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.
Another difference was their nihilism masquerading as utopianism. They get very worked up about tearing down the existing social order and replacing it with systems that have only led to mass misery and death. Call me crazy, but I think freedom and democracy are preferable to totalitarian hell.
Also, I acknowledge the existence of good and evil in the world, concepts the Left finds simplistic. While they blather about the nuances of morality, the very real evil they refuse to condemn gains ground. (Of course, when they’re talking about Fox News or Israel or the Bush administration, which they consider evil personified, the Left become spit-flecked Manicheans and nuance flies right out the window.) Unlike the Left, I could see that this country had existential enemies in the world, and that if we didn’t pull ourselves together and begin defending our rights and freedoms and prosperity instead of apologizing and groveling to our enemies, all of whom were guilty of real atrocities and evil, then this country and the West as I knew and loved it would end, and possibly in my lifetime.
FP: Why did the radical Left become the mainstream Left in your view?
Tapson: The radical Left, like radical Muslims, are patient and clever and understand how to worm their way gradually and subversively into the critical arenas of society – the media, schools and universities, the entertainment biz – to shape cultural perceptions. So over the years the radical Left very shrewdly positioned themselves to push their anti-family, anti-capitalist, anti-American agenda, to radicalize youth, and to make moderates – old-fashioned liberals like I had been – irrelevant and marginalized. And not coincidentally, that’s exactly what the Islamists have done as well. So we now find ourselves in a culture war with a divide between Left and Right that is deeper than it’s been for decades.
FP: You refer to the Left sharing the mission with fundamentalist Islam to tear down the West. Expand on this for us and explain a bit more your perspective on what brings the Left into solidarity with the most monstrous totalitarian force of our time.
Tapson: Well, this is an issue David Horowitz explored in _Unholy Alliance_ and more recently, Andrew C. McCarthy in _The Grand Jihad_. Horowitz points out that both Islam and the Left are totalitarian movements in pursuit of transformative social justice, and they have a common enemy in the United States, which stands in the way of that revolution. Islam has benefited hugely from the Left’s religion of multiculturalism, the essence of which is that all cultures are equally worthy and off-limits to judgment except Western civilization, which is the source of all oppression and evil in the world and must be eliminated. This ties in neatly with the aim of Muslim fundamentalists, even though they want to establish a theocracy and the Left wants a godless socialist state. So they’re willing to work together in an unofficial coalition to destroy the Great Satan, America. Of course, if they ever succeed at that, the Islamists will then turn on the cowardly Left and eat them alive, but hey, that’ll be their problem.
FP: Are you optimistic or pessimistic that our civilization can take on radical Islam, especially with the obstacle we face of the Left controlling so many boundaries of our discourse and debate?
Tapson: Jamie, you nailed it when you talk about “our civilization taking on radical Islam,” because that’s how big this issue is – I believe it’s the defining challenge and conflict of our time, and that civilization as we know it hangs in the balance. Anyone who thinks this is just Islamophobic paranoia is either in denial about the determination and fanaticism of our enemy, or simply isn’t paying attention to the threats we face on multiple fronts.
Political correctness, a complicit media and willfully blind leadership do present enormous obstacles, and we’ve lost a lot of ground already in this so-called Clash of Civilizations. But I’m strongly optimistic because I believe ordinary citizens in America and Europe and Australia are waking up to the threat. They have a common-sense view of what’s at stake, and since 9⁄11 they’ve been educating themselves about the Islamic threat, unlike most of our leaders and elites, who hide behind PC platitudes. So I believe the tide will begin to turn. But it will take ordinary people throwing off the chains of political correctness and refusing to accept the media lies and smears of bigotry and Islamophobia from Islamists like CAIR and their Leftist sympathizers. It will take leaders who aren’t afraid to defend our values and traditions and our history. And it won’t come without fierce political and cultural struggle; I believe that in some places, like Europe, it won’t come without violence in the streets.
FP: Some of your future plans and projects?
Tapson: As you noted earlier, I’m working on a book about how Hollywood is undermining us against radical Islam, and I’ll continue blogging and writing articles and speaking about that and related issues. I’m co-writing a documentary about the Muslim Brotherhood for terrorism expert Steven Emerson. And I have film and TV projects in the works that I hope will make an impact in the Clash of Civilizations.
FP: Mark Tapson, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Tapson: Jamie, it was an honor.
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