Why Is Simon & Schuster Spreading the Wild Conspiracy Theories of an Unhinged Islamophobic Blogger?
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Threshold Editions, the imprint upon which megapublisher Simon & Schuster dumps books it’s too ashamed to release under its own name, made a ballsy bet: that Pamela Geller -- a deeply unhinged blogger who famously claimed that Barack Obama is the bastard child of Malcolm X -- has an audience sufficiently large and loyal to justify a six-figure advance. Makes sense! If MSNBC, Fox, NBC and CNN have Geller on, the pool of inbred, 50-something Tea Partiers desirous of an icky melange of silicone and Tom Tancredo talking points cannot possibly have gone dry. Right?
Mary Matalin, the head of the imprint, is making a play for a crowd that can’t spell “niggar” but won’t mind reading a book about a man they see as just that -- so long as it confirms their half-baked theories. What better way to siphon off Tea Partiers than through a lady who cheerfully befouls the Upper West Side with a toxic brew of rotating hatreds? On days ending in Y this includes Muslims (“The motor of this presidency is submission to Islam”), transgenders (“Does [Obama] chill with anyone who is normal?”) and health care reform -- or as she calls it, “ rape.”
This is bull goose loony territory, but it happens to be the language of modern conservatism. William Buckley’s body had not been in the ground 10 minutes before the National Review embraced Geller, happily laundering stories they wouldn’t publicly touch with a 10-foot noose. Here’s how it works: A couple weeks prior to the last presidential election, a Review editor linked to Geller’s blog and asked, “What is the deal with Obama's birth certificate and citizenship status?” (Sort of like Seinfeld, but Catholic!) This, in turn, gave the magazine license to spend 4,000 words answering the question.
In another era, Pam Geller would be rotting away on Blackwell’s Island, counting cockroaches. Instead, the former associate publisher of the New York Observer managed to parlay her ability to find common cause with fascists and mid-level neo-Nazis, and her overt hatred of Muslims and liberal Jews, into an asset instead of a disqualifier. For Geller, a Borscht Belt Ann Coulter shtick is profitable.
Which brings us, alas, to the book. The Post-American Presidency is filled with complete sentences and grammar that is not conspicuously bad. But the chapter and section headings tell the tale: "An Islamo-Christian Nation," "Freedom of Speech in the Age of Jihad," "ACORN: Federally Funded Fraud," "Muslims in High Places," and so on. The John Birch book club search for a summer read is over.
That the book exists at all is a genuine testament to the editors. The ideas are straight out of Geller’s blog. Sure, the unfiltered language is mostly gone -- headlines such as "Obama, Arab American Bastard," " Obama Monkeys With Racism" and "President Ball Sucker" are nowhere to be found -- but the underlying notions remain. Simon & Schuster has made Geller’s words just presentable enough not to embarrass the rest of its stable (Karl Rove, Glenn Beck, a few Congressmen, etc.) but didn’t sanitize it so much that her howler monkey fans will be angry.
Look at The Post-American Presidency as a Harper’s Index:
Number of times President Obama is referred to as Barack Hussein Obama (excluding notes and index): 52
Number of times the phrase "new world order" appears: 1
Number of pedophiles with whom Geller implies Obama had a less-than-wholesome relationship: 1
Number of conspiracies involving Timothy Geithner and Barack Obama’s mother: 1