Pamela Geller has a lot in common with radical Islamists. They both create venues to attract followers and bait their opponents. They both use freedom of speech as a tool to promote their causes, but neither one is a complete proponent of it. While Geller’s tactics pale in comparison to the jihadists', both are zealots and we should beware of their attempted manipulation.
Blogger Pamela Geller’s Muhammad drawing contest was a lightning rod event intended to echo the situation of Charlie Hebdo in France. After it was advertised, two young Muslim men drove 1,000 miles from Arizona to Garland, Texas, where the contest was held and opened fire on police, shooting one in the foot before being killed by a policeman. The event drew both supporters and adversaries.
While Geller’s tactics pale in comparison to the jihadists', both are zealots and we should beware of their attempted manipulation.
Geller claims that she believes in freedom of speech, but she picks and chooses. If she really felt all speech should be free, why didn't she give equal prize money to each contestant? Instead, she concluded that one cartoon was better than the rest and bestowed the artist with a check for $12,500.
Geller has restricted freedom of speech in previous stunts. In a 2006 YouTube video, where she thanked U.S. troops for defending her freedom of expression while dressed only in a bathing suit, she closed the comments section, and over the weekend made the video private, after her life had been threatened by jihadists. Once again she used the rubric of freedom of speech, but did not allow free expression from others, and is now censoring herself.
Jihadists use the Internet to publish their gory beheading videos. This particular expression of their freedom of speech attracts people who rejoice in the slayings as well as those who are repulsed by them. The executioner who killed journalist James Foley appealed to President Obama personally during the video. The killer exercised his freedom of speech while murdering someone who actually practiced freedom of speech, who reported on people with conflicting views. Like Geller, but to a far more extreme degree, the executioner enjoyed his freedom of expression while denying others theirs.
Consistent with their free-speech hypocrisy, these jihadists issue death threats against those who depict the prophet Muhammad. Yet, the jihadists who appear on video and in photos are themselves breaking the hadith that forbids “the creation of pictures and the replication of the human image,” writes Sohaira Siddiqui, an assistant professor at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar.
Many are simply tired of all the killings and long for each side to tell the truth.
American media consumers who have developed critical autonomy can independently analyze the forces at play in the propaganda battles between Geller and the jihadists. They can spot inconsistent and hypocritical arguments and decide not to be polarized or terrorized by them. Many are simply tired of all the killings and long for each side to tell the truth.
The truth, if it were told, might look very similar. Geller and other targets must feel insulted, oppressed and now literally threatened by the jihadists. But the jihadists and Islamists also have cause to feel insulted, oppressed and threatened.
It’s time for a truce.