Or, The Cursus Inhonorum of a B-List Right-Wing Crank
This is going to be a loooong one, folks, so bear with me. I was pulling together some thoughts and fact-checking for a long overdue Egypt-related diary when I came across a purported “expert” whom I'd not previously encountered. Wading through the Intertoobz in search of this “expert's” credentials proved to be quite a fascinating exercise, as I hope to document below. Some readers may say “oh, angry marmot, that non-expert is just a B-List right-wing crank, hardly worthy of so much time and ink.” There's some truth to that: perhaps “tenacious marmot” or “obsessive marmot” would have been a more apt username. Yet my sense is that both the inflated credentials and titulature of our “expert's” curriculum vitae as well as the stepping-stones of his cursus inhonorum these past eighteen years or so are indicative of broader phenomena among the class of aspiring right-wing talking-heads: namely, a curriculum vitae littered with exaggerations, misrepresentations, half-truths and lies, and a cursus inhonorum demonstrating the interconnections among right-wing organizations of varied and at times seemingly contradictory stripes.
Let's meet our chump over the fold, shall we?
Patrick S. Poole was a name hitherto unknown to me before last week, when I was in the process of following footnotes and checking some issues related to a book I'd just finished re-reading, Barbara Zollner's The Muslim Brotherhood: Hasan al-Hudaybi and Ideology (Routledge, 2009). One Google hit directed to an article posted by Poole at the inaptly named American Thinker (“The US and the Muslim Brotherhood” [8 May 2007]) so, being a bit of a masochist, I figured I'd entertain myself and read something from that swamp. The content of the article is unsurprising, channeling as it does the fantastical, paranoid and at times farcical ravings of Frank Gaffney. Yet I was struck by one particular line:
This is indicative of a common problem among those making positive assertions about the text [Hasan al-Hudaybi's Du'at la Qudat (Preachers not Judges)]- virtually none of them speak or read Arabic, the only language in which the book has appeared.
Oddly enough, I agree with Poole on the point that much of Western discourse related to Islam is hindered by the frequent inability of the commentariat to engage primary sources in the original language. Given Poole's set-up, then, one might expect that he would launch into a detailed linguistic discussion, addressing the ambiguities and/or errors in the translation and interpretation of Du'at la Qudat. One would be wrong. Poole doesn't hold a degree in Arabic Studies, but rather a B.A. in Political Science from The Ohio State University (1995). A quick survey of his writings reveal sources in English and, rarely, in French. When Poole does address Arabic terms and concepts, his references are to secondary non-Arabic rather than primary Arabic sources. In short, Poole's set-up—“those guys can't engage the sources in Arabic”—is a rhetorical construct on the basis of which the dimwitted and credulous readership of American Thinker are led to infer that Poole himself can not only read Du'at la Qudat in Arabic, but is competent to deal with the with the Arabic-language traditions (literary, juridical, theological) that inform the text. He is not. Replace “positive assertions” with “negative assertions” in the quotation above and Poole has quite aptly described himself.
[nota bene: in the interest of full disclosure, I don't claim fluency in Arabic: competence (I've offered plodding translations of some articles and documents in previous diaries and comments here) but not fluency.]
Poole's obviously misleading and self-aggrandizing claims to authority annoyed me. When I get annoyed, I become a bit obsessive, so I figured I'd spend a little time investigating this bullshit-artist.
ORIGIN STORY OF A CHRISTIAN RECONSTRUCTIONIST LIBERTARIAN CULTURE WARRIOR
Much of the information related to Poole's early post-graduation activities can be traced through an email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) associated with a now defunct website (fly.hiwaay.net/~pspoole/). By January of 1996, Poole was in Alabama as the Vice President for International Business Development of Unirex International, Inc., responsible for marketing (i.e., spamming message boards) technologies for the processing of municipal solid waste. I find it delightfully ironic that the strongest narrative theme of Poole's career to date is that of “recycling garbage.”
Although the details of the association are inaccessible, Poole next appears as a Policy Analyst for Gary Palmer's Alabama Family Alliance (now the Alabama Policy Institute), one of the original affiliates of the reactionary State Policy Network. While there Poole authored several policy documents including “Contracting Non-Instructional Services” (1997) and “Should Alabama Privatize Prisons? A Comparative Analysis” (1998). In February 1998, Poole went to work for Paul Weyrich' Free Congress Foundation as the Deputy Director of the Foundation's Center for Technology Policy, in which position he authored “ECHELON: America's Secret Global Surveillance Network” (1998). At the same time, Poole carpet-bagged to Michael Gilstrap's Tennessee Family Institute (subsequently renamed the Tennessee Institute for Public Policy) where he authored “A Guide to Social Security Reform for Tennessee” (1999) and "Recommendations for Reforming Foster Care and Adoption (1999). Frederick Clarkson cites Poole in his discussion of the flow of personnel between state- and national-level conservative advocacy groups in his “Takin' It to the States: the Rise of Conservative State-Level Think Tanks” (1999) [pdf, on Poole see p. 7]. (All of Poole's writings cited above are available through the document-search of the Heartland Institute; linking to them directly leaves me feeling a bit dirty.)
It is during Poole's journeyman days in Alabama, Washington, D.C. and Tennessee that we can also begin to document the religious element undergirding Poole's broad anti-government advocacy. Poole was associated with David Hall and the Center for the Advancement of Paleo Orthodoxy (CAPO) in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. While at the Alabama Family Alliance, and sometimes using the Alliance's name as the organizational header, Poole frequently forwarded issues of Hall's Covenant Syndicate newsletter to various Christian news-groups (as here and here). In addition, Poole contributed a number of articles to the Covenant Syndicate, such as “The Twisted Logic of Child Protection” (23 June 1997), “Unconditional Surrender to the State” (23 March 1998); “Liberalism's Hypocrisy” (21 May 1998), “The Online Decency Solution” (8 July 1998), and “The End of Privacy” (10 August 1998). Hall's reminiscences note that Poole was a Fellow of the Center for the Advancement of Paleo Orthodoxy, although no dates are specified for the Fellowship. Whether Poole may already have been associated with Hall in 1995 when he translated from French the critical notes of Henri-Louis Gonin's edition of Theodore Beza's “Concerning the Rights of Rulers Over Their Subjects,” a text that appears frequently among Kuyperian Calvinists, remains an interesting open question.
In short, Poole's so-limited-to-the-point-of-being-anti-government libertarian stance is deeply inflected by religion, in particular the Kuyperian Calvinist strain of Christian Reconstructionism represented by David Hall and George Grant. If any one quotation expresses the disdain that Poole holds for not only liberal, secular governance but also moderate Christianity, it is this:
When many of America's pulpits and pews are filled with adulterers, homosexuals and fornicators, it is not surprising to see the Church capitulate so quickly to the State for a solution to a problem that they have failed miserably trying to remedy... Those who refuse to be governed by the Ten Commandments will be governed by the ten thousand commandments. (quoted in Hester's The Ten Commandments: a Handbook of Religious, Legal and Social Issues )Before we leave Tennessee altogether, I'd like to note one of Poole's more egregious misrepresentations of himself. In the excerpts of his work on ECHELON published in two issues of Nexus Magazine in 1999 (Aug/Sep and Oct/Nov) he is described as “a lecturer in government and economics at Bannockburn College in Franklin, Tennessee, USA.” Bannockburn College was an unaccredited religious college founded by Christian Reconstructionist George Grant, sheltered in his King's Meadow Study Center. The inflated claims to authority via the implied status of “lecturer in government and economics at Bannockburn College” as well as "professor of government and economics at Bannockburn College" also appear in some of Poole's early writings at WorldNetDaily, as here (4 June 1999) and here (24 May 2000).
When next we encounter Poole in August 2001, he has moved to the warmer climes of Scottsdale, Arizona to work for the Alliance Defense Fund (now the Alliance Defending Freedom) as Director of Alumni for the Blackstone Fellowship. The ADF is an organization intent to provide a Christian counter to the ACLU, and the Blackstone Fellowship is the organization's “summer leadership development program that trains Christian law students in constitutional law.”
OUR HERO WANDERS IN THE WILDERNESS
There's scant evidence for Poole's activities in the three to four years between the 2001 gig at the Alliance Defense Fund and his “return” to Ohio in late 2005. Indeed, in one of Poole's earliest entries on his blog, prior to his move back to Ohio, he notes:
Just like the Led Zeppelin song, I’m rambling on yet again. Looking at options in Washington D.C., Arizona, and Illinois. Working on a project I’ve waited my whole life for, and praying that it comes together this time. Life is too short to do anything else but swing for the fences. I have to say that recent events in my life have confirmed that most people settle for mediocrity and compromise. I’m convinced that is what I’ve done the past 3 1/2 years. (3 September 2005)What evidence there is indicates that Poole was esconced back in Franklin, Tennessee, supported by one or more of the schools or centers associated with Hall and/or Grant. A remark by George Grant on his blog refers to some bibliographic references supplied by his “friend, the writer and educator, Patrick Poole” (3 March 2004). A reference in David Hall's The Genevan Reformation and the American Founding (2005, p. 218) points to a (still) forthcoming volume edited by Poole entitled Reformation Political Tracts. Most informative is Poole's author's-note prefacing his three-part essay “Christian Worldview and Changing Cultures,” published in the Kuyper Foundation's journal Christianity & Society (April 2005 [pdf, pp. 42-47], October 2005 [pdf, pp. 28-34], April 2006 [pdf, pp. 4-13]):
Patrick Poole (email@example.com) is a freelance writer and lecturer based in Franklin, Tennessee. He previously worked in Washington D.C. and several State capitals as a public policy analyst and is the author of dozens of policy reports and editorials. His report on the National Security Agency, ECHELON: America’s Secret Global Surveillance Network, has been published in eight languages, and his public policy work has been covered by the New York Times, World Magazine, ABC News, the National Post (Canada), The Guardian (England), Jungewelt (Germany) and La Monde Diplomatique. He is the editor for PaulPerspective.com, a site dedicated to examining the New Perspective on Paul and Federal Vision theologies, and also a contributing editor to WorldNetDaily.com. These articles are excerpts from his [still] forthcoming book, Christian Worldview and Changing Cultures.If you want to read some crazy fucking theocratic shit, I encourage you to work through all three parts of this essay. A kind of synopsis is available in the following quotations:
In sum, then, Poole's writings indicate that his time “in the wilderness” from 2001 to 2005 was a period of increasing frustration with the complacency of his fellow theocrats and a growing need to become an active Culture Warrior. Islam, “the biggest opponent for the Church,” became the focal-point for Poole's neo-Crusader activism.Civilisations are crashing down throughout the world because they can no longer bear the weight of their worldview; the ideas of those cultures have grown so removed from revealed reality that they have exhausted their religious and intellectual resources. As Christians, this ought not to cause us to despair, but to rejoice. The opportunity to see the redemption of Christ applied not just to individuals, but entire societies and civilisations, should motivate us to act on the comprehensive claims of Christ throughout the horizon of Creation.
By understanding how the unbelieving worldview of men and of cultures has failed them, and understanding how the Christian worldview is the sole remedy, we can face the prospect of engaging rotting cultures in the hope of recovering their structures and redirecting them to their proper end—the glory of God. (Part 2, p. 34)We live in one of the most culturally transformative periods in the history of mankind, which presents special opportunities and poses unique challenges in advancing Christian culture. Perhaps the biggest opponent for the Church will continue to be Islam. But we should remember that the faults of humanism and postmodernism are part and parcel of the Islamic worldview as well. […] As long as Christianity can mount a strong religious and cultural challenge to Islam the long-term progress of the gospel seems certain. (Part 3, p. 13)
THE JOURNEYMAN OF FEAR, INC.
Poole returned to his family's Hilliard, Ohio home sometime in late 2005 or early 2006. Like some bizarre mash-up of Rambo and Red Dawn, he immediately set to work “exposing” the Islamist threat in central Ohio, as documented in his first contribution at David Horowitz' FrontPage Magazine:
When I left my hometown of Hilliard, Ohio eleven years ago, it was still a small suburban city outside of Columbus. By the time I returned a few months ago to help care for my aging parents, little did I realize that during the time I was gone that my hometown – about as whitebread, conservative red-state America as you can get – had become one of the many battlegrounds in the Global War on Terror.Poole became a stenographic soldier for the network of Islamophobic media described by the Center for American Progress as "Fear, Inc." [pdf] In fairly short order he began contributing not only to FrontPage Magazine but also to American Thinker, Breitbart's BigPeace and ultimately to PJMedia as a “national security and terrorism correspondent.” He launched his own site, "Central Ohioans Against Terrorism," as a venue for his demented Frank-Gaffney-inspired rantings against and harrassment of Muslims. His Islamophobic star rising, Poole's hate- and misinformation-filled posts were increasingly cross-posted at Gaffney's Center for Security Policy. Indeed, Gaffney tapped Poole as an Associate for CSP's 2010 report Sharia: the Threat to America, in which Poole is described as a “consultant to the military and law-enforcement on anti-terrorism issues.” More recently, Poole has written for the publications associated with the late Barry Rubin's GLORIA Center.
Poole now makes the rounds as a pseudo-expert on political Islam both on television (FOX News, CBN et cetera) and on the Tea Party circuit. The biographical details included on the flyer [pdf] for a February 2014 speaking engagement at the Phoenix Rotary International Club are quite amusing:
Patrick Poole is a counter-terrorism and national security consultant who is an internationally-recognized expert on domestic terrorism and the global jihadist movement. He has been actively involved in and served as a consultant on numerous terrorism cases.“Internationally-recognized expert on domestic terrorism and the global jihadist movement”? Regurgitating the paranoid rantings of "Fear, Inc." hardly makes one an expert.
Poole regularly briefs members of Congress and congressional staff. He has conducted lectures and training for federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and has taught classes at the U.S. Army War College and the U.S. Air Force Staff and Command College. His peer-reviewed research articles have appeared in the Middle East Review of International Affairs, the Journal of International Security Affairs and Middle East Quarterly.
In March 2011, Poole was part of an expert panel that testified before the Arizona House Military Affairs and Public Safety Committee and the Arizona Senate Border Security, Federalism and States’ Sovereignty Committee on the topic of “Cross Border Terror Threats and Islamic Terror Support Networks in Arizona.”
A graduate of Ohio State University, Poole splits his time between Ohio and Washington D.C.
“Regularly briefs members of Congress and congressional staff”? I can actually believe that. How else to explain the Gaffneyesque mutterings of Michele Bachmann, Peter King and others?
“Conducted lectures and training...” and “taught classes...”? I'd really like to see some names and dates.
“Peer-reviewed research”? Hah! The Middle East Review of International Affairs is an organ of Barry Rubin's GLORIA Center, The Journal for International Security Affairs is JINSA's flagship publication and Middle East Quarterly is Daniel Pipe's venthole.
“Part of an expert panel...”? Tragically true [pdf]. Also comedically true, if one is willing to watch the video of the testimony.
WRAP IT UP ALREADY!
Okay, this was waaaaaay too long but what can I say... I'm entertained by odd things. I hope you've enjoyed a glimpse at the career to date of Patrick S. Poole: political hack, serial fibber, pseudo-libertarian, bigoted asshole and a certifiable Culture Warrior. Eighteen years on and Poole is still recycling garbage...