradicts this judgment – it may simply be a matter of animosity between rival religions." Igor Shafarevich

  • Liberty Clinger

    "It is certainly true that socialism is hostile to religion. But is it possible to understand it as a consequence of atheism? Hardly, at least if we understand atheism as it is usually defined: as the loss of religious feeling… Furthermore, socialism's attitude toward religion does not at all resemble the indifferent and skeptical position of someone who has lost interest in religion. The term "atheism" is inappropriate for the description of people in the grip of socialist doctrines. It would be more correct to speak here not of "atheists" but of "God-haters," not of "atheism" but of "theophobia." Such, certainly, is the passionately hostile attitude of socialism toward religion. Thus, while socialism is certainly connected with the loss of religious feeling, it can hardly be reduced to it. The place formerly occupied by religion does not remain vacant; a new lodger appeared.” Igor Shafarevich