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“Pamela Geller Is No Rosa Parks”: Trying To Cash In On The Moral Authority Of The Movement While Scrapping Its Moral Foundations

After armed gunmen attacked a Muhammad cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, last week, event organizer Pamela Geller went on Fox News to explain the moral righteousness of her cause. Responding to critics like Donald Trump, who accused her of “taunting” Muslims, she asked, “What would he have said about Rosa Parks? Rosa Parks should never have gone to the front of the bus. She’s taunting people.”

Nor was Geller alone in seeing the civil rights parallel. John Nolte, writing for Breitbart, contended, “Anyone who knows anything about history understands that tactically and morally, Geller’s provocative Muhammad Cartoon Contest was no different than Dr. Martin Luther King’s landmark march from Selma to Montgomery.”

They’re both wrong, in a particularly pernicious way. By drawing a parallel between Geller’s anti-Islamic events and the civil rights movement’s anti-Jim Crow protests, they are trying to cash in on the moral authority of the movement while scrapping its moral foundations.

There is a surface-level similarity between the two movements, one Geller and Nolte hope no one probes too deeply. Civil rights activists in the 1950s and 1960s knew that if they violated the laws and norms of the Jim Crow South, white Southerners would react with spectacular violence. Putting that violence on display was the point. Jim Crow laws gave Southern racial violence the veneer of a civilized legal code. The protests showed the rest of the world the ever-present threat of violence upon which that legal code was built.

Geller, too, meant to provoke violence with her Muhammad cartoon event. The question is, to what end? We already know that violent extremists are violent and extreme. If we want to see how extremists respond to people who draw Muhammad, we only need look at recent events in Paris and Copenhagen. The point for Geller and her cohort is to demonstrate that the West is at war with Islam – and ultimately to devote more resources to that war.

In other words, Geller hopes to use the violence she provokes to justify violence in return. And that’s where the civil rights analogy utterly fails. The radical potential of the early civil rights movement grew out of its moral commitment to nonviolence. And not just nonviolent action – King called upon activists to be nonviolent in word and thought as well. The reason the movement has such moral authority in America is because it was built on this deeply held belief in the transformative power of love-based politics and resistance.

Geller’s movement has none of that. She and those in her camp seek not a world with more peace but one with more war. Given that, it is especially repugnant that they call upon the names of Parks and King, trading on their courage and sacrifice while undermining the values of love and peacefulness that makes their work worth emulating.

 

By: Nicole Hemmer, Historian of Modern American Politics and Media; U. S. News and World Report, May 12, 2015

May 15, 2015 Posted by | Civil Rights Movement, Muslims, Pamela Geller | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Freedom To Provoke”: The Right To Free Speech Does Not Include The Right Not To Be Criticized

It’s still a radical document, the U.S. Constitution, no part of it more so than the First Amendment. Almost everybody’s for freedom of speech, particularly for themselves and people who agree with them. However, the part about no establishment of religion vexes True Believers of every persuasion. How can government possibly remain neutral in matters of faith?

But what really confuses people is an episode like the recent failed terrorist attack in Garland, Texas. Does our commitment to freedom of expression require that we condemn Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, the two self-proclaimed ISIS jihadists who got themselves shot to death during an abortive attempt to massacre participants in a well-publicized contest to draw ugly cartoon caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad?

Absolutely it does. Those two murderous dimwits got exactly what they came looking for. Although nobody’s saying so, something tells me the police officer who took them down wasn’t just the average traffic cop. That fellow would have been all over TV by now. This guy has remained anonymous. Amateurs are ill advised to get into gun battles with professionals.

But are we therefore also required to admire Pamela Geller, co-founder and president of Stop Islamization of America, the organization that sponsored the cartoon contest? No, we are not. The right to free speech does not include the right not to be criticized.

I’m glad nobody shot her. However, Geller’s actions were deliberately and characteristically provocative, coarse and contemptuous of others’ beliefs; in short, the very definition of bigotry. In the final analysis, those actions are also damaging to this country’s ability to prevail in its long twilight struggle with radical Islamic terrorism.

The amazing thing is how observers find this hard to see. Writing in his Washington Post media column, the normally sensible Erik Wemple takes issue with Geller’s critics. “And who’s being treated as the public enemy on cable?” he asks incredulously. “The woman who organized a cartoon contest.”

I’m pretty sure Wemple would take a different view of a Stormfront competition to caricature the ugliest hook-nosed rabbi.

But hold that thought.

“To her enduring credit,” Wemple adds “Fox News’ Megyn Kelly has been screaming all week about the folly of the ‘too-provocative’ crowd.”

Indeed she has. Interestingly enough, the lovely Ms. Kelly’s antagonists include Fox News luminaries Bill O’Reilly and Donald Trump, along with MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, CNN’s Jake Tapper, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush and others Wemple characterizes as “folded into a crouch of cowardice and rationalization.”

Megyn Kelly’s thunderous rebuttal to O’Reilly was couched in melodramatic terms Geller herself would find appropriate: “You know what else the jihadis don’t like? They hate Jews. Should we get rid of all Jews? That’s the path we’re going to go down catering to the jihadis. There’s no satisfying them.”

Holy false dichotomies, Batman! So the choices are deliberately offend the religious sensibilities of millions of peaceable Muslims or get rid of Jews?

This kind of black-and-white thinking is pretty much the stock in trade of propagandists like Geller intent upon persuading Americans that not only ISIS and al Qaeda extremists but Islam itself and Arabs in particular are terrorist enemies of the United States. All Arabs, everywhere.

The problem, argues former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, is that the worldwide battle with Islamic fundamentalism can’t be won without Muslim allies — loyal U.S. citizens who report suspicious activities; allies and proxies who fight against violent Islamism; hundreds of millions of people around the world who repudiate Salafism by the peacefulness and tolerance of their daily lives.

When Americans engage in high-profile, attention-seeking acts of blasphemy, they are not joining U.S. military and intelligence forces at the front line; they are complicating and undermining their work.

President Obama has said much the same thing.

Things might also be different if Pamela Geller didn’t have such an extensive track record. “On her website,” reports the Jewish Daily Forward “Geller has denounced President Obama as ‘a third worlder and a coward’ who ‘will do nothing but beat up on our friends to appease his Islamic overlords’ and as ‘a muhammadan’ who “wants jihad to win.

The Anti-Defamation League has criticized Geller for “consistently vilifying the Islamic faith under the guise of fighting radical Islam.” The British government refused to let her enter that country in 2011. She has characterized other Jews who criticize her as worse than “21st-century kapos,” a reference to Jews who served as guards in Nazi death camps.

Astonishingly, after extreme-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik murdered 70 people at a Norwegian Labour Party summer youth camp in 2011, he credited Geller with inspiring him. She then assailed the Scandinavian left for harboring anti-Israel sentiments, posting a camp photo on her Atlas Shrugs website captioned: “Note the faces which are more Middle Eastern or mixed than pure Norwegian.”

Non-Aryan Untermenschen, Hitler would have called them.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, May 13, 2015

May 14, 2015 Posted by | Free Speech, Pamela Geller, U. S. Constitution | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pamela Geller Is Not A Hero, But….”: Americans Must Stand Up To Those Who Intend To Inflame Rather Than Inform

I am grateful to live in a country where even someone as hateful as Pamela Geller can speak her mind. She can smear President Obama as the “jihadist in the White House” and speculate that he “choked up” with tears when he ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden. She can say that Pope Francis’ call for “affection and respect” towards Muslims means he has “become an imam.” She can compare Jewish Americans who support President Obama to Nazi appeasers and call comedian Jon Stewart “the most disgusting Jew on the planet.” She can suggest banning Muslims from becoming airline pilots. She can then claim that anyone who doesn’t want to hear her speak is “enforcing the Sharia.”

I am also grateful to live in a country where the law protects Geller’s right to say these things.

Sunday’s incident, in which two gunmen tried to attack an anti-Islam event that Geller and virulently anti-Muslim Dutch politician Geert Wilders hosted in Texas, was deeply troubling. Our freedom of speech means nothing if people are too afraid to speak. We saw this in a different context earlier this year when Sony pulled a raunchy geopolitical buddy comedy from theaters under threat of terror attacks. Say what you will about Pamela Geller, she has not backed down from any of her vile positions under fear of violence.

But it’s important to remember that the fact that she was attacked for her speech doesn’t make Geller a hero, or her speech any less hateful. As Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall put it yesterday, “a hate group is a hate group the day after someone takes a shot at them just like it was the day before.”

Local Muslim groups had the right idea when they stayed away from Geller’s event, declining to protest so that they wouldn’t give Geller the attention she so desperately wanted. Those who expose her hateful rhetoric — like my PFAW colleagues — also do important work, making sure the public knows that just because she is targeted by violent idiots doesn’t make her a serious thinker or a hero.

I know that Geller won’t back down from her hateful rhetoric after this event– in fact, the attempted attack will probably embolden her and cause some to take her more seriously. And we shouldn’t stop criticizing Geller — or, as she puts it, “enforcing the Sharia” — when she’s wrong.

As People For the American Way wrote in 2009 in response to a renewed spate of inflammatory right-wing rhetoric, Americans must “be willing to use their First Amendment freedoms to challenge those who exploit their political positions or media megaphones to promote lies that are intended to inflame rather than inform, that encourage paranoia rather than participation, and whose consequences are at best divisive and at worst, violently destructive.”

 

By: Michael B. Keegan, People for The American Way, The Blog, The Huffington Post, May 7, 2015

May 10, 2015 Posted by | 1st Amendment, Free Speech, Pamela Geller | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

   

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