The American Conservative (TAC) has previously shown a tendency to downplay the jihad threat — as many paleocons do. I am no fan of Wilsonian interventionism and never have been, but TAC is veering toward active support of the Islamic supremacist agenda. Preposterous? Read on.
“Pamela Geller’s Free-Speech Hypocrisy,” by Kelley Vlahos, The American Conservative, May 15, 2015:
For those of us following Pamela Geller’s bombastic career over the course of the past decade, one of the most illuminating aspects of the aftermath of her otherwise tragic Texas Muhammad caricature contest, and its accompanying road show of anti-Muslim provocateurs, was how it revealed a fault line–however thin–over just how far the right should go in provoking Islamic fundamentalism.
Good question. How far should the Right, or the Left, or anyone go in “provoking Islamic fundamentalism”? The immediate answer would seem to be that we should do nothing to provoke violent jihadis, that the prudent thing to do would be to avoid doing things that anger them. If we did that, would they stop coming at us? Would there then be peace? Many people appear to think so. Kelley Vlahos and The American Conservative may not know that the Islamic State has a detailed plan to sow bloodshed and mayhem in Europe and the U.S. — one that was issued before our event and had nothing to do with it. Last September, an Islamic State spokesman boasted: “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women, by the permission of Allah, the Exalted. This is His promise to us; He is glorified and He does not fail in His promise. If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”
In light of that, what is the point of asking whether or not we should provoke them? They’re already provoked. A more useful question now is whether it is really productive and helpful to signal to them that we will acquiesce to their threats of violence and change our behavior accordingly, or whether we will instead signal to them that their violent threats are not going to frighten us into submission. That’s why we held the event. But in framing it as she does here, Vlahos signals her readiness to say, Yes, violent intimidation works. To bend us to your will, just threaten us with death. Then we will do anything you want, and refrain from any behaviors that offend you. It is the posture of surrender and submission.
Geller’s event was planned after 11 people at the magazine Charlie Hebdo were killed in January by Islamist attackers because of the magazine’s regular depictions of Muhammad and Islam. Two Muslim converts, Elton Simpson, 31, and Nadir Soofi, 34, whom police say have been communicating with ISIS over social media, attempted to storm the May 3 contest with assault rifles. They were killed when they exchanged fire with the two men providing security outside the event and a SWAT team that responded.
The SWAT team didn’t “respond.” It was already there. It was there from before the beginning of the event, because we hired it. We hired it because we knew that Islamic jihadists might target such an event, and we wanted to ensure that attendees were protected. And it worked. The SWAT team that we hired prevented Simpson and Soofi from committing mass murder at the event.
Such violence could have been expected, which was almost certainly the point.
Not really. We allowed for the possibility that there would be violence, which is why we hired the SWAT team as well as took other security measures, but violence was not inevitable. People who might take offense at something still control their own reactions to that offense. There is absolutely nothing that someone can do to someone else that will make a violent response absolutely necessary, expected, and inevitable. Whatever someone may say or do to me, how I choose to respond is up to me and only I am responsible for the choice I make. And a variety of choices are available to me. In a pluralistic society, we all have to put up with being offended by others who do not share our core beliefs, and we all must not respond with violence to being offended. Our single point was that, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo jihad massacre, we would not submit to violent intimidation. The violent response of Simpson and Soofi was their own choice and their own responsibility. They could have picketed instead, or written a letter to the editor, or called on Hamas-linked CAIR to issue a broadside castigating us as “Islamophobes,” or any number of other things. They chose instead to try to kill. That was up to them, and them only.
Geller and her associates “have the right to go there, but again, it’s stupid, it accomplishes nothing,” said Bill O’Reilly, whose brand of pop-conservative opinionating has kept him in the top seed of prime-time cable talk shows since he joined Fox News in 1996. “You don’t fish for [terrorists] by putting people in danger.”
No one was forced to be at this event. Every last person there was there voluntarily. We spent well over $20,000 on security to make sure that people were not in danger. And it worked. The problem with O’Reilly’s critique — and everyone else’s, for that matter — is that saying that Yes, you have the right to do it, but you shouldn’t exercise it because they will kill you is essentially ceding the right. And that will only encourage the killers to issue more threats and endeavor to curtail more of our behavior.
O’Reilly was chatting with Laura Ingraham, the sharp-tongued doyenne of right-wing talk radio. Ingraham is the pillar of truth or a priestess of hate, depending on the eye of the beholder, but numbers don’t lie—she has successfully made a name for herself in a male-dominated field in which hosts generally hew to the hard-line orthodoxy on immigration, terrorism, and religion.
But when it comes to Geller’s stunt in Garland, Ingraham seemed to be calling for a time out: “The idea that this is going to be beneficial to us—and I come to it from a Catholic Christian conservative perspective—to rile an entire faith this way … to do what was done at this (contest) … it not only doesn’t accomplish anything, but I think it could actually make things worse for us.”
Muhammad Atta on September 11, 2001 told the passengers on the plane he had hijacked: “Stay quiet and you’ll be OK.” The passengers complied, thinking that if they did anything, it could actually make things worse for them. So they went quietly to their deaths. As for riling an entire faith, there are so many things that rile Muslims, if we start curtailing our behavior on that basis, when will we stop? Muslims in Pakistan recently warned a Christian leader that if he continued to build churches, they would kill him. You might say, “Ah, but building churches isn’t the same as mocking their prophet,” and yet to those who are issuing these threats, building churches is indeed just as bad as mocking their prophet. Both, in fact, are forbidden in Islamic law — in other words, both “rile an entire faith.”
“Us” in this case means those who have made it their agenda to expose radical Islam as a tool of oppression and terror against non-believers. Taunting large numbers of Muslims over their belief that depictions Muhammad are tantamount to idolatry doesn’t help move “moderates” over to the side against extremism, she suggested.
The point was not in the slightest to taunt “large numbers of Muslims over their belief that depictions Muhammad are tantamount to idolatry.” The point was to stand up against those who believe that drawing Muhammad is justifiable grounds to commit mass murder. “Moderates” who disagree with the idea that Muhammad cartoonists should be killed in cold blood should have been standing with us, on the principle (long forgotten now) of “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Speaking strictly for myself, I didn’t particularly like a lot of what was in Charlie Hebdo, but I stood with them (not that they returned the favor, but they have surrendered now), because I understood what was at stake.
“There is a line that is crossed if you attack someone’s religion,” offered Mike Lofgren, a retired Republican congressional staffer who in 2012 wrote, The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted.
One wonders if Lofgren spoke this way about “Piss Christ” and the dung-encrusted painting of the Virgin Mary — or was he running on about free speech in those days, as were the New York Times and CNN and all the other media outlets that are castigating us now?
One of the first interviews granted by Geller after the May 3 incident was with Martha MacCallum at Fox. It did not go well. Kelleher flat-out asked Geller whether the conference was an appropriate way to combat extremism, citing criticism from billionaire gadfly Donald Trump and conservative Catholic ramrod Bill Donahue, both of whom said Geller’s event was “taunting” extremists and insulting all of Islam.
“When you embolden people, when you empower people, the haters, you’re going to get violence,” Donohue said in an earlier interview with Fox. “And so why would anybody who’s morally responsible want to intentionally incite other people? …We live in a sick society that some people think it’s good to taunt other people.”
Donahue, like many others, is allowing the jihadis to dictate the parameters of the discourse. We didn’t incite anyone. We neither called for nor condoned any violence. The Muslims who called for violence over drawing cartoons — they were the ones doing the inciting, and they are the ones who are responsible for the violence. Donahue has already ceded the field to the jihadis by allowing them to confuse his mind over this issue. As a Catholic, he should realize that the only one morally responsible for an act is the one who freely chose to perform the act.
Trump, who is no stranger to flamboyant publicity stunts, seemed scandalized by Geller’s tactics. “It looks like she’s actually taunting people,” Trump said. “It’s disgusting that [the shooting] happened and everything else, but what are they doing drawing Muhammad? Isn’t there something else they can draw?”
Sure. We could have drawn Bugs Bunny, or Donald Trump, or any other cartoonish figure. But we had to draw Muhammad, because violent thugs are threatening to kill people for drawing Muhammad –not Bugs or Donald. If a group of terrorists starts to say that anyone who draws Donald Trump will be summarily murdered, then it will become the duty of free people everywhere to start drawing Donald Trump, or else stop being free people.
Fox’s MacCallum pointed to Pope Francis, who went into a Turkish mosque to pray for the end of the wars. “I understand where you are coming from, but I’m not sure you went about the right way,” she charged.
“You’re looking to restrict my speech,” shot back Geller, who has spent the last 10 years trying to shut down places of worship and keep al-Jazeera off the air. She retreated to her favorite defensive position, behind the 1st Amendment, where Geller knows no constitutionally minded conservatives or liberals will go.
Click on the links Vlahos provides. Her link on “shut down places of worship” goes to our press release, “AFDI/SIOA Calls for Closure of Mosques That Breed Jihad Terror.” I’m for shutting down churches that are plotting violence and sedition as well. The First Amendment is not and never was some kind of blanket protection against investigation and prosecution for criminal activity. AFDI has never called for shutting down mosques in general, but only the three mosques named in that press release, all of which have numerous links to jihad terrorists. As for al-Jazeera, it is likewise not a First Amendment issue. As Geller abundantly documents in the articles on the page to which Vlahos links, al-Jazeera has numerous ties to jihad terror, and its editorial stance is pro-jihad. We should no more have al-Jazeera broadcasting in the U.S. today than we would have given Josef Goebbels a platform on the American airwaves during World War II.
“You’re asking me to abridge my speech so as not to offend savages,” she said, a line that was oft-repeated in the days after. “I’m not looking to denigrate anybody. I’m looking to rise everybody up.” She then compared herself to Rosa Parks, the black woman who sparked the end of the Jim Crow south by refusing to give up her seat on the bus to a white man in 1960.
A better comparison might be Sen. Joe McCarthy, who spent several years investigating, blacklisting, and destroying careers of citizens under the mantle of anti-Communism.
How ironic. I never heard of Kelley Vlahos until she began attacking Pamela Geller and me — this is (unless I missed any) her fourth article doing so. I never would have written a word about her had she not made it her mission to investigate, blacklist, and destroy the careers of Pamela Geller and me under the mantle of “conservatism.” If anyone deserves comparison to Joe McCarthy (at least as he is caricatured), it is people like Kelley Vlahos and Cathy Young, not Pamela Geller and me.
Geller may be talking cartoons right now, but just a few years ago she was demanding loyalty tests and warning an audience at her unofficial 2010 CPAC event that Islamists had infiltrated every level of the U.S. government.
Yes, that’s completely implausible, right? Anyone who thinks that the Obama Administration could possibly be infiltrated by Islamic supremacists must be crazy, right? Vlahos, and those who believe her, should consult this 2013 article by Andrew C. McCarthy, detailing how the direction of Obama’s State Department raises legitimate questions about infiltration.
At the same event, her Defense Initiative co-founder, Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch proceeded to snicker at the prospect of Muslim women shrinking away from full-body airport security scanners because their faith demands modesty. Any move to accommodate them would be a “perversity,” he said, because Muslims “made [full-body scanners] necessary.”
Vlahos, as I documented here, is an extremely sloppy, careless writer. Our organization is the American Freedom Defense Initiative, not the Defense Initiative. The SIOA project is Stop Islamization of America, not, as she has it below, Stop Islamicization of America. Likewise, it is now over five years since I corrected Vlahos in this post (which she knows about, as she commented upon it at the time): I didn’t say “perversity,” I said “absurdity.” In any case, does Vlahos really think that the scanners were put in place for any reason other than Islamic jihad terror, even though no one would say that publicly?
And as I also wrote then, “I was not expressing scorn for the modesty of Muslim women, as Kelley Beaucar Vlahos suggests, but for the idea that Muslims should be exempt from these scanners when it was the actions of jihadis that made them necessary.” I still believe that. I oppose such scanners, but if they’re in place, I don’t believe Muslims should be exempt from them, any more than anyone else should be.
This was just one in a string of several statements and innuendo showing how he and Geller really feel about Muslims, despite their flimsy public exhortations to the contrary. “Everyone knows Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by a tiny minority,” Spencer said acidly to a room of knowing guffaws. Like people who “believe in Santa Claus, though no one has ever seen it.”
So apparently The American Conservative believes that Islam is a Religion of Peace. Well, I hope Santa brings Kelly Vlahos everything she wants this Christmas.
Just two months later, Geller started the group Stop Islamicization [sic] of America and led a rally through the streets of downtown Manhattan in order to shut down the construction of an Islamic center she declared to be an affront to the victims of 9/11.
Here is more of Vlahos’ carelessness with the facts. We didn’t hold a rally through the streets. It was not a march or a procession. It was in one place. And it wasn’t to shut down construction of the mosque. Construction had not begun. It was to protest against the construction of what would certainly have been viewed around the Islamic world as a triumphal mosque on the site of a jihad victory, a la the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount, the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, etc.
The only connection between the center and the dead 9/11 hijackers, of course, was that they shared the same faith. Just like Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, a Christian, shared his religion with 173 million adult Americans. Nevertheless, the center became synonymous with terror, and the project appears forever on hold. That is how Geller and Spencer operate.
Hardly anything in these sentences is true. We never claimed that the Ground Zero Mosque was “synonymous with terror.” The closest connection anyone involved with it had with terror was the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s connections to the Muslim Brotherhood — Muslim Brotherhood organizations financed the publication of one of his books. Our objections to the Ground Zero Mosque centered wholly on its being a triumphal mosque (as it would inevitably have been viewed, whatever the intentions of its developers may have been) and that it was indeed an insult to the victims, just as a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor would be. McVeigh was not a Christian at the time of his bombing, and did not bomb the building in Oklahoma City because of Christian principles — in stark contrast to the declared motives of the perpetrators of 9/11.
It is difficult for Geller, 58, not to tip her anti-Muslim hand.
Geller is 56. This is not something that is hard to find on the Internet, and shows yet again that Kelley Vlahos simply doesn’t care about being accurate.
A wealthy socialite who loves the spotlight and the camera, she often lapses into her real feelings during press interviews, such as this one with The Times of Israel. After calling herself a “human rights activist,” Geller all but declares that the only path for a Muslim to become moderate is to stop being so Muslim.
Vlahos’ tendentious paraphrase here only reveals that she herself is completely ignorant of and/or indifferent to the ways that jihad terrorists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism, and to make recruits among peaceful Muslims. At this point, there is so much evidence of this that it demonstrates virulent moral blindness to pretend that it isn’t so.
Later on in the interview, she declared that “all of the major Muslim organizations in the U.S. are linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. That is not a conspiracy theory, that is conspiracy fact.” Since Geller and her friends believe that members of the Muslim Brotherhood are terrorists-in-waiting, is she not saying all major Islamic organizations in the U.S. (representing more than 5 million Muslim-Americans today) are linked to terrorism and should therefore be investigated and/or shuttered?
The Muslim Brotherhood, according to a captured internal document, “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” — Mohamed Akram, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America,” May 22, 1991, Government Exhibit 003-0085, U.S. vs. HLF, et al. P. 7 (21). Recently the relevance and importance of this document has been called into question; Patrick Poole ably answers here.
This same document listed all the major Muslim organizations in the U.S. as Brotherhood organizations. Does the fact that they represent a lot of Muslims mean they shouldn’t be investigated, and shut down if necessary? The National Socialists once had a huge following in Germany. Did that fact mean they should not have been fought against?
Then there is her association with Geert Wilders, who joined her event in Texas. The Dutch parliamentarian and frequent guest on the Geller train is known for calling for a ban on the Koran and for staunching the flow of Muslims into Europe.
Actually, Wilders has called for a European First Amendment, i.e., protection of the freedom of speech in Europe. His call to ban the Qur’an was actually only a call for consistency in the application of laws banning books that preach hatred and violence. He wants those laws repealed.
He told Fox’s Sean Hannity on Tuesday that he wanted to plan a Muhammad cartoon expo in the parliament to show that they weren’t intimidated. When asked if he was “anti-Islam,” Wilders said simply, “Well, I’m certainly not anti-Muslim, but indeed I believe Islam is a threat to our civilization.”
Kelley Vlahos apparently hasn’t noticed all the recent jihad plots, and the threats and murder coming from the Islamic State.
Geller’s approach has gotten her into trouble with conservatives before. There is a reason her group is never allowed an official presence at CPAC, which is one of the biggest grassroots right-wing convocations of the year.
Yes, and the reason is called Grover Norquist, whose own associations with Islamic supremacists are well documented.
Some of its attendees might agree with much of what Jihad Watch and Geller’s longtime blog, Atlas Shrugs, dish out, but organizers apparently won’t take any chances with having what the Anti-Defamation League has called Geller’s “anti-Muslim bigotry” bringing a lot of unwelcome press onto their annual confab.
It doesn’t help that Geller, Spencer, and their pal Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy have accused CPAC of treating with terrorists, particularly targeting organizer Suhail Kahn [sic] and long-time conservative power-broker and CPAC board member Grover Norquist. Not only have all three attacked Norquist for allegedly hanging out with “radicals” and accused Kahn [sic] of being one but they have also charged the popular Americans for Tax Reform president with bringing jihadists into the Bush White House, and they have repeatedly assailed Norquist’s wife.
Re Suhail Khan, see here.
“Grover Norquist’s ties to Islamic supremacists and jihadists have been known for years. He and his Palestinian wife, Samah Alrayyes—who was director of communications for his Islamic Free Market Institute until they married in 2005—are very active in ‘Muslim Outreach,’” Geller wrote in 2010. She goes on to elaborately connect-the-dots between the “silver tongued jihadists” he supposedly introduced to President Bush with card-carrying terrorist sympathizers, saying Norquist “had given Muslims with jihad terror links access to the highest levels of the U.S. government.”
Even Joe McCarthy could hardly make such guilt-by-association charges and call it a fight for America’s freedom.
Norquist accepted money from Abdurrahman Alamoudi, who is in prison for financing al-Qaeda. That is hardly some flimsy guilt-by-association charge.
When the same tactics are turned on Geller, however, she calls it an affront to her own freedom of speech, such as when intrepid writers pointed out that Norwegian white nationalist, Islamophobe, and mass murderer Anders Breivik was a big fan of Geller and Spencer, calling her, in his 5,000-page manifesto, one of the “decent human beings” under attack for speaking truth to power. He went on to cite her blog 12 times and Spencer’s Jihad Watch 116 times.
It is worth noting that these numbers always change. Whenever someone is smearing us, they bring up this Norwegian killer, but the numbers of times he cited us are always different in every smear piece. No one can seem to settle on how many times he actually did cite us, and Kelley Vlahos is so careless with the facts that her numbers certainly can’t be trusted.
From Slate, shortly after the killings:
He cited [Geller’s] blog, Atlas Shrugs, and the writings of her friends, allies, and collaborators—Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, Islam Watch, and Front Page magazine—more than 250 times. And he echoed their tactics, tarring peaceful Muslims with the crimes of violent Muslims.
When do we ever really do that? Never, of course.
He wrote that all Muslims sought to impose “sharia laws” and that “there are no important theological differences between jihadists and so-called ‘peaceful’ or ‘moderate’ Muslims.”
Kelley Vlahos isn’t honest enough to tell you that Breivik wrote this about me and others: “If these authors are to [sic] scared to propagate a conservative revolution and armed resistance then other authors will have to.” (Breivik, 2083: A European Declaration of Independence, p. 743) In other words, the very thing Vlahos is accusing Geller and me of doing — inciting Breivik to violence — is ruled out by the killer himself, who explained that it was actually al-Qaeda that inspired him to kill.
Still right-wing writers like NRO’s Rich Lowry and the daddy of the radio demagogues, Rush Limbaugh, defend her, mostly against her liberal detractors. They know their audience: the same sort of people who supported ill-fated presidential candidate Herman Cain, who said he would institute loyalty tests for all incoming staff at the White House, and Newt Gingrich, who likened the fight against Sharia in the U.S. to the American Revolution.
What was Vlahos saying about guilt by association?
Perhaps, however, the comments by Ingraham, O’Reilly, and other conservatives indicate Geller can no longer take their tolerance of her for granted. Does she care? Never. As she told Breitbart.com, her conservatives critics are weak sisters, “desperately afraid that the leftist media will smear them by association with me,” she said. “It is an act of sheer cowardice.”
Indeed. As is Vlahos’ piece.
Everyone–even neoconservative critics who call her “shameful”–insists that Geller’s free speech is sacrosanct. But what makes some conservatives especially uneasy is that her rigid stance against Islam raises implications for their own religious freedom movement, not to mention that it’s unclear whether her “free speech” is primarily about denying someone else’s. She is also drawing fire, literally. Even the mayor of the unfortunate town where the attack happened said she invited the attack.
“That’s the price we pay for living in a relatively free society,” said Mike Lofgren. “But if someone ends up getting killed as a result of her shenanigans, she really might want to rethink this stuff.”
In other words, surrender, do what the Islamic jihadists tell you to do, and maybe they’ll go easy on us.
The American Conservative is a disgrace. One of its foremost writers is Rod Dreher, who once seemed to have some grasp of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat. Ironically, Dreher recently wrote a piece about how living as a Christian in the West was going to become increasingly difficult and dangerous in the coming years.
Dreher was talking about persecution by aggressive secularists. He didn’t mention the Islamic State’s vow to murder “the worshippers of the cross” — not just in the Middle East, but in the United States as well. If they get a chance to do so on a large scale, it will be thanks in part to the efforts of Dreher’s colleague Kelley Vlahos to defame and discredit those who tried to sound the alarm.