Notes From the Margins…

My Name is Emerson, Steve Emerson

  • January 12, 2015
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Many people in Birmingham may be surprised to learn from Fox News yesterday that their city has become an “entirely Muslim” city which non-Muslims “simply don’t go in.” But no one familiar with Steven Emerson, the pundit who expounded these views, will be surprised at all.     Emerson is one of the most prominent ‘terrorism experts,’ in the United States,     whose particular forte is ‘Islamic terrorism.’

Like many American terrorism experts, he has close ties to Israeli intelligence and Israeli security thinktanks, but even more than most he has always shown a remarkable ability to make fact-free and often nonsensical statements and assumptions that conflate Israel’s enemies with those of the US.

Emerson has been at this game for a long time.   In 1994 he made a documentary called Jihad in America, which claimed that the US was riddled with jihadist sleeper cells. In the aftermath of Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah building in Oklahoma City he told a CBS interviewer that the bombing was carried out “with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible.   That is a Middle Eastern trait.”

Emerson played a key role in the US government’s 11-year persecution of Palestinian academic Sami al-Arian in Florida, which began in 2003 when al-Arian was arrested on charges of assisting suicide bombings in Israel, and ended last July when all charges against him were dismissed.     After the 2013 Boston marathon bombings,   Emerson claimed that a Saudi national was responsible, though it subsequently turned out to be Chechens.

None of this has prevented the former sociology graduate from doing very well for himself, because experts like him will always be in demand in certain circles regardless of their insight, analytical ability, or the accuracy of their information.

Emerson is the director of a tax-exempt ‘non-profit research group’ called the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), whose finances have come under scrutiny for channeling funds into another for-profit company that he himself controls.   In 2010 the Nashville newspaper The Tennessean described Emerson as “a leading member of a multi-million-dollar industry of self-proclaimed experts who spread hate toward Muslims in books and movies, on websites and through speaking appearances.”

This is exactly what Emerson was doing yesterday, and that was what Fox News interviewed him for.   Emerson has since issued an apology to the “beautiful city of Birmingham”   for his “mistake” and declared that “I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources, because I should have been much more careful.”

That is true, but Emerson’s ‘mistake’ was only one component of an interview that was steeped in Islamophobic fantasies and deliberate lies.   The interview took place the day after Rupert Murdoch tweeted that all Muslims must be held responsible for the “growing jihadist cancer” in their midst, and both Emerson and his interviewer were singing loudly from the master’s hymn sheet.

The interview was part of a post-Paris report on the   ‘terrorist sleeper cells’ and the ‘hundreds of no-go zones’ across Europe that according to the witless interviewer had become “off-limits to non-Muslims.”

If you’re going to make assertions like this you need to have a certain kind of expert to back them up, and that’s why you call Steve Emerson.  Yesterday he  rose to the occasion and described these ‘zones’ as “amorphous.  They’re not contiguous necessarily. But they are safe havens”,  where governments “don’t exercise any sovereignty”, where the police don’t dare enter, where Shar’ia law holds sway, and “Muslim density is very intense.”

Not as intense as the density emanating from Emerson or his interviewer, whose stupefied expression of gormless horror is worth the price of admission, as Emerson tells her that these ‘zones’ are “like a separate country almost, within a country.”

How does Emerson know this?   Well he doesn’t ‘know’ it exactly, but his ‘no go zones’  are straight out of the ‘counterjihad’ Eurabian playbook, as written by Bat Y’eor, Melanie Phillips, Robert Spencer et al.  Emerson’s credulous interviewer laps it all up,  observing “You know what it sounds like to me Steve?   It sounds like a caliphate within a particular country.”

Our terrorism expert agrees wholeheartedly and adds ” It’s almost like what they’re asking Israel to do, which is to set up a separate state within their own state.”

Wait, so ‘no-go zones’ in Europe are like the Palestinian Authority?  Apparently so, and the great problem, according to Emerson, is that European governments are not “dealing with” with these zones and active denial about them, even though the  “French official website” says that they do exist and “actually has a map of them.”

And in Britain it’s even worse,  “it’s not just no go areas, there are actually cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims simply just don’t go in, and in parts of London there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim religious attire.”

By this time the presenter looks so shocked that you wish someone would give her medication as she wonders whether there is any way to “get these zones back” or whether they are in fact “metastising into a simple takeover”.

Emerson is not optimistic, because optimism is not his thing when it comes to terrorism, and every counterjihadist worth his salt knows that European governments are too paralysed by political correctness to even recognize the Muslim threat.  So it’s pretty much game over for us Europeans:

“Europe is finished, because if you extrapolate the number of Muslims, and I’m not saying that all Muslims are terrorists, far from it, but the leaders of the Muslim organizations in Europe deliberately don’t want to integrate, and so they establish these zones which refuse to integrate and use them as leverage against the host country, as political and military leverage, so will these countries take it back?   I don’t see it happening at this point.”

These predictions make sense if you believe, as Emerson does,  that Muslims have already turned Birmingham into an all-Muslim city which they are using as “political and military leverage.”

Fox News is all too willing to believe such nonsense and to share it with their viewers, and one thing you can say about Steve Emerson is that he will never disappoint such expectations.


Featured Image: Luke Ford. Wikimedia Commons


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  1. Richard Carter

    12th Jan 2015 - 2:49 pm

    What an idiot! And the “interviewer” was even worse, a credulous fool.

    Looking at Emerson’s website (), we learn that he ” is considered one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks, financing and operations.” Really? Considered by whom? But even worse, and terrifying, is this statement: “Emerson and his staff frequently provide briefings to U.S. government and law enforcement agencies, members of Congress and congressional committees…” If that really is true (and I sincerely hope it’s just BS) and serious people are listening to this idiot, then it’s time to get really worried.

    • Richard Carter

      12th Jan 2015 - 2:50 pm

      Sorry, meant to include the web address in the brackets. It’s if you feel like a bout of masochism.

      • Matt

        12th Jan 2015 - 3:21 pm

        Not that much masochism, Richard, at least not now. The Fox interview was bad enough. As you say, what’s really terrifying is that this guy has an audience in high places, but then, governments tend to chose the kind of ‘terrorism expert’ that tells them what they want to hear, don’t they?

  2. jim68000

    12th Jan 2015 - 3:31 pm

    The map he refers to is here – – not actually a single map, more like 750 of them.

    This list is actually of French ZUS areas – Zones Urbaine Sensible or Sensitive Urban Zones. These are areas that score highly for some form of deprivation and therefore have special measures – such as business tax breaks – applied to them. The famous banlieus of Paris are in here but so are dozens of other areas of France.

    Emerson’s confabulation is to go from deprived area, to deprived area with a lot of crime, to deprived area with a lot of crime and larger than average muslim population (because muslims tend to be poorer in france) to…er…Sharia caliphate.

    A lot of the banlieus are places which are very hard to police because of local hostility (I won’t say ‘no-go’, but the French police tend to visit them in force), that’s down to drugs, gangs and guns rather than Islamic militancy.

    • Matt

      12th Jan 2015 - 3:53 pm

      Thanks Jim. There are of course, similar areas of deprivation, poverty and violence in cities throughout Europe, whose inhabitants may or may not be predominantly Muslim, but as you suggest, Emerson has his own agenda, which has no room for serious sociological analysis of anything at all.

  3. mark

    12th Jan 2015 - 3:37 pm

    Well, and i though Damien Day was the best reporter in the world..

  4. » Worth Reading 153: Sum of the individual cubes ¦ What You Can Get Away With

    21st Jan 2015 - 1:13 pm

    […] My name is Emerson, Steve Emerson – Fox News’s branding of Birmingham as city where non-Muslims don’t go wasn’t an accident, but part of a wider skein of the ‘anti-terrorist’ movement. Why Britain Doesn’t Need A ‘UKIP Of The Left’ – I’ve been trying to do a a similar post to this myself for ages, but it explains how the question ‘why isn’t there a UKIP of a the left?’ rests on flawed assumptions. What David Cameron just proposed would endanger every Briton and destroy the IT industry – But aside from that, Prime Minister, how was your day? Davos delegates don’t care about inequality or your debt – What will (keeping the rich happy) and won’t (keeping you happy) be discussed at the World Economic Forum. Grayling: I’m the first impartial Lord Chancellor in 400 years – He’s obviously not, and Ian Dunt explains why. […]

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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