Jazz jihad

03Apr14

This article, by Brian Chasnoff, is the the San Antonio Express-News:

Kory Cook, music director at KRTU-FM Jazz for San Antonio, said the radio station at Trinity University just “dodged a bullet,” but it’s probably more accurate to say it dodged a “quenelle.”

The hand gesture, widely seen as a reverse Nazi salute, is familiar to many Spurs fans as something guard Tony Parker flashed in a photo three years ago alongside the French anti-Semite Dieudonné M’Bala M’Bala.

Recently, LaBonte asked Cook at KRTU to help him find a venue for a show dubbed “Jazz Jihad!” It features Gilad Atzmon, an Israeli-born British jazz saxophonist who calls himself a “proud self-hating Jew”; LaBonte’s jazz trio; and Mark Dankof, a local “anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

Cook connected LaBonte with Ray Palmer, owner of High Wire Arts on West Josephine. Palmer agreed to host the show, and LaBonte advertised it on Facebook as “sponsored by KRTU.” Local musicians caught wind; an uproar ensued. JJ Lopez, general manager at KRTU, sent an email to Trinity staff on Saturday clarifying the situation. “We are not supporting this event,” Lopez wrote. “KRTU’s inclusion on the flyer was not approved by station management. I contacted the lead musician and had our name removed, effective immediately.” (“That was a mistake,” said Cook, who was planning to play drums at the show but backed out. “I did tell Trevor that KRTU would support the show on the air, we would promote it. But we were never a sponsor.”)

And on Sunday, after learning more about the acts involved, Palmer canceled. “I’m way open to many different mindsets,” he told me, “but when you get into exclusions and hate … I got a bad taste in my mouth.”

“Hate” is one way to describe the views of LaBonte, which include a defense of Adolf Hitler. In December, on Facebook, LaBonte wrote, “If Hitler was an evil dictator, then why did he have broad public support?”

This is extreme stuff, and LaBonte doubled down on Monday. “Jews were heavily involved in communism and were targeting Europe to communize it,” he told me. “Hitler was not trying to take over the world. Hitler was trying to protect it from communism, which was trying to take over the world…. It was planned by Jews.” LaBonte said speakers at the show “were going to talk about some of these things.”

I even received a surprise call from Atzmon, who defended LaBonte’s views (“Everything he told you so far is partially correct as we know”) and railed against the cancellation of his show — in a notably anti-Semitic manner. “I’m offended,” Atzmon said. “I write about Jewish political power, and here it comes.”

I mentioned that his views offend some people. “People can be offended by a lot of things,” he said. “But as far as I’m aware, in this country, we have the First Amendment, which allows me theoretically to express my thoughts.”

Another freedom implicit in the First Amendment is that of association, and the saga of “Jazz Jihad!” shows that this freedom entails a responsibility, sometimes, to disassociate. Faced with the prospect of his band appearing in this column, King fired LaBonte: “I don’t want to be associated with his beliefs.” Embarrassed by the photograph with Dieudonné, Parker publicly apologized. And both Cook and Palmer backed out of “Jazz Jihad!,” which LaBonte is planning at another, undisclosed local venue. (A second show is scheduled at Ovations Night Club in Houston.)

As for me, a proud Jew, I won’t be attending, no matter how talented the musicians. Chalk that up to the First Amendment, too.

An “open letter to the world” at lettrs tells the story of how Trevor LaBonte passed from ordinary lumpen-leftism to conspiracy theories to the far right. It makes for illuminating and tragic reading.

LaBonte and Atzmon, in linking up to Mark Dankof, are connecting to the out and out far right. Dankof’s world is that of American Free Press, founded by Willis Carto, “one of America’s most influential political racial theorists”. To understand this world, see SPLC’s page on Willis Carto and his group Barnes Review, or the Nizkor project’s page on Carto.

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