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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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