Notes From the Margins…

My name is Emerson, Steve Emerson

  • January 12, 2015
  • by

Many of the inhabitants of Birmingham were 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.     In the United States Emerson is one of the most prominent members of that highly-dubious breed known as the ‘terrorism expert,’     whose expertise consists of an ability to offer up interpretations of terrorism that certain governments and media want to hear.

Emerson’s particular forte has always been ‘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 invariably conflate Israel’s enemies with those of the US.

Emerson has been in 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 immediate aftermath of Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the Alfred Murrah building in Oklahoma City he famously 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, that 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.’

But his ‘mistake’ was only one component of an interview that was steeped in Islamophobic fantasies and deliberate lies.       The interview took place only the day after Rupert Murdoch tweeted that all Muslims must be held responsible for the ‘growing jihadist cancer’ in their midst, and Emerson and his interviewer were both singing loudly from the same 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 stunningly witless interviewer were ‘off-limits to non-Muslims.’

If you’re going to make nonsensical assertions like this you need to have a certain kind of expert that you can rely on, and that’s why you call Steve Emerson. Yesterday he  rose to the occasion. Emerson 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 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’s face, 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 he doesn’t need to, because his ‘no go zones’ concept comes straight out of the ‘counterjihad’ Eurabian playbook, as written by Bat Y’eor, Melanie Phillips, Robert Spencer et al.       Emerson’s interviewer laps this up and even makes a ‘point’ of her own, observing ‘ You know what it sounds like to me Steve?   It sounds like a caliphate within a particular country.’

Yeah, it really does, doesn’t it?   Well it does to our ‘terrorism expert’ anyway, who 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.’

Huh?     Oh never mind.   Because the great problem, according to Emerson, is that European governments are not ‘dealing with it’ and are in active denial about these zones, even though the   ‘French official website’ says that they do exist and ‘actually has a map of them.’

I’d like to see that map, wouldn’t you?   But I doubt if I could find it, and in Britain it’s even worse, says Steve, because ‘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 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.’

Crikey, bet you didn’t know that, did you readers?     Well now you do, thanks to Steve Emerson, terrorism expert.     By this time the presenter looks so shocked that you wish someone would give her medication as she breathlessly asks if there is any way to ‘get these zones back’ and worries that they are ‘metastising into a simple takeover’.

Steve, not surprisingly, isn’t optimistic, because every counterjihadist worth his salt knows that European governments are just too hidebound by political correctness to recognize the threat.   So the sage concludes that ‘ 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.’

So it looks like we’re doomed, doomed I tell you, because Muslim ‘leaders’ have deliberately turned Birmingham into an all-Muslim city whose inhabitants refuse to integrate, and they are using it as ‘political and military leverage.’ Steve still has one last nonsensical touch to add to this already remarkable achievement.   Asked about ‘these female terrorists’ like Hayat Boumedienne, he tells the interviewer ‘ there are many of them, well not many, well I can’t give you a specific number’.

Our expert may not be certain whether there are many or not many, but he does know that these female terrorists can be found in Britain, ‘where women wear burkhas to hide their identities.’

Phew.   If there was any intellectual activity going on in that interview I sure didn’t see it, but thought and intelligence are clearly not the priority here in an interview whose essential purpose to inject a massive dose of bigotry and propaganda into the minds of its credulous audience.

That was why Steve Emerson was there.     And regardless of his little faux pas about Birmingham, the ‘terrorism expert’ didn’t disappoint.




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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..

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    21st Jan 2015 - 1:13 pm

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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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