How a Lunatic, Racist Blogger Is Fanning Hate Against Muslims -- With the Help of Our Dumb Media
Pamela Geller, the once-obscure right-wing blogger known for peddling hateful, wildly over-the-top rhetoric (she once claimed that Barack Obama was the bastard stepchild of Malcom X) and for pulling stunts like taping a harangue against Muslims while clad in a bikini, has parlayed the anti-mosque hysteria sweeping across America into mainstream media attention just in time to promote her new book, The Post-American Presidency.
Geller and co-author Robert Spencer have been relentlessly promoting the “nontroversy” over the Park 51 project. According to a profile in the Guardian, the pair have “been at the forefront of drumming up opposition to the center, two blocks from Ground Zero, through an array” of organizations like the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and Stop Islamisation of America (SIOA). The groups “have become increasingly influential as conservative politicians exploit anti-Muslim sentiment before November's congressional and state elections.”
The groups’ ideology is reminiscent of the reckless demagoguery of Joe McCarthy. According to the Guardian, AFDI “says it is fighting ‘specific Islamic supremacist initiatives in American cities’ and hunting down ‘infiltrators of our federal agencies'." SIOA, which bills itself as a human rights organization "is tied to a similar group, Stop Islamisation of Europe, which goes by the motto: ‘Racism is the lowest form of human stupidity, but Islamophobia is the height of common sense.’"
The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg calls Geller a “lunatic racist,” and laments the “very depressing” fact that despite being “a marginal nutbag… it seems as if she's setting the national agenda now on matters related to Islam and religious freedom.” Spencer previously penned several books advancing dark conspiracy theories about Islam, including Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs. He’s also the proprietor of Jihad Watch, a wingnut Web site that helped raise thousands of dollars to pay for a controversial ad campaign smearing the Park 51 project on New York City buses.
According to the Guardian, Geller’s blog, Atlas Shrugs, “lays bare her sympathies with extremist groups across the globe.” Geller “vigorously defended Slobodan Milosevic” when he was tried for war crimes at the Hague, denying that the Serbs committed atrocities during the 1990s. She has “allied herself with racist extremists in South Africa in promoting a claim that the black population is carrying out a ‘genocide’ of whites,” and says that she “shares the goals” of the far-right English Defense League (EDL). "We need to encourage rational, reasonable groups [like the EDL] that oppose the Islamisation of the West,” she wrote. Geller has also embraced Geert Wilders, the far-right Dutch politician who advocates banning the Qu'ran.
While Geller and Spencer have been basking in the glare of mainstream coverage, some of her fellow agitators have taken a lower profile, and for good reason. Their past writings reveal a history of extremism and bigotry that should lay to rest any notion that the organized opposition to the Islamic community center being built near the site of the former World Trade Center is based on “sensitivity” to the 9/11 victims.
According to Charles Johnson, a right-wing blogger who had a noisy falling out with Geller when the latter appeared at a conference organized by European fascists (apparently that was a bridge too far even for Johnson, who was described by Gawker as a “hysterical right-wing Muslim-hating blogger”), Geller founded AFDI with attorney David Yerushalmi, who, according to journalist Bruce Wilson, advocated “legislation that would effectively outlaw Islam in the United States by imposing 20 year jail sentences on practicing Muslims.”
Yerushalmi's bile isn’t limited to Islam. In an article titled “On Race: a Tentative Discussion” (PDF), Yerushalmi begins by calling Islam “an evil religion,” and “blacks … the most murderous of peoples,” before calling into question whether women and people of color should be allowed to vote. “There is a reason the founding fathers did not give women or black slaves the right to vote,” he wrote. “You might not agree or like the idea but this country’s founders, otherwise held in the highest esteem for their understanding of human nature and its affect on political society, certainly took it seriously.” According to Johnson, “Yerushalmi has deleted as much evidence of the “On Race” article as he could; he removed it from the Internet Archive and the Google cache, and put his entire Web site behind a registration wall.”
According to Wilson, Yerushalmi, an orthodox Jew, also reviles the majority of American Jews who tend to hold more liberal views. When Mel Gibson launched an alcohol-fueled rant about the perfidy of Jews during a traffic stop in Malibu, Yerushalmi defended him, writing:
That Gibson sees Jews in an unfavorable light is only irrational if one wishes to make the argument that secular liberal Jews are not in fact the leading proponents of all forms of anti-Western, anti-American, anti-Christian movements, campaigns, and ideologies.
It’s hard to imagine, but another of Geller’s fellow travelers makes Yerushalmi look almost moderate by comparison. John Joseph Jay, who sits on the FDI board, has openly called for violence against Muslims. "Every person in Islam, from man to woman to child may be our executioner,” he wrote. “In short …there are no innocents in Islam ... all of Islam is at war with us, and all of Islam is/are combatant [sic]." Jay, who, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate-Watch, boasted that “you will find out that I am interested in weapons, that I have some proficiency in them,” concluded: “why should muslims get a free pass? if it is right for muslims to kill non-believers, then why is it no less right for the rest of us to kill muslims? [sic]”
According to Hate-Watch, Jay “expanded on his advocacy of violence against Muslims to include people in positions of power.”
He commented on his blog about a magazine article regarding America’s “ruling class” as follows: “friends, if you wish to retain and preserve individual virtue, you are going to have to kill in order to do so. if we are to excise the ruling class, it will be with violence. they used violence to attain their privilege, they use it nakedly in the form of the s.i.e.u. [an apparent reference to the SEIU, the Service Employees International Union] and black panther thugs in elective politics to maintain it, they contemplate relocation camps to preserve it. … buy guns. buy ammo. be jealous of your liberties. and understand, you are going to have to kill folks, your uncles, your sons and daughters, to preserve those liberties. (sic)”
These are some of the people the Guardian describes as the “leading force in a growing and ever more alarmist campaign against the supposed threat of an Islamic takeover at home and global jihad abroad.” Their views are as extreme as one might imagine, yet they've come to be embraced by politicians like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, and far too many angry, fearful Americans.
Correction: an earlier version of this story claimed that Slobodan Milosevic was convicted at the Hague; he died in prison before a verdict was returned.