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(Jeff Haynes / Agence France Presse)

Former advisor to Israeli army behind Iran180 astroturf project

Previously I reported on an Israel lobby astroturf project named Iran180 that was launched by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York. One of Iran180’s apparent goals is to manufacture bizarre public spectacles ostensibly for human rights and then disseminate multimedia outputs from these events on social media.

There are bizarre but very clear elements of gay bashing and anti-Semitism running through much of their online work.

The day after I published my post, Iran180 posted this notice on their Facebook page as an apology to one of the incidents I described in my earlier blog post.

In June 2011, Iran180 participated in the San Francisco Pride Parade with a float featuring street theater performers retained by our organization. … While the float was largely well received by onlookers, there were elements of the performance that unfortunately crossed the line and were clearly inappropriate. For that we sincerely apologize and have taken steps to ensure that this will not happen again.

In addition to the apology, they reject other claims I made in my post but do not specify their objections.

In the apology, they suggest that the San Francisco Pride parade performance was an accident on the part of “street theater performers retained by [Iran180].” However, it can be shown that a person responsible for hiring the performers is both a “member” of Iran180 and also the president of the public relations firm that created it. Moreover, the retained performer who wears the giant grotesque head that supposedly resembles Ahmadinejad appears in other videos and photos made in New York City after and possibly before the 2011 San Francisco pride parade.

Iran180’s effort to blame “performers retained by our organization” is at best disingenuous because of the direct involvement of Iran180 principals in the performances themselves

Ahmadinejad Invades NYC and San Francisco

The man who played Ahmadinejad in the parade performance is photographed below.

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Retained performer refreshes himself after a long parade of pretend sexual humiliation with a nuclear missile. (San Francisco, June 2011). Flickr origin

In September 2011, Iran180 released a hip-hop music video of a street theater performance featuring some other PR professionals affiliated with Thunder11. The video is an offense on many levels, so I do not encourage you to view it. Fortunately few people have ever seen it. This video introduces new racist and queer-bashing elements to the Iran180 repertoire. Below the video is the important frame. On Friday 22 June 2012, the YouTube instance of the video located at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELHAE3oLHFI was deleted. Embedded below is another copy.

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“Ahmadinejad haven’t you heard?”

He looks like the same man to me, but I don’t know his name and his name is Marc Grubstein from Fantastic Nobodies. Is he also the same white man with a beard in these photos which were taken in New York prior to the San Francisco Pride parade?

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Marco Greenberg, president of Thunder11

Marco Greenberg is the president of Thunder11. In February 2011, Voice of America reported:

Group member Marco Greenberg says Iran 180 seeks human rights, not nuclear rights, for Iran.

“We found that one of the only ways to get people to wake up to the threat that this regime represents, both on the human rights front and also the nuclear front, is to use comedy,” he explains. “Is to use street theater, is to make fun; and that resonates with people.”

Greenberg says Iran 180 relies on street theater to get its message out through media reports and even passersby, who tape the performances with smart phones and post the video online.

Greenberg is also visible holding up one corner of the chuppah during the anti-Semitic and gay bashing wedding of Ahmadinejad and Assad from September 2011. Just look over the shoulder of activist Jake Goodman in the video below.

Jake Goodman Speech at Iran180 event

But wait… if Marco Greenberg is the president of Thunder11 — the PR agency that claims to have launched Iran180 — and he is also a member of Iran180, is he really “retained?” Or is he just getting paid?

Since I originally wrote about Iran180, I’ve found more details about the people behind it. Marco Greenberg is an Israeli-American who served in the Israeli army as a media strategist. In 2007, Thunder11 launched with the intention to include a Columbia Ph.D. named Liel Leibovitz.

Messers. Leibovitz and Greenberg first met in the Israel Defense Forces over a decade ago, where they both were entrusted with revising the Army’s strategic media infrastructure.

Today Leibovitz doesn’t appear to be associated with Thunder11 anymore, and he is currently a NYU professor and columnist in major publications.

Marco Greenberg’s company Thunder11 is also named on press releases for Israel Bonds and for a member of the Israeli Labor party.

He is well known as an advisor to pro-Israel advocates and Israeli officials. In this video, he explains to a private gathering that “Israelis are missing the PR gene in their DNA” so they have to try to be more “likeable” even though Israelis “get off” on crisis.

Marco Greenberg on Next Gen PR on July 20 2007 (5).wmv

Other performers retained by Iran180

Given that there is no visible opportunity to volunteer for Iran180, it’s clear that the only way to participate is to be hired or “retained” by Thunder11, the PR firm that runs the Iran180 astroturf project.

In addition to Marc Grubstein who plays the role of Ahmadinejad in San Francisco and who appears in the “Ahmadinejad Invades NYC” video, other people linked to Iran180 on public web sites appear to be engaged as contractors or employees of Thunder11 or some other public relations outfit. Here are two cases:

Dana Marie is a professional actress, blogger and designer. She has worked for Street Attack, an agency retained by Thunder11 for work on Iran180. She has included photos of her work with Iran180 in her portfolio on Picasa.

Christine Hauer appears in the “Ahmadinejad Invades NYC” music video embedded above. She is also a former account executive for Thunder11, and has appeared in a video for Iran180 decrying the interference of Iran in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Iran Interference in Iraq and Afghanistan

Washington Square Research

Richard Silverstein has published curious information about a company named “Washington Square Research” that lists Marco Greenberg and Liel Leibovitz as part of its team. Originally, this page also included Chris DeVito, the “outreach director” of Iran180. However, yesterday DeVito was removed from their web site without explanation. Here is a screenshot that shows its prior contents.

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Screenshot of http://thinkwsr.com/about-5/our-team/ (click link for full size).

Chris DeVito is actively publishing articles on The Huffington Post where he is identified as the “Director of Outreach for Iran180.” Another person named Negin Hadaghian held this position from March 2011 to August 2011, but the company Washington Square Research is not listed as her employer.

Is it The Arab Mind?

Scott Long wrote a must-read post about Iran180 that might help explain why this Israel lobby propaganda relies on such bizarre imagery to sexualize and gay bash.

The whole bizarre display seems torn from the discredited writings of Raphael Patai, the Israeli-American Orientalist whose dissection of “The Arab Mind” (and, by extension, Middle Eastern masculinity in general) became an ur-text underpinning Abu Ghraib. …

Putative insults directed at the sexualities of US enemies in the region are legion. There was, and is, for instance, a longstanding rumor that Yasser Arafat was gay and died of AIDS, spread by neoconservatives with glee. …

As I’ve written here about “outing,” deploying anxieties about homosexuality to defame or shame people simply means manipulating — and endorsing — homophobia. This is true whether the object is Ahmadinejad, Assad, or Rick Perry.