Ami Horowitz On The Power Of Film To Shape Debate

Filmmaker reveals how to win on the media battlefield at Restoration Weekend.

Editor's Note: Below are the video and transcript to remarks given by Ami Horowitz at the David Horowitz Freedom Center's 2017 Restoration Weekend. The event was held Nov. 16th-19th at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach, Florida.

Ami Horowitz: So, for those of you that don't know, I do a series of videos, some shorter form, some little bit longer form, about whatever touches my fancy.  Mostly things around international relations, domestic politics, Israel, Islam, a whole bunch of different things.  So, we're going to begin today if you don't mind, we'll watch a couple of clips of two videos that I have done.  One that you will be pretty much one of the first ones to see and one I did last year.  Talk a little bit about them, and then talk a little more about the media in general and how I'm able to use them to promote our ideals.  So, with that we'll start with the first video clip, please.

Clip 1:

Clip 2:

Ami Horowitz: Thank you very much.  What I'm going to talk to you about today briefly instead of talking about the obvious from these clips, which is sort of the intellectual rape happening on our college campuses today; I think that's obvious to everybody in this room.  So, I don't think it's important to belabor that point.  I'll just make one quick, two quick observations.  One is about the U.S. flag, ISIS flag video that I did.  Nobody here should be under the illusion that -- for example, I did it because obviously, regarding kneeling during the National Anthem, these people are disrespecting not just our flag, but our nation by taking a knee.  Let's make things very, very clear, and this clip shows it very clearly, people taking a knee when our National Anthem is being sung is not making some kind of larger political point.  They're point is that they do hate America.  They hate what America stands for, and I want to make that very clear, and that clip shows it very clearly. 

The only other point I'll make about the video with Hamas, it's hard to hear, but essentially I was raising money for Hamas on campus to blow up schools and to blow up cafes and to kill as many Jews as possible.  And, of course, I was able to raise quite a bit of money over the course of the hour that I was raising it.  The only point I'll make about that is the reason why I chose Portland State University to do the video was because Portland State University right before I did the video was about to vote to divest from Israel. BDS, as you all know, is a trend happening all over our campuses across the country.  So, I got a call from Hillel saying, "We've been working for months to get rid of this vote.  We can't do it.  Could you help us?" The video which, was pretty popular, particularly in the State of Oregon and got so much press nationally and locally, that Portland State University did cancel the BDS vote as a direct result of the embarrassment of that video.  Thank you.

Which leads me to the point I want to discuss with you guys, which is oftentimes we – when I say we conservatives – sometimes we have a very contentious relationship with the media and with the press.  And, rightly so.  You look across the media landscape outside of course at Fox News, some here in this room might even disagree with that, we are surrounded by what we would call enemies.  Okay, I'm not sure I would use that word.  But, you look at CNN, you look at MSNBC, the New York Times, the BBC, etc.  What I want to impart to you guys is sometimes that relationship can be advantageous to us.  I have built my career on reaching out to those media to have them support my work.  Unbeknownst to them sometimes.  I would say about every three or four videos a year, CNN will cover in a positive way.  I'll tell you an interesting story about my relationship with CNN.  For example, I did a video last year about the incredible problems the Somalis are having in Minneapolis.  They sent a tremendous amount of young, Somali Americans to fight for Al Shabab and ISIS.  And I went down there to interview younger people to see what's going on.  And there was this very disturbing video.  It was a video where people were saying that they believe in Shariah law.  They don't care about American law.  They believe that it is permissible to kill if somebody defames Mohammed.  Very disturbing stuff.  And, the video came out and it did pretty well.

In fact, at one point Sean Hannity was interviewing Marco Rubio and he stopped the interview to show him the video on live on TV.  Anyways, I got a call from Fareed Zakaria.  You all know Fareed Zakaria?  He's problematic in a lot of ways.  He called me up.  Said, "I saw this video and I'd like to use it in a CNN documentary that I'm making."  I said what's the context?  And he said, "I want to show how we do have problems with Islam and America."  And, I was dumbfounded.  And, in fact, he did.  He used that video the way I would have used it in a video.  In a very positive way to show there are issues – of course the entire documentary wasn't to my liking – but the context that he used that video was a very positive one.  And it's important for us to understand that in all the years that I've been doing these videos, and I've hit Islam pretty hard, the word Islamaphobe has never been used with me because I try to deal with issues that the left cares about.  But it's the context of what we care about as well.  Whether it be women's rights or gay rights, and that helps bridge that gap sometimes between the mainstream media and what we're trying to get them to cover.  And, sometimes they don't cover it; sometimes they do.  Sometimes in a negative way, mostly in a negative way, sometimes in a positive way.  But my point to you is that all is not lost and if you're able to reach them in a certain way, particularly with entertaining video. That's kind of been the key for me, to use video as entertainment first, education second.  That just seems to disarm people.  Sometimes I find that if it's too polemic, at least off the top, while it's good for us – and I'm a big believer in speaking to the choir because the choir needs to know, they need to be armed with information – but if you want to cross over to the other side, sometimes it's more important to disarm them with entertainment.  Make it funny.  Make it interesting.  And, therefore, that seems to have opened a number of doors for me.

If you guys remember, I did a video about Sweden that became quite popular.  The president mentioned it.  It became this global/national storm.  Actually, international storm.  The entire world was debating, because this video that I did and Trump's mention of it, whether or not the Islamic immigration across the world is a negative or a positive.  And I'm very proud that the entire world was debating this issue.  Again, some of it was positive.  Some of it was negative.  The point was it was being debated.  And what I did find very interesting about that particular incident and my relation of the media for that one was, again, the entire world covered it. The New York Times did a whole front-page article about me and Donald Trump about it.  It wasn't necessarily a negative article, although I will mention one thing: this entire front-page article, huge article, at the end there's a little bit of a slam on me.  And they do mention at the end, they said, "We reached out to Ami Horowitz for comment, and he didn't get back to us."  I'm thinking to myself, that's weird, I'm pretty sure I'd remember the New York Times calling me.  So, I called Peter Baker, who's the chief White House correspondent who wrote the article.  And he didn't expect a call from me.  I said, "Hey, Peter.  You wrote an article about me.  What's with at the end you said I you reached out for comment, didn't get back to me.  I don't remember that."  He said to me – now keep in mind during this global storm I was getting maybe 10, 12,000 tweets a day – he said I sent you a tweet requesting comment.  Not a direct message.  A random tweet.

So, there are issues with them, but what's fascinating about that particular piece, and I'll wrap it up with this because I know we're running out of time, is that it did give me lot of insight into the left and, of course, when I say the media, I usually mean the left.  And, what was interesting about that was I was bringing the world a real women's rights crisis.  The entire basis for this video was how rape has essentially skyrocketed in Sweden, and there's a direct connection between Islamic immigration and the rise in rape.  A real women's rights crisis that people would care about.  Something on the left we should care about, right?  Women's rights is a pillar of what the left proposes or claims to want to support and back.  Yet, there's a dichotomy in the mind on the left which I find so fascinating.  The dichotomy is between their pillars of their thought, which are egalitarianism and humanism and human rights.  Things that we could all sort of agree on with a lot of issues.  And culture relativity, which is to say that there's no culture superior to another culture.  So, you can't put Western values above Islamic values and the Islamic religion.  That's anathema to them.  But the two are in conflict.  You simply can't have a belief in egalitarianism and human rights and at the same time believe that Islamic law and Islamic culture is on equal footing with the West. 

So, when I brought them this video, which kind of brought those two things to a head, their heads exploded.  And it culminated with this – if you have some time to watch it, I would watch the entire video. I did a 15-minute interview with Don Lemon.  15 minutes.  It was an extraordinarily long interview.  The entire interview was him and I – it was some version of this.  I would say, "Rape is up in Sweden."  And, he would say "No, it's not."  I would say, "Yes, it is."  He said, "No, it's not."  15 minutes of that.  He was denying -- forget about the causal connection between Islamic immigration and the rise of rape which is I think demonstrable, but okay you could debate it. But he was denying that rape was up.  I mean these are cold, hard facts brought by the Swedish government.  The Swedish government even started saying, "Well, it's not that, I'm not sure it's true," even though they were their numbers.  There was such cognitive dissonance in the mind of the left and the media on that particular issue that they couldn't even come to grips with the facts, with the actual raw numbers.  When Donald Trump says fake news, sometimes I roll my eyes.  In a case like this, this is definition of fake news.

So, I'm going to end this you guys so we can have the great Victor Davis Hanson tie this up.  But we shouldn't look necessarily to the media as our enemies.  There are ways that we could manipulate them for our purposes.  And I think I have found that way to a large extent and all hope is not lost.  I believe there are ways we could find issues to come to common ground on.  But the one thing that we have to overcome with them first is this cognitive distance they have between their human values, which we all agree with, and all come together on and this notion of cultural relativity.  So, with that I will leave it.  I thank you so much for taking the time to listen, to come to this extraordinary event, this important event that David Horowitz has put together.  Thank you very much.

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