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I Was the Target of a Fox News Hoax

When I was asked to address a conference at Brandeis, a right-wing shock jock created a hoax to stir up the right. Then Glenn Beck ran with it.

The story surfaces nationally with a surreal Glenn Beck segment and two ludicrous Fox News discussions highlighting the false claim that Brandeis University was hosting an international conference linking the Tea Party movement to Nazis in Europe. The conference, which took place yesterday, revealed the entire propaganda campaign was a hoax, but not before anguished Holocaust survivors, conservative Jews in the Tea Party movement, and others had deluged Brandeis University with complaints.

Now it seems that the story emerged as part of a Fox News campaign to defend the diverse and complicated Tea Party movement from evidence that its supporters include a significant contingent of White people who harbor racial resentment against Blacks and Latinos/Latinas.

For the original Brandeis story on Fox News reporters relied on the claims of a single local Boston Tea Party advocate and conservative talk radio shock jock, Michael Graham, for its information. So Fox News featured the offensive hoax based on biased hearsay, unsubstantiated supposition, and a misreading of the conference program by a person who is a Tea Party supporter

The Glenn Beck segment drifted farther away from facts and logic.
Glenn Beck segment:
3:20 Brandeis conference denounced
6:00 Beck tells viewers to contact Brandeis

As Media Matters for America observed, apparently the most significant aspect of the story for Beck was that the university was named after  the late Jewish scholar and Supreme Court justice, Louis D. Brandeis. For Beck, wrote a Media Matters researcher, the "Brandeis University symposium on political extremism is suspect because Louis Brandeis was in [Woodrow] Wilson's cabinet;" the quip accompanies a link to that portion of Beck's tirade which skirted on the thin ice of classic antisemitic conspiracy claims about manipulation of politics by powerful elite Jews.

Since I was a conference participant, and part of the hoax was based on the title of my paper, "From Tea Parties to Armed Militias," I am writing this from a personal perspective. And am I pissed off? You betcha!

Unlike Fox News and the right-wing blogosphere, some people actually contacted me before the conference and fact-checked the claims. Not Graham, who wrote an op-ed in the Boston Herald repeating his false claims.

My conference paper, which clearly stated that I did not think that Tea Party activists were Nazis, was presented at an interdisciplinary conference coordinated by the Brandeis Center for German and European Studies. The conference title was " New Right-Wing Radicalism: A Transatlantic Perspective." A range of scholars with demonstrable expertise on the subject from Europe and United States were invited.

When Brandeis realized the conference program was being misinterpreted, it issued the following statement:

On April 28, the Center for German and European Studies at Brandeis University is hosting a conference on the rise of right-wing radicalism.

The event, which features speakers from a variety of universities and institutions, focuses on developments in Europe, including the rise of neo-Nazi and anti-semitic groups. It also includes discussion of a wide range of movements and activities in the United States, from the extreme and violent to the Tea Party, as a point of comparison.

The logo created for the conference showed a swastika inside the international symbol of negation, reflecting the legitimate concern people feel over the activities, often violent, of neo-Nazi extremists.

Unfortunately, this logo created an impression that Brandeis and the conference organizers equated a range of organizations, including the Tea Party in the United States, with extremist groups on both continents.

That was not the intention of the faculty, staff or students of the University who were involved in creating the conference, and Brandeis regrets the unintended association and pain this caused. The logo has been removed from the event page promoting the conference

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