Tale Of Two Conferences: Nashville`s Loews Vanderbilt Manager Tom Negri Strikes Blow At First Amendment, Exposes Treason Lobby Lovefest
August 10, 2009, 05:00 AM
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The Left has a narrative for each situation, but every once in a while one of the players flubs his part and the narrative veers off the script. When that happens, one thing leads to another and before you know it, the drama has taken on a life of its own.

This story starts with an article entitled World's Most Respected Islamophobes to Gather in Nashville for Symposium which ran in the Nashville Scene, an "alternative" newspaper owned by the Village Voice. The symposium, sponsored by the New English Review, the monthly webzine, was to be held at Loews Vanderbilt hotel in Nashville.

Islamophobes in our midst? Now that language is straight out of the playbook—if you can't win an argument with someone, call them a "hater" or a "phobe" of some kind or another.

But mentioning the conference at all was the first misstep in the narrative.

Had the May 29 conference never been mentioned, it would have come and gone quietly. But once it hit the local news, the manager of the Loews Vanderbilt hotel, Tom Negri,[email him |email Loews Corporation] was in a bind. Should he allow a gathering of "Islamophobes" in his world-class luxury establishment? At that point, he might have been able to ignore the story by letting the conference go on. After all, he had agreed four months earlier to book the conference and knew the topic was "Understanding Jihad in America, Israel and Europe". (Full disclosure: I gave a talk entitled "How Are They Getting In?")

But instead of letting the show go on, Negri cancelled it with 3 days notice"for the health, safety and well-being of our guests and employees".

Now that's newsworthy! I suspect Nashville's mainstream news outlet, The Tennessean, would have left the story alone if it could have. But by now it had been scooped by the Scene and the internet news site NewsMax.[Muslim Group Shuts Down Conservative Conference , May 28, 2009] It had to run the story. [Nashville Hotel Drops Jihad Conference Over Safety Concerns, by Christina E. Sanchez, The Tennessean, May 30, 2009]

Ironically, NER conference organizers had tried to interest local news media in the project—unsuccessfully. But now the uproar over the symposium cancellation had been picked up by The Associated Press and the organizers were fighting off pleas from the media who wanted to cover the proceedings in the new and unpublicized location.

There are a few plausible theories for the motivation behind the Loews boot.

Perhaps hotel manager Negri thought the symposium attendees and organizers were dangerous. But the primary demographic of the panelists—middle-aged and elderly academics, including one college president, and current or former government employees—would not seem a likely source of violence.

True, Dutch M.P. Geert Wilders would be addressing the group via video from The Netherlands. Maybe he would have used his pre-taped message to whip up the audience into a frenzy of car-burning. No telling what kind of summer it would be in Nashville without Mr. Negri's bold action.

Moving from least plausible theory to more likely possibilities: perhaps Loews got a call from groups opposed to discussing Jihad? Maybe there was a real threat of harm from that side. Ask Geert Wilders!

I'm afraid we will never really know what happened. Mr. Negri has refused to say why he felt the conference would adversely affect the "health, safety and well-being" of the hotel's guests and employees. He has also refused to say whether he actually received any communication to that effect.

But, that brings up a third and, to me, completely plausible explanation for the abrupt cancellation. The Monday after the symposium there was to be a "press conference" held by the local Treason Lobby to kick off the national campaign for "immigration reform", aka amnesty. The accidently publicized Jihad symposium would have been an embarrassment to Mr. Negri, who was publicly allied with the amnesty campaign.

Or maybe the cognitive dissonance required by having a symposium about Jihadists in America followed by a press conference announcing a strategy to let them all in was just too much.

At any rate, the publicity brought on by the Scene article threatened the cozy amnesty press conference by bringing unwanted attention to the goings on in Loews hotel that weekend. Cancelling the symposium only increased the likelihood of "outside" interest in the press conference, as folks started looking at who, exactly, the Jihad symposium was likely to offend. Certainly, it's the only reason I heard about the press conference and attended.

As it turned out, Tom Negri himself was on the panel supporting the "Reform Immigration for America" campaign, speaking as the "voice of business".

As part of the publicity counter spin, The Tennessean reported on the amnesty press conference the next day,[Nashville coalition pushes immigration changes, June 2, 2009] but did not say where it had been held. Identifying the location might have suggested a connection in the readers' minds to the ousted Jihad symposium—something better left alone.

As even The Tennessean pointed out the amnesty press conference offered almost nothing in the way of details about the plan.

In fact, this was an unusual press conference in many ways. The event was not announced anywhere in the media and only certain media were present. There were no talk radio hosts, no local Fox affiliate—friendly media only, please!

Now I know the purpose of a press conference is to communicate with the press, not necessarily with the public. But, exclude enough of the broader media, and at some point the event ceases to be a "press conference" and is better described as an organizing meeting for your friends.

I believe the intent was to keep quiet about the amnesty meeting until it was over. But thanks to the Jihad symposium cancellation, which was caused by Scene article, the amnesty press conference was attended by some who also attended the Jihad symposium and received more attention than probably intended.

Tellingly, Avi Poster, [email him] the amnesty campaign organizer, told the press conference/ organizing meeting: "NPT [Nashville's Public Broadcasting affiliate] is partnering with us" for the "immigration reform" campaign. At one point, Poster even extended his thanks to "our friends in the media" for "coming out in response to our plea for help". But realizing this was a gaffe, even for this audience, he quickly backtracked and tried to reword his remarks.

Nashville recently failed to pass an "Official English" city law to limit government business to English except where necessitated by medical or other emergencies. One press conference panelist bragged that they would deal with resistance to amnesty in the same way they defeated the official English bill.

From that, I presume they plan to tell Nashvillians that folks from out of town will think less of them if they don't support amnesty. That will be followed by a flurry of breathless announcements that their secret investigators have revealed that out-of-towners are behind anyone who doesn't support amnesty. But most importantly, they will outspend the other side by a factor of 5 to 10 times using, well, out-of-town money.

I learned from one of the organizers that the term "amnesty" was not to be used in the campaign. But then Jerry Lee,[Email him] the AFL-CIO Tennessee chapter President and designated "voice of labor" blundered and said he could not envision any circumstances constituting a bar to "amnesty" for anyone.

After just five or six questions, none of which were really answered, the "press conference" was adjourned—even though the audience of about 40 still had questions.

Like I said, it wasn't that kind of press conference.

In fact, it raised more questions than it answered for anyone concerned about the funding and tactics of the Reform Immigration for America campaign.

How did we get to the point—where a pressure group like this can presume to have the media, including public television no less, working for it?

All the groups at the press conference—Nashville for All of Us, the Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition, and the Coalition for Education about Immigration—have boards that are so interlocked one could assume they are essentially one organization.

They have staff or "advisory" connections with the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center—an outfit which even liberal establishment Harper's Magazine said "spends most of its time and money on a relentless fundraising campaign, peddling memberships in the church of tolerance…" [The Church of Morris Dees, by Ken Silverstein Harper's Magazine, November 2000) That's why VDARE.COM calls it the "$PLC".

Members from the group putting on the press conference have been or are currently affiliated with the national CAIR organization—and the Nashville Somali Community Center, [email them]an organization that goes way beyond the garden variety government grant-grubbing 501(c) (3).

Its director, Abdizirik Hassan, scored a $400,000 Department of Health and Human Services grant while out on bond after being arrested for an alleged illegal banking scheme. Investigators thought the scheme may have been funneling money to Jihadist causes. Hassan, on parole until recently after pleading down the original charge, is still the director of the federal grantee. Another of the Center's staffers, Abdishakur Ibrahim, suddenly left the country during a federal investigation of his activities in 2007.

According to a Nashville Channel 4 ( WSMV) report in 2007 "U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper said he wants an investigation into why more than $400,000 per year is still going to the center".

The Somali Community Center which recently renamed itself The Center for Refugees and Immigrants of Tennessee also gets grants from the city of Nashville. The Center recently announced that it was on the verge of receiving another federal grant from the "stimulus" package.(See PDFs here and here—go to page 3)

(Several calls to Congressman Cooper's office requesting information about the Center's grants have gone unanswered.)

One can only assume that the promised investigation is going nowhere. But the questions are just beginning.

Loews' Negri really started something here.

Thomas Allen (email him) describes himself as a recovering refugee worker. Fluent in Russian, he is currently translating   Alexander Solzhenitsyn's 200 Years Together.