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"He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust." Aquinas
Norman Butler likes conspiracy theories. If you’ve got an idea about how something happened that’s different from the accepted idea, he’ll likely listen. It’s for this reason that Butler scheduled James Fetzer, a philosopher of science and conspiracy theorist (Wikipedia) to speak at some of the upcoming “Cow Talks” at “The Contented Cow,” a British style pub that Norman owns in downtown Northfield, Minnesota. “I wanted people to hear an alternate idea,” Butler told me on Jan. 20.
“The Cow talks are an activity that folks can take part in, in the winter,” he said. “Politics and a Pint” was another such group that Norman started for people to specifically talk politics. The Cow Talks are going to be talks and debates on virtually any subject, usually politically motivated, as long as the presenters have some expertise in the area they are speaking on. The first one was to be a debate between Alan Rubenstein, a Northfield resident and Zionist supporter, and Bill McGrath, also a Northfielder, and Palestinian supporter.
The idea for this debate came from a letter to the editor that Rubenstein wrote to the Northfield News saying: “As the director of Northfield’s only Jewish Center, I would like to help coordinate a discussion about Israel in our town that does not take such a radical stance.(sic)” Butler felt that a reasonable debate would be the answer and invited Rubenstein to join. The debate was to take place on January 15th, at 7:30 p.m.. But about a week before that, Rubenstein heard that James Fetzer was scheduled to speak at The Cow some time in February. He let Norman know that unless James Fetzer was canceled, he (Rubenstein) would not participate in the debate and would “take his business elsewhere.” This, dear readers, is where the fun begins. Butler let Rubenstein know that he would in fact, not be canceling the debate and would instead allow the entire hour to be devoted to Bill McGrath who would talk about the history of Palestine and Israel. Rubenstein was “furious,” as Butler recalls and insisted that he cancel the debate. Again, Norman told him he wouldn’t do that.
So Alan Rubenstein started sending out emails. He sent them to friends and family, he sent them to college faculty, (Northfield is home to Carleton and St. Olaf colleges), and he sent them to churches. Denouncing Butler and the Contented Cow, the emails contend that James Fetzer is anti-semitic and his ideas are “noxious.”
Now you might be thinking, “what about free speech.” In a letter that Rubenstein sent to me, he has this to say: “I want to make my own views clear about the free speech aspect of this: Norman Butler has free speech. James Fetzer has free speech. No one is suggesting that they don’t have a right to do what they are doing. But they are exercising their right indecently; And we have rights as well – including the right to speak freely to Norman and his wife Diane, letting them know this is disgraceful… and the right to change where we spend our dollars.”
According to Alan Rubenstein’s own words, Norman and Diane, (co-owners of the Cow) and James Fetzer and are “acting indecently” and “disgraceful” because he doesn’t agree with them. He also states, “we have rights as well-including (sic) the right to change where we spend our dollars.” He uses the word “we,” which in this case means people that he has convinced to take his side and yet in an email he sent to me he stated: “For now, I will say this: I am not organizing a boycott of the Cow.” Hmmm, okay, we’ll just take your word for that, Alan.
For the most part, Bill McGrath, the Palestinian supporter who was to debate Rubenstein, wishes that Rubenstein had not dropped out of the debate. I suggested to Bill that if you played in a famous rock band and were scheduled to play at the Target Center, it wouldn’t make sense to pull out of the concert when you found out that the Target Center was going to feature a rival band sometime in the near future. Wouldn’t you want to make sure that your music was heard and remembered, knowing that your rival will most certainly be playing theirs? Wouldn’t Mr. Rubenstein have an interest in getting his word and opinions out, knowing that a detractor would be coming soon?
Unless he doesn’t feel as strongly about his topic as his words and actions up to this point suggest. Unless maybe he felt he might lose the debate and needed a way out of it and Mr. Fetzer was a convenient excuse.
But these are questions I can’t ask him because he’s clammed up. The Northfield News, the Minneapolis Star and Tribune and I have been trying to reach him for interviews. But he’s not talking.
Hmmm, start trouble for a local establishment, get a lot of people pissed off and then disappear. Well alright then.
When Butler started getting all these emails from friends of Alan Rubenstein, he forwarded some of them to James Fetzer.
Norman told me that he felt that Fetzer was better equipped to deal with the emails than he was. Sending them to Fetzer also let him know what he might be in for when he comes to speak in Northfield.
Fetzer posted some of these emails on a website that he writes for, along with the senders’ names and email addresses. You can read Fetzer’s column here. Unfortunately the friends of Mr Rubenstein started getting “ominous, threatening notes.” When the posting of people’s addresses became an issue Mr Fetzer deleted them.
Now from reading this you might think that controversial figures do not come to speak in Northfield. And you would be wrong.
Ann Coulter a conservative social and political commentator, writer, syndicated columnist, and lawyer (Wikipedia) known for making outlandish statements and claims, spoke at St Olaf College in 1995.
Bill Maher, a comedian and talk show host known for his sarcastic attitude, political satire and sociopolitical commentary (Wikipedia) came to Northfield last year with a plan to oust Congressman John Kline from office. The house was sold out.
Michael Shermer, science writer, historian of science, founder of The Skeptics Society, and Editor in Chief of Skeptic magazine (Wikipedia), with allegations of sexual abuse against him (but no legal trouble as yet) spoke at Carleton’s first convocation address of 2015 on Friday, Jan. 9.
And from the public? Not a peep. No emails, no boycotts, no protests. So why then the uproar over Norman Butler and the Cow?
This story has unfolded like a television melodrama, all due to the efforts of one Alan Rubenstein who has since faded away and will not talk to news sources about it. So you start the fire but when it gets too hot instead of putting it out, you run away? How then do you expect people to take what you say seriously?
The best news to come out of all this is that it is a very small minority that has taken what Rubenstein says to heart. The controversy is already showing signs of blowing over.
Bill McGrath gave an hour long talk about the history of Palestine and Israel, (you can view it here).
James Fetzer will speak at the Cow in February just as he has planned to and I can tell you this much: Before all this began I would probably have gone to hear Mr. Fetzer speak because stuff like conspiracy theories interest me. But now because of all the controversy started by Alan Rubenstein, I wouldn’t miss it if I were dead.
If you have read the post above titled, “The Cow Conspiracy” as 140 people have so far today, you may remember that I tried and failed to get some comments from Alan Rubenstein on this matter. This evening I and a few others received an email from him. In the interest of clarity from all involved, I am doing as Alan suggests and printing the email here.
Norman’s email might have created some confusion about the sequence of events. Since I know we are all only interested in the truth, please see below the EXACT text of the email that was sent to Diane Burry on January 7th, 2015, stating my reasons for withdrawal from the Jan. 15 CowTalk debate. (If you’d like to see it with the original timestamp, let me know.)
Marshall, maybe you would like to add this as an addendum to your post? It might help to give your readers more context on the reasons for all the outage about the invitation.
Have a good week!
I have spoken to both Bill and Norman. I am formally withdrawing from the CowTalk debate. For both personal and professional reasons, I can not be part of a series that includes – indeed gives a prominent stage to – such a reckless and irresponsible speaker. Denying the holocaust (or even most of the holocaust) is a desecration of the memories of millions of innocent lives. It disgraces all who participate in it – and I do believe that hosting Mr. Fetzer for 4 events is participating in it even if it is not the explicit theme. As to the explicit themes – accusing America (actually Jews in America’s government) and Israel of bringing the towers down on 9/11 is indefensible hate speech that poses real dangers to Jews and supporters of Israel (as I am proud to be). Calling the Sandy Hook tragedy a hoax is a nightmarish insult to families who suffered unspeakable loss of their kindergarten children. The outrage of this goes on and on. Though I do not know you, I am frankly shocked that you would be a part of this – and Norman and Bill as well.
If you have a change of heart and make this series about real debatable controversies rather than a stage for Mr. Fetzer’s ideas. I’d be glad to return to our plan.
Thank you, Alan Rubenstein
This man, who not only assists in teaching at Carleton College but is also associated with its “Center for Ethical Inquiry”, has demonstrated beyond any doubt that he is the leading bigot in Northfield, MN. Immediate upon hearing that I was scheduled to speak at The Cow, he broke his agreement to Norm Butler to participate in a debate on the Israel/Palestine controversy, which was both unethical and unprofessional. He demanded that Norm not feature me or allow the debate to go on without him.
Compounding his grossly offensive behavior, he has conducted a vendetta against me and Norman, doing what he can to assassinate my character and run The Cow out of business. And he doesn’t even have his facts right. He co-authored (and no doubt motivated) the editorial in The Carletonian, which implies I am a liar because, while I claim to be a professor emeritus at UMD, the university denies it! And he assails my research on Sandy Hook without bothering to read it, where he claims I am commit “a nightmarish insult to families who suffered unspeakable loss of their kindergarten (sic) children”, when not only is there no proof that anyone died at Sandy Hook but the children who were allegedly killed were in the first grade!
UPDATE (30 January 2015): New information about Alan Rubenstein has come to me from a correspondent that makes this case curiouser and curiouser. According to his linkedin page,
Hanson Scholar in EthIC
2008 – Present (7 years) Northfield, MN
Founder and Director
Northfield Beit Midrash
2011 – Present (4 years) Northfield, MN
Senior Consultant (GS 13-2)
The President’s Council on Bioethics
2006 – 2009 (3 years) Washington D.C
Senior Artificial Intelligence Engineer
The MITRE Corporation
2005 – 2008 (3 years) McLean, VA
St. John’s College (Annapolis, Maryland)
Bachelor’s Degree, Liberal Arts
Master’s Degree, Linguistics
Something is very odd here. Why would Carleton College not have an updated entry on him (especially when an MA in Linguistics would be viewed as a prestigious degree)? If he has a background in AI, then I would expect he would be offering courses related to AI, as I did at UMD? I also find it odd that, when I wrote to Beverly Nagel, Dean of the Collage, asking her about him, she did not reply. So what’s going on here?
A correspondent in Europe who has been following this saga has sent me information from YouTube about Alan Rubenstein I find rather troubling. He has a whole series of videos about the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), which suggests the real possibility that he might actually be Mossad. Another friend, more expert in this area than I, has told me that Israel has ops (assets or sayanims) on many campuses across the country to make sure they “stay in line” and aren’t allowed exposure to information on 9/11 or the Holocaust, especially, because it would weaken Zionist political influence around the world and in the US. I would like to believe that this is not the case, but his behavior would certainly be consistent with this interpretation. And there is more:
UPDATE (1 February 2015): Further confirmation that this may be the case comes from The 9/11 Toronto Report (2013), which identifies Mitre Corporation as “a private firm doing CIA contract work with the CIA and another private firm, Ptech” [suspected by many to be a key player in the 9/11 attack], where questions about Mitre and Ptech have been raised in the past by Indira Singh, which Peter Dale Scott, The Road to 9/11 (2007), discusses. The following comes from The 9/11 Toronto Report:
If Carleton has been harboring a Mossad agent (where we estimate there may be a couple dozen across the nation)–which I certainly hope is not the case–he is not there to assist in teaching the course, “Windows on the Good Life”. Mossad agents are highly trained in psy ops, provocations, demolitions and assassinations. Being situated in a small town in Minnesota could even suggest to some that he might be using that cover to perform other tasks.
There are a half-dozen or more unsolved murders of Milita members in the vicinity and, most recently, the producer of the controversial film, “Gray State”, about FEMA imposting martial law upon the US, was found dead together with his wife and daughter in an alleged “murder / suicide”. The back door was open, where killing women and children has been cited as a trademark of the Mossad. It would be highly unsettling to have an Israeli agent performing black ops in southern Minnesota.
Among the many comments on “The Abdication of Reason and Rationality in Northfield, MN”, perhaps the most insightful came from Rick Carufel * Top Commentator * Writer at Writer, who may have put his finger precisely on the problem:
It’s mental illness, sociopathy. If a normal person sees someone like yourself is going to give a lecture they have no interest in or don’t agree with they simply don’t go to it. If a sociopath sees the same thing they feel they are entitled to try and stop it from happening. This displays several of the delusions from which sociopaths suffer. Namely delusions of importance, superiority, expertise and authority. They falsely believe their opinions are more valid than anyone else’s and they have the right to dictate the behavior of others. This problem is pandemic in America and all the drugs they pump into the population only makes it worse.
There are ironies associated with the charge of “anti-Semitism”, moreover, because anti-Semitism involves discounting or dis-valuing the worth of a person or of their opinions on the basis of their religious orientation or their genetic lineage. Criticism of the policies or actions of the government of Israel is therefore not “anti-Semitic”. New DNA studies, moreover, have shown most of the population of Israel descends from the Khazar region of Ukraine, which means that “the chosen people” are not even genetically entitled to “the promised land”. The Palestinians, by contrast, are Semites, which means that the greatest practitioners of anti-Semitism in the world are the Israelis, suggesting that the term needs to be re-defined, as Mike Harris and Preston James have proposed.
January 26, 2015, 16:45
Vladimir Putin sent his greetings to all those attending the requiem held to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp by the Red Army and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The President said, in particular, in his message:
“The Holocaust was one of the most tragic and shameful pages in human history. Millions of innocent people fell victim to the Nazis, went through the hell of the death camps and were shot, tortured, and died from hunger and disease. The Red Army put an end to these atrocities and this ruthless barbarity and saved not just the Jewish people but also the other peoples of Europe and the world.
We must always remember firmly that any attempts to rewrite history and our country’s contribution to the great victory would be tantamount to justifying Nazism’s crimes and would open the door to the re-emergence of this deadly ideology. Forgetting the lessons of our common past could lead to a repeat of these terrible tragedies. It is therefore our duty to defend the truth about the events of World War II and stand up for the achievements, dignity, and good name of the living and the fallen. This is our duty and a matter of honour before the generations to come.”
Putin’s statement sounds fine, until your consider that he is endorsing some variant of the “official narrative”. I am relieved that he did not affirm that 6,000,000 Jews were exterminated in concentration camps by being gassed in chambers using Zyklon B. I would like to believe that the President of Russia has too much respect for scientific research and that he does not embrace assertions that would violate the laws of biochemistry and of materials science. Let me close by observing that we should all share a commitment to getting history right, especially in cases such as this one, where false and exaggerated accounts have been deployed for political purposes to advance the political agenda of a single country for its own national benefit, regardless of logic, truth and evidence.