Anti-Muslim or pro-freedom?
May 4, 2015 8:19 AM   Subscribe

A Draw Muhammad event was attacked by two gunmen who injured a security guard before being killed by police. The event was organized by SPLC identified hate group the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is run by Pamela Geller. Geller you may recall as the woman who fought against the Park 51 mosque, putting up posters describing Muslims as barbarians in the NYC subway, and claiming that Obama is the secret illegitimate son of Malcom X. The Daily Beast has a good summary of Geller and the event.
posted by sotonohito (405 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
Unfortunately, I think Geller got exactly what she hoped for by holding this moronic event.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:28 AM on May 4, 2015 [63 favorites]


Unfortunately, I am now in a place of defending Pam Geller.

She is a racist scum, but two wrongs do not make a right. Especially when the first wrong is racist speech, and then the second wrong is attempted murder.

Most days, I would hammer this woman as a disgusting pig. Today, Muslim extremists played right into her hands - and today, I will stand up and defend her right to be a disgusting pig.
posted by Flood at 8:30 AM on May 4, 2015 [77 favorites]


This is all vomit inducing from start to finish. So glad that no innocents were killed. Regrettable that the idiots with guns didn't live to rot in jail.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unfortunately, I think Geller got exactly what she hoped for by holding this moronic event.

This.

It's a shame, but I think she should be able to say stupid things she wants to and not get attacked for doing so. I just really wish people would ignore it for the ignorant crap it is.
posted by dazed_one at 8:33 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


It's a shame, but I think she should be able to say stupid things she wants to and not get attacked for doing so.

Oh, absolutely. But, I can't help think that she held this event with an eye toward purposely goading a violent response.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:37 AM on May 4, 2015 [25 favorites]


Thorzad, I'm inclined to agree. The right wing has been slavering for a "Muslim attack on American soil" for a long time now. When I lived in Amarillo a local Christianist tried to provoke an attack by organizing a Q'ran burning, which failed when a skater rode by and stole his Q'ran (video here, disclosure: while I wasn't present (I had a cold) several friends of mine were at the UU protest and are in that video and I have participated in other protests against David Grisham and his hate group Repent Amarillo).

But I also agree with Flood. While Geller got what she wanted, she shouldn't have. Drawing Muhammad, and inviting racist choads like Geert Wilders to speak shouldn't result in shootings. A protest against the event I could totally get behind, but not only do I oppose shooting people in general, in this particular instance it adds fuel to the right wing and will likely result in a flurry of anti-Muslim laws, protests, etc.

Which, I worry, is what the shooters wanted. A society where Muslims can live peacefully and without (too dreadfully much) oppression is not a society where Islamism can really thrive. In order to make Islamism work in the USA, the Islamists must produce an environment where Muslims are alienated, othered, and treated very badly so that they will be willing to side with the Islamists.

It appears that all the bad guys involved got exactly what they wanted.
posted by sotonohito at 8:37 AM on May 4, 2015 [44 favorites]


This is really one of those, "I don't want to live on this planet anymore," type of stories. The only praise goes out to the security folks for doing a great job protecting the people they were responsible for which likely included some folks innocent of supporting the racism, not that racism is an excuse for killing someone.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:38 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


I'd be perfectly happy to let all of these fuckheads bait and kill each other if innocent people (and possibly me one day) weren't so often caught in the middle. In the meantime I'm just going to hate everyone involved in this despicable spectacle with the heat of a thousand suns.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Unfortunately, this should play right into the hands of those supporting Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's deployment of the Texas State Guard to watch over the U.S. military drills in Texas this week.

NPR: Texas Governor Deploys State Guard To Stave Off Obama Takeover

It seems there is concern among some folks that this so-called training maneuver is just a cover story. What's really going on? President Obama is about to use Special Forces to put Texas under martial law.
posted by a complicated history at 8:46 AM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Both sides want things to get much worse, so they can be "proved" right. Violence in this issue can only help the extremists.
Also, note that neither side really wants free speech.
posted by librosegretti at 8:48 AM on May 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


*sighs*
posted by Fizz at 8:49 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I live in Garland and I am sick to death about this whole thing. It's mentioned in the first link, but this same conference center was the host of an Islamic conference discussing the image of Islam in the media and how to combat the negative portrayal. The article says it drew 200 protestors, but news coverage at the time described it as anywhere from 500 to thousands. And while there was no violence, it was really ugly. There's a not insignificant Muslim population here, some of whom were there in a counter protest, and it was seriously unsettling to see so many people come to my town telling my neighbors to "go home." The choice of venue could not have been more pointedly aimed at taunting Muslims.

I'm broken-hearted that these two morons took the bait and drew so much attention to this disgusting event. I'm very worried about my kids' Muslim friends at school and their families and how they'll be affected by the fallout from this. Sadly, I'm seeing a lot of people who do believe the organizers' description of the event as being about defending free speech from violent intimidation, and this shooting fed right into that narrative.

There was just a press conference on local news - don't know if it got national coverage. The shooters were evidently wearing body armor and shooting at the police car with assault rifles. The school district officer that was shot in the ankle was unarmed, and both shooters were taken out by the other officer, who was an off duty traffic officer with a service pistol. I predict big medals in his future. There were no bombs in the vehicle.

The shooters have not been officially identified, by the way. We don't know that it was a Muslim attack at this point.
posted by Dojie at 8:50 AM on May 4, 2015 [46 favorites]




If the gunmen were Muslim, this will no doubt become yet another instance where the color of your skin or your interpretation of a varied billion-member religion is considered terrorism, while being a racist and/or Islamophobic white guy with a gun means you get accused of murder (or if they're lucky, justifiable homicide).
posted by zombieflanders at 8:53 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is like holding a contest to see who can take the biggest dump on a picture of Jesus.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:02 AM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


The shooters have not been officially identified, by the way. We don't know that it was a Muslim attack at this point.

Yes. It is entirely possible that the shooters were right-wing extremists who thought it was a pro-Islam event. You can't underestimate how confused people are down here.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 9:03 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm broken-hearted that these two morons took the bait and drew so much attention to this disgusting event.

There is no reason to paint them so charitably as "morons", no matter what their religious or political identity. As has been pointed out in this thread, the extremists in all camps want the same thing. They don't care whose children die, they just care about "winning". They want, like Geller, for hatred and misery to flourish. They knew what the effect of this would be, and they were happy about it. Fuck them.
posted by howfar at 9:06 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


The New York Times is reporting that
One of the two gunmen who were killed Sunday after opening fire at an event where people were invited to present cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad was identified on Monday by a law enforcement official as a man who had previously been labeled by the F.B.I. as a jihadist terrorism suspect.
So it does look like one set of reactionary idiots managed to provoke another, more violent set of same. The eliminationist types won today, and everyone else lost.
posted by kewb at 9:08 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Here's the cartoon that won the contest.

Wow, that cartoon is shit.
posted by Hoopo at 9:09 AM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Here's the cartoon that won the contest.

That's superb, and gets right to the core of what free speech is about in relation to the so-called "sacred". Geller and Wilders are kinda unworthy of it.

Also praise to the fact that it was drawn by an ex-Muslim, somebody who knows much more about this kind of religious oppression than any of us.
posted by Thing at 9:09 AM on May 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


The event was organized by SPLC identified hate group the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which is run by Pamela Geller. Geller you may recall as the woman who fought against the Park 51 mosque, putting up posters describing Muslims as barbarians in the NYC subway, and claiming that Obama is the secret illegitimate son of Malcom X.

All of that is true, and I'm sure she did want to provoke a violent response. But I think it's even worse that simply showing pictures of Muhammad is openly acknowledged as a reliable way to provoke violence. Likewise, more people are acknowledging that just being black is a reliable way to provoke cops to question, arrest, or kill you. What can be done to stop others from being provoked by these things in the first place?

This is like holding a contest to see who can take the biggest dump on a picture of Jesus.

If people were afraid of Christians killing them for such a contest, it would be all the more important to hold one. Otherwise we would be letting whoever can be the most violent decide what everyone else is allowed to say.
posted by Rangi at 9:10 AM on May 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


But I think it's even worse that simply showing pictures of Muhammad is openly acknowledged as a reliable way to provoke violence.
I think it's a tad disingenuous to call this particular event "simply showing pictures of Muhammad." It was a hate meeting, staged by a hate group. Pamela Geller is not about free speech: she's about hating Muslims. They got the response they wanted, which is distressing as all fuck.

And yes, I believe that Pamela Geller has a right to free speech, and she should be able to have her hate meeting without being subject to violence, just like the Nazis had a right to march in Skokie. But we don't pretend the Nazis in Skokie were just a happy civic organization devoted to democracy and picnics.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:15 AM on May 4, 2015 [63 favorites]


I think it's a tad disingenuous to call this particular event "simply showing pictures of Muhammad." It was a hate meeting, staged by a hate group. Pamela Geller is not about free speech: she's about hating Muslims. They got the response they wanted, which is distressing as all fuck.

If it takes a bunch of haters to reaffirm that America's tradition of irreverent cartooning, going back to the days of Peter Pencil, will continue, so the fuck be it.
posted by ocschwar at 9:20 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am pretty sick of Pamela Geller, and Ayan Hirsi and that Dutch guy. That this happened in a suburb of Dallas doesn't surprise me either. I am beyond tired of the other side too. All they do is make my life and the life of my friends harder.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:20 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


To add to the last comment, there are good people in Texas, I wish they'd do more about the idiots in their midst.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:21 AM on May 4, 2015


Free speech? Crying fire in a theater full of psychotic clowns? Okey dokey.
posted by Oyéah at 9:26 AM on May 4, 2015


If it takes a bunch of haters to reaffirm that America's tradition of irreverent cartooning, going back to the days of Peter Pencil, will continue, so the fuck be it.

Somehow I don't think a bunch of racist dipshits making lazy-ass drawings of some angry guy in a turban is going to up our national political cartooning game that much
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:26 AM on May 4, 2015 [30 favorites]


If it takes a bunch of haters to reaffirm that America's tradition of irreverent cartooning...

By openly baiting this kind of behavior, all that Geller and the AFDI have done is further associate political cartooning with violence. Who does this help, exactly? Editors who will no longer want to run political cartoons for fear of accidentally doing the same thing? Cartoonist who will want to stay away from criticizing certain topics because the well has been poisoned?
posted by griphus at 9:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]




That this happened in a suburb of Dallas doesn't surprise me either . . . To add to the last comment, there are good people in Texas, I wish they'd do more about the idiots in their midst.

I'm no defender of Texas or 'the idiots in our midst' as a rule, but neither the event nor the shooters (if the reports that they were from Phoenix are true) had anything to do with Texas. They held the event here because of the Islamic conference we hosted in January, but they weren't locals.
posted by Dojie at 9:35 AM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Geller's Westboro Baptist act is extremely tiresome, and it stings that she's finally gotten someone killed and will incessantly claim that that's proof that she has been right all along.
posted by delfin at 9:36 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Far-rightists holding an event where people draw cartoons of Muhammad to troll far-right Muslims: stupid and self-congratulatory; far-right Muslims shooting people at such an event: stupid and evil. This event is stupid all around. I'm glad the shooters didn't manage to kill anyone.

Here's the cartoon that won the contest.

I'm not sure what part of this is funnier to me: the talking hand, or the extended Hitler mustache in the middle of Muhammad's beard. Maybe I'm just seeing the latter, though.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:37 AM on May 4, 2015


And that particular Dallas suburb looks to be extremely diverse, with a significant and diverse immigrant population. I don't think the residents of Garland are the people to be angry at here.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:37 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I submit that we should postpone this highfallutin' debate about free speech until after we stop bombing the shit out of one side of it.
posted by Trochanter at 9:38 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]



Somehow I don't think a bunch of racist dipshits making lazy-ass drawings of some angry guy in a turban is going to up our national political cartooning game that much


No, but if it reaffirms that people who don't like it remain obliged to suck it up and move on, that is a good thing.
posted by ocschwar at 9:39 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wish Geller hadn't held this event. Now the focus will be on her awful group rather than the wider issue of free speech in the face of religious violence. We will lose sight of the core issue because people will want to point fingers at those bearing the message. Few want to defend Geller and Wilders, even those who are deeply passionate about the actual issue. It will be a victory for blurred lines and whataboutism. I expect that "yeah, well, Pamela Geller," will be the new refrain for anybody who wishes to shut down and shout down debate.
posted by Thing at 9:39 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]



I wish Geller hadn't held this event. Now the focus will be on her awful group rather than the wider issue of free speech in the face of religious violence.


I agree. But how much of the focus went on free speech in response to the Charlie Hebdo murders? There was a lot of mealy mothed pussilanimity on the Internet equating CH with Geller, which added insult to lethal injury, and changed the subject away from free speech.
posted by ocschwar at 9:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Prejudiced morons baiting homicidal idiots; unfortunately I have to side with the morons who aren't shooting people - I disagree with what they say, but will defend their right to say it.

I can't help think that she held this event with an eye toward purposely goading a violent response.

I feel you're right. What a FUBAR set of people.
posted by dazed_one at 9:44 AM on May 4, 2015


That's true ocschwar, a lot of folks tried to libel Charlie Hebdo as racist and prejudiced after they were murdered. I guess I'm just sad because they have finally got what they wanted: a victim they can blame for their own attack.
posted by Thing at 9:46 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I suppose Texas was the place to hold this, given the likelihood of CCW permit holders. As it turned out, that wasn't even needed given the serious police presence at this event. Glad that the attackers were taken down with no loss of life on our side.
posted by theorique at 9:47 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I can't help think that she held this event with an eye toward purposely goading a violent response.

I feel you're right. What a FUBAR set of people.


Yeah, this actually couldn't have gone better for Gellar. Proof of Muslim violence as a result of 'free speech,' actual deaths (but only of the, presumably Muslim, shooters), a law enforcement officer shot 'defending their freedom' (but with a very minor injury), and lots and lots of attention. Violence with no serious consequences to the good guys that might cause people to question whether it was worth it to protect these assholes. It's really the perfect outcome for her.
posted by Dojie at 9:51 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm glad the shooters didn't manage to kill anyone.

Two people died. Oh, by 'shooters', you don't mean the people that shot and killed the attackers (they too were shooters).

Glad that the attackers were taken down with no loss of life on our side.

I'm not sure what side you are on, but I try to think of myself on humanities side. There was a loss of life.

"Funny thing is" that if two gunmen showed up at a klan rally and tried to shoot the attendees, there sure as hell (outside of klan circles) wouldn't be a national discussion of 'well, maybe the klan is right, we should think about their position a bit more'.

Yeah, this thing is shitty all around.

Fuck.
posted by el io at 9:51 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Where "our side" is "neither the shooters outside the building nor the assholes inside it."
posted by delfin at 9:51 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Prejudiced morons baiting homicidal idiots; unfortunately I have to side with the morons who aren't shooting people - I disagree with what they say, but will defend their right to say it.

Let's not fall into this 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' trap (with regards to either 'side'). You don't have to side with anyone here. The fact that people have a right to say damaging and disgusting things does not make them right to say it.

Sometimes I feel like we stumble over the distinction between different meanings of "right". Being a vile sack of shit is a fundamental human right, and I will condemn those who use violence to attempt to surpress that right, but I still despite Geller for being exactly what she is.

These people are all our enemies.
posted by howfar at 9:52 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is really one of those, "I don't want to live on this planet anymore," type of stories.

When I heard about this fiasco (before coffee, no less) the only thing I could muster was, "fuck literally every single person involved in this. Just every last one of 'em."

Feels like I've been saying that about a lot of news stories lately.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:52 AM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Have they identified the shooters? It would be ironic if they were anti-Islamic bigots who thought this was an Islamic event.
posted by Renoroc at 9:54 AM on May 4, 2015


I'm not sure what side you are on, but I try to think of myself on humanities side. There was a loss of life.

I guess I mean the pro-free-speech side, broadly construed. I have no problem with people protesting against anything, but once they try to perform political assassinations to silence speech they don't like, my sympathy for them drops to nil.
posted by theorique at 9:56 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


One shooter has been identified. Definitely a Muslim extremist that the FBI has been watching for a while.
posted by Dojie at 9:57 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Two people died. Oh, by 'shooters', you don't mean the people that shot and killed the attackers (they too were shooters).

yeah man I'm glad the people who were trying to kill other people because they were drawing cartoons did not manage to do so, because there would have been greater loss of life, and I think it's too bad that those people were killed instead of being arrested. but you got me pretty good I guess
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


This is like holding a contest to see who can take the biggest dump on a picture of Jesus.

You know, except that's kind of halfway been done, and there was a lot of outcry and protest about whether it should be displayed in a museum or not, but nobody got shot or stabbed over it.

It should be okay for people to mock religion. I may think they're assholes, but I will defend to the death (even literally) their right to do so without getting shot for it.
posted by corb at 10:01 AM on May 4, 2015 [21 favorites]


Definitely a Muslim extremist that the FBI has been watching for a while.

I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if this was the result of another genius FBI scheme to incite muslims to turn violent so that they could take the credit for another foiled 'plot'.
posted by dhruva at 10:01 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


a lot of folks tried to libel Charlie Hebdo as racist and prejudiced after they were murdered.

Not to mention their posthumous baptism into standard-bearers of the Murdochian Judaeo-Christian Right, made possible largely by the fact that most of the evidence about their actual beliefs and affinities is in French.
posted by acb at 10:04 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


This whole thing is even more infuriating now that I know Pam Geller is behind the event. An otherwise pathetic also-ran event to make a point that was never in dispute to begin with now gets the spotlight shone on it and some justification after the fact.

I eagerly await the inevitable me-too "lookit me I drew Mohammed LOL" cartoon exhibits to follow.
posted by Hoopo at 10:07 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I eagerly await the inevitable me-too "lookit me I drew Mohammed LOL" cartoon exhibits to follow.


Charlie Hebdo's position regarding their cartoons was exactly that. Pointless baiting.
posted by colie at 10:12 AM on May 4, 2015


I'd honestly like to see Geller up on charges for this.

I'll grant that she has the constitutional right to be a hateful racist. She even has the right to not be shot for being a hateful racist. I don't think, though, that there's any question in anyone's mind that she specifically put this event together looking for violence. As far as I'm concerned, that's definitely a criminal act.
posted by Archelaus at 10:13 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wonder if the increasing number of "Draw Mohammed" events is a variation on the Streisand effect? I have to admit, I don't personally feel any particular "need" to draw Mohammed. Other things being equal, I don't give much thought to either offending or placating Moslems.

However, when someone attempts to apply a system of law to me that is (1) alien to me and my values and (2) not applicable in the place where I live, then I consider that unacceptable infringement on my legal and political rights. In that sense, I consider the drawing of Mohammed a conscious and assertive act of political liberty - declaring "my individual rights give me permission to do this; Sharia law does not apply here and does not prohibit me from doing this".
posted by theorique at 10:14 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The "she was really askin' for it" attitude is surprisingly popular on this site.
posted by jfuller at 10:14 AM on May 4, 2015 [24 favorites]


Where in the US is sharia law being applied?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:15 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The "she was really askin' for it" attitude is surprisingly popular on this site.

So are offensively false equivalencies, I guess.
posted by griphus at 10:15 AM on May 4, 2015 [53 favorites]


Wouldn't it be nice if someone threw a Quran burning or Draw Muhammed contest and everyone simply said "meh"?

Besides, like the Charlie Hebdo attacks, I believe the true motive wasn't revenge against someone who insulted their faith -- it was an attack on the moderates within their faith. The attack is a means to an end, and that end is not to stop insults of Islam, it is to force everyone to pick a side: the non-extreme Muslims to pick the side of the ideologues and extremists, and everyone else to pick the side that attacks Islam. Both of those sides need each other to lean against to even stand up.

Unfortunately, it seems to be working. There is a cancer in any extremism that resorts to violence when provoked directly by anything non-violent. For social, economic, and political reasons that go back over a hundred years (it's all about the oil as we all know), the West collectively has simply made it such that it's Islam's turn at the wheel.
posted by chimaera at 10:16 AM on May 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'd honestly like to see Geller up on charges for this.

No, no, no, a thousand times no. Hate Geller all you want, but if you think creating precedent that creating exhibits that mad extremists do violence over should be a criminal act, you are creating a perfect win-win method for extremists to control discourse - not to mention the other free speech implications.
posted by corb at 10:16 AM on May 4, 2015 [34 favorites]


The "she was really askin' for it" attitude is surprisingly popular on this site.

Was it because of what she was wearing? (i.e. not a burka...)
posted by theorique at 10:16 AM on May 4, 2015


Where in the US is sharia law being applied?

This shooting stemmed from an attempt to apply Sharia law.
posted by gertzedek at 10:16 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Let's not fall into this 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend' trap (with regards to either 'side'). You don't have to side with anyone here.

Howfar, please don't get me wrong - I think the filth and idiocy that Geller and her ilk spew is ridiculous and should be ignored (or, if you must engage the troll, debated rationally). However, while saying hurtful things is horrible, attempting to kill people for saying hurtful things is worse, at least from my perspective. Even more so in this case because attacking the hate-filled assholes holding the exhibition was exactly the response they seemed to want to incite.
posted by dazed_one at 10:18 AM on May 4, 2015


She definitely was asking for it. Let's get over the idea that this is about "free speech" -- this was a calculated attempt to incite violent hatred. There are plenty of ways to exercise your right to free speech; it's not like you can pretend this was just randomly chosen or anything.

Those of you who think such events "ought" to be organized because the right to free speech "needs" to be exercised when challenged -- would you also advocate running through minority neighborhoods shouting racial epithets? Would that be appropriately standing up for your "rights"? No, it would mean you're an asshole.
posted by demonic winged headgear at 10:18 AM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Can you tell me who is applying it besides the two dead people? Do the majority of Muslims in Garland support sharia law?
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:19 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm drawing a picture of Hammurabi taking it up the butt because fuck your code, man, this is the USA and I'm not gonna do what some damn stele tells me
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:19 AM on May 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


If it takes a bunch of haters to reaffirm that America's tradition of irreverent cartooning

Gosh, yes, I miss those days.
posted by maxsparber at 10:21 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


would you also advocate running through minority neighborhoods shouting racial epithets? Would that be appropriately standing up for your "rights"?

This assumes that minorities would just blindly attack someone screaming epithets as if they wouldn't just roll their eyes and ignore the crazy person just like white people do.
posted by Awful Peice of Crap at 10:22 AM on May 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


Now the focus will be on her awful group rather than the wider issue of free speech in the face of religious violence.

Is there even a conversation to have here? I have seen exactly no one arguing in favor of murdering people for cartoons. I have seen numerous people again and again covering bigotry with the fig leaf of "free speech." There is not the strong dichotomy that everyone pretends here; you do not actually have to support or defend Geller, Wilders, etc. just because you don't agree that people should be murdered for drawing cartoons. Not supporting any "side" in this whole mess is actually a viable position, and the one I'd consider most reasonable. "Free speech threatened by religious violence" is a false narrative. It isn't, even a little bit, and violent imbeciles who interpret something not all Muslims even agree about as entirely literal and worth killing over probably do more to inspire the kind of free speech Geller, Wilders, etc. are fond of than anything.
posted by byanyothername at 10:22 AM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


This assumes that 99.99999% of minorities would just blindly attack someone screaming epithets as if they wouldn't just roll their eyes and ignore the crazy person just like white people do.

I'm going to go ahead and guess that 99.99999% didn't participate in this shooting attack.
posted by maxsparber at 10:23 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


She definitely was asking for it. Let's get over the idea that this is about "free speech" -- this was a calculated attempt to incite violent hatred.

But here's the thing. THIS IS NOT CONFINED TO PAMELA GELLAR.

It could easily be argued that MLK's march to Birmingham was designed to incite violence - that they knew violence would be coming if they protested, and they did it anyway because they thought it was important and hoped that when the people saw it happening out front instead of out back, they would rise up and not allow it to happen.

Should MLK have been jailed for 'inciting violent hatred'?
posted by corb at 10:23 AM on May 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


[I was not drawing comparisons about what the likely response would be.]

Also, the MLK protest example is a total false equivalence. How the hell is a nonviolent demand to be treated like a human being like the 'draw Muhammad' contest?
posted by demonic winged headgear at 10:23 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


No, no, no, a thousand times no. Hate Geller all you want, but if you think creating precedent that creating exhibits that mad extremists do violence over should be a criminal act, you are creating a perfect win-win method for extremists to control discourse - not to mention the other free speech implications.

It seems to me we already forbid shouting fire in a crowded theater, and other actions and speech that expressly put people in danger in a purposeful way. I'll grant that restricting some free speech in the name of curbing violence is not the best solution, but don't ignore that we don't already do that at some level. It's more a question of "is it appropriate here?"

Personally, I think it is, but I'm content to disagree with you on that point.
posted by Archelaus at 10:24 AM on May 4, 2015


Mohammad depicting cartoonists honeypot scheme? Pretty pitiful for everybody involved.
posted by thebestusernameever at 10:24 AM on May 4, 2015


You know, except that's kind of halfway been done, and there was a lot of outcry and protest about whether it should be displayed in a museum or not, but nobody got shot or stabbed over it.

Let's be clear, though: Geller and her ilk are no friends of the 1st Amendment, especially the Free Exercise Clause. They want Muslims to act in highly proscribed ways that they don't expect of other religions. They believe that simply speaking as a Muslim is a political act worthy of scrutiny if not limitations.

Also, merely being a practicing Muslim in the US makes one a target of harassment, assault, and murder (but, as I point out above, apparently not terrorism). Sometimes, you just have to look like you're Muslim, although that almost always means "darker-skinned." A rather large segment of Americans are just fine with that, and it's far more pervasive and extensive largely because a lot of Americans believe both that Islam is a more acceptable target for scorn and that Muslims are more acceptable targets of violence.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:24 AM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


She is a racist scum, but two wrongs do not make a right. Especially when the first wrong is racist speech, and then the second wrong is attempted murder.


Agreed. You can always find an excuse to kill someone if your intent is to kill. You can always find some fault with your victim if you try.

But it doesn't change the fact that you decided to play God and destroy lives because someone did something you don't like. But it is more than two wrongs not making a right -- it is a wrong of ignorance versus a wrong of hateful destruction and there is no comparison. The latter is more wrong than the former.

I am getting tired of people who have nothing better to do than find reasons to murder and then pretend they are moral. Here is the memo: it is never right to kill people. It is never right to hurt them, terrorize them, or destroy them.

You can have a badge, a religion, a bad day, or whatever magical amulet you have at your disposal, it is wrong, it is wrong, it is wrong.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 10:25 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Can you tell me who is applying it besides the two dead people? Do the majority of Muslims in Garland support sharia law?

I can't speak for the muslims of Garland (no data), but from a global perspective, having Sharia law as the law of the land is pretty much a mainstream position amongst muslims.
posted by gertzedek at 10:25 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


We all have to decide whether we prefer racist shit-stirrers or murderous extremists because some idiots did a thing
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:26 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I come down firmly on the side of preferring neither.
posted by maxsparber at 10:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


The speech protected by law is not merely "nice" speech, or "speech that doesn't offend people".

The ACLU argued for the free expression rights of actual National Socialists to march through a town in Illinois because the principle matters more than the convenience gained by shutting up people who say things that offend other individuals or groups.
posted by theorique at 10:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


However, when someone attempts to apply a system of law to me that is (1) alien to me and my values and (2) not applicable in the place where I live, then I consider that unacceptable infringement on my legal and political rights. In that sense, I consider the drawing of Mohammed a conscious and assertive act of political liberty - declaring "my individual rights give me permission to do this; Sharia law does not apply here and does not prohibit me from doing this".

like that time my grandma told me not to take the Lord's name in vein so I was all like "Yo Gramma, FUCK your Jesus!" and then everyone started chanting "USA!" and now I am a hero of free speech because otherwise the whole country would have had to do what my Grandma said
posted by Hoopo at 10:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


No One murdered Because of This Image.

I don't know or care who Pam geller is. But if publicly announcing you're going to draw a picture is "inciting violence", the problem is not with the artists.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 10:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [27 favorites]


would you also advocate running through minority neighborhoods shouting racial epithets? Would that be appropriately standing up for your "rights"? No, it would mean you're an asshole.

I don't get this.
So, what exactly are suggesting. If someone did run through a minority neighborhood yelling racial slurs, and the person was set upon and killed by community members - what then?

Do we say: Oh well, the guy running through the neighborhood was asking for it, so we should not view this as a crime.

Doesn't the murder of the guy running through the neighborhood still reflect badly on the neighborhood.

What is your solution? Silence Pam Geller. Is that what you are suggesting?
posted by Flood at 10:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Doesn't the murder of the guy running through the neighborhood still reflect badly on the neighborhood.

Was he murdered by the entire neighborhood?
posted by maxsparber at 10:28 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's not justified to try to murder people because someone at an event drew pictures you find offensive. These are not "fighting words" that person A says to person B in the heat of the moment, drawing a violent response from person B. This is two dumbass fundamentalists planning a mass murder because their feelings were hurt by drawings. Defending them, or claiming that the would-be victims were asking for it, is sickening. We're better than that.
posted by Awful Peice of Crap at 10:28 AM on May 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Can you really only imagine things in terms of "legal" vs "illegal"?
posted by demonic winged headgear at 10:29 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do the majority of Muslims in Garland support sharia law?

Just to reiterate. Don't bring Garland Muslims into it. This has nothing to do with them, other than the fact that a hate group came to their town spewing garbage all over the same building where their children graduate from high school.
posted by Dojie at 10:29 AM on May 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


I don't know or care who Pam geller is.

You will soon, since she's about to be solemnly honoured like Charlie Hebdo.
posted by colie at 10:29 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Also, the MLK protest example is a total false equivalence. How the hell is a nonviolent demand to be treated like a human being like the 'draw Muhammad' contest?

They are both assertions of people's rights. The MLK one is saying "Black Americans need to have the same rights as White Americans". The DMC is saying "free speech and free expression in the USA must not be infringed by Sharia law".
posted by theorique at 10:30 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


It seems to me we already forbid shouting fire in a crowded theater, and other actions and speech that expressly put people in danger in a purposeful way.

This is not equivalent to shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. The drawings don't subject anyone to the imminent threat of bodily harm, but the bullets sure do. The murderous reaction to a bunch of drawings is not remotely reasonable, and the responsibility therefor lies entirely with the shooters.

But Geller remains just as annoying and tone-deaf as ever.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:30 AM on May 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Pamela Geller in Brooklyn: Free Speech, Hate Speech, and the Futility of Arguing with a Bigot
Author’s Note: I wrote this article before the tragic and unacceptable attack in Garland, Texas, last night, at an event associated with Pamela Geller. Given what happened, and the conversation around Islam and free speech, I asked the editors to go ahead and publish my original article—because it shows that I, a Muslim, went to her event, heard her out, and then came home. It should be noted that this was the exact approach taken by every mosque in the Garland, Texas, area: To not only respect Geller’s right to free speech, but to decline their own right to peacefully protest.
posted by audi alteram partem at 10:30 AM on May 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


Defending them, or claiming that the would-be victims were asking for it, is sickening.

Oh, I don't think there is any doubt this was intended to instigated response. "Asking it" is probably a poor choice of words, because it has a long history of being associated with "deserved it," but, in the absence of a better phrase, Geller was asking for a response, and I think hoped it would be something along these lines.
posted by maxsparber at 10:30 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


the MLK protest example is a total false equivalence. How the hell is a nonviolent demand to be treated like a human being like the 'draw Muhammad' contest?

My point is not that Pam Gellar is MLK - she manifestly is not. My point is that laws in this country are used against those who are least powerful, and creating them in response to unpopular people is pretty much how they get passed. If a law stating that people creating protests that receive violence against them are criminally liable, do you really think it will stop at being used against anti-Muslim protests, and not, say, the Baltimores of the world?

Free speech - and even protest - is a fundamental and necessary right. It is so necessary that we can even tolerate those people who are using it for shitty behavior, because the ultimate good is so big and important.
posted by corb at 10:30 AM on May 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


I really hope that Sharia Law bill working its way through congress doesn't pass
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:31 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


I can't speak for the muslims of Garland (no data), but from a global perspective, having Sharia law as the law of the land is pretty much a mainstream position amongst muslims.

From that link:
Among Muslims who support making sharia the law of the land, most do not believe that it should be applied to non-Muslims.
The speech protected by law is not merely "nice" speech, or "speech that doesn't offend people".

That's not what you said, though. You made the accusation that this was about fighting back against Sharia law, a reason that has been proposed by many people in positions of power as a way to take away the 1A rights of Muslims regardless of adherence to sharia. Which is, quite frankly, a nasty bit of Islamophobic rhetoric.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


Just to reiterate. Don't bring Garland Muslims into it. This has nothing to do with them, other than the fact that a hate group came to their town spewing garbage all over the same building where their children graduate from high school.

Sorry, Dojie. My point was that there is zero chance of sharia law being implemented in the United States, and that people who say that this is fighting back against this imagined concern are being disingenuous.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 10:34 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


there is zero chance of sharia law being implemented in the United States

Well, sort of. The fear over 'sharia law' shows a fundamental ignorance of how these things function, but it would also be wrong to say that sharia law is not being implemented in the United States. Muslims, like many other religious groups, including Catholics and Jews, implement their own courts. These are absolutely religiously binding, with the force of religious punishment being implemented if you fail to obey the ruling. But they're not civilly binding, and not binding at all on people who are not members of their religion.

For example - I am trying to get a Catholic annulment. I am making a petition to a Catholic court, at which case Catholic 'attorneys' will be arguing whether or not my marriage should be upheld. If they decide against me, I will face religious consequences. However, this doesn't mean CATHOLICS ARE TAKING OVER ZOMG, or that non-Catholics are in any way bound by the decisions of these courts.
posted by corb at 10:40 AM on May 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


Pamela Gellar is a reprehensible person, and the "draw Mohammed" event is a stupid thing to do. But she has to be allowed to do it, and it has to remain legal. Mencken said it well:

"The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 10:40 AM on May 4, 2015 [20 favorites]


Here's the cartoon that won the contest.

Wait, Muhammed is Wolverine?! /* researches conversion to Islam */
posted by kirkaracha at 10:40 AM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


Anti-Muslim or pro-freedom

Every time I read some not-really-a-dichotomy like this, I draw a semiotic square
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:41 AM on May 4, 2015


That's not what you said, though. You made the accusation that this was about fighting back against Sharia law, a reason that has been proposed by many people in positions of power as a way to take away the 1A rights of Muslims regardless of adherence to sharia. Which is, quite frankly, a nasty bit of Islamophobic rhetoric.

For me, personally, if I were to draw Mohammed and post the drawing, it would be a private and personal statement that as an American, I do not consider myself to be accountable to Sharia law, and that I would also discourage any present or future efforts to harmonize US law with Sharia law. It's not aimed at individual Moslems and their free expression, as long as such expression can peacefully coexist with my own.

Also, this is not something that I actually consider to be a significant threat in the near term. Recent bills attempting to ban Sharia law in various states seem more like pandering to the conservative base than dealing with a real problem.
posted by theorique at 10:41 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


But they're not civilly binding

Not inherently, but religious courts can be used as a forum for binding arbitration enforceable in secular court, assuming all parties consent to that ahead of time. For example, Beth Din.
posted by jedicus at 10:48 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


These people seem hardly representative of the largely decent Garland Muslim community. This seems more a case of, 'You bait rats, you catch rats.' You feel the need to murder over a drawing? You deserve what you get.
posted by umberto at 10:48 AM on May 4, 2015


Do you know the term "honey trap"?

Stage an event designed to enrage the already violently radical sub-sub-group in a larger oppressed group. Do it where the local police will gladly over-deploy and overreact. Once the enemy is spotted, shoot to kill. (The claim that the Muslim gunners shot first sounds rather Han Solo-esque) Two more damned Muslims dead and all Muslims made to look like a threat to all us Good 'Mericans. Mission Accomplished.
posted by oneswellfoop at 10:50 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Bluntly: MLK was punching up, attempting to gain rights for a minority from oppressive elements of a majority. Gellar was punching down, painting an entire minority as equivalent to its most radical elements while disregarding all evidence to the contrary.

Does this remove Gellar's right to her protest or her speech? Absolutely not. It makes her a dangerous asshole, but dangerous assholes are Americans too.

What Gellar did was poke a sleeping, mentally ill bear with a stick repeatedly until it woke up and killed someone. She will scream that this proves that we need to purge America of all bears.
posted by delfin at 10:51 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I guess I would say that what bothers me is the attitude of people who come into these discussions, accepting the "free speech" vs "censorship" legalistic angle, and pretending that once that is resolved (yep, the First Amendment is valid!) the discussion is over. "It's legal for them to do it, so it's OK. You don't have a legal solution to stop this? Then shut up." But guess what? The culture determines how laws are applied. The cultural influence of people like Geller is what needs to be combated. I would say it is myopic to think every social problem has an answer that can be given in terms of "the law."
posted by demonic winged headgear at 10:53 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


It's a fact that the secret police regularly 'bait' and nurture easily-led extremist loners to do these crimes. I wonder how deep Geller is in with the 'homeland security' apparatus?
posted by colie at 10:53 AM on May 4, 2015


It's a fact that the secret police regularly 'bait' and nurture easily-led extremist loners to do these crimes. I wonder how deep Geller is in with the 'homeland security' apparatus?

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.
posted by gertzedek at 10:55 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


This photo, of Wilders with militarized north Texas law enforcement, is one of the more disturbing ones I've seen so far this year. (And note: taken before the incident, not after.)
posted by gimonca at 10:56 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would say that what bothers me is the attitude of people who come into these discussions, accepting the "free speech" vs "censorship" legalistic angle, and pretending that once that is resolved (yep, the First Amendment is valid!) the discussion is over.

I don't think it's that. I think some of us are afraid that people will allow their hatred to create bad laws about censorship. Once I think the threat of that is gone, I'm happy to talk about other cultural aspects, but right now there are still people even in this thread advocating for the arrest of the Gellars of the world, which for me is a priority to hold the line against. (And really, that line could be stretched pretty far - 'They forced the cops to beat them' is not out of the question).
posted by corb at 10:56 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


That Wilders photo is like something from Robocop or The Hunger Games.
posted by colie at 10:58 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


The cultural influence of people like Geller is what needs to be combated.

Here's how you do it: stop making this about her.

If the discussion is dominated by a simple reiteration of this country having free speech defined as allowing for offensiveness and blasphemy, and that it remains to duty of those offended to suck it up, and not by discussions of Geller's vile character, her influence will recede.

Keep the focus on her, and you will keep her empowered.
posted by ocschwar at 10:59 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


> So are offensively false equivalencies, I guess.

That, however, was not one.
posted by jfuller at 11:02 AM on May 4, 2015


> It seems to me we already forbid shouting fire in a crowded theater, and other actions and speech that expressly put people in danger in a purposeful way.

NO, the two are nothing like each other!

Shouting fire in a crowded theatre is deliberately spreading misinformation that you know will cause injury to rational people - it's exactly like removing the "bridge out" sign that prevents people driving to their deaths.

But the only reason that drawing Mohammed is even considered interesting is because a group of criminals have threatened to commit murder if anyone does so.

The entire problem here resides with the people who are violently unwilling to accept the free speech of others.

If you tell people, "Do not do this thing that the laws tells you you have the right to do, or I will murder you," you guarantee that some people will do that thing, if only to spite your threats. By emitting these threats, you inexorably cause people to force you to make good on your threats. The fault is entirely yours.

I am generally on the "far left" as Metafilter goes - but for once I'm agreeing with the conservative side. If you cannot tolerate others, you should not live in a tolerant country, and you should particularly not use violence to enforce your intolerance.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:02 AM on May 4, 2015 [31 favorites]


Whether you agree with the event or not, it doesn't justify a slaughterfest. Violence on such a mass scale is reprehensible, in the least. People come at my Christianity all the time - it's about this: to take tolerance, you need to give it. Those who don't give tolerance to others' points of views, don't always get tolerance for themselves. Treat others as you wish to be treated, not the opposite - it's a two-direction street.
posted by Grease at 11:05 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel that intent specifically needs to be accounted for, here. If the intent is "provoke violence", then that falls into a category that I think is less "free speech" and more "incitement to riot / conspiracy to commit x". Yes, obviously the people actually committing the violence are also culpable and breaking laws, but this whole thing just reeks of "we are setting up to provoke some folks to violence so they can be shot by these heavily militarized cops that we just happen to have invited."

I'm not okay with that, even if the folks in question are, in fact, committing a crime of their own in the process.
posted by Archelaus at 11:06 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The "both sides" equivalences here are pretty bothersome. I feel like all the old chestnuts are being brought out here to quasi-justify what was, undeniably, a terrorist attack, and they just don't seem to work for me here.

Geller and company are terrible and racist, but saying that the entire group wanted to be shot, or was seeking to provoke a shooting, seems like stretching the truth. It was a (bigoted) publicity stunt, but I think saying that they were hoping to be murdered is pushing it more than a bit. If it had been a Muslim who was being purposefully blasphemous in order to make a point, I don't think we would have said that he or she was asking for it. Yes, Geller is terrible, but that isn't the same as...

...an incident that was clearly terrorism - an attempt at a mass shooting, and not just the result of one deranged individual. The goal was to kill dozens, at least - the first person shot was not even armed, not even a conference-goer.

We should totally worry about the blacklash on Muslims, we should protest hate speech, but too much of this discussion seems to be an attempt to equally blame both the attempted mass-murders and the narrow-minded bigots. They are not the same.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:08 AM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


If the discussion is dominated by a simple reiteration of this country having free speech defined as allowing for offensiveness and blasphemy, and that it remains to duty of those offended to suck it up, and not by discussions of Geller's vile character, her influence will recede.

That is ridiculously optimistic, oschwar. On a par with "stop talking about race and it will cease to be a problem."

Also: who was calling for Gellar's arrest, exactly, corb?
posted by demonic winged headgear at 11:09 AM on May 4, 2015


It isn't free speech protest if the contest has rules about who must be attacked with the speech.

It is a defense of the freedom to insult muslims. It is still an important freedom (like all the others) but don't pretend this protest is a defense of a general principle of free speech. It is the use of a general principle to defend a particular obnoxious but still legal act targeting a very narrow specific group.
posted by srboisvert at 11:09 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


If the intent is "provoke violence", then that falls into a category that I think is less "free speech" and more "incitement to riot / conspiracy to commit x".

And if the intent is to say "we're here, we're offensive to your sensibilities, get used to it"?

That's not done to provoke violence. It's done to badger the target into getting used to having his sensibilities offended.

It's silly to claim the people at that event really wanted to be shot at.
posted by ocschwar at 11:09 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The reaction of a surprisingly large portion of MetaFilter to this and the Charlie Hebdo shootings is pretty shocking and sickening. It's made me lose a lot of respect for people on the site and the site in general.

It's astonishing that anyone can read about people being shot, even people being assholes, and say that they were asking for it, or that what they did was equivalent to the violence done against them.

I guess it shouldn't be surprising that a lot of people are, whatever they might say otherwise, deep down okay with violence against other people they don't like.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:10 AM on May 4, 2015 [33 favorites]


Also: who was calling for Gellar's arrest, exactly, corb?

corb was responding to this comment when she started down that path.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:11 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


@srboisvert, you're a bit off, here.

Freedom of speech isn't about softening criticism. It's about protecting the right to say what you believe, regardless of who might have a problem with it.

Nothing justifies this murder.

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Voltaire

and that death shouldn't have come early, because they've decided to take up that liberty.

Plus the drawing that ended up winning was hardly "anti-Islam," in my view. If anything, it was subtler than I was expecting. In fact, it was drawn by a former Muslim, themselves.

This world affords everyone the right to say they think they were asking for it, but then don't they deserve the right to not be murdered over it? It should be likewise.
posted by Grease at 11:12 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This photo, of Wilders with militarized north Texas law enforcement...

Does anyone know the context for this photo? Was this the actual security detail for the event? That looks just a tad excessive for what amounts to a stupid cartoon contest. (Also, where were these heavily-armed dudes when the shit was going down? The person who shot the assailants was apparently an off-duty traffic cop armed with only a service pistol.)
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:15 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


It appears to be a SWAT team that was present at the event.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:19 AM on May 4, 2015


It's astonishing that anyone can read about people being shot, even people being assholes, and say that they were asking for it, or that what they did was equivalent to the violence done against them.

What if the things those people say and do might be contributing to the justification and normalisation of shootings of many more people, day in day out, all over the world, at the hands of the US military, financed by you and me?
posted by colie at 11:20 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


The reaction of a surprisingly large portion of MetaFilter to this and the Charlie Hebdo shootings is pretty shocking and sickening. It's made me lose a lot of respect for people on the site and the site in general.

I feel the same, but I think the problem is much wider. After the Copenhagen shootings (where they were only discussing drawing Muhammed (oh, and, you know, being Jewish)) there was an article in the Guardian which said, "everyone will need to step back from their principles". It sickened me and I haven't read the paper since. I think there are people out there who are acting with good intentions but who have slid into illiberalism.

What if the things those people say and do might be contributing to the justification and normalisation of shootings of many more people, day in day out, all over the world, at the hands of the US military, financed by you and me?

We have a winner!
posted by Thing at 11:21 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


What if the things those people say and do might be contributing to the justification and normalisation of shootings of many more people, day in day out, all over the world, at the hands of the US military, financed by you and me?


Now, now. We can't just go off and start shooting neo-conservatives.
posted by delfin at 11:22 AM on May 4, 2015


I'll grant that she has the constitutional right to be a hateful racist. She even has the right to not be shot for being a hateful racist. I don't think, though, that there's any question in anyone's mind that she specifically put this event together looking for violence. As far as I'm concerned, that's definitely a criminal act.

It's too bad that they weren't able to oblige her wish to be a martyr to her cause of violent right-wing extremism. Still, anyone hurt by her antics should at least think about pursuing civil remedies against her. Bankruptcy helped greatly weaken the KKK. It could help here, too. Hit these racists in their pockets, when their actions leads to violence for which they are measurably culpable.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:22 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's something amazingly postmodern about how the event- intentionally trolling and inflammatory- was successfully in baiting a violent response. Manufacturing a Charlie Hebdo.
posted by Apocryphon at 11:22 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]



What if the things those people say and do might be contributing to the justification and normalisation of shootings of many more people, day in day out, all over the world, at the hands of the US military, financed by you and me?


What if by cowing Islamists away from thinking they can assert their will inside US soil, we reduce the impetus for deploying the US military abroad?

What if by cowing them away from the US, we cause them to lose credibility abroad too, with resulting mitigation of the carnage in the Muslim world?
posted by ocschwar at 11:22 AM on May 4, 2015


Sangermaine with the mic-drop moment. Everyone who thinks Gellar or Charlie Hebdo deserved in any way what they got needs to do some serious self-reflection: you really are saying that, oh hey, sometimes it's OK to kill people who offend you. Not people who are a threat to you, just people who you really really are mad at because they said really nasty things.

Those who are talking like that are the same type as the guys who went into the offices to shoot up Hebdo, and Gellar's event. If there is any comfort, I guess the difference is not of kind but of degree. I hope you don't get radicalized.
posted by chimaera at 11:23 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


What if the things those people say and do might be contributing to the justification and normalisation of shootings of many more people, day in day out, all over the world, at the hands of the US military, financed by you and me?
colie

No one should be hurt or killed for what they say, no matter how stupid. Either you agree with that or you don't.

You appear to be saying that it's okay to hurt people who say such things. Are you? If not, then they're free to say them without being subject to violence.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:23 AM on May 4, 2015


Sangermaine with the mic-drop moment. Everyone who thinks Gellar or Charlie Hebdo deserved in any way what they got needs to do some serious self-reflection

Good thing no one said any of that, then!
posted by Hoopo at 11:24 AM on May 4, 2015 [19 favorites]


It's astonishing that anyone can read about people being shot, even people being assholes, and say that they were asking for it, or that what they did was equivalent to the violence done against them.


I never made the statement that it was "equivalent" (which would be ridiculous), but that I feel the event organizer probably should be held liable (to whatever extent), since her intent seems to have clearly been to specifically provoke violence.

Obviously I do not feel this way about Charlie Hebdo, for example. (and if anyone drew this conclusion from my thoughts on the subject, that would seem very odd to me)
posted by Archelaus at 11:25 AM on May 4, 2015


Still, anyone hurt by her antics should at least think about pursuing civil remedies against her.

Who was hurt by her antics, aside from the attackers who were shot by the police?

Of course, the attackers put themselves in that position - by being offended enough to take up arms and sacrifice their own lives in the attempt to punish Geller, Wilders, and the others for exercising their First Amendment rights.
posted by theorique at 11:26 AM on May 4, 2015


Who was hurt by her antics, aside from the attackers who were shot by the police?

The security guard that got shot by those guys, perhaps?
posted by Archelaus at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


This is a rather long thread. Do I need to cite every comment that explicitly said that Gellar's event was a deliberate incitement to violence? I think that is a heavy implication that the violence was in some way deserved. I think you missed those.
posted by chimaera at 11:27 AM on May 4, 2015


[This is a notoriously difficult topic of discussion, and it's not going to be helped along by folks escalating the characterizations of one another's comments in terms of one thing being equivalent to another more odious thing or one person being representative of group or a whole. Please make an effort to keep the conversation civil.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:28 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Do I need to cite every comment that explicitly said that Gellar's event was a deliberate incitement to violence? I think that is a heavy implication that the violence was in some way deserved.

Those two things are not the same thing.

OF COURSE the event was a deliberate incitement to violence! Why else would they have had it? Do you think she just really wanted to see some cartoons?
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2015 [22 favorites]


@Thing, you hit on some very important points, as does @blahblahblah:

It's bothersome that some people will justify it because the victim happened to be someone they didn't like. And to reiterate @blahblahblah's point: would we really be defending this, if it were a Muslim drawing Jesus?

I'm not defending the event, but I don't like the idea of defending terrorists either.
posted by Grease at 11:29 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


OF COURSE the event was a deliberate incitement to violence! Why else would they have had it? Do you think she just really wanted to see some cartoons?

Well, if she wanted to expose weakness and hypocrisy in the left wing, she certainly got her wish.
posted by ocschwar at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


It just bums me out that some people are all like 'well we must reluctantly bestow the mantle of Brave Defender of Free Speech on Pamela Gellar' while she's probably skipping around high-fiving everybody within sight that some violent radicals showed up at her event and got shot dead
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


@cortex, agreed: I am very well-known for losing my temper in discussion, but I've been trying to keep my own comments, civil. So far, while there's been a lot of fair attitudes, there've been some drastic comments, beyond what's necessary. Regardless of which side, I have to say, though, I do admire those who were honest and fair about their analysis, personal feelings aside. I wish more people were like that.
posted by Grease at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2015


Do I need to cite every comment that explicitly said that Gellar's event was a deliberate incitement to violence? I think that is a heavy implication that the violence was in some way deserved.

I'm not sure why acting in a manner that could reasonably incite violence against oneself makes the violence deserved. It makes it more likely -- and the $30K security detail definitely makes it clear that Geller et. al. wouldn't disagree -- but not remotely deserved.
posted by griphus at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Yes Thing, many of The Grauniad's articles equivocating at the time of Charlie Hebdo were incredibly disheartening to read. I find it hard to argue with Sam Harris' take at the time- "People have been murdered over cartoons. End of moral analysis.".
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


would we really be defending this, if it were a Muslim drawing Jesus?

Drawings of Jesus are not blasphemous to Christians.
posted by Dojie at 11:32 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Uh, the people who launched this attack were not rational actors who were just fed up of anti-muslim bigotry, nor were they muslim civil rights leaders who were protesting geller's hate group. The guy who did this was apparently on the FBI watch list for a decade. He was a time bomb waiting to explode.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think that is a heavy implication that the violence was in some way deserved

No, it's really not. It's an implication--one I don't agree with unless someone were to show me some evidence to suggets its true--that it may have been anticipated and "baited", not that it's "deserved". That is a pretty nasty thing to say about someone frankly. Am I correct in interpreting these comments as accusing other mefites of supporting murder over a cartoon being "offensive"?
posted by Hoopo at 11:36 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


What troubles me about this is that I feel like the motives of the people hosting the contest were to spark a holy war, not advance the cause of free speech. I hate the politics of outrage and backlash and that is all this is. This contest was not constructive, it isn't changing anyone's mind. It is just polarizing society and furthering a cycle of violence.
posted by humanfont at 11:38 AM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


ugh
posted by hellojed at 11:38 AM on May 4, 2015


The guy who did this was apparently on the FBI watch list for a decade.

... and I'm seriously the only guy here who finds this suspicious? Of course the police are trying to prevent terrorism and protect us from bad guys, silly me.
posted by colie at 11:38 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, if she wanted to expose weakness and hypocrisy in the left wing, she certainly got her wish.

If she wanted to put her sick death wish fulfillment fantasies out on display, she got that wish, too. Not sure why the rest of us need to celebrate her mental illness under the false and bizarre pretense that her affliction is about freedom of speech. She is no hero for harboring fantasies of violence and death.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


On further reflection, what I said in my last couple comments was unjustifiably intemperate. I retract those.
posted by chimaera at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2015


Criminalizing acts such as Gellar's my-god's-dick-is-bigger-than-your-god's-dick festival dances on a very dangerous line.

I hold a rally in Oklahoma demanding that new abortion clinics be built. A Christian fundamentalist is infuriated by this and shoots someone at the rally. Am I liable, civilly or criminally, for the death of the attendee because I was aware going in that many people are violently opposed to abortion and many in that field have been killed by Christian fundamentalists?
posted by delfin at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


... and I'm seriously the only guy here who finds this suspicious?

I sure would hope so.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:40 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think everyone here agrees on some things:
Geller et al have the legal right to hold their contest.
They are assholes for exercising that right in a deliberately provocative and inflammatory way.
No one should respond to this provocation with violence; no one here supports that response.
There are reasonable grounds to suspect that Geller wanted to provoke a reaction that would escalate matters.
Does anyone disagree?
posted by librosegretti at 11:42 AM on May 4, 2015 [38 favorites]


I am just agog at how astonishingly well played this whole thing was by Gellar & Co.. The attack, the killing of the gunmen, the people saying that their kind of speech shouldn't be protected speech etc... she even got in a pretty good shot at the SPLC. This is like winning the lottery on her birthday. I had not expected this level of sophistication, maybe Geert Wilders helped her plan?
posted by MikeMc at 11:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Not sure why the rest of us need to celebrate her mental illness under the false and bizarre pretense that her affliction is about freedom of speech.

Because it is about freedom of speech.

Like it or not, Islamists do feel that they have the right and obligation to censor expression in other nations, using violence to do so. Fatwa after fatwa and murder after murder have proven as much, long before Gellar came around.

Cowing them into dropping that belief serves the common good better than bitching about Gellar's character.
posted by ocschwar at 11:43 AM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Well, frankly, I am an American, and Geller and her ilk are a much bigger problem in my country than Islamists are.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:44 AM on May 4, 2015 [28 favorites]


@librosegretti: I do not disagree, but would add that if she did intend to escalate matters, that I still feel that should be in and of itself actionable and criminal.

But to the rest: agree fully, yes.
posted by Archelaus at 11:45 AM on May 4, 2015


Geller knew she was playing with fire. Extremists have made it abundantly clear how they intend to respond to this sort of provocation. The contest was something that must remain legal and protected if the American conception of free speech, which is one of the best things about this country, is to have any meaning.

But Geller should not be treated as someone who was fighting for free speech. Her agenda is to promote hatred of Muslims. That was her goal, and she was going to achieve it even without attacks so I don't think it's fair to say she incited violence or wanted to risk her life over this. She should not be celebrated or awarded for her actions though. Allowing hate speech is a necessary evil to give free speech meaning and force in America, not something grand in itself. I'm glad no innocents died for this. This time.

... and I'm seriously the only guy here who finds this suspicious?

I think if we could see it we would be surprised how long that watch list is, especially when it comes to the Muslim community.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:45 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This contest was not constructive, it isn't changing anyone's mind.

I can agree with that. It's frankly boring at this point. We already did Mohammed cartoons, 10 damned years ago. The whole world saw what happened and the point was made. Yep, we can totally do that here and it's allowed and those guys just have to deal with it when we do something that we know is offensive to them. What point is being made now? Is it just a reminder that we take pleasure in offending you?
posted by Hoopo at 11:47 AM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Does anyone know the context for this photo? Was this the actual security detail for the event? That looks just a tad excessive for what amounts to a stupid cartoon contest. (Also, where were these heavily-armed dudes when the shit was going down? The person who shot the assailants was apparently an off-duty traffic cop armed with only a service pistol.)

Here's this morning's news conference from Garland Police with details about the shooting and the police response.

The event organizers paid $10,000 for extra security, which was provided by the school district - mostly in the form of off duty police officers and regular school district security. There were also SWAT teams, as well as the bomb squad, and feds, but they were closer to the building. The shooting happened at the entrance to the parking lot. It was blocked off by a police car that the traffic cop and security guard were sitting in. The suspects stopped their car, both they and the officers got out of the cars, the suspects started shooting, and were shot almost right away. It was over before the heavy guns made it across the parking lot.
posted by Dojie at 11:48 AM on May 4, 2015


Because it is about freedom of speech.

If you were Muslim, she and her ilk would happy to take away your right to freedom of speech, your freedom of assembly, your freedom of religion, given the mantle of power to do so. The notion of whether or not she is a free speech hero would be quickly clarified for you and other Muslims at the end of a gun barrel.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


If you were Muslim, she and her ilk would happy to take away your right to freedom of speech, your freedom of assembly, your freedom of religion, given the mantle of power to do so.

Well then, as someone above said: "Wouldn't it be nice if someone threw a Quran burning or Draw Muhammed contest and everyone simply said "meh"? "

Everyone. Including Muslims. The sooner that gets established as the consensus, the sooner she can go back to living under a rock.
posted by ocschwar at 11:53 AM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Because it is about freedom of speech.

No, it's about the freedom of some speech. Geller has made it quite clear that Muslims should not be free to practice their religion peacefully, that violence done towards Muslims isn't a concern, and that anyone saying that Muslims are targeted is somehow the real bigot.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:57 AM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Can't be about the millions dead in Iraq. Can't be about the hundreds of thousands dead in Afghanistan. Can't be about incarceration without trial in Guantanamo. Can't be about thousands dead in Gaza. Can't be about propping up corrupt regimes all over the region. Can't be about the iron fist keeping the oil flowing.

Gotta be about the cartoons. Gotta be loonies.
posted by Trochanter at 11:58 AM on May 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


I think everyone here agrees on some things:
Geller et al have the legal right to hold their contest.
They are assholes for exercising that right in a deliberately provocative and inflammatory way.
No one should respond to this provocation with violence; no one here supports that response.
There are reasonable grounds to suspect that Geller wanted to provoke a reaction that would escalate matters.
Does anyone disagree?


I disagree.

I detest Geller's ideology, but I don't think she was trying to get shot, and I am wary about deciding what "good" and "bad" insults to religion are. People who protest against any religion are often inherently going to be "deliberately provocative and inflammatory," because of the very nature of religion and transgression. Now, Geller is likely more anti-Muslim than anti-Islam, but this idea that people should not be provocative is risky. There is a long history in the US of religious transgression making people mad: Piss christ, Kosher Jesus, South Park, etc. Heck, we all laughed at this news piece, which was all about grossly offensive anti-religious symbolism.

So, I disagree because putting some sort of intent test on provocative (but not violent) speech seems like a way of shutting down speech.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:59 AM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]




I can agree with that. It's frankly boring at this point. We already did Mohammed cartoons, 10 damned years ago. The whole world saw what happened and the point was made. Yep, we can totally do that here and it's allowed and those guys just have to deal with it when we do something that we know is offensive to them. What point is being made now? I


Thing is, "those guys" refused to just deal with it.
Hence the case for a repeat. Until they do just deal with it.
posted by ocschwar at 12:01 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Can't be about the millions dead in Iraq. Can't be about the hundreds of thousands dead in Afghanistan. Can't be about incarceration without trial in Guantanamo. Can't be about thousands dead in Gaza. Can't be about propping up corrupt regimes all over the region. Can't be about the iron fist keeping the oil flowing.

Gotta be about the cartoons. Gotta be loonies.


It actually isn't and what you are saying is very offensive to Muslims in America. The people who committed this act were not representing Muslim's legitimate grievances against the American state.

Quit making this guy into someone who had a point.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 12:02 PM on May 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Gotta be about the cartoons. Gotta be loonies

If it isn't about cartoons, why attack cartoonists? As opposed to people involved in / responsible for that other stuff you listed.
posted by mrbigmuscles at 12:02 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yeah, it's not like there's suddenly a shocking lack of American military targets such that anyone angry over the wars had no choice but to attack flawed cartoonists.
posted by corb at 12:02 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


blah blah--
OK, I see your point. I am strongly for free speech, including provocative speech, including speech that criticizes how others choose to exercise the right. I still think there is a lot of agreement here on major parts of the issue--and a lot of disagreement in specifics.
posted by librosegretti at 12:03 PM on May 4, 2015


Yeah, it's not like there's suddenly a shocking lack of American military targets

It's easy to see why terrorists attack soft targets. And anyway, jihadists have consistently attacked the US military with IEDs and suicide bombs.
posted by colie at 12:06 PM on May 4, 2015


It's easy to see why terrorists attack soft targets.

If terrorists with grudges against the American military just wanted to attack a soft target, they'd be hitting up the local strip club closest to a military base and looking for high-and-tights, not attending an event where the organizers paid extra for armed security.

Why is it so hard to image that the attackers were there because of the cartoons?
posted by corb at 12:10 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Thing is, "those guys" refused to just deal with it.

Indeed they seem to have riled up a whole 2 people
posted by Hoopo at 12:13 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


OK, I see your point. I am strongly for free speech, including provocative speech, including speech that criticizes how others choose to exercise the right. I still think there is a lot of agreement here on major parts of the issue--and a lot of disagreement in specifics

But three of your four points were all about speech, and about how Geller shouldn't have spoken, even if she had a right to.

I don't think anyone on MeFi thinks she is wonderful, but we all seem to make sure to condemn her first, before any other comment. Put it this way: there are plenty of meetings of people discussing how degenerate I am and how it would be better if my whole family was dead. That these people are assholes is undeniable, but it doesn't in any way mitigate murdering them.
posted by blahblahblah at 12:14 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


[Couple comments removed, if you're saying basically the same thing several comments in a row it's probably time to just leave it at point stated and give the thread a break.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:21 PM on May 4, 2015


specifically, how much of it is showing off that you have the right to do so and no one can take that right away from you, and how much of it is a perverse fantasy

I actually don't think there's a ton of overlap, at least in Texas. The founder of Open Carry Texas is a former first sergeant who earned a bronze star with the V (for valor) in combat, and I understand a lot of the other leaders there are former military. (Fort Hood is one of the largest military bases and is colocated in Texas.) Now, I'm not going to deny there's some Islamophobic overlap - but I think the intersection of Texas Open Carry advocates and 'people who long hopelessly to shoot someone' is not large.

I may be a loner here, but I don't think Pam Gellar's crowd thought there would be shooting violence here on American soil. I think if they were looking for a violent response, it was more on the 'throwing rocks' side than the 'shooting' side.
posted by corb at 12:21 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Geller has every right to speak, I just wish she and her group had "spoken" without the massive (and taxpayer paid-for) security surrounding them, ensuring that the first people to appear to be a threat to come to the outer perimeter of that security would be shot dead.

Nothing justifies this murder.
Interesting wording, considering it was the security killing the Islamists.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:25 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you say you don't think "Pam Gellar's crowd thought there would be shooting violence here on American soil" you are either fooling yourself or sealioning us (again).

"I think if they were looking for a violent response, it was more on the 'throwing rocks' Boston Marathon Bombing side than the 'shooting' side." Fixed that for you.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:27 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


What is the saturation point of Muhammad cartoons where Muslim extremists become sufficiently crestfallen that they give up and reject extremism

Pretty low, I'd say. I've still only seen the Muhammad-as-Wolverine cartoon. It's not like anyone's getting his nose rubbed in them to establish a point.

And it's not like they would reject extremism. The Islamists who pledged to fight against Muhammad cartoons have staked their credibility on the issue. They won't back down. But they can, and will, lose credibility if these cartoon events keep happening and the response gets weaker every time.

And if they lose credibility, there's a serious prospect of large areas in the Middle East getting less ghastly as their power there recedes.
posted by ocschwar at 12:28 PM on May 4, 2015


would you also advocate running through minority neighborhoods shouting racial epithets?

You might want to familiarize yourself with Brandenburg v. Ohio. That particular hypothetical went all the way to the Supreme Court and is now settled law, at least insofar as anything ever is. (N.B. the decision was per curiam; Rehnquist, Burger, and Stewart dissented but over a sort of procedural issue that doesn't suggest a disagreement with the First Amendment issue broadly.) The key phrase is "imminent lawless action", which is a term with a fairly specific meaning within the context of US constitutional law, and it's one that's worth understanding because a lot of people have expended a great deal of effort delinating it in a way that makes sense and is broadly applicable.

Those who think that what Geller did should be illegal, because it caused extremists to do something illegal in response, would do well to consider what such a precedent would mean. I see little reason why similar "asking for it" doctrine couldn't be applied to, say, a pro-choice rally in a conservative area that draws an attack from violent pro-life extremists. We have already arrived at a point where violent extremists too often control the discourse simply by threats of violence (e.g. death threats against individuals, bomb threats against assemblies); giving speakers the responsibility for not provoking violence would seem only to further that.

Or, again acknowledging that we don't really have to deal in hypotheticals when there is a plethora of actual cases within recent memory, it might be worth considering how something like Cohen v. California (aka the "Fuck the Draft" case) or Gooding v. Wilson (cursing at a police officer) would have turned out if the Court was as eager to make speakers responsible for the unlawful response that otherwise-legal speech might provoke as some people in this thread seem to be.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:28 PM on May 4, 2015 [26 favorites]


I mean, yes, the Boston Marathon happened, but I just don't think people in the US are really used or have mentally adjusted to being attacked over political conflict. We can pretty much name all of the incidents where it's happened, because they're so isolated. Other areas of the world can't. The US hasn't had a war on its soil in over a hundred years, and we've really become complacent, I think, about political violence.

Quite frankly, I don't think Pam Gellar is brave enough to hold an event if she thought there were a chance she'd get shot. That sort of person only operates from a position of power where they can control the narrative.
posted by corb at 12:30 PM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


I just wish she and her group had "spoken" without the massive (and taxpayer paid-for) security surrounding them

Actually the event organizers paid $10,000 for the security. They were fairly certain something was likely to happen (otherwise the whole thing would have been a bust), that's why they ponied up for manpower. I wonder if the Feds were there just on general principal or they were pretty sure that one specific person of interest would show up.
posted by MikeMc at 12:31 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nothing justifies this murder.
Interesting wording, considering it was the security killing the Islamists.

Yea, that isn't murder. That is self defense. I am not sure what you are advocating here, would you prefer the attackers managed to get a higher body count (that is what would have happened if the weren't stopped).
posted by bartonlong at 12:32 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think maybe he or she was advocating not saying "this murder" when no murder actually took place.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:36 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think Pam Gellar is brave enough to hold an event if she thought there were a chance she'd get shot.
Did you see the reports of the multiple layers of security involved? They were never in any danger. When they were told to go back inside, it was after the action had occurred a hundred yards away.

the event organizers paid $10,000 for the security.
A bargain, and certainly inadequate payment considering what they got. And I'm still unclear how much of it went to private security and how much to local police, or whether it was all to local security who called in the police and the Feds to back them up.

I am not sure what you are advocating here
Not me, those were the words of Grease that I threw back to point out what DIDN'T happen.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:38 PM on May 4, 2015


There is a long history in the US of religious transgression making people mad: Piss christ, Kosher Jesus, South Park, etc.

Piss Christ always struck me as a bit juvenile to be honest, but Serrano has never (AFAIK) claimed that it was explicitly anti-religious; South Park, however irreverent it has been, is trying to be funny, first and foremost. What seems so odd about so many of these discussions is that the right that seems to be claimed isn't merely the right to "free speech" but the right to make people angry and a concomitant right to demand, at the same time, that people not get angry. It all looks very weird and circular and alienated ("What are our rights? To piss people off. How do we know we have that right? By pissing people off. How do other people know we have that right? By not getting pissed off. What do we do next time? Try harder!")

I take no sides here. It's jihadi vs jihadi as far as I can see.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:42 PM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


What seems so odd about so many of these discussions is that the right that seems to be claimed isn't merely the right to "free speech" but the right to make people angry and a concomitant right to demand, at the same time, that people not get angry.

Who's demanding that people not get angry?
posted by ocschwar at 12:46 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Piss Christ always struck a bit juvenile to be honest, but Serrano has never (AFAIK) claimed that it was explicitly anti-religious

Quite the opposite. Serrano is Catholic and has repeatedly said that his photo was consistent with a historic representation of Jesus as a creature who bleeds, weeps, and emits other fluids.
posted by maxsparber at 12:46 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


the right to make people angry and a concomitant right to demand, at the same time, that people not get angry.

I don't see anyone claiming this and it seems like a bit of a strawman. "The right", like any other group of people in the US, have the right to say things that might make people angry, and also the right to demand that they not have violence done to them as a result.

Nobody is saying you can't be angry; the law says you can be as angry as you want, but you can't be violent. If you channel your anger into your own speech, that's perfectly fine. If you can't control your anger and turn to violence, generally you end up in jail. This is as it should be.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:49 PM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


we've really become complacent, I think, about political violence.

Which may be the LEAST accurate statement in this entire thread. Interested parties have been working a serious propaganda campaign ever since "9/11"* to make us fear the Enemies Who Want to Kill Us All, resulting in more acts of violence in America perpetrated against Muslims than by Muslims. And it's still working.

And Geller's "Draw Muhammed event", with its excessive security, was part of it, and the killing of the attackers many yards from the entrance to the building was a glorious victory for the "Fear Islam" side. Geller has been provoking the idiot haters on the other side from behind an impervious shield for some time. And it paid off and two idiot haters are dead. Because smart haters are good at getting idiot haters killed.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:50 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]



And Geller's "Draw Muhammed event", with its excessive security, was part of it, and the killing of the attackers many yards from the entrance to the building was a glorious victory for the "Fear Islam" side


Nonsense. The shooters getting their reward after only wounding the security guard in the ankle is the precise opposite. It opens the Islamist side to outright mockery.
posted by ocschwar at 12:54 PM on May 4, 2015


I don't think anyone on MeFi thinks she is wonderful, but we all seem to make sure to condemn her first, before any other comment.

I think this is fine. I think that her aim here was certainly to stoke Islamophobia, and that this tragic outcome may end up benefiting her politically. I think both of those things are awful. If we accept the framing that we can't criticize her views and motivations while also affirming that she was within her legal rights, and that those rights themselves are worth defending, then I think that means she would be successfully controlling the discourse surrounding this event, and I think that would be a bad outcome.
posted by en forme de poire at 12:57 PM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


I take no sides here. It's jihadi vs jihadi as far as I can see.

Again, this equivalence. There is a difference between speech you don't like and mass murder.

How does MeFi feel about purposefully transgressive speech we agree with? Like the Satanic Black Mass aimed at pissing off Catholics, or trying to use religious exemptions to challenge abortion waiting periods, or women trying to pray at the Western Wall?

If we accept the framing that we can't criticize her views and motivations while also affirming that she was within her legal rights, and that those rights themselves are worth defending, then I think that means she would be successfully controlling the discourse surrounding this event, and I think that would be a bad outcome.

Who said this? I certainly didn't. I can't imagine anybody who posts on MeFi would be a fan of Geller's views. The point is, as you can see above, the repeated equivalency between Geller ("She brought this on herself and she deserves it") and the actual terrorists. We all don't like Geller, I agree, but the nature of our condemnation seems a little too (pardon the pun) catholic.
posted by blahblahblah at 1:01 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


I take no sides here. It's jihadi vs jihadi as far as I can see.
octobersurprise

This is the false equivalence of violence and speech I was referring to earlier. Geller may by dumb, but she didn't hurt anyone. The people who attacked the event did.

This "both sides are just as bad" thing is revolting. No matter how stupid or offensive something is, it's never the same as a bullet, and it's bizarre to see people in this thread keep equating the two as if these are just two groups that disagree in a debate.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:04 PM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't think anyone on MeFi thinks she is wonderful, but we all seem to make sure to condemn her first, before any other comment.

Yes, a large portion of people are upset a prominent leader of a certified hate group organized a hate rally for the specific purpose of provoking violence, which was in fact enacted against what for all intents and purposes in the context of Gellar's deliberate provocation was an innocent bystander. A surprise, I find this not.

It should be okay for people to mock religion. I may think they're assholes, but I will defend to the death (even literally) their right to do so without getting shot for it.

Sigh. I continue to be so fucking sick of this hackneyed, useless, meaningless line.

As last night proved, people like Gellar who throw that line out have no desire to defend to the death the right to do anything; they simply expect other people to do that for them.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:05 PM on May 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


I mean, yes, the Boston Marathon happened, but I just don't think people in the US are really used or have mentally adjusted to being attacked over political conflict. We can pretty much name all of the incidents where it's happened, because they're so isolated. Other areas of the world can't. The US hasn't had a war on its soil in over a hundred years, and we've really become complacent, I think, about political violence.

The reasons Americans can't name political violence is because of amnesia not because they did not happen.
posted by srboisvert at 1:10 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


a prominent leader of a certified hate group

Certified? By who? The SPLC? Frankly I think they'd declare a dozen donuts a hate group if they thought it would raise their profile and bring in more money, but that's just me.
posted by MikeMc at 1:15 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Look: a lot of things that Geller says would be illegal to say in most Western countries. In the US, it's legal to say those things because we work with the theory that the solution to bad speech is more speech. And that only works if people combat bad speech with more speech. If you believe in the US system of radical free speech, then I think you're obligated to criticize Geller's hate speech, unless you agree with her, which I hope not too many people here do. The US system doesn't make sense if the solution to bad speech is just to say meh and let it go.

Obviously, there is no excuse for attacking Geller & Co. I'm glad that the attackers didn't succeed in inflicting serious injuries, and if they had survived I would obviously think they should be prosecuted. Geller has a right to be a hate-monger, and she ought to get all the protection she needs to be able to hate-monger safely. But that doesn't mean that I have to pretend to like her, or to think her speech is good, or to downplay how evil and un-American I think her agenda is. And just because people are attacking her in unacceptable ways, it doesn't somehow lessen the requirement that we combat her speech in the correct way.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:18 PM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


My first amendment rights are just fine, thank you very much,

I'm allright, Jack.
posted by ocschwar at 1:19 PM on May 4, 2015


Certified? By who? The SPLC? Frankly I think they'd declare a dozen donuts a hate group if they thought it would raise their profile and bring in more money, but that's just me.
Yeah, I think that's just you.

The Anti-Defamation League, which is generally in the business of defending Jewish people, also says that Geller's organizations are hate groups.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:19 PM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Digby:
Yes, you can defend the right without defending the practice. And Pamela Geller should have cleared that up once and for all last night.

Pam Geller only believes in the right to blaspheme one religion. And it isn't hers. I don't think we need to prove our liberal bona fides by bending over backwards for her. I'll defend her right to blaspheme and certainly wouldn't hold her legally liable for inciting violence with this particular "art" exhibit even though it's clearly an act of provocation. I condemn violence across the board. But it would be a moral disgrace to defend Pamela Gellers "practice" of blasphemy. I'll leave that to her fellow fascists.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:21 PM on May 4, 2015 [13 favorites]


This is the false equivalence of violence and speech I was referring to earlier. Geller may by dumb, but she didn't hurt anyone. The people who attacked the event did.

Hate groups need to be criticized because they are dangerous. When you spread a message of hate some people will inevitably take you seriously and that's how we end up with things like the Norway shootings or worse. That doesn't mean they should be treated as if they were the shooters, but yes Pamela Geller and her ilk have harmed people.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:21 PM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


If you can't control your anger and turn to violence, generally you end up in jail. This is as it should be.

If you're looking for disagreement here, you won't get it from me.

This "both sides are just as bad" thing is revolting.

Do you think I should take sides between the Crips and the Bloods, too? That's what this rises to if you ask me, a gang fight. One side's beefing, another side's getting busy, people get killed. It's all equally as pointless.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:23 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


people like Gellar who throw that line out have no desire to defend to the death the right to do anything; they simply expect other people to do that for them.

That seems like a pretty legitimate expectation. I mean, I also expect—well, maybe "expect" is strong, but hope, ideally—that the government would protect my fundamental right to free speech as well as any number of other fundamental rights. And Gellar, and the other people at that assembly, are as entitled to that protection (as well as a more general protection from violence) as I or anyone else in the US is.

Having to engage private security for that protection is somewhat less-than-ideal, but in the sense that government is not perfect and doesn't have infinite resources; in an ideal world "private security" is not something that would exist. That's a different issue than the fundamental right that's being protected, whether by public or private agents, though.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:26 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do you think I should take sides between the Crips and the Bloods, too? That's what this rises to if you ask me, a gang fight. One side's beefing, another side's getting busy, people get killed. It's all equally as pointless.
octobersurprise

If the Crips were making dumb cartoons about the Bloods, and the Bloods were shooting them for it, then yes, of course you should. But in fact they are both violent organizations, unlike this situation where one side is using speech and the other violence.

How can you not see that making dumb cartoons is not the same as actually shooting people? I continue to be shocked that this point has to be argued.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:32 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hate groups need to be criticized because they are dangerous.
Drinky Die

Criticized, yes. Shot, no.

Again, people need to stop acting like they're the same thing.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:35 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Nobody is defending shooting Geller or her associates. For what it's worth.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:36 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


That seems like a pretty legitimate expectation. I mean, I also expect—well, maybe "expect" is strong, but hope, ideally—that the government would protect my fundamental right to free speech as well as any number of other fundamental rights. And Gellar, and the other people at that assembly, are as entitled to that protection (as well as a more general protection from violence) as I or anyone else in the US is.

It's not an expectation; it's a fabricated entitlement. It's a fortune cookie line uttered almost always by someone in power or authority, who then insists this obligation to protect them falls on a security guard. Or the mail room clerk opening the anthrax letter. Or someone else's kid in the military. Gellar's claim to be a willing defender of the First Amendment holds as much weight as Saddam Hussein's claims of invincibility made behind a half dozen small children. She is a vicious, inhumane liar who mocks the most cherished right we have in this country.

Pam Gellar has been an invited guest on numerous TV shows today because she almost got someone else killed and there is now a legitimate discussion about how I should admire that. Anyone who actually cares about a healthy sense of functioning society should be fighting the same urge to vomit thinking about that as I am.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:37 PM on May 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


Pam Geller chose this particular approach to take a stance on free speech instead of, say, throwing a big free all-ages concert with Kramer from Seinfeld warming up for Skrewdriver and Prussian Blue. Judging by her body of work I don't think that's a coincidence and I don't think her particular fight is about free speech as much as it's about taunting her least favorite minority group. I'm not particularly thrilled about the potential for her to spin this incident into a "hero of free speech" narrative.

That said I am not exactly mourning the planet's loss of yet 2 more violent homicidal morons.
posted by Hoopo at 1:37 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


How can you not see that making dumb cartoons is not the same as actually shooting people?

Comity! Shooting people is wrong, mmkay?
posted by octobersurprise at 1:38 PM on May 4, 2015


How can you not see that making dumb cartoons is not the same as actually shooting people?
How can you say that taunting unstable people until they try to shoot somebody then shooting them down is really that much different than actually shooting people? It's "keeping my hands clean while making their blood flow".
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:41 PM on May 4, 2015


Again, people need to stop acting like they're the same thing.

I believe my comment read in full adequately communicates that.
posted by Drinky Die at 1:43 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


How can you say that taunting unstable people until they try to shoot somebody then shooting them down is really that much different than actually shooting people

It isn't actually shooting people. And there's something to be said for that, I guess. Something like "Well, I didn't shoot anyone."
posted by octobersurprise at 1:43 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because sending drones to kill people is not the same as sending suicide bombers.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:45 PM on May 4, 2015


How can you say that taunting unstable people until they try to shoot somebody then shooting them down is really that much different than actually shooting people?

Should I point you to the long list of people who taunt Islamists just by existing?
posted by ocschwar at 1:46 PM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


Shooting people is wrong, mmkay?
octobersurprise

This thread makes me very unsure how many MeFites really believe that, or in the idea, which apparently makes XQUZYPHYR want to vomit, that your right to free speech shouldn't be defined by how much violence other people will use against you for exercising it.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:46 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Shooting people who offend you is a choice. The responsibility lies directly with the gunman, not the cartoonist.

That said, the cartoonist is really just an asshole, not some kind of free speech martyr.
posted by Foosnark at 1:47 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think the "I hate your speech, but I defend your right to say it" liberal/ACLU position has its limitations. America, and especially the dignity of its minorities, would benefit from hate speech laws; in places where such laws have been adopted (most of Europe), there hasn't been a slippery slide into totalitarianism (contrary to the doomsayers of American free speech). Jeremy Waldron makes the case better than I possibly can:
[T]he issue is not just our learning to tolerate thought that we hate— we the First Amendment lawyers, for example. The harm that expressions of racial hatred do is harm in the first instance to the groups who are denounced or bestialized in pamphlets, billboards, talk radio, and blogs. It is not harm to the white liberals who find the racist invective distasteful. Maybe we should admire some [ACLU] lawyer who says he hates what the racist says but defends to the death his right to say it, but the real question is about the direct targets of the abuse. Can their lives be led, can their children be brought up, can their hopes be maintained and their worst fears dispelled, in a social environment polluted by these materials? Those are the concerns that need to be answered when we defend the use of the First Amendment to strike down laws prohibiting the publication of racial hatred.
posted by hare's breath at 1:48 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Should I point you to the long list of people who taunt Islamists just by existing?
That's terrible. Geller taunts Muslims by putting signs up on buses and subways that call Muslims uncivilized and say that their religion says that killing Jews is a form of praying, and she denies that there is such a thing as a non-radical Muslim. She goes to court to force horrified city governments to accept those ads, because free speech. That's the person you're defending here.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:48 PM on May 4, 2015 [18 favorites]


How can you not see that making dumb cartoons is not the same as actually shooting people?

I think nobody in this thread would disagree with you on this point. But in your response to octobersurprise, you imply that in a conflict where one side is violent and one side is not, that this means we are morally obliged to "take the side" of the least-violent party. I disagree, because I believe that it is also completely possible to uphold someone's legal/constitutional rights without "taking their side," just as it is possible to criticize someone for espousing bigoted views while condemning anyone who committed violent threats or actions against those bigots. Indeed, I suspect the bigots who were attacked would love for us to think that we must "take their side" in order to be in favor of free speech and a civil, nonviolent society.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:49 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Should I point you to the long list of people who taunt Islamists just by existing?
Yep. I'm one of them. I offend a lot of people by existing, some of whom are as likely to take up arms to kill me as the Islamists.

If you go back to the Holy Founding Fathers, you'll find they never really intended the First Amendment to be used against them, any more than the Second Amendment.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:53 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Seriously, folks, just please cool it. You are not locked in this thread, you can go do something else for a while if you're feeling frustrated, and if you've commented a bunch already it's probably not a bad idea in general to let the thread breathe a little.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:53 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


or in the idea, which apparently makes XQUZYPHYR want to vomit, that your right to free speech shouldn't be defined by how much violence other people will use against you for exercising it.

This strikes me as a complete misreading of XQUZYPHYR, who, in the comment you are referencing, was unambiguously referring to the fact that Geller already appears to be benefiting politically and financially from this tragedy as being nauseating -- not the fact that people have been defending her legal, constitutional rights.
posted by en forme de poire at 1:55 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


She goes to court to force horrified city governments to accept those ads, because free speech.

In NYC we now have a blanket ban on political and religious advertising thanks, in part, to her trying to get those ads run. It's being appealed, though.
posted by griphus at 1:55 PM on May 4, 2015


As a side-note to the Pamela Geller–MTA situation, I think a blanket "all ads are permissible" position is painful but preferable to a situation in which the MTA picks and chooses tasteful ads. In the current "all ads are permissible" position, the government cannot be construed to condone of any of the advertising content. But in a world where the government picks and chooses tasteful ads, the advertising content will necessary be seen as carrying governmental approval—a risky proposition. I think the best solution is for the government/MTA to permit all advertising content, but to counter egregiously hateful ads by buying counter-ads, or outbidding the Pamela Gellers of the world for the ad space.
posted by hare's breath at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2015



I think the "I hate your speech, but I defend your right to say it" liberal/ACLU position has its limitations. America, and especially the dignity of its minorities, would benefit from hate speech laws; in places where such laws have been adopted (most of Europe), there hasn't been a slippery slide into totalitarianism (contrary to the doomsayers of American free speech


Put on a Jewish skullcap and take a walk around Paris, and then come talk about the dignity of minorities in Europe and the United States.

The United States has far fewer limitations on speech, but they actually get enforced.
posted by ocschwar at 1:56 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]



It would seem Geller's allies are every bit as dangerous as her enemies.


"Choose your enemies wisely, for you will come to resemble them."
posted by Rumple at 1:58 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Geller taunts Muslims by putting signs up on buses and subways that call Muslims uncivilized and say that their religion says that killing Jews is a form of praying, and she denies that there is such a thing as a non-radical Muslim

Criticize those actions on their own merits. Not on the response. Those who respond have free will and are responsible for how they respond.
posted by ocschwar at 2:02 PM on May 4, 2015


Put on a Jewish skullcap and take a walk around Paris, and then come talk about the dignity of minorities in Europe and the United States. The United States has far fewer limitations on speech, but they actually get enforced.

Two responses: (1) France has actually been extremely aggressive with its enforcement of hate speech law, and particularly intolerant of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Look up Dieudonné M'bala M'bala for an example; there are many other prominent examples. (2) I would argue that the abuse hurled at a yarmulke-wearer in Paris (versus the experience of wearing a yarmulke in, say, New York) stems not from free speech limitations and their enforcement but from cultural differences. To put it crudely, owing to historical and demographic circumstances, Paris is a more anti-Semitic place than New York. The fact that anti-Semitism is more prevalent in Paris than New York shouldn't be taken as proof of the efficacy of American-style free speech (or the inefficacy of French-style hate speech regulations)—it speaks more to the differing cultures in each place. There are really two variables at play: the amount of racism/anti-Semitism endemic to each place (contra relativists, I don't think the amount is the same everywhere), and the legal response to that hatred.
posted by hare's breath at 2:04 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Criticize those actions on their own merits.

This is what almost everybody is doing, but all it's getting in response is accusations of fascism.
posted by zombieflanders at 2:05 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


France is also aggressively anti-Islamic, to the point where a 15 year old girl was sent home from school for wearing a skirt that was too long, because it was a "conspicuous display of religious affiliation."
posted by Foosnark at 2:07 PM on May 4, 2015


Two responses: (1) France has actually been extremely aggressive with its enforcement of hate speech law

And how successful has that approach been? One way to find out: Put on a Jewish skullcap and take a walk around Paris.

(2) I would argue that the abuse hurled at a kippah-wearer in Paris (versus the experience of wearing a kippah in, say, New York) stems not from free speech limitations and their enforcement but from cultural differences.

Casual contempt towards Jews is unfortunately a pervasive phenomenon in the Muslim World. Why Muslim immigrants leave that behind on coming to the US as opposed to France has more to do with how the US absorbs immigrants compared to France.
posted by ocschwar at 2:08 PM on May 4, 2015


France is also aggressively anti-Islamic, to the point where a 15 year old girl was sent home from school for wearing a skirt that was too long, because it was a "conspicuous display of religious affiliation."

This is sort of true, and sort of untrue. French has a long tradition of laïcité (roughly, secularism) that dates back to the Revolution. Unlike American secularism, however, laïcité is realized as a forcible expulsion of religious symbols/identity/practices/etc from the public sphere. You're right however that this forcible secularism has been brought to bear harder on Muslims than on other religions. However, the double-standard is now being rectified, at least formally. Catholics, Jews, etc. have been banned from wearing crosses or yarmulkes in school. If a Hasidic Jew wishes to wear a yarmulke to school, he/she must be educated in a Jewish school (which more often than not receives state support).
posted by hare's breath at 2:12 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


...certified hate group...

Does the SPLC have a ceremony where they get a spiffy certificate?
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:13 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a Jew, I would gladly, freely tolerate some Holocaust denial if that's the price we have to pay for observant Jews not being forced to attend segregated schools. For what it's worth.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:14 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


This is the false equivalence of violence and speech I was referring to earlier. Geller may by dumb, but she didn't hurt anyone. The people who attacked the event did.

The false equivalence stuff suggests some people make a positive choice to think she is harmless, despite her activities. Despite her revisions to history, Pamela Geller's positive communications (sorry, "speech") were influential on Anders Breivik, Norway's infamous right-wing jihadist, who murdered 77 and injured 241 innocent people in one day of violence.

Anwar al-Awlaki was droned for exercising a similar kind of freedom of speech as Pamela Geller, calling for a violent, armed holy war against a different set of people he also didn't like.

They are both jihadists and Geller is as much of a jihadist as al-Awlaki, with Geller adding her own personal flavors of vague post-WWI European fascism. Pretty much no one stood up for al-Awlaki's Constitutional rights, while people are strangely falling over themselves to defend Pamela's. But the other main differences are that she has white skin, resides in the United States, and hates Muslims, so it would probably be politically difficult to launch a drone at her. So it goes.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:14 PM on May 4, 2015 [8 favorites]


If a Hasidic Jew wishes to wear a yarmulke to school, he/she must be educated in a Jewish school (which more often than not receives state support).

Which means being a sitting duck for the next Mohammed Merah. Still think America should follow Europe's lead on how to handle ethnic diversity?
posted by ocschwar at 2:14 PM on May 4, 2015


Was this the actual security detail for the event? That looks just a tad excessive for what amounts to a stupid cartoon contest.

I just wish she and her group had "spoken" without the massive (and taxpayer paid-for) security surrounding them, ensuring that the first people to appear to be a threat to come to the outer perimeter of that security would be shot dead.

How can anyone think the security was excessive, when somebody actually did try to shoot the people at the event? Half the people in this thread think the event was such an obvious incitement to violence that "the event organizer probably should be held liable." Those are clear grounds for high security.

(And no, I don't think that a predictable illegal violent response to an event is the responsibility of the event organizer. If a black man will predictably be shot by walking in the wrong neighborhood, he still has every right to be there, even if he's as awful a person as Pamela Geller.)
posted by Rangi at 2:24 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is less overt antisemitism directed at Jews in New York than in Paris? Next you'll be telling me there is even less in Haifa!
posted by maxsparber at 2:25 PM on May 4, 2015


Geller you may recall as the woman who fought against the Park 51 mosque

Geller and her ilk's railing against an innocuous community center kind of puts a lie to the idea that she has any concerns for free speech or any other human rights. Geller doesn't care about free speech, she cares her speech, and her speech has been explicitly directed at abrogating the rights of people to the free exercise of their religion and their right to peaceably assemble.

The philosophical maundering about free speech is ridiculous with regards to Geller since these rights don't exist in a vacuum. This xenophobic dipshit set out to provoke, if not an attack, an angry response and succeeded. Let her and the racist pieces of shit around her try to wash the blood off their hands themselves; I'm not going to spend an iota of energy pretending this was about free speech.
posted by Panjandrum at 2:31 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


If hate speech against religions were enacted into law (or a constitutional amendment) what are the chances that 'hate speech' laws would be used to silence the critics of Christianity?

Do we really think that the law enforcement, and locally elected prosecutors would use such laws to stand up for the (vilified) minority communities, or to help protect the delicate sensibilities of the dominant religion?
posted by el io at 2:33 PM on May 4, 2015


Geller and her ilk's railing against an innocuous community center kind of puts a lie to the idea that she has any concerns for free speech or any other human rights.

People who are unconcerned with defending others' free speech still have the right to their own.

Even people who are unconcerned with others' human rights still have their own.

Anyone who violates someone else's human rights—say, by trying to shoot them—is unjustified. Not even if the other person was blaspheming their religion. This is not an Islamic state (conservative fears of Sharia law to the contrary). If you think that Geller is somehow responsible for people violating her rights as a result of her (bigoted, incendiary, etc) speech, then you are no longer in favor of liberal democracy, you are in favor of some approved ideology.
posted by Rangi at 2:37 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


what are the chances that 'hate speech' laws would be used to silence the critics of Christianity

Free speech hurdles aside, such laws would probably be unnecessary. American law enforcement and military already actively engage and integrate with governance to enforce right-wing fundamentalist Christianity as the state religion. Example. Example. Example. Example. Example. Et cetera.

We have de facto if not de jure implementations of Christian Sharia law in the United States and abroad in its colonies. In a sense, First Amendment rights are interpreted by powerful Christians in such a way as to put up hurdles to stopping these practices — interfering with state-sanctioned Christianity is to place paradoxical restrictions on these Constitutionally-mandated freedoms.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 2:50 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


They are both jihadists and Geller is as much of a jihadist as al-Awlaki

For the love of Christ, words have meaning. 'Jihadist' is not just a synonym for 'nogoodnik' or even 'hateful demagogue' or even 'terrorist'. Jihad is, by definition, a religious duty of Muslims and doesn't even kind of mean what you think it does. For example, all those ladies going on Hajj! JIHADISTS. (or technically, mujahid). Jihad has also been declared in the 'armed struggle' sense for a lot of anti-colonial actions, but it's also for yourself.

Just because Fundamentalists ignore the difference between Lesser and Greater jihad doesn't mean you should. The Greater Jihad is the struggle against yourself. 'Jihadists' can actually be *shock of shocks* people who just want to live well and peacefully as best they know how. That is also jihad! Fighting injustice and oppression nonviolently can be jihad!
posted by corb at 3:14 PM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


The invoking of what-if Sharia and "Islamists" and Muslims-as-homgenous-block here is really super gross. You may not have noticed, but the majority of American (and Texan) Muslims aren't actually all that into murdering people for drawing cartoons. People shouldn't actually have to remind anyone of that whenever extremists or isolated criminals attempt to murder someone. There is no "Islamist" conspiracy overtaking Texas (less than 2% and it is not uncommon to find Christian imagery in businesses, or people who believe the state should be legally "Christian"). To pretend otherwise (as many Christians here like to do, including those in positions of authority) is absurd and frankly very difficult to read as not-racist. And Sharia is something where there is no consensus and many people can have quite complex views. Would you characterize England as a violent theocracy, for instance?

If Texas is actually threatened by oppressive religious institutions, they are overwhelmingly Christian and legally slippery (the anti-trans bill, the anti-abortion/women law, etc. decidedly appeal to "Christian" fundamentalist morality, but are careful not to be too overt about it; politicians pander to backwards "Christian" morality quite a lot, Greg Abbott has campaigned against LGBT rights etc.). Acting as if there is some nefarious uprising of powerful, oppressive Muslim extremists is buying into false dichotomies and conspiracy theories.
posted by byanyothername at 3:22 PM on May 4, 2015 [12 favorites]


If you think that Geller is somehow responsible for people violating her rights as a result of her (bigoted, incendiary, etc) speech, then you are no longer in favor of liberal democracy

Take this grandiose garbage noise somewhere else. I'm in favor of, when someone goes out looking for a fight and finds one, ignoring their ridiculous crocodile tears.

Geller is for innumerable reasons a terrible test case upon which to argue about fundamental rights of "liberal democracy." Her actions have as much to do with free speech as me holding my finger an inch from my brother's face and saying "I'm not touching you," has to do with the principle of bodily autonomy. Not every idiotic action by idiots needs to be treated as though it were a debate involving trolleys hurtling towards either democracy or dictatorship, particularly not when those idiots set out to abuse the very concept they are now trying to blanket themselves with.
posted by Panjandrum at 3:27 PM on May 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


Geller is for innumerable reasons a terrible test case upon which to argue about fundamental rights of "liberal democracy."

Would you mind enlarging a bit on this point? It seems that points where values (free speech, respect for others) collide most vividly are in fact the most important cases to understand and resolve...the importance of such cases is not diminished by their rarity or their remove from 'everyday life.' This is why the Supreme Court adjudicates on cases like Snyder v. Phelps, concerning the hateful invective and funeral protests of the Westboro Baptist Church—and why such cases attract attention—rather than cases where someone has said something mean to another person in the pages of some unread newspaper. I get your frustration with legalistic, abstract, trolley-problem-ish answers—but on the other hand, it would be a shame to swing the pendulum the other direction, and decide such cases solely on a pragmatic, ad-hoc basis.

I don't think American democracy stands or falls via its treatment of Pamela Geller—but don't you think we ought to have some reasonably coherent doctrine (judicially-speaking, if not culturally) for dealing with the problem that she poses? Isn't arguing about the boundaries or limits of a given right just as crucial as arguing about its "center", its substantive content?
posted by hare's breath at 3:43 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


The invoking of what-if Sharia and "Islamists" and Muslims-as-homgenous-block here is really super gross.

THANK YOU. I have typed-and-deleted about six different comments trying to say this.
posted by KathrynT at 3:49 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


[ocschwar, you really need to give the thread a pass at this point.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:53 PM on May 4, 2015


The invoking of what-if Sharia and "Islamists" and Muslims-as-homgenous-block here is really super gross.

Agreed, but I don't think that closes the door on critically examining Islamic fundamentalism. In other words, it's definitely wrong to paint all Muslims with the same brush—but I don't think it's wrong to study orthodox Islamic doctrine and to acknowledge that orthodox Islam may be fundamentally incompatible with liberalism in a way that orthodox Judaism (with its rejection of political aspirations) or orthodox Christianity ("Render unto Caesar...") aren't.

I'd recommend looking at political scientist Andrew March's book, Islam and Liberal Citizenship, which delves into orthodox Islamic doctrine in order to construct an argument for how orthodox Muslims can live in a majority non-Muslim state in spite of certain Islamic bans against supporting infidels etc.

The idea is that "moderate" Muslims (i.e., the majority of Muslims) will find, and have found, ways of reconciling their religion with membership in a liberal state. What remains are the "problem cases"; we ought to give/find reasons for orthodox Muslims to affirm liberalism from within their orthodox practice. Just as you'd hope that orthodox Jews would eschew the bloodiest parts of the Torah (exterminating the Amaleks, etc) before joining liberal society, I don't think it's unfair to require/expect orthodox Muslims to make similar doctrinal concessions.
posted by hare's breath at 4:07 PM on May 4, 2015


The idea of requiring "doctrinal concessions" from anyone in order to allow them to live in this country makes my skin crawl. Remember, we host active white supremacists here by the thousands.
posted by KathrynT at 4:13 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


If there are people in the US who need to make "doctrinal concessions" so as not to be a threat to liberal democracy, I'm fairly certain that they're overwhelmingly Christians. And their preferred tactics don't have to be shooting things up, because they can pursue strategies such as getting elected to school boards and state legislatures.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:21 PM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


The invoking of what-if Sharia and "Islamists" and Muslims-as-homgenous-block here is really super gross. You may not have noticed, but the majority of American (and Texan) Muslims aren't actually all that into murdering people for drawing cartoons.

Of course not. Everyone (well, almost everyone) knows that, Pam Gellar more so than most. IMHO the message is that if we aren't hyper-vigilant, if we don't act now our cities will become cesspits filled with Sharia councils, untouchable terrorist recruiters/enablers like Anjem Choudary and rioting youth. Dallas, Detroit, New York will fall into decline like like London, Stockholm, Paris etc... If we don't heed the message we are headed for a sharp decline like Western Europe has suffered [Enter Geert Wilders stage left]. Gellar is a latter day Charles Martel turning back the Muslim horde at the very gates of Tours Garland. Or something like that.
posted by MikeMc at 4:23 PM on May 4, 2015


KathrynT: It's not about "allow[ing] them to live in this country". Obviously, white supremacists can (and should) be allowed to live in this country (as long as they don't begin killing non-whites). Muslims who subscribe to fundamentalist doctrine should be allowed to live in this country (as long as they don't begin killing non-Muslims). The stakes are lower: I'm talking about compatibility with liberalism. A Christian fundamentalist, whose political goal is to impose his version of truth on his fellow citizens, is incompatible with liberalism.

Anyone who isn't prepared to affirm the moral value of his/her fellow human beings is incompatible liberalism (in John Rawls's view, at least). That's not to say such people can't be tolerated, or that we can't allow them to live in this country. It's certainly not a license to suppress their rights or forcibly extract doctrinal concessions. It means that I'd fear for the health of our liberal democracy if such people attained a majority/were allowed to have their way in politics.

Rawls attached a normative value to "stability", which he thought was more attainable when people affirmed certain minimum views (like the equal value of human beings). Again, if certain people (Christian or Islamic fundamentalists) aren't able to affirm those minimum views, it doesn't strip them of rights. But it may give us (people who value liberalism) reason to be wary of their views.
posted by hare's breath at 4:24 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


When such outsize attention is being paid to a population that is such a tiny minority of the people who hold such damaging views, I start to be suspicious that the views themselves aren't the issue.

It means that I'd fear for the health of our liberal democracy if such people attained a majority/were allowed to have their way in politics.

Such people DO have their way in politics. They're called the Christian Right.
posted by KathrynT at 4:29 PM on May 4, 2015 [7 favorites]


Such a majority DOES have its way in politics. It's called the Christian Right.

I know that this is probably just a facetious rhetorical flourish—but still, it bothers me. You know the Bill of Rights? The fact that we can even argue (in this thread) about a "right to free speech"? Due process? Those don't exist under (strict) sharia law. Those don't exist in a (strict) Jewish or Christian theocracy.

Yes, it's disturbing when Texas removes evolution from its curriculum, or when such-and-such courthouse displays the Ten Commandments, or when schoolchildren swear an oath "under God". But to argue that these incidents render our liberal democracy illiberal or undemocratic is cynical at best, plain blind at worst. (Not to mention the way it trivializes the experience of those who have actually lived under actual totalitarian regimes. No, the fact that your Representative swears his oath of office on the Bible doesn't count.) So far as I know, even the most egregious offenders on the Christian Right are still prepared to affirm the basic tenets of liberal democracy (humans are of equal value, people have rights, etc).
posted by hare's breath at 4:40 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Most of them certainly say "humans are of equal value" and "people have rights." Their behavior makes one wonder whether they really believe those things, though, at least when the people in question are women, members of the LGBT community, non-Christians, and what have you.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:43 PM on May 4, 2015


ArbitraryAndCapricious: Then I'd expect (but not require) them to come about on those issues. To actually affirm those liberal catchphrases. I'd expect (but not require) the same thing from Muslim fundamentalists. Which was my original point. If this makes me anti-Christian, then so be it. And if this makes me an Islamophobe (in some circles it might), then so be it.
posted by hare's breath at 4:46 PM on May 4, 2015


Those don't exist under (strict) sharia law. Those don't exist in a (strict) Jewish or Christian theocracy.

We do not have sharia law here. We don't exist in a theocracy here, in theory. And yet in practice, the cultural and social values of one particular splinter group of the dominant religion in this country here have influenced the political and legal practice in this country to the point where they are even mandated in private conversations between doctors and their patients, and where people's fundamental civil, legal, and personal rights are infringed on a daily basis.

To participate in such wide-eyed, breathless speculation about what would happen if a tiny fraction of this country's already minuscule Muslim population (less than 1 percent of the population of the US!) gained that kind of power while ignoring the enormous power already wielded by a functionally identical group is nothing but bigotry at its most disingenuous.
posted by KathrynT at 4:48 PM on May 4, 2015 [14 favorites]


So far as I know, even the most egregious offenders on the Christian Right are still prepared to affirm the basic tenets of liberal democracy (humans are of equal value, people have rights, etc).

Two weeks ago I could turn on TV and see a network that represents the views of somewhere north of 40% of American voters discuss, in all seriousness, ways to subvert the 15th Amendment. Which, might I remind you, was ratified in 1870, just barely re-affirmed just short of a century later; and is under attack from a majority of states in the US, as well as a majority of both Congress and the Supreme Court.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:51 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Two weeks ago I could turn on TV and see a network that represents the views of somewhere north of 40% of American voters discuss, in all seriousness, ways to subvert the 15th Amendment. Which, might I remind you, was ratified in 1870, just barely re-affirmed just short of a century later; and is under attack from a majority of states in the US, as well as a majority of both Congress and the Supreme Court.

Every 50 years we have to reaffirm the latest oppressed group really are people as per the 14th amendment. 1860s it was slaves. 1910s it was women. 1960s it was black people (again). 2010s here we are with gay people and the progressives again asking "what the fuck part of equal protection is so hard to understand?". Now they're starting on the 15th?
posted by Talez at 4:56 PM on May 4, 2015


KathrynT: the weird thing is that we agree, but it doesn't sound like we do? (But thanks for demonizing me?) Like you, I think it's inappropriate for private conversations between doctors and their patients to be dictated by the standards of Christian morality. My point was that it would be equally inappropriate for those conversations to be dictated by the standards of Islamic morality (wasn't asserting that this is a likelihood or an eventuality we should fear).

My point about Islamic fundamentalism and sharia wasn't that we must watch our backs about this "dangerous" ideology (I don't, repeat don't, believe that), but simply that those within the orthodox/Salafi/fundamentalist tradition should be creative about finding ways in which their creed (born long before the Enlightenment, the birth of liberalism, etc) can be interpreted as compatible with liberalism. The Catholic church has had to "come to grips" in the same way (Vatican II). The Mormon Church had a sudden revelation regarding racial equality following the passing of the Civil Rights Act. I don't really understand why such doctrinal concessions "make your skin crawl". Are you saying its a bad thing that the Mormon Church changed its doctrine to make it less overtly racist?
posted by hare's breath at 4:57 PM on May 4, 2015


I don't really understand why such doctrinal concessions "make your skin crawl".

Get the people who are already abusing their power in this way to agree to such "doctrinal concessions" first, rather than just saying "oh but of course they're bad toooooooooo. . . ."
posted by KathrynT at 4:59 PM on May 4, 2015


Then I'd expect (but not require) them to come about on those issues. To actually affirm those liberal catchphrases. I'd expect (but not require) the same thing from Muslim fundamentalists
That's great, although I'll admit that I'm a little skeptical given that you seemed above to suggest that Muslim fundamentalists were somehow uniquely a threat to liberal democracy. But I, as a non-Christian woman living deep in flyover country, currently feel much more personally threatened by the Christian right than by Muslim extremists, just because there are so very many more members of the Christian right, and they have so very much more power. I am much more bothered by the fact that the governor of my state appointed a Catholic priest to the state medical board than by whatever stupid made-up threat of Sharia the rightwingers are touting these days. (And no, he was not a Catholic priest with medical training. Just an ordinary Catholic priest with no expertise in medicine at all, on the board that oversees medical care in my state, helping decide what kind of medical care I personally had access to. Awesome! His term ran out on the first of this month.)

From where I sit, it makes a lot of sense to be concerned about anti-liberal theocrats threatening Americans' fundamental rights. But it makes no sense to be concerned about that and focus primarily on Muslims. The only reason I can see to do that is anti-Muslim bigotry.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:04 PM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


people who will kill someone for drawing, showed up and tried to kill someone for drawing. it does not matter WHY the people were drawing. the fact is, someone tried to kill people simply for drawing something.

so the shooters' death has rid the world of two people who will kill you for drawing something they don't like. that is a "win" for civilization, in my book.

they were not "unstable." this is an incredibly organized ideology the dead guys are part of.

geller's event did a service to demonstrate that these people are among us.
posted by jayder at 5:05 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Be wary of the services hate groups offer you.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:11 PM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm a little skeptical given that you seemed above to suggest that Muslim fundamentalists were somehow uniquely a threat to liberal democracy.

Demographically, no. But I don't think that orthodox Islam has evolved the same level of compatibility with liberalism that Judaism and Christianity have. Mostly this is a function of differing historical experiences. Judaism is less of a religio-political creed than Islam or Christianity (cf. dina demalchuta dina). Christianity has had a testy relationship with political power, but there are strong theological resources supporting a compatible position with liberalism (cf. "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's").
posted by hare's breath at 5:24 PM on May 4, 2015


But I don't think that orthodox Islam has evolved the same level of compatibility with liberalism that Judaism and Christianity have.

How do you square that belief with the observation that the people causing the problems are virtually exclusively Christians?
posted by KathrynT at 5:26 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


How do you square that belief with the observation that the people causing the problems are virtually exclusively Christians?

The Christian Right is definitely the offender in America. Other parts of the globe, not so much.
posted by hare's breath at 5:28 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


You're aware that this particular case happened in America and that the entire scope of this discussion has been focused on America, yes?
posted by KathrynT at 5:30 PM on May 4, 2015


geller's event did a service to demonstrate that these people are among us.

I'm sure any local Muslim families who are now treated with hate, disrespect, suspicion and fear will agree.
posted by Talez at 5:31 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


people who will kill someone for drawing, showed up and tried to kill someone for drawing. it does not matter WHY the people were drawing. the fact is, someone tried to kill people simply for drawing something.

The motivation for these acts is somewhat more complicated than some random, unknowable reason. Come on. The cause and effect here are pretty clear.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 5:31 PM on May 4, 2015


Well, I live in America, and this whole drama went down in America, and Pamela Geller and her hate groups operate in America, and we're really talking about America here, so there is actually some relevance to the fact that radical Islam is a political threat in America only in the overwrought fantasies of bigots.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:36 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


[Couple comments deleted. Don't make this personal. Thank you.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 5:42 PM on May 4, 2015


Max Fisher: Don't call the hateful Muhammad Art Exhibit attacked in Texas a "free speech event"
Geller described the event as intended to defend free speech and to call attention to what she sees as a Muslim threat to America. She told Breitbart News, "At a time when American Muslim groups in the US should have stood up for free speech and showed the world the way forward, they chose to stand with the Hebdo jihadists."

Geller's statement, of course, is false — Muslim groups widely condemned the Charlie Hebdo attacks. (Just as troubling as Geller's lie, though, is her implication that if any Muslim does not condemn terrorism, then he or she is probably sympathetic, that Muslims are considered guilty of extremism until proven innocent.) Her claim is in line with her broader worldview, in which all Muslims are an undifferentiated mass committed to the destruction of Western society and the establishment of a totalitarian Islamist state.

The event organizers portrayed the event as a continuation of the work done by French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo — the terror attack on its staffers was frequently cited.

But the cartoons displayed and awarded at the event, which you can see here, are not satirical like Hebdo's. Rather, they are straightforward portrayals of Mohammed as a vile monster with a clear, non-satirical message of anti-Islam hate.

Hebdo was often careful to distinguish its targeting of religious extremism from religion as a whole: Mohammed was often portrayed as a victim of Islamist extremists, and Hebdo staffers stressed that extremism rather than Islam itself was their target. This nuance was entirely absent from Geller's event, which made clear that it saw no distinction between the tiny minority of violent Islamist extremists and the billion-plus peaceful Muslims worldwide.

Further, the event's organizers explicitly positioned it as "sounding the alarm about Muslim encroachment into Europe and America, and its potential impact on American culture," according to Breitbart.

The event's actual aim becomes clearer when you read Geller's explanation of its purpose. While she begins by framing the event as a defense of free speech, she quickly pivots to something else:
We choose freedom. Which is why we are holding our free speech event in the same venue, in the same city and state as the Muslim sharia event. Freedom lovers must stand up for free speech and not submit to savagery, supremism and tyranny, now. The jihadists mean to bring this war to our streets.
In fact, the "Muslim sharia event," held in January, had invited nearby Muslim-American families to discuss religious tolerance, pluralism, and anti-extremism (it was called "Stand with the Prophet against terror and hate") and to raise money for a cultural center to promote tolerance. In other words, if Geller sought to curb Islamist extremism, then she should have loved this event.

Geller helped organize a large protest outside of the January event, in which hundreds of people waved anti-Muslim signs and American flags. Muslim-American families were forced to walk through a gauntlet of hate. One sign read "Go home and take Obama with you." A woman at the protests told a local TV reporter, of Muslims, "We don't want them here." Geller reportedly told the crowd that they were "soldiers in the battle for America," according to Breitbart's paraphrase.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:46 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Two weeks ago I could turn on TV and see a network that represents the views of somewhere north of 40% of American voters discuss, in all seriousness, ways to subvert the 15th Amendment.

In fairness, that was Ann Coulter, who isn't so much a prominent conservative as a demented performance artist.
posted by delfin at 5:47 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, I live about 15 minutes from where this happened. I am very familiar with the local Arabic and Islamic community. I'll be honest, when PG announced this event, it raised hardly a ripple locally. Most people just shrugged and went on with their day.

The Muslims here had naught all to do with this pr stunt on the part of a European racist and his New Jersey counterpart. That someone unstable was convinced to try and carry out the assassination of GW is tragic but has nothing to do with cartoons or PG, would be my bet.
posted by dejah420 at 5:48 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


I believe in robust free speech laws. I think they're essential to an open, free, classically liberal democracy. But there have always been limits on and exceptions to that right. The Supreme Court has dealt with a number of edge cases, and been forced to articulate standards to control the right.
The Supreme Court has held that "advocacy of the use of force" is unprotected when it is "directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action" and is "likely to incite or produce such action". In Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), the Court struck down a criminal conviction of a Ku Klux Klan group for "advocating ... violence ... as a means of accomplishing political reform" because their statements at a rally did not express an immediate, or imminent intent to do violence.
So we have the Brandenburg test for incitement to violence. The standard developed determined that speech advocating the use of force or crime could only be proscribed where two conditions were satisfied: (1) the advocacy is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action,” and (2) the advocacy is also “likely to incite or produce such action.”

I think we're at a point where Geller's stunt is essentially an incitement to violence, even though it doesn't neatly fit the Brandenburg test. There's a decent argument that the test should be broadened to account for such speech - it's not a direct advocacy of force, but it's provocatory enough to be a de facto incitement to violence. Our laws currently haven't dealt with the tricky edge case where someone is doing something more concrete to incite violence than merely having a KKK rally, but less concrete than ordering people to kill.

This sort of behavior can be compared more closely to screaming "fire!" in a crowded theater - which is not protected speech, because it's an inducement of panic that is likely to lead to people being trampled to death in a crowded space. You don't have to believe that the shooting is right or justified, in order to make a common sense determination that what Geller did amounted to an adequate provocation, a severe amount of offense for a particular group, which could be considered an inducement of violence. (There's no need for slippery slope arguments either, like "but then you have to apply it for every conceivable situation across the board" - as is common with free speech determinations, this can be a test based on community standards and intent.)
posted by naju at 6:14 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Ann Coulter, who isn't so much a prominent conservative as a demented performance artist.

And the difference is...?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:17 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


This sort of behavior can be compared more closely to screaming "fire!" in a crowded theater - which is not protected speech, because it's an inducement of panic that is likely to lead to people being trampled to death in a crowded space.

Just a contextual note on this oft-cited piece of judicial reasoning. Justice Holmes coined this phrase in the Schenck v. United States (1919), which called into question the right of draft opponents to distribute leaflets which criticized the draft. Holmes, after drawing on the "fire" analogy, concluded that the leaflets were not protected speech, because they posed a clear and present danger to the government's interests. So the famous "fire" analogy was actually used to suppress legitimate war criticism. I feel like people often bandy this phrase about without understand its deeply problematic roots.

I'm also not sure how well your suggestion generalizes. Should we really be deferring to the thin-skins of offended people? Clearly depicting Muhammed stirs real outrage among Muslims...but where do we draw the line? Holocaust denial is very painful for some people to hear (in some cases, people even feel imperiled or threatened by such speech)--so does it qualify as hate speech under your definition? Some comedians have very offensive routines. In America, there's basically a right to offend and no corresponding right to 'not be offended'. What are the consequences of creating such a right?
posted by hare's breath at 6:35 PM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Yeah, the "fire in a crowded theater" metaphor is a slope that slipped at the moment it was first used. Schenck was a bad decision, and people should really think twice about using that metaphor.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:40 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


this can be a test based on community standards and intent.

That's a recipe for disaster. Burn an American flag? Clearly a violation of our community standards and an incitement to violence. You're clearly baiting veterans and conservatives hoping to provoke a violent response. Off to jail with you. Holding up a sign at an anti-police brutality rally that says "The Only Good Cop Is A Dead Cop"? Clearly an incitement to violence against peace officers and a violation of our community standards. Off to jail with you. Prosecutions for speech should be extremely rare lest they become a tool for suppressing opponents.
posted by MikeMc at 6:40 PM on May 4, 2015 [9 favorites]


Consider carefully how a broader test for unprotected speech could be used to silence speech you like, not just speech you hate, before advocating for such a test.
posted by Rangi at 6:47 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


KKK vs. communists, 1979. Guess who won.
posted by TedW at 6:50 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Prosecutions for speech should be extremely rare lest they become a tool for suppressing opponents.

The workaround you sometimes see mentioned (haven't decided whether I agree, personally) is that protected speech ideally takes shots upwards (at more powerful people/groups), whereas unprotected speech takes shots downwards (at marginalized people/groups). The harm of "hate speech" is complex, but you'll often see people claim that hate speech impugns the dignity of its target (in addition to merely provoking offence). Those in privileged positions are immune to such attacks; no one really questions their worth or dignity. However, targeting the poor/marginalized/underclass with hate speech is far worse, because they are already vulnerable (or so the argument goes). Of course, this leaves open the question, 'who is powerful in society, i.e., who is a legitimate target?' In American society, however, the power dynamics are fairly transparent.

Another method for "importing" hate speech regulation (which is commonplace in other parts of the world) into America is to conceive of hate speech as "group libel". Libel is a body of law which exists to protect people's reputation from savage attack—which might include hate speech. The virtue of relying on preexisting libel law to criminalize hate speech is that it would allow the government some measure of control over hate speech without requiring a new exemption to the First Amendment. In this way, the government could exert limited control over hate speech without weakening the First Amendment. Again, not sure if I'm convinced.
posted by hare's breath at 6:52 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


The virtue of relying on preexisting libel law to criminalize hate speech is that it would allow the government some measure of control over hate speech without requiring a new exemption to the First Amendment.

If you think the US should have different hate speech laws, then that's your own policy opinion and your own business, but this quoted argument does not make any sense. You cannot CRIMINALIZE speech using CIVIL libel law. The government cannot criminalize speech acts without literally creating new frontiers of unprotected speech, either through radical, never-gonna-happen changes in case law from SCOTUS, or through a constitutional amendment.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:02 PM on May 4, 2015


Good to know about the "fire" analogy, I meant it only as an example of imminent harm/danger.

So to the responses I've gotten: my hypothetical test is about severely provoking (in a hate speech like way, for example), which is likely to result in imminent violence. I'm intending it to be pretty difficult bar to pass, and that's what judges do: they articulate difficult standards and distinguish them carefully in court cases. Someone at an anti-police brutality rally taking the microphone and shouting "go out there and kill every cop you see" to a crowd that's ready to commit violence might very well fall under this test. Burning a flag wouldn't (and there are already precedents to deal with that.)

I know it's important to set a high bar. I still think it's important to set that bar, though.
posted by naju at 7:06 PM on May 4, 2015


Sticherbeast: Sure, I realize it's pie-in-the-sky—my thinking was more along the lines of "how should we conceptualize the harm of hate speech?" rather than "what's the most practical way of getting the US to recognize hate speech?". Good point about the civil-criminal distinction, though wikipedia tells me there are 19 states with criminal defamation laws on the books. (Defamation would hardly be the only civil action with a criminal counterpart, e.g., wrongful death and murder.) Perhaps the response to your point would be that hate speech ought be weeded out not via criminal law, but via civil action (as a species of libel). Just a thought.
posted by hare's breath at 7:08 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


This sort of behavior can be compared more closely to screaming "fire!" in a crowded theater

Still not any truer now than when I covered it above. It's not incitement to violence is not a reasonable reaction to the speech. In this case, the violent reaction is particularly unhinged.

It's reasonable to assume that shouting "fire" in a crowded theater might provoke a stampede. It's not at all reasonable to assume that drawing a caricature of a long-dead religious figure will prompt people to try to kill you, and calling it an incitement to violence is a refusal to put the blame where it lies.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:11 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


It doesn't really matter whether the reaction is "reasonable" or "unhinged", though, just that it's likely to occur and that you knowingly provoked that reaction in order to cause it to occur.
posted by naju at 7:16 PM on May 4, 2015


Geller and her ilk's railing against an innocuous community center kind of puts a lie to the idea that she has any concerns for free speech or any other human rights.

I happen to agree with you about Geller, but we're arguing about general principles here. If human rights mean anything then they're going to be abused, because bad people have human rights too.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:16 PM on May 4, 2015


We regulate speech all the time in the US, just like in every other country, so it's strange that we pretend to be such absolutists about it when incidents like this occur. Are we so unimaginative that we can't envision living under any other system than exactly what we've got now? I would be very happy if this sort of blatant race-baiting were to be made illegal, as it is in many places around the world that don't pretend to hold free speech sacrosanct above all other considerations.

Garland will feel like a more hostile place when I go back for Christmas this year, and it won't be because of the two gunmen. Realistically, Muslim extremists have never been a statistically significant threat in America. But race riots, lynch mobs, and violence of all kinds against minorities are as American as apple pie, and I don't feel safe with shitstirring assholes like Geller and Wilders anywhere near me.
posted by hyperbolic at 7:17 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


Fair enough, hare's breath. My admittedly unsolicited two cents is that saying what you'd like the law to be, and why it should be that way, is going to be more productive than trying to reverse-engineer a legal solution. Libel law would not be a plausible way to achieve your policy objectives.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:18 PM on May 4, 2015


just that it's likely to occur and that you knowingly provoked that reaction in order to cause it to occur.

naju: if I leave my house unlocked, the likelihood that I'll be robbed rises exponentially. But "The house was unlocked" has never, to my knowledge, been a valid defense.

If you recognize that a particular reaction is "unreasonable" and "unhinged", why should the fact that it was "likely" suddenly justify it? Why is the onus on the speaker to prevent a likely but unreasonable response, rather than on the person who's inclined to respond unreasonably?
posted by hare's breath at 7:19 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


If I leave my house unlocked, the likelihood that I'll be robbed rises exponentially. But "The house was unlocked" has never, to my knowledge, been a valid defense.

If you recognize that a particular reaction is "unreasonable" and "unhinged", why should the fact that it was "likely" suddenly justify it?

This is about whether certain speech should be considered protected under the First Amendment. It's not a defense to, or justification of, the shooting. The shooters should still have no valid defense to murder / attempted murder.
posted by naju at 7:23 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is about whether certain speech should be considered protected under the First Amendment. It's not a defense to, or justification of, the shooting. The shooters should still have no valid defense to murder / attempted murder.

Fair enough. I'm just not sure what broadening the fighting words doctrine accomplishes. The reason shouting "kill the Jews!" at a KKK rally should be unprotected is that it is likely to incite immediate violence. Demonizing Muslims like Geller does may endanger Muslims, but not immediately (Geller is more likely to endanger herself in the immediate moment).

When the danger is not immediate, it seems like a better (that is, more effective) strategy is to combat that speech not by criminalizing it or removing it from first amendment protection, but in the free marketplace of ideas. When Geller espouses hatred, it creates an opportunity for the community to affirm its commitment to nondiscrimination, tolerance, etc. Of course, Geller's bigotry will resonate with a small number of racists, but the overwhelming response will be (has been) one of condemnation. This societal condemnation seems better suited to rooting out hatred than limitations on speech (which of course, simply suppress the hateful speech rather than counteract or neutralize it).
posted by hare's breath at 7:33 PM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


This societal condemnation seems better suited to rooting out hatred than limitations on speech (which of course, simply suppress the hateful speech rather than counteract or neutralize it).

Does it, though? There have been plenty of instances where American society has declined to condemn racial hatred (by the majority against a minority), and it was allowed to boil over into mass violence. Then again, there have also been plenty of instances where we've also declined to prosecute or convict perpetrators of actual violence, so just making something illegal won't solve the problem by itself either. In Singapore, they not only have regulations against hate speech, but also institutions, and holidays, among other things, to promote racial and religious harmony. So maybe a holistic approach is needed.
posted by hyperbolic at 7:51 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's actually a classic 1A group libel case that has technically never been overturned -
Beauharnais v. IL
(1952) (wiki) - upholding defendant's conviction for basically distributing hate speech pamphlets. Almost certainly wouldn't fly today, but criminal libel is (or at least used to be) a thing.

I don't know if this is the right thread for it, but the realization that 1A protects free speech, not fair speech, has really been bothering me, although I don't have any solutions ("who decides what is fair?"). But, for instance, as corporations pick up 1A rights (campaign finance speech in Citizens United, religious exercise in Hobby Lobby), I'm worried that the marketplace of ideas is getting kind of skewed. (I have reservations about majority real-human suppression of minority voices, too, but I don't know how to articulate them.)

I guess maybe it's whether you trust the market (other members of society?) to keep things fair and counter speech with more speech, or if you think the market isn't working so well and you trust the government to intervene. General free speech sentiment seems to be that we never trust the government when there's a potential for censorship.
posted by cdefgfeadgagfe at 7:53 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Geller is only "more likely to endanger herself" because she deliberately chose to hold a public event which is a known flash point for inciting outrage and even violence.

You asked me earlier to expand on why this is such a terrible test case for arguing the point of absolute free speech, well there it is. At least with Westboro and the Klan I can count on their verbal diarrhea coming from a heartfelt position of theological insanity and ignorance. They are making affirmative points: god hates whatever has the hate-boner of WBC all aquiver this week, and people who aren't WASPs are basically one step from removed from gremlins in terms of civilization.

Geller's stunt in Texas was ostensibly not about making any affirmative statement other than "it is legal to draw Muhammed," which is not fucking in-question. She's a well-known islamophobe who has spent money on ad campaigns calling Muslims savages. It is transparently obvious that this publicized event was not about making a point about free speech, it was a deliberate poke in the eye of Muslims in general, orthodox Muslims in particular, and anyone who thinks you shouldn't act like a dick as a bonus. That's not even "asking for it," that's actively going looking for trouble for no other reason than to prove you can goad the other guy into throwing the first punch.

So if you want to have a legal discussion advocating for unrestricted free speech, maybe start with a case where the line between your test case and fighting words isn't blurred by the bad intentions of your plaintiff. If you want to have a philosophical or political discussion about the merits of free speech in society, then this case is already fucked. If free speech is to allow for the open exchange of ideas and civil discourse in a way that benefits society, then having someone whose clear intention was to incite outrage and violence is outside that delineation. Geller et al., unlike WBC and the KKK, are not honest actors in this discussion.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:00 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Geller's stunt in Texas was ostensibly not about making any affirmative statement other than "it is legal to draw Muhammed," which is not fucking in-question.

you're trying to put it in question.

then having someone whose clear intention was to incite outrage and violence is outside that delineation. Geller et al., unlike WBC and the KKK, are not honest actors in this discussion.


so let me get this straight. you believe in free speech, but only for people with pure motives?

if I declare I am mortally offended by people saying "boo" and will kill anyone who says it, and a bunch of people gather specifically to assert their right to say "boo," and I show up and start shooting ... THEY should be charged with incitement to violence? seriously?
posted by jayder at 8:08 PM on May 4, 2015 [11 favorites]


Another method for "importing" hate speech regulation (which is commonplace in other parts of the world) into America is to conceive of hate speech as "group libel".

If I say "Extremist members of group X are violent and dangerous" and extremist members of group X try to murder me, they've basically proven my point and by definition it can't be libel.

It's reasonable to assume that shouting "fire" in a crowded theater might provoke a stampede. It's not at all reasonable to assume that drawing a caricature of a long-dead religious figure will prompt people to try to kill you, and calling it an incitement to violence is a refusal to put the blame where it lies.

Good phrasing, one more dead town's last parade. It does require the legal system to determine which provocations are "reasonable," but plenty of other laws invoke a hypothetical "reasonable person" so that's acceptable.
posted by Rangi at 8:16 PM on May 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


Geller is for innumerable reasons a terrible test case upon which to argue about fundamental rights of "liberal democracy."

You've got this exactly backwards. This is an excellent test case on which to argue about fundamental rights of a liberal democracy in exactly the same way a proposed Nazi or KKK march is a good test case. Free speech is about speech we find reprehensible. Why that is should be obvious but for some reason apparently is not: Speech we do not find objectionable needs no protection because we don't find it objectionable. It's almost tautological.

So, yeah, this is an excellent test case.

The few folks who think Geller should be charged with incitement or whatever have an attitude at least as dangerous as Geller because we all know she's loony tunes while the other folks seems reasonable at first. But the idea that anyone could face charges for an event showing cartoons even if nutjobs get angry about it is so antithetical to the principles of free speech that I am having trouble just coming up with the words to articulate how awful that idea would be.
posted by Justinian at 8:25 PM on May 4, 2015 [15 favorites]


So hey, I thought maybe I'd add my own stance here, since I haven't actually done that in this thread. I feel that:

Geller & co. should of course be free to hold their own events, but a saner society would isolate them to crackpot blogs where they belong. Institutions and facilities are also of course free to refuse to host their events. Free speech does not mean anyone is obligated to listen to or provide a platform for everything. And let's be real about what this is: it's definitely deliberately inflammatory, and hosted by a couple of folks who have made their bigotry well known. It's not a case like Charlie Hebdo where there's actually quite a lot of delicacy and complexity. The intents of Geller, Wilders and the AFDI are super clear.

We can and should talk about Islamic extremism, but we should defer to people who are most knowledgeable and familiar with the topic. This is a wonderful example of that. We shouldn't treat it like it's this different thing, apart from other religious extremisms, somehow tainted or irreconcilable with Western democratic values. We shouldn't conflate it with "Islam," or "Muslims," as a vague general category. We should recognize the political realities in regions ruled by oppressive Islamic extremism, as well as regions with not-oppressive Muslim majorities. We should also acknowledge the socioeconomic realities faced by Western Muslims; it's somewhat disingenuous to keep pretending that all of this is all about literal interpretations of depictions of Muhammed. There are definite culture clashes going on, and I tend toward the side that you can't reasonably expect a secular society to hold to every demand of your faith, but you should be able to expect a secular society to respect your culture broadly. That isn't a get-out-of-criticism-free for more problematic aspects of your culture, either, but again, pretending that Islam is Somehow Just Different in a country and state full of actual Christian encroachments into liberty is... Let's call it creepy.

I am very, very against state religions and very, very for secular societies. Religion and statecraft should, IMO, be kept wholly and absolutely separate. I evoked the Church of England just to provide an recognizable (if not functionally parallel) example where you have an official religion within a secular democratic society, and a gentle reminder that "Sharia" is...broad to the point of meaninglessness without further context and clarification.

So! I will defend neither Geller et al nor the attackers. I don't think anyone is in the right, and that the dichotomies here are false and lead to further persecution of a very tiny, not-powerful minority group. I don't expect everyone to agree, and that's fine, but it does seem wrong to treat this as being about "free speech," or even Islam necessarily. It's more of a clash between very powerful extremist bigots, and very marginalized extremist bigots.
posted by byanyothername at 8:28 PM on May 4, 2015 [5 favorites]


That's all true but you elided the fact that its a clash between very powerful extremist bigots who displayed some cartoons and very marginalized extremist bigots who tried to murder a whole bunch of people.
posted by Justinian at 8:32 PM on May 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


The cartoon bigots also helped inspire an actual deadly terror attack and certainly seem to have an interest in promoting a clash of civilizations style war in the long term. They are both dangerous, one is just engaging in perfectly legal behavior that encourages violence. The most effective trolls are often best at following the rules.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:38 PM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Let's say the head honcho at your local mosque declared Allah was not okay with scantily clad women strolling past the mosque on the public sidewalk that runs directly in front of it, and in fact any women who chose to do so would be killed.

So local residents organized a "slutwalk" of sorts on the public sidewalk that passes in front of the mosque.

And unfortunately, predictably, some Islamists started shooting at participants and police who were present shot and killed the attackers.

It "is not fucking in question" whether it is legal to walk past the mosque in scanty clothes. Should the women be charged with incitement to violence?

Is there a difference between my hypothetical and the case of the Texas cartoon contest?
posted by jayder at 8:47 PM on May 4, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh yes, thank you for reminding me! I forgot to explicitly state that YES ATTEMPTING TO MURDER PEOPLE FOR DRAWING THINGS IS FUCKING BAD in all caps and bolded which apparently every single post regarding attacks by Islamic extremist nutters is required to contain lest we become confused and think that it is an okay thing to do over weekends.

Apologies for crossness, but good grief, do we really need to continuously keep stating this? Maybe shouldn't we treat it as a given unless someone's comments indicate they think it's okay to shoot people for drawing things? There is also the question of whether Geller's actions are meant to incite violence, where I tend to gravitate toward, "Not necessarily, but..." but the discussions around Breivik's murders were...very different, despite significantly greater loss of life and considerable "Christianist" bigotry + paranoid Islamophobia.
posted by byanyothername at 8:54 PM on May 4, 2015 [10 favorites]


and claiming that Obama is the secret illegitimate son of Malcom X.

Wow. I hadn't heard that one before.
posted by homunculus at 10:09 PM on May 4, 2015


I think the leftist embrace of ressentiment as moral magnetite clouds a lot of these kind of discussions by obfuscating the responsibility borne by oppressed classes for their actions. Coming from upper middle class whites it's even sort of patronising - framing this event an inevitable provocation to violence, like what, Islamic extremists lack agency? Like the action here that's most appropriate to criticise is the hate group's attempt to try and provoke rather than the violent response to the provocation? It casts the Islamists as automata, forces of nature. You see the same thing with the hilariously revealing choice of analogy upthread, "What if you ran down a street in a minority neighbourhood yelling racial slurs?" Of course, because the oppressed are just dumb beasts who'll snap and bite if you tease them. Come on. We're trying to have a society here; oppression and provocation don't dilute culpability for violence.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 10:17 PM on May 4, 2015 [17 favorites]


It's not true, it was Angela Davis.
posted by clavdivs at 10:17 PM on May 4, 2015


When my dad and my uncles were young children, my uncle would become incensed to the point of blind rage when his brothers sang a particular Christmas carol.

Of course, his brothers took advantage of this fact frequently, especially as Christmas approached, taking great pains to sing extra loudly the part of the song that most irritated my uncle. On one occasion, my uncle grabbed a handy nearby axe and chased his brothers around the yard in a shrieking, violent rage. No one was injured, and of course my uncle was harshly punished for behaving in such a manner. But his brothers were not rewarded for their singing. Obviously what they had done was not as bad as what my uncle had done, but they were still behaving poorly.

The point is, children are dicks. Don't be childish, and don't be a dick.
posted by misfish at 11:08 PM on May 4, 2015


JE SUIS PAMELA GELLER?
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:45 AM on May 5, 2015


ISIS claims attempted terrorist attack in Texas, marking first effort on US soil
The fundamentalist Islamic organization threatens "even bigger and more bitter" attacks in the future.

posted by Joe in Australia at 2:29 AM on May 5, 2015


At this point I don't know how useful it will be to weigh in with my 2¢, since like the Charlie Hebdo thread this has all been overburdened with "but they have free speech" "but they're using it horribly" "yeah, but" "yeah, but" yabbut yabbut.

After Charlie Hebdo I tried to explain why I, personally, would not be drawing Muhammad, and why I felt others shouldn't either. When I first heard about “Draw Muhammad Day” it seemed right, in abstract, a stand in favor of religious freedom and against the loss of secularism as a bedrock principle of our society.

But I found out it was sponsored by an anti-Muslim bigot group (a different one than Stop Islamization of America (I refuse to use their sanitized name)). Increasingly drawing Muhammad has become the symbol of these neonazi-esque people, as pointedly hateful and virulent as a burning cross or a swastika on a hook-nosed octopus clutching the world in its tentacles.

This is a clash-of-civilizations culture war between two factions. It's just that one of those factions is the side that believes the two factions are Islam and the West, and is trying like the dickens to get the other-other side to agree those are the sides and join them. Or fight them. Either way. SIOA, SIOE, and all their friends are no strangers to the tactic of using “free speech” to bait us into joining their side, knowing that—yes—we're kind of obligated to support it no matter how evil we think they are.

But I say firmly that we are also obligated to recognize what they're doing and refuse the bait. Yes they get their precious free speech—and really it's our free speech, not theirs, since they would deny it to the ones they hate. But they should not get our support one millimeter more than that principle requires. They, by opposing Park 51, are as great a threat to the First Amendment (free exercise of religion) as anyone else.

I mean, either we treat this shooting as an act of individuals unconnected with any broader movement or ideology, or we don't, we look into their heads and see what thoughts are living there. And ok, let's do that: in these shooters' heads lay radical Islamist violence. That's bad. But now that door is open we're going to have to look into Anders Breivik's head and, oh my, SIOA lives there! So I don't consider this a false equivalence at all: one group of anti-first-amendment radical extremists inspired two people to shoot their enemies, the other group of anti-first-amendment radical extremists inspired one person to do so. The trigger men got caught. The movements continue to exist.

The rest of us get trapped in the crossfire, literal and political and ideological. The devil take them both.
posted by traveler_ at 3:05 AM on May 5, 2015 [8 favorites]


I think Geller's nonsense is at best second-order incitement. This is what incitement looks like.
posted by um at 3:18 AM on May 5, 2015


Mefi did the "punching down" and "they're just as bad as each other" nonsense on the Charlie Hebdo thread, so just imagine I've cut and pasted my original comment again.

There's a problem with changing the law such that knowingly doing something which will cause unreasonable people to flip out becomes "incitement". Mefi favourite Scott Alexander talked about Mo pics in the context of harm minimisation, trying to invoke "it's a shame those people are hurting, let's minimise that" rather than the blame-based "it's their fault they believe stupid stuff, I'll show 'em" reaction which seems to be behind some Drawing of Mo. Vladimir_M's comments over there are the best: Scott's approach encourages people to become utility monsters who are (genuinely) super offended by stuff done by people they dislike. Pre-committing to flipping out becomes an excellent way to get your way. Society gets homogenised to the least offensive common denominator. A lot of Vladimir_M's objections also look like they'd apply to such a law.
posted by pw201 at 3:52 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think Geller's nonsense is at best second-order incitement.

Correct. Real incitement would be something like "good Americans should go and find the Moslems in your communities and kill them" - i.e. an actual call to action. Which would be reprehensible, needless to say. And also probably not protected under the First Amendment.

Geller, for all her offensive actions, did not do this, or anything even approaching this.
posted by theorique at 4:16 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Comparing Pamela Geller to Charlie Hebdo seems to me to do a pretty grave injustice to Charlie Hebdo.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:56 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


They're both targets of Islamists, perhaps even the same group of Islamists. I think it's worth pointing out that these murderers are either crazy or following some utterly opaque theology: they weren't just attacking cartoonists, but cartoonists and Jews. There's even reason to think that a Jewish school was a primary target in the recent Paris murders. So it would be a mistake to identify some subtle bit of similarity between Geller and Charlie Hebdo: I don't think we really understand the attackers' motives.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:39 AM on May 5, 2015


The local backlash has begun.

Not only are local residents now concerned about the safety of their kids' school events being held at the Curtis Culwell Center, but the school board is now trying to figure out a way that they can legally restrict what kinds of events are held there. This public venue for free speech activities could now end up being unavailable for future free speech activities.

And in Richardson, just a few miles away, a man was beaten last night outside a mosque.
posted by Dojie at 5:47 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I have never heard of Pamela Geller until ten minutes ago. Obviously this is very simple but it explains a lot. This was a publicity stunt.
posted by bukvich at 6:09 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, it turns out that the venue was really only available for uncontroversial free speech. They just didn't know that at the time.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:17 AM on May 5, 2015


They're both targets of Islamists, perhaps even the same group of Islamists. I think it's worth pointing out that these murderers are either crazy or following some utterly opaque theology: they weren't just attacking cartoonists, but cartoonists and Jews.

The only known Jewish person there was Geller, who is denounced by most Jewish American organizations for being virulently Islamophobic and an enemy of free speech. Both Geller and Wilders have repeatedly advocated otherwise universal civil and human rights, including that of free speech and freedom to exercise their religion, to be revoked from Muslims and for them to be barred from the political process of their countries of residence. Geller and her group's reaction to Islamophobic violence has ranged from hostile indifference to occasional glee and even a bit of piling on, as was demonstrated when a peaceful gathering of Muslims held at this same venue was disrupted by her and her cronies.

Nothing that Charlie Hebdo ever printed came close to what these scumbags do on a daily basis.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:26 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Even better, here's what a survivor of the Charlie Hebdo attacks says: Charlie Hebdo Staffer: 'No Comparison' Between Us, Texas Contest
Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a Charlie Hebdo film critic, told PBS' Charle Rose that there's "absolutely no comparison possible" between the Charlie Hebdo attack and the shooting outside of the Muhammed cartoon contest held near Dallas by anti-Islam group American Freedom Defense Initiative.

"To be honest, I can’t imagine the kind of comparison you can make between the Charlie Hebdo attack January 7 and this event," Thoret told Rose when asked for his reaction to the Texas attack.

Thoret said the contest in Texas was part of a "very harsh movement against Islamization of the U.S."

He said that at Charlie Hebdo, the writers and cartoonists were "criticizing" religion, "not Muslim people in particular."
posted by zombieflanders at 6:30 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Absolutely, this was a publicity stunt. Just as a Pin The Hook Nose On The Jew Contest or a Taco Folding Mexican Landscaper Costume Contest or a Burn a Homo in Effigy Bonfire or a Let's See Who Can Shout Nigger The Loudest Contest would be a publicity stunt, and held for the same reason -- a public declaration that our group hates your minority, and we have enough power and legal protection to get away with it.

It just so happens that hating Muslims is far more socially acceptable these days, thanks to 9/11 and years of subsequent right-wing reinforcement of the notion that we'll all be murdered in our beds if we don't crack down on Allah.

As stated previously, Geller is Westboro Baptist with a different target set. She could not be happier about how this turned out because it's her best possible outcome -- a violent response proving that all Muslims are trigger-happy terrorists out to kill Americans, she didn't get shot herself, and now she gets to make the news show rounds where they'll grant her some credibility.
posted by delfin at 6:31 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


The idea that the greater share of the blame is with the provokers, and not with the shooters, seems nearly identical to the monocle-and-pith-hat idea that Islamists - and Islamists-to-be - are a bunch of simple savages who cannot be expected to behave as real people do. The only difference is the value judgment: the old-timey imperialist believes that so-called savagery is less preferable than so-called civilization, whereas the other side believes that such behavior is simply the reasonably foreseeable behavior of the Other. This behavior must not be condemned, controlled, piqued, nor even stated directly, unless accompanied by handwringing about how the West is not only worse, but actually the real cause of the Other's actions. It's just another form of Western narcissism, dressed up in treacly condescension.

That's not even getting into how these extremists do NOT actually represent Islam - sensitivity to the extremists' stated needs does no favors to Muslims. The loudest voices cannot be assumed to be the most representative of their communities. Indeed, that's exactly the misimpression which both Geller and ISIS would like to spread.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:32 AM on May 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


This "both sides are just as bad" thing is revolting. No matter how stupid or offensive something is, it's never the same as a bullet, and it's bizarre to see people in this thread keep equating the two as if these are just two groups that disagree in a debate.

It's true that only one of Geller's fellow-travelers has resorted to bullets. But for those of us who are open to the "both sides" narrative, it's because we believe that both sides are indeed equally eager for a war. One side, however, can't actually start with violence because that would interfere with their internal narrative. The good guys don't start wars -- they only finish them.
posted by Slothrup at 6:45 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, it turns out that the venue was really only available for uncontroversial free speech. They just didn't know that at the time.

No, it wasn't. It might be in the future, but there was no question before the shooting that any event could be held at the venue regardless of the intent behind it - just so long as it wasn't breaking laws. But when you're talking about a venue that exists primarily for the use of schoolchildren, trying to prevent it from becoming a target again is pretty reasonable. My own family has been to the center for art shows, AP testing, school concerts, plays, graduations . . . all kinds of events where it was packed with children. My little sister's graduation is scheduled there later this month, and my son's strings concert will be at the high school right next door. I'm not a paranoid, or even particularly nervous person, but I'm likely to be looking over my shoulder the next few times I have to take my kids there.

Almost certainly, things will blow over and extremists of all stripes will find a new target for their nastiness, but I don't blame the school board one bit for looking into the possibility of reducing the likelihood of focusing more attention from violent crazies onto their facility.
posted by Dojie at 6:54 AM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


"We let hate-group fruitcakes use our venue and had a shooting, so let's see about tightening up our 'who can use our venue' list JUST A TAD" is a perfectly reasonable response.

The problem is that the inevitable response will be to classify both pro-Muslim AND anti-Muslim events as "too controversial." So if someone approaches that venue with another Stand With The Prophet In Honor And Respect conference to discuss how to combat negative depictions of Islam -- which drew this kind of response and threats of violence -- they will be turned away for fear of more violence. If the school board allows pro-Muslim events but turns down Gellar and her ilk, they will be lambasted and harassed until they cave in.

And thus Muslims who don't fit into Gellar's Two Minutes Hate caricature lose another way to demonstrate that.
posted by delfin at 7:16 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's true that only one of Geller's fellow-travelers has resorted to bullets.
There may only have been one who resorted to bullets, but I really don't have a lot of faith that he's the only one who has resorted to violence. When she was barred by the British government from traveling to the UK last year, she was slated to address a rally of the English Defence League, which is basically a group that was founded to coordinate the actions of right-wing football hooligans. Twenty years ago, those folks would gladly have kicked the shit out of Jews like me and Geller, and I don't for a second buy their claims to be non-violent. I don't think the "both sides" narrative has to do with the idea that cartoons provoke violence. I think it has to do with the fact that these particular people, unlike, say, the people affiliated with Charlie Hebdo, are allied with some very scary bad actors.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:28 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think we can wait and see how the venue responds in the future. Sometimes targeted people display a lot of strength and courage and sensitivity in how they respond to being victimized. They may refuse hate speech in the future but allow Muslims to continue holding events.

The Reddit style of hosting any sort of hateful view in the name of free speech is usually a mistake for a lot of reasons. Absent the violence I wouldn't want to hold an event there after they agreed to host someone like Geller and I'm not even Muslim.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:37 AM on May 5, 2015


so let me get this straight. you believe in free speech, but only for people with pure motives?

Yes, you have properly summed up my position. I also believe that only those who bake me cookies should be free from unlawful search and seizure, and that in order to vote you have to kill a dog you raised from a puppy.

So local residents organized a "slutwalk" of sorts on the public sidewalk that passes in front of the mosque. And unfortunately, predictably, some Islamists started shooting at participants and police who were present shot and killed the attackers. It "is not fucking in question" whether it is legal to walk past the mosque in scanty clothes. Should the women be charged with incitement to violence? Is there a difference between my hypothetical and the case of the Texas cartoon contest?

I don't know, did the SlutWalk organizers previously mount a campaign to ban wearing hijabs? Did they mount a large campaign saying that Muslim women are barbaric savages who are incompatible with civilization and that they also eat Jewish babies, probably? Do the organizers have a history of dehumanizing Muslims and portraying them as threats to "Western Civilization?" Have previous SlutWalks resulted in violent acts? Is this walk being held where a march for peace and understanding was conducted a few months earlier?

Because if so, I might start to doubt that the organizers' main concern is about sexual assault.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:40 AM on May 5, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm alarmed that you and others seem to think that "freedom of expression" is conditioned on having the right motives or acceptable beliefs. What, exactly, would be the point of protecting freedom of expression if it is only enjoyed by people whose beliefs and motives you deem acceptable? And how would that actually be "free" expression?
posted by jayder at 8:54 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Are we so unimaginative that we can't envision living under any other system than exactly what we've got now?

It's better than what we used to have.
See: Sedition Act of 1918
See Also: Smith Act, Comstock Laws

Restricting speech is all well and good when someone else's ox is being gored but these things have a way of expanding.
posted by MikeMc at 9:06 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man, I can't wait for the next time the unspecified general concept of free expression in a diverse medium holds an event for the regional chapter of arbitrary hypotheticals at a local community center. I mean just looking at the fanbase on MetaFilter alone they're gonna need a huge room.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:10 AM on May 5, 2015 [7 favorites]


jayder, myself and many others in this thread have simultaneously defended Gellar's freedom of expression and vehemently condemned her choice of expression.

As the oft-quoted-but-generally-misquoted "fire in a theater" analogy describes, freedom of expression follows a Hippocratic oath of sorts: first, do no harm. Deeming speech to cause measurable harm is an intentionally difficult line to cross; generally, it has to be either demonstrably false and damaging (libel/slander), in violation of moral standards to such a degree as to be deemed prosecutably obscene (which dances a complicated tango between local standards and the Miller precedent), or to be direct incitement to violence against the subjects of the speech. The Supreme Court has been remarkably consistent in protecting hate speech without clear violent incitement.

The Draw Muhammad Contest was intentionally provocative; it was a blatant FUCK YOU to Islam. It stopped short of stating LET'S GO KILL US SOME MUSLIM EXTREMISTS in and of itself, and it is not an area of the law where one can expect to prosecute on subtext.
posted by delfin at 9:17 AM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


I uphold Geller's right to freedom of expression. I also think that since I uphold her right to freedom of expression, I am obligated to point out how flawed and dangerous her ideas are. I actually think that people who believe in absolute freedom of speech should feel especially motivated to protest bad speech, because if you don't, then you reinforce the idea that the only solution to hate speech is to outlaw it.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:21 AM on May 5, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm alarmed that you and others seem to think that "freedom of expression" is conditioned on having the right motives or acceptable beliefs. What, exactly, would be the point of protecting freedom of expression if it is only enjoyed by people whose beliefs and motives you deem acceptable? And how would that actually be "free" expression?

Given your SlutWalk metaphor, I could ask you the same thing. After all, when a Muslim/interfaith conference was held, it was Geller's people who were telling them that they deserved hatred and violence being done towards them because of the way they dressed and acted around non-Muslims, that they deserved less right to speech or expression than the rest of us, and they should be purged from America. But somehow her group has been doing a great service to justice?
posted by zombieflanders at 9:28 AM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


The subtlety of the AFDI approach is actually quite masterful. They've found a vulnerability in Islam that looks, frankly, ridiculous to your average pro-First-Amendment, Western eye. So to us, it looks like an irrelevant exercise. (Europe and Europe-derived cultures have thousands of years of creating statues and paintings of deities, angels, etc.)

But from the point of view of a true believer in Islam, this is a very bad thing. For some truly dedicated believers (i.e. the attempted murderers), it is so bad that it's actually worth trying to kill others for it, and losing your own life in the process.

To your average American news watcher, it's confirmation that Islam is full of crazies who are willing to commit violence for the most irrational reasons.
posted by theorique at 9:39 AM on May 5, 2015


But somehow her group has been doing a great service to justice?

The point is that it doesn't matter if her group has been doing a great service or not - their speech still deserves to be protected. For a more eloquent way of saying it, I look to the excellent speech placed in the mouth of More:
"And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake."
posted by corb at 10:19 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


The point is that it doesn't matter if her group has been doing a great service or not - their speech still deserves to be protected.

That's not what I'm saying, though. What I'm saying is that her group believes that the speech and exercise of religion of others doesn't deserve to be protected. His argument that they're doing a service only makes sense if he believes that it's okay for her to do that.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:28 AM on May 5, 2015




Pamela Geller is doing a service for free speech in the same way that the Ku Klux Klan did in 1993—they themselves are anti–free speech, but their actions test others' commitment to free speech.

If you're arguing about whether Geller or the KKK are good people, whether their views are correct, whether we should all support their goals, then yes, their motives have to be taken into consideration. But for the question of whether they had the right to say what they did, free of legal consequence, all that matters is their words, not their motives. This cartoon is protected political speech. Any illegal violence resulting from it, however predictable, is not the speaker's responsibility.

(Legally speaking, that is. Morally speaking, you should still use common sense; if you invited your apolitical friend to this event, knowing the risk of violent extremists, you should feel guilty if they get hurt. That still doesn't change your right to be there, given freedom of assembly.)
posted by Rangi at 11:13 AM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Anti-Islam Activist Pam Geller Compares Herself To Rosa Parks

That your free speech hero, folks.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 11:32 AM on May 5, 2015


That's not what I'm saying, though. What I'm saying is that her group believes that the speech and exercise of religion of others doesn't deserve to be protected. His argument that they're doing a service only makes sense if he believes that it's okay for her to do that.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:28 AM on May 5


Okay for her to believe that the speech and exercise of religion of others doesn't deserve to be protected? Well, yeah, of course I think that's okay. It's "okay" for people to believe reprehensible things, and they still have the right of free expression even if they believe reprehensible things. Get this: freedom of expression also belongs to people who don't believe in freedom of expression.
posted by jayder at 11:47 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


[One comment deleted. If the thread is frustrating enough that you feel the need to be insulting, it's fine to step away for a while. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:48 AM on May 5, 2015


Okay for her to believe that the speech and exercise of religion of others doesn't deserve to be protected? Well, yeah, of course I think that's okay. It's "okay" for people to believe reprehensible things, and they still have the right of free expression even if they believe reprehensible things. Get this: freedom of expression also belongs to people who don't believe in freedom of expression.

I wasn't saying that not believing in freedom of expression means that you don't have that right yourself, so you can stop insinuating that I am.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:58 AM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


That your free speech hero, folks.
posted by a lungful of dragon


Has anyone called her a hero? I personally think she is a bigot, and also simultaneously think she is a victim of a terrorist attack.
posted by rosswald at 12:03 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Is anyone denying that her event was attacked or that she has the right to free speech? Of course none of us would want anyone to become a victim of terrorism. Seems to me the more important question is how close is she to white supremacists or holocaust deniers or other ideologies that we abhore but tolerate? And should she be treated the same way we would treat them? I think it's much closer than people realise. As bad as FOX News is, they wouldn't showcase holocaust deniers or open klansmen the way they do Geller.
posted by Golden Eternity at 12:20 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


corb: Well, sort of. The fear over 'sharia law' shows a fundamental ignorance of how these things function, but it would also be wrong to say that sharia law is not being implemented in the United States. Muslims, like many other religious groups, including Catholics and Jews, implement their own courts. These are absolutely religiously binding, with the force of religious punishment being implemented if you fail to obey the ruling. But they're not civilly binding, and not binding at all on people who are not members of their religion.

Please don't make declaratory statements like this when you don't know your facts. This is not accurate with regard to Jewish Beit Dins.

In Judaism, the Beit Din courts (also written "Beth Din",) in the US and Canada are careful to ensure any decisions relating to contracts / agreements / loans, etc., will be recognized by the secular court system by making all parties agree to arbitration. Religious Jews who want to have disputes tried in Beit Din courts are encouraged to add binding arbitration agreement clauses to their contracts (including wedding contracts, in the event of a divorce). There have been cases of religious Jews and non-Jews disputing contracts in Beit Din courts here in the US., and probably elsewhere. Decisions handed down from a Beit Din that stem from a binding arbitration agreement are legally valid in secular courts.

So yes, those decisions are civilly binding on involved parties, whether or not they are Jews. Punishments are not always "religious" either. Monetary fines are common.
posted by zarq at 12:27 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wasn't saying that not believing in freedom of expression means that you don't have that right yourself, so you can stop insinuating that I am.

Then why have you repeatedly told us that she doesn't believe in free expression?

My comment about her performing a service simply meant that, prior to her event, I would not have believed that a cartoon contest in Texas would have drawn a murderous duo of radical Islamists. I actually thought that kind of extremism was pretty rare. But this shooting has made me reconsider that ... we now know that even in some po-dunk community center in middle America, Islamic radicals REALLY WILL show up to kill you for making a drawing. And honestly that's good to know.
posted by jayder at 12:30 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then why have you repeatedly told us that she doesn't believe in free expression?

Because she doesn't. I'm pretty sure that even most of the people (rightfully) here defending her right to free speech would allow that she believes Muslims should not be allowed the same fundamental rights as other citizens.
posted by zombieflanders at 12:43 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nobody has claimed she does believe in free expression, though, so that's a settled point. I doubt anyone here sympathizes with her beliefs that all Muslims are as bad as the extremist ones, or that "we" should be fighting a war against "them".

What some people are arguing is whether the fact that (a) she's a provocative bigot and (b) she knew the risk of violence when she held the event means that she has some share of responsibility for the violence that did occur. I think that the cartoons and her own words fall well within the bounds of protected speech, meaning she has the right to say them and is not liable for anyone's violent reactions or offended feelings. If she had said "Everybody needs to go kill some Muslims," that would be a different story.
posted by Rangi at 1:04 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]


You seriously think she's not liable for other people's offended feelings? That strikes me as utterly perverse.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:07 PM on May 5, 2015


Not liable in the legal sense only. After all, if you can't even sue her for inciting an attempted shooting, you certainly can't sue her for being offensive; the former is a lot worse than the latter. Ethically speaking, she's responsible for both. I feel kind of uncomfortable saying so, though, because what if a reasonable person held a similar Draw Muhammad event, taking every opportunity to reassure moderate Muslims that Islam is a fine religion and the event is just calling attention to extremism, and people still got offended/shot? Are they still ethically responsible? Should they feel guilty? Should they let the risk of feeling guilty deter them from making an important point about freedom of speech? I think that if people should draw Muhammad even in the face of those threatening to kill them for doing so, they shouldn't be stopped by those who won't kill them but will just feel offended.
posted by Rangi at 1:34 PM on May 5, 2015


Would Geller be liable if she recieved threats from terrorists or were warned of them by the FBI and did not disclose it to all attendees and employees?
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:00 PM on May 5, 2015


My comment about her performing a service simply meant that, prior to her event, I would not have believed that a cartoon contest in Texas would have drawn a murderous duo of radical Islamists. I actually thought that kind of extremism was pretty rare. But this shooting has made me reconsider that ... we now know that even in some po-dunk community center in middle America, Islamic radicals REALLY WILL show up to kill you for making a drawing. And honestly that's good to know.

Let's put it this way -- if you are a prominent anti-Islam crusader, you spend your days putting anti-Islam ads on buses and subways and fighting against mosques and going on TV telling everyone how horrible Islam is, then you show up to protest a peaceful Muslim conference, then you come back to the same town and advertise an event at the same center mocking one of the known tenets of Islam (the prohibition against depicting the Prophet), with your conference widely known to the point where you expect counterprotests and a vehement reaction and come with armed security... then yeah, Islamic radicals MIGHT just have you on their radar and show up to have a little chat because you're one of the biggest thorns in the side of Islam in the United States. Odds are pretty good that they've heard of you and consider you worth the drive to confront.

If you're doodling the Prophet on the back of one of your notebooks, you're probably okay.

If you're Trey Parker or Matt Stone, your mileage will vary.
posted by delfin at 2:01 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you're doodling the Prophet on the back of one of your notebooks, you're probably okay.

I think cartoonist Molly Norris (formerly of Seattle) is still in hiding, five years after she made the mistake of calling for an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day".
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:42 PM on May 5, 2015 [5 favorites]


Secondly, it's a little weird to say that you're probably okay for speech which nobody else hears. You think?
posted by Justinian at 3:13 PM on May 5, 2015 [2 favorites]


Norris's situation illustrates why I have far below zero sympathy for Geller.

Norris had reasonably benign intentions, aimed more at Comedy Central than at Islam itself, and did her best to back out as soon as it mushroomed out of control and more unsavory cartoonists joined in. (Any time Reason magazine takes up your cause, the odds are pretty good that you've erred in your life choices.) She did circulate the original cartoon and acknowledged that she joined a "pool of targets" when she did, so she was not oblivious to how it might be viewed.

But Anwar al-Awlaki would never have heard of Norris if the nature of the Internet hadn't made her cartoon national, then global, which allowed hardcore anti-Islam types to join in. Now there was a growing hate-speech campaign with Norris's name glued to it. And hey! Look who helped raise the anger level!

Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have both been utterly gleeful over the event. Unconditionally supporting it, Spencer got in the act himself drawing Prophet Muhammad with a bomb on his head, though the depiction looks a little bit like Spencer himself, and Geller added to the fray by drawing Prophet Muhammad with the face of a pig.

So Norris ended up with a fatwa and her life was shattered, in significant part due to the actions of others -- including Geller and her cohorts. Geller's response was to double down on it years later and do everything possible to escalate hatred on both sides.
posted by delfin at 3:32 PM on May 5, 2015 [4 favorites]


> So Norris ended up with a fatwa and her life was shattered, in significant part due to the actions of others

First on the list of those "others" being Anwar al-Awlaki, the cleric who pronounced the fatwā calling for Norris's execution, I hope you mean. But I don't hold out much hope of it.

N.b. al-Awlaki himself is history, but the fatwā lives on.
posted by jfuller at 4:27 PM on May 5, 2015 [3 favorites]






"...then yeah, Islamic radicals MIGHT just have you on their radar and show up to have a little chat because you're one of the biggest thorns in the side of Islam in the United States. Odds are pretty good that they've heard of you and consider you worth the drive to confront."

I have heard similar words before concerning a similar "hate speech" events.
posted by clavdivs at 5:02 PM on May 5, 2015


First on the list of those "others" being Anwar al-Awlaki, the cleric who pronounced the fatwā calling for Norris's execution, I hope you mean. But I don't hold out much hope of it.

When it comes to someone being marked for death, the person marking her for death is pretty darned high on the list, yes. al-Awlaki was a real piece of work.

My point was that with regard to sincere insult of the Prophet, many were at fault but Norris only indirectly. I suspect that to al-Awlaki, that wouldn't have mattered much.

I have heard similar words before concerning a similar "hate speech" events.

I will be honest -- all I know of Meir Kahane is what I'm Googling about him now. He appears to have had some... shall we say... extreme views about Judaism and Israel and what should be done about non-Orthodox in that region, as well as founding an organization not afraid to use deadly violence rather than rhetoric. If Kahane's and the JDL's wiki pages are accurate, the list of people and groups wanting him dead must've come in a three-volume set.
posted by delfin at 5:59 PM on May 5, 2015


Oh my yes. You should read the book written by the perp and his friends.

They burn and topple countries.
posted by clavdivs at 7:47 PM on May 5, 2015


new free-speech-absolutism thread

Hah, yeah.
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:35 PM on May 5, 2015


Abrams vs. United States, 1919.
Supreme Court upholds conviction of Russian propagandists opposing u.s. Intervention in Russia.
posted by clavdivs at 9:10 PM on May 5, 2015


Er, what about it?
posted by Justinian at 9:17 PM on May 5, 2015


Free speech.
"Defendants' criticism of U.S. involvement in World War I was not protected by the First Amendment, because they advocated a strike in munitions production and the violent overthrow of the government."

Ah, Yeats was right.

'Public opinion ripening for so long

We thought it would outlive all future days'
posted by clavdivs at 9:40 PM on May 5, 2015


'Now days days are dragon-ridden'
posted by clavdivs at 9:41 PM on May 5, 2015


“The Dangerous Myths About Charlie Hebdo,” Jeffery Goldberg, The Atlantic, 05 May 2015
posted by ob1quixote at 9:56 PM on May 5, 2015 [1 favorite]






then yeah, Islamic radicals MIGHT just have you on their radar and show up to have a little chat because you're one of the biggest thorns in the side of Islam in the United States. Odds are pretty good that they've heard of you and consider you worth the drive to confront.

Again, "little chat" is OK. Even shouting, rage-filled, Westboro-Baptist-style protest by bearded radicals in front of the event is OK. Confrontation with angry words is OK. These are all First Amendment protected actions.

Armed men attacking the venue is not OK.

(Parenthetically, even more benign forms of physical disruption are not First Amendment OK - e.g. pulling the fire alarm, physically barring entrance to the venue.)
posted by theorique at 4:29 AM on May 6, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hate Speech: The Legal Issues and the Consequences

MAY 8, 2015

DAVID R. LURIE

Brooklyn

To the Editor:
Ms. Almontaser, a respected educator and community leader, was selected by the New York City Department of Education to head the Khalil Gibran International Academy, the city’s first Arabic dual-language school. In the months after the announcement of the school’s creation, Ms. Geller and her allies unleashed a hate-filled barrage of false and Islamophobic accusations about Ms. Almontaser and the school.

Capitulating to the campaign, city officials forced her to resign. She then filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In ruling that Ms. Almontaser had been the victim of anti-Muslim prejudice, the commission said that the Department of Education had “succumbed to the very bias that creation of the school was intended to dispel and a small segment of the public succeeded in imposing its prejudices on D.O.E. as an employer.”
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:34 AM on May 8, 2015 [2 favorites]






Dean Obeidallah: America Snores When Christian Terrorist Threatens to Massacre Muslims
It goes without saying that if Doggart had been Muslim and had planned to kill Christians in America, we would have seen wall-to-wall media coverage. Fox News would have cut into its already-daily coverage of demonizing Muslims to do a special report really demonizing Muslims. And few can doubt that a Muslim would’ve been charged with terrorism-related crimes.

One big reason for the lack of media coverage was that neither the FBI nor the U.S. Attorney’s Office put out a press release about Doggart’s arrest. In contrast, the FBI office in Knoxville, the one that handled this investigation, has posted press releases for numerous other recent arrests, such as for drug crimes and robbery charges. (My calls to the FBI about this issue have not been returned.)

However, when a Muslim is arrested in a sting-type operation, as we saw recently in Brooklyn, the FBI touts that arrest to the media with a detailed press release. We have also seen U.S. attorneys hold press conferences to announce the arrest of Muslims, as we witnessed recently with the six Minnesota men charged with planning to join ISIS. But not here.

Doggart didn’t mince words about his plans for the Muslims of Islamberg: “We will be cruel to them. And we will burn down their buildings.”

In fact, this incident would have likely been ignored but for the local Islamberg community reaching out to the media. They even posted a powerful photograph on social media of the children of the town sitting under a big banner that asked: “Why do you want to kill us Robert Doggart?”

But here’s the reality: This will likely not be the last time we hear about a planned attack on Muslim Americans by right-wing groups. Alarmingly, a recent poll found 55 percent of Americans hold anti-Muslim views, the highest numbers ever recorded.
posted by zombieflanders at 8:41 AM on May 19, 2015 [3 favorites]


A. R. Mirza - "The taboo of drawing Mohammed" via Ex-Muslim Blogs
I could easily draw Mohammed should I choose to do so, but I think it is far more important to try and prompt people to question the taboo of drawing him as opposed to trying to provoke an inflammatory response, that will get us nowhere in the debate to break down this taboo. In conclusion, I urge everyone reading this to question this prohibition and to understand that no one deserves any repercussions from simply drawing Mohammed or any one else for that matter.
posted by audi alteram partem at 4:27 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the best ways to question the taboo against drawing Mohammed is by drawing him—and the winning cartoon is not just provocative, but thoughtful.
posted by Rangi at 5:08 PM on May 20, 2015


Yeah, there was just oodles of thought put into representing the spiritual founder of one of the world's largest religions as a turbaned, Hitler-mustached murderer.
posted by maxsparber at 10:43 PM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Eh, more Lon Chaney/Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
posted by clavdivs at 10:46 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


Heh, I somehow missed the Hitler stache. Subtle!
posted by Drinky Die at 10:49 PM on May 20, 2015


And the teeth!
posted by Joe in Australia at 12:19 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, there was just oodles of thought put into representing the spiritual founder of one of the world's largest religions as a turbaned, Hitler-mustached murderer.

The objective of protection free speech (First Amendment and other types) is not that the speech be good or correct or nice or even thoughtful. The point is that none of us, individual or organization, legislator or private citizen, is good enough, or "unbiased" enough, or "objective" enough, to earn the right to proscribe the speech of our fellow men.

We may dislike it, we may oppose it with our own speech, but none of us can be trusted with the power to shut it down.
posted by theorique at 4:23 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


Obligatory reminder that criticism of speech is not censorship.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:26 AM on May 21, 2015 [3 favorites]


Just a reminder that, if you're white and Islamaphobic, your 2A rights trump the 1A rights of non-white Muslims (emphasis in original):
The rally’s organizer, Jon Ritzheimer, has called on the group to “to utilize there [sic] second amendment right at this event just in case our first amendment comes under the much anticipated attack.” He warns on the event’s Facebook page that the mosque is “a known place that the 2 terrorist [sic] frequented.” The would-be ambushers of Pamela Geller’s event in Garland are said to have worshiped there.

As of Wednesday morning, 128 people had signed up to attend the Phoenix rally.

There are a few important points about this event that are worth noting, briefly.
  • First, this rally shows how seemingly fringe figures like Pamela Geller have (even unintentionally) inspired copycat demonstrations across the country. Geller and company don’t tote weapons, but biker gangs who sympathize with her views often do. Ahead of a Muslim event in Garland, Texas back in January, some motorcyclists showed up with long guns. In 2011, fundamentalist Christian pastor Terry Jones planned a protest outside of a Dearborn mosque, indicating that he and his supporters would be armed. Ultimately, authorities prevented the gathering. Though the bikers at these events did not fire their weapons, the possibility of violence increases when armed demonstrators swarm a group of people they dislike. For Ritzheimer and his fellow bikers, Islam is a religion that inspires violence among its followers. Muslims are a dangerous threat. At this latest protest in Phoenix, Geller’s supporters are taking what — in their minds — is the logical next step: possibly resorting to violence.
  • Next, this event is yet another reminder of the degree to which “free speech” demonstrations are often veneers for deep-seated animus. The point that the Phoenix bikers are making with this event is less about free speech than it is about expressing their hatred of Islam directly to Muslims. This is evidenced by the obscene comments on the group’s page, the vulgar t-shirts that the group will sell (and wear) ahead of their gathering, and the fact that the organizers have chosen to intentionally antagonize Muslims at their mosque by arriving en masse, insulting their religion to their faces, intimidating them with their weapons, and expecting that they quietly embrace all of this in the name of the First Amendment.
  • Lastly, it highlights the degree to which Islamophobia runs rampant on the Internet, and how social media has become a breeding ground for groups like this who, in addition to fomenting their views online, use the virtual space to plan and organize actual events. This is central to the effectiveness of groups like Geller’s, who time and again have nurtured online bases and issued calls to action. In 2010, the hue and cry in the streets of Manhattan over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” was Geller’s work, and in the past five years dozens of bloggers and web-goers have translated armchair enthusiasm about issues related to Islam into on-the-ground activism against Muslim groups.
Imagine: "To support free speech, 100 armed Muslims will surround a church in defense of the right to insult Christianity[.]"

So there's incitement to violence, since if you believe that Islam is itself antithetical to free speech, then telling people to use 2A solutions when they believe the 1A is under attack is basically an order to open fire at will. There's also an explicit attempt to shut down the right to peacefully assemble and free exercise of religion, both rights guaranteed under the 1A. They're terrorizing people, and as far as I can tell, no one's stepping in to do anything about it.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:29 AM on May 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Hundreds gather in Arizona for armed anti-Muslim protest
Jason Leger, a Phoenix resident wearing one of the profanity-laced shirts, accepted an invitation to join the evening prayer inside the mosque, and said the experience changed him.

“It was something I’ve never seen before. I took my shoes off. I kneeled. I saw a bunch of peaceful people. We all got along,” Leger said. “They made me feel welcome, you know. I just think everybody’s points are getting misconstrued, saying things out of emotion, saying things they don’t believe.”

Paul Griffin, who had earlier said he didn’t care if his t-shirt was offensive, assured a small crowd of Muslims at the end of the rally that he wouldn’t wear it again.

“I promise, the next time you see me, I won’t be wearing this shirt,” he told one man while shaking his hand and smiling. “I won’t wear it again.”

Usama Shami, the president of the ICCP, invited anyone to join him and the 800 members of the mosque for a prayer.

“A lot of them, they’ve never met a Muslim, or they haven’t had interactions with Muslims,” he said. “A lot of them are filled with hate and rage. Maybe they went to websites that charged them with this hatred. So when you sit down and talk like rational people, without all these slogans, without being bigots, without bringing guns, they will find out that they’re talking to another human.”
I don't even...

Proud of Americans like Usama Shami.
posted by Golden Eternity at 5:35 PM on May 30, 2015 [8 favorites]


Thanks for that link.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:34 PM on May 30, 2015


Proud of Americans like Usama Shami.

You should be prouder of Paul Griffin and Jason Leger. It's not hard to find people like Usama Shami, thank goodness; there are lots of decent people of goodwill. Angry people who change their minds, on the other hand, are vanishingly rare.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:42 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ok, slinged weapons outside a place of prayer in the guise of protest.

The Templars had more respect.
posted by clavdivs at 10:38 PM on May 30, 2015 [1 favorite]




Sngh. Sngh. Sngh. ‘Tyranny is in America’: Anti-Muslim armed rally organizer says he’s headed into hiding after getting death threats

It is very wrong that anyone should threaten his life. Threatening behavior is always wrong and I do not condone it. It is wrong even if it is directed at someone who organises a group of armed people to stand outside a place of worship. Two wrongs do not make a right, and although there is apparently no legal recourse against his actions, I still hope that anyone making death threats is found, and prosecuted.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:24 PM on May 31, 2015


Rather unsurprisingly, it looks less like serious threats and more like fearmongering for just another wingnut welfare money grab:
KPNX television reporter Brahm Resnik tweeted on Sunday that Ritzheimer had set up a GoFundMe page to raise $10 million to “protect his family or run against” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
[...]
Ritzheimer told television station KSAZ on Friday that he was going into hiding after the rally, which drew hundreds of people, including many who opposed him.

“I’m having to sell my house,” Ritzheimer told the station. “My family’s been threatened, so they’re in hiding right now. I’m having to go into hiding after this because they’re calling for lone wolves to come and behead me.”

However, on Facebook, Ritzheimer said in a Saturday post that he would not run and hide but would “hunker down” in his “fighting hole” and “stick it out!”
Driving in the middle of the quiet desert with a clear mind. Writing key notes for my next big announcement. I've decided that if I die, it will be as a free man, and not as a coward. You will not find me in a hole like we found Saddam Hussein. I'm going to keep living free but keep my protection close and near. I'm a Marine and we don't run and hide. We hunker down in our fighting hole and we stick it out! I have a heightened sense of things out here when I'm alone. And I have more PEACEFUL ideas that I want to see take place across America.
It's almost as if this was his plan all along.
posted by zombieflanders at 7:06 AM on June 2, 2015 [3 favorites]




That article is a lot of nonsense. Ritzheimer said why organised the "protest": it was " in response to the recent attack in Texas"; it was "because of his opposition to Islam". He didn't mention economic reasons at all. But here's the author's take on it:
White suburbanites, like Ritzheimer, are angry for the right reasons. They’re angry they can’t find a well paying job - and if they have a job, they’re angry that their stagnant level wage cannot keep up with the pace of the cost of living.
[...]
When white suburbanites, like Ritzheimer, look beyond their household, they see decaying and crumbling infrastructure. A report found that more than 61,000 of the nation’s bridges are in urgent need of repair.
[...]
To reiterate, Americans like Ritzheimer are angry for the right reasons, they’re just blaming the wrong causes for their plight.
What? He thinks Ritzheimer is worried about bridges? This is such blatant projection that it's almost a parody. It's almost enough for me to omit poking fun at Noam Chomsky, but not quite:
“It is very similar to late Weimar Germany,” Chomsky told Hedges. “The parallels are striking…The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen…If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest, this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger, and the absence of any coherent response. What are people supposed to think if someone says, ‘I have got an answer, we have an enemy’? There it was the Jews, Here it will be the illegal immigrants and the blacks. We will be told white males are a persecuted minority. We will be told we have to defend ourselves and the honour of the nation. Military force will be exalted. People will be beaten up.”

“I have never seen anything like this in my lifetime,” Chomsky added.
Chomsky was born in 1928 and has been following politics since he was a young kid. He lived through Hitler's rise to power, the Spanish Civil War, the rise of the Iron Curtain, the invasion of Hungary, the Prague Spring, HUAC, the Vietnam War, you name it. That last line of his is just stupid hyperbole.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:10 PM on June 2, 2015 [1 favorite]


I don't live in the USA and this is a genuine question, not rhetorical: is there a Muslim or African-American group of Yee-Haw gun activists that have ever pulled off a stunt like this? I haven't heard of one, and I suppose that they would get their asses blown off if they tried, but that's just my prejudice speaking; maybe this sort of armament enthusiasm crosses all boundaries. So, are there are groups like the ones I describe? Or are all such groups predominantly composed of white males?
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:16 PM on June 2, 2015


Black power movements, (in)famously. This is an enlightening article about the history of gun rights and gun control in America. It argues that the Black Panthers launched the gun rights movement in 1967. And that the history of gun control legislation was, for a time, enacted for the purpose of disarming black radicals.
The Fourteenth Amendment illustrates a common dynamic in America’s gun culture: extremism stirs a strong reaction. The aggressive Southern effort to disarm the freedmen prompted a constitutional amendment to better protect their rights. A hundred years later, the Black Panthers’ brazen insistence on the right to bear arms led whites, including conservative Republicans, to support new gun control. Then the pendulum swung back. The gun-control laws of the late 1960s, designed to restrict the use of guns by urban black leftist radicals, fueled the rise of the present-day gun-rights movement—one that, in an ironic reversal, is predominantly white, rural, and politically conservative.
It also recounts this encounter between Huey Newton and police officers, which I find striking in our current racial situation especially...
In February of 1967, Oakland police officers stopped a car carrying Newton, Seale, and several other Panthers with rifles and handguns. When one officer asked to see one of the guns, Newton refused. “I don’t have to give you anything but my identification, name, and address,” he insisted. This, too, he had learned in law school.

“Who in the hell do you think you are?” an officer responded.

“Who in the hell do you think you are?,” Newton replied indignantly. He told the officer that he and his friends had a legal right to have their firearms.

Newton got out of the car, still holding his rifle.

“What are you going to do with that gun?” asked one of the stunned policemen.

“What are you going to do with your gun?,” Newton replied.

By this time, the scene had drawn a crowd of onlookers. An officer told the bystanders to move on, but Newton shouted at them to stay. California law, he yelled, gave civilians a right to observe a police officer making an arrest, so long as they didn’t interfere. Newton played it up for the crowd. In a loud voice, he told the police officers, “If you try to shoot at me or if you try to take this gun, I’m going to shoot back at you, swine.” Although normally a black man with Newton’s attitude would quickly find himself handcuffed in the back of a police car, enough people had gathered on the street to discourage the officers from doing anything rash. Because they hadn’t committed any crime, the Panthers were allowed to go on their way.

The people who’d witnessed the scene were dumbstruck. Not even Bobby Seale could believe it. Right then, he said, he knew that Newton was the “baddest motherfucker in the world.” Newton’s message was clear: “The gun is where it’s at and about and in.” After the February incident, the Panthers began a regular practice of policing the police. Thanks to an army of new recruits inspired to join up when they heard about Newton’s bravado, groups of armed Panthers would drive around following police cars. When the police stopped a black person, the Panthers would stand off to the side and shout out legal advice.
Whole thing is worth a read.
posted by naju at 5:15 PM on June 2, 2015 [6 favorites]


Also, the leadership of all of the major gun advocacy organizations have been pretty outspoken racists and Islamophobes, with zero visible pushback from membership. The NRA alone has an "enemies lists" of civil rights organizations, newsletters with racist caricatures and glorification of the Confederacy, multiple public statements that make explicit or lightly-concealed racist/Islamophobic remarks, and a long history of advocating violence against high-profile figures. They also continually appropriate Holocaust imagery and twist history to paint both Jews and non-Jews that oppose them as naive appeasers and cowards, and repeat myths about sexual assault (including hinting that those that don't arm themselves are responsible for what happens to them) while not speaking out against the extensive harassment of women who support gun control.

Again, this was just the latest and ugliest in a long line of attempts to deny Muslims and PoC their right to assemble and exercise their religion. The only difference between these goons and people like Geller is that they came out and said that they advocated violence "if necessary" (although they were clearly trying to incite it). Ritzheimer followed the script perfectly, down to the claim of threats, shilling for so-called protection money, and repeated chest-puffery about being a 'Murican hero.
posted by zombieflanders at 4:22 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


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