The Spectacle Blog

Without A CAIR

By on 8.3.07 | 6:35AM

The desks barring the doors indicate that Robert Spencer's lecture was going to be something different. We had been free to go and come as we please for every other portion of the Young America's Foundation's 29th annual National Conservative Student Conference. But, then, none of the other lectures took place under the specter of veiled threats from America/>/>'s largest Muslim civil rights group, either.

Only a figure as controversial as Spencer, "the speaker that CAIR doesn't want you to hear," said YAF spokesman Jason Mattera to a youth conservative group standing to applaud the man and the firestorm he created -- would require such a spectacle to become a reality. Attorney Joseph Sandler, on behalf of his clients from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, sent YAF President Ron Robinson a letter demanding the removal of Spencer from the program outline, characterizing Spencer as a "well-known purveyor of hatred and bigotry against Muslims." Sandler's letter did not mention a single, specific instance of factual inaccuracy in Spencer's work, let alone prove the malice which is supposedly their driving force. No, this was a demand and a threat in the baldest of terms.

YAFers, for their part, came prepared ready to fight, filling the Marvin/> Center/>/>'s Grand Ballroom at George/> Washington/> University/>/> to the teeth and eagerly cheering the speaker at every criticism railed against militant Islam, and against CAIR specifically. After a somber pre-lunch announcement that participants would have to wear their name tags, "or be someone we recognize" to gain admission to the afternoon's events, attendees at the week-long conference doubtless felt that they had to support their embattled speaker -- and vocally.

The conservative youth movement was not about to have its keynote speaker bullied by a group that has never denounced even one terrorist organization by name. Michelle Malkin slipped in the back door and did some />live blogging during the lecture.

All of this was much ado about nothing. Spencer never deviated from the script, giving the exact same lecture he had planned on giving even before CAIR's lawyers demanded that YAF pull him from the program the day before he was set to appear. Everything went off without a hitch, and Spencer no doubt sold more books than he would have otherwise, with students filling much of the hallway to buy signed copies.

One thinks that CAIR had to know it was fighting a losing battle in a half-hearted way. Having lawyers send cease-and-desist letters the day before an event is the way to make early morning headlines, not the way to gain satisfaction; law doesn't work on one-day timeframes, typically. One wonders, then, why CAIR would take the path of most resistance and feed YAF such a public relations gift during an otherwise unremarkable conference - YAF isn't exactly asking attendees to craft the new Sharon Statement. One wonders why a supposedly "moderate" organization would attempt to tell another organization whom it may or may not allow to speak at a conference.

Of course, there's the idea that, in P.T. Barnum immortal words, "the only bad publicity is no publicity." Even so, if "publicity" was CAIR's goal, it is quite curious why an organization which puts itself on par with the NAACP would seek out this type of publicity. Do "moderate" groups tell other organizations whom they may or may not have speak to its own members?

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