Neoconservative ideologue Jamie Kirchick says Pamela Geller, the well-known anti-Muslim demagogue, is an “embarrassment.” “She’s what you would get,” he writes, “if Fran Drescher and the late ultranationalist anti-Arab rabbi-turned-political leader Meir Kahane reproduced.” But why is Kirchick embarrassed? After all, what has Geller to do with him?
The answer is that Geller says what he and his “respectable” confreres over at National Review, the Weekly Standard and Commentary magazine only dare to imply, and she says it loudly, braying her bigotry without regard for facts or fashion. She’s the neocons’ portrait of Dorian Gray, sitting up in the attic hidden from the world, but now it’s coming down the stairs – and that’s embarrassing for the Park Avenue neocons who wrinkle their noses at the brazen ugliness of her pronouncements, which so perfectly reflect their own worldview.
Geller and her “scholarly” sidekick Robert Spencer have been at the same old stand for years, mainstays of the Muslim-hating industry plugging away with a series of publicity stunts designed to provoke that which gives them life: hatred. Their first success was the campaign against the Park 55 mosque in New York City, a cause that catapulted the heavily-made up costume-jewelry bedecked Geller to the front pages of the tabloids, and primetime coverage on Fox News, her aging sagging features animated by the hate that loves to speak its name.
Then there were the bus advertisements: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage," said one of her first ads, "support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad." This is mild compared to her recent rhetoric: “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in the Koran!” screams the headline over a photo of an obscure Palestinian leader speaking with Adolf Hitler. Another ad proclaims “Killing Jews is Worship that draws us close to Allah” in close proximity to the image of a dark-skinned young man in a checked keffiyeh. “That’s His Jihad,” the subhead reads, “What’s yours?”
It’s interesting that in this last example the ad directly addresses the objects of Geller’s hatred, underscoring her purpose – which is to provoke anger. At the core of the Geller-Spencer worldview is the idea that Islam – supposedly unlike all the other religions on earth – is inherently violent and authoritarian. Yet the world – dominated by liberal softies, appeasers, and outright fifth columnists – has yet to wake up to this alarming fact, in part because American Muslims are employing taqiyya – deceit – so as to hide their true nature. And so Geller and her group are determined to demonstrate this vital principle – by deliberately and cold-bloodedly provoking a violent response.
And she has finally succeeded. While the only violence Geller had to deal with in the past was the state coercion employed by city-run transportation authorities, who refused to run her ads – an obstacle overcome by court rulings in her favor – and routine acts of vandalism, now she can claim the “honor” of having been attacked by alleged terrorists.
The venue was a community center in Garland, Texas, where her group sponsored a “Let’s Draw Mohammed Contest,” in which the winner would be awarded a fat check for $10,000 – yes, these people have money! The keynote speaker at this “free speech” event was Geert Wilders, the bleached-blonde hero of the European anti-Islamic movement and a member of the Dutch parliament, who wants to ban the Koran, deport all Muslims, and prevent any from entering his lily-white Dutch paradise. At a rally of his “Freedom” party, the Dutch Fuehrer declaimed: “Do you want more or fewer Moroccans in this city and in the Netherlands?” He got the response he was looking for: “Fewer! Fewer! Fewer!” “We’ll take care of that,” the bottle-blonde bigot replied.
After the Garland festivities had ended, two individuals – one, Elton Simpson, a 30-year-old African American convert to Islam, had been on the FBI’s radar for 10 years – drove up into the parking lot and opened fire. The extra security provided by the organizers prevented them from getting any further than that, and the two were killed by responding police officers: one officer was shot in the leg.
Now ISIS has issued a public statement claiming responsibility for the attack – and Geller’s life ambition has been achieved.
Whether the self-proclaimed “caliphate” had any operational role in the botched attack is highly doubtful: Simpson couldn’t even get to Somalia when he tried to join a jihadist group a decade ago. His roommate and co-conspirator, Nadir Soofi, was born in Garland and was of Pakistani heritage.
What’s notable here is the symbiotic relationship between extremists on both sides of the spectrum – the Gellers and the jihadist fan-boys – who feed off of each other in a mutually opportunistic embrace, reveling in the publicity it gives to their respective causes. Also worthy of our attention is the wholehearted embrace of Geller by many on the neoconservative Right: National Review has been tooting her horn as a “tireless campaigner against Islamic imperialism,” and, now, a symbol of “free speech.” In a special editorial, the editors of the nation’s leading conservative magazine aver:
“Of course, rather than focus on these would-be martyrs and how they became radicalized, much of the media reaction has dwelt on Geller and her “history of hate,” in the Daily Mail’s phrase. While sponsoring a prize for the best caricature of Muhammad may be a noxious pastime – and Geller has, indeed, made a career as a provocatrix – her contest is precisely the type of “free speech” protected by the First Amendment. And it is objectionable, potentially offensive speech that requires the most vigorous defense. Freedom of speech that excludes disagreeable speech from its protections is no freedom at all.”
“But behind the impulse to exclude Geller and those like her from the law’s protections is a desire (usually implicit, but often outright) to blame her for her own misfortunes. If Geller does not want terrorist attacks, goes the charge, she should stop hosting provocative cartoon contests. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the threat that Simpson and those like him pose. Extremism is not ameliorated by acquiescence. If it is not an AFDI event, it will be something else. The form of psychopathology that thinks heaven is achieved in a hail of bullets outside the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, will find an occasion to wreak jihad, cartoons or no cartoons.”
The editors are wrong that Geller doesn’t want terrorists to attack her demonstrations of hate: she revels in attacks, and this latest is her ultimate day in the sun. Listen to her speech at the Garland event, which glories in the “threats” and the danger: she congratulates – and flatters – her audience by praising their “bravery.” The frisson of violence hung in the air, and she wrapped herself around it like a mink stole.
Geller’s whole career as a hate-monger has been depicted, in her own writings, as one long martyrdom, in which she has been “smeared” by the “pro-Muslim” media, which is complicit in the “creeping sharia” that is supposedly taking over America and the West. Anticipating the violence that was to come allowed her to depict herself as a brave “freedom fighter,” a species of extremist we haven’t seen anywhere else: a pro-Israeli suicide bomber.
National Review limns her own arguments that this is only about “free speech.” “Everything else is a smear,” as she said in her remarks to the Garland event. In a lengthy exchange with me on Twitter, National Review writer Charles Cooke refused to consider the content of her public pronouncements and indeed got quite huffy about it, taking the Gellerite line that it’s a “free speech” issue – and we aren’t allowed to consider what she’s actually saying and doing.
This is nonsensical, and the “conservatarian” Cooke and his co-thinkers know it: they are simply evading the fact that the whole point of Geller’s enterprise is to provoke violence and thus “confirm” – at least in their own minds – the central thesis of their movement: that Islam is inherently violent and must be suppressed. As Geert Wilders said at the Garland hate-fest: “No more mosques! No more Islamic schools! No more Islam!” So much for the “free speech” bona fides of Geller & Company.
Would the editors of National Review defend a group of white supremacists – or angry conservatives, for that matter – who ventured into Baltimore screaming the “N-word”? Of course they wouldn’t! But what about “free speech”? Shouldn’t we ignore the “noxious” content and simply defend the principle of untrammeled expression?
You won’t read any National Review editorials advocating or defending such behavior for the simple reason that the editors’ common sense overrides any secret sympathy they may have for such sentiments. Yet they aren’t quite so secretive about their sympathy for Geller and her cause because the resemblance between her blatherings and their own is unmistakable. Both Mark Steyn and Andrew McCarthy have made careers out of elaborating Geller’s anti-Muslim crudities so as to make them palatable for the Park Avenue conservative set. And, most important of all, Geller’s fanatic devotion to Israel is reflected not only in the pages of that august magazine, but also in Bibi Netanyahu’s latest iteration as the de facto leader of the American conservative movement: a status semi-formalized in his partnership with House Speaker John Boehner and his all-but-official endorsement of Mitt Romney in the last presidential election. Indeed, Geller’s bus ad slogan, “Support Israel, Defeat Jihad,” could well serve as the official GOP slogan given the leading presidential candidates’ declared predilections (including, I would add, Rand Paul).
The Geller phenomenon isn’t limited to America, as Wilders’ presence at the Garland rally indicates: thousands are marching in Germany against “Islamicization,” and anti-Muslim parties and movements in Britain, France, and the Scandinavian countries are all in contact with the Gellerites, whose international manifestation is “Stop the Islamicization of Europe,” a kind of bigots’ International that coordinates activities across borders. And they deploy the “free speech” gambit there, too, with cartoons and hate rallies their weapons of choice: Flemming Rose, the editor of the Danish newspaper that was attacked due to its cartoon depictions of Mohammed, is now lecturing in the United States, where he has been eagerly embraced by some misguided “libertarians,” whose appetite to be on the “popular” side of an issue for once has apparently overcome their sense of decency.
So what we have is a series of provocations against Muslims not only in the US but also throughout the West, funded and promoted by right-wing movements who believe the West is being sold out by pro-Muslim “appeasers” and whose devotion and loyalty to Israel borders on the fanatic. The effect if not the conscious goal of these movements – which exist in countries with substantial Muslim populations – is to recreate the conditions under which Israel itself suffers: a state of siege constantly reinforced by the prospect of terrorist attacks.
Who benefits from this evolving state of affairs?
The best way to find this out is to follow the money, but in Geller’s case one runs up against a wall of obfuscation. The Forward was able to tease out a $100,000 donation in 2013 and 2014 “sent through the Jewish Communal Fund, a donor-advised charity that allows the original funding source to direct where it wants its donation to go while masking its identity.” But that’s just half of Geller’s annual salary. How is it they were able to write a check for $12,500 to Bosch Fawstin, the winner of the Hate Mohammed contest? How could they have afforded $50,000 for the extra security around the Garland event? Their 990 forms – which must be filed with the IRS in order to secure their tax-exempt status – are singularly uninformative, listing only the total amount of nearly a million dollars in revenue for 2013, the latest tax year available.
It’s highly likely that they received their funding from the same sources that the neoconservatives have grown fat off of for all these years: the big conservative foundations. This report, Fear, Inc., compiled by the Center for American Progress, hauls out the usual suspects – all of them the same moneybags neocons have been feeding off since they took over the conservative movement in the cold war years, including: Donors Capital Fund, the Richard Mellon Scaife foundations, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the Newton D. & Rochelle F. Becker foundations and charitable trust, the Russell Berrie Foundation, the Anchorage Charitable Fund and William Rosenwald Family Fund, and the Fairbrook Foundation.
In just the first half of this decade more than $42 million passed into the coffers of the hating-on-Muslims industry, courtesy of these foundations.
The interlocking directorates and complex financial arrangements behind this network of fearmongers would make quite an organizational chart, and yet much of it is hidden behind a wall of murk: it’s impossible to tell which money sources are domestic and which are foreign, and reporting requirements aren’t exactly stringent.
And there are new sources of revenue for the Gellers of this world: one example is Sheldon Adelson, who funneled multi-millions into the Republican party, and is a prime funder of the pro-Israel media and action groups. His millions flow in and out of the country, funding pro-Israel groups in the US as well as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election campaign – not to mention Israel Hayom, the freely distributed newspaper that has become the voice of Israel’s far right.
An international effort to start the equivalent of a religious-race war in the countries of the West is well along the path to success, and it’s worth asking: Who pays? Who benefits? Who is intent on bringing the specter of domestic terrorism to our shores?
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).