How 30 Million DVDs Sent In 2008 Election Fuel The Anti-Mosque Debate Today

In the last weeks before the 2008 elections, an organization called the Clarion Fund spent some $16 million to reprint and distribute 28 million copies of their 2005 film about radical Islam and terrorist groups. “Obsession” was inserted into newspapers — and packaged with scary photos of scarf-clad men — in swing states.

That move, funded by a single anonymous donor, may still be echoing in 2010’s protests about the Cordoba House and other mosques around the country.

“The single most powerful piece of media over the past five years that has been effective in persuading average Americans to the Islamist threat has been ‘Obsession,'” Tom Trento, the director of the Florida Security Council, told TPMmuckraker today. Trento said he participated in the multimillion-dollar distribution of the film by giving out tens of thousands of copies at both parties’ 2008 conventions.

“Obsession” — the abridged version of which you can watch here — aims to scare, with graphic footage of terrorist attacks and large rallies where clerics scream in Arabic, “Death to America!” Commentators, including the daughter of a jihadist and Jerusalem Post writer Caroline Glick, say things like, “Jihad has come to America” and describe terrorist attacks as “multiple fronts in a global Jihad.”

The filmmakers are careful to distinguish the threat as from “radical Islam,” not Muslims overall. Clarion and the people involved in its projects, including a Muslim physician who narrated Clarion’s latest movie, believe that 80 to 90 percent of the mosques in America fall into this dangerous category.

That movie, the “Third Jihad,” describes the threat of this radical Islam to American culture. Specifically. Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser told TPMmuckraker, this vast majority of clerics in the U.S. pose a serious threat to the Constitution by preaching in favor of sharia law.

“The movie has been extremely effective in waking people up,” said Trento, whose organization aims to educate Floridians of the threat of radical Islam. He spoke last Sunday at an anti-mosque rally in Lower Manhattan. “The intent of the movie was to activate people.”

The Clarion Fund opposes the community center near Ground Zero, but is taking a more passive role in the debate. Most of its limited resources, according to a spokesman, are focusing on wrapping up a new film on the Iranian nuclear threat, called “Iranium.”

Clarion is still promoting a movie it released last year about radical Islam’s threat to American culture, called “The Third Jihad.” Alex Traiman, the spokesman, told TPMmuckraker that he believes “Third Jihad” contributed to the current protests.

“We haven’t taken a [vocal] stand on the Ground Zero mosque, but the American public has,” Traiman said. “I think part of that is the impression that ‘Third Jihad’ has had. … We try to present the tools for educating Americans to spur grassroots action, and we feel really gratified right now.”

He said the debate over the Cordoba House project has been the wake up call Clarion has been waiting for.

“We had always expected that there would be some event that would galvanize the public and we were waiting for it,” he said. “It really took this mosque. This story is really getting Americans to wake up and say, ‘Wait a second.'”

“The people that see the film are wanting to do something,” he said.

Traiman sounded rueful that the timing of “Iranium” is taking away from their ability to work against the Cordoba House. “We were waiting so long for an event, and it comes right now when we’re in final production for a new film.”

Dear Reader,

When we asked recently what makes TPM different from other outlets, readers cited factors like honesty, curiosity, transparency, and our vibrant community. They also pointed to our ability to report on important stories and trends long before they are picked up by mainstream outlets; our ability to contextualize information within the arc of history; and our focus on the real-world consequences of the news.

Our unique approach to reporting and presenting the news, however, wouldn’t be possible without our readers’ support. That’s not just marketing speak, it’s true: our work would literally not be possible without readers deciding to become members. Not only does member support account for more than 80% of TPM’s revenue, our members have helped us build an engaged and informed community. Many of our best stories were born from reader tips and valuable member feedback.

We do what other news outlets can’t or won’t do because our members’ support gives us real independence.

If you enjoy reading TPM and value what we do, become a member today.

Latest Muckraker
Masthead Masthead
Founder & Editor-in-Chief:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Associate Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Director of Audience:
Editor at Large:
General Counsel:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Associate Publisher:
Front End Developer:
Senior Designer: