Whipping up the Mob

An example of the corrosive demagoguery that can flow from raw blog sewage is on display at Atlas Shrugs, whose author, Pamela Geller, was profiled in yesterday’s New York Times. Hers is a case study in why you can’t ignore the influence of charismatic, zealously driven, talented bloggers, especially those who are spearheading a mini-culture war. From the Times story:

Operating largely outside traditional Washington power centers “” and, for better or worse, without traditional academic, public-policy or journalism credentials “” Ms. Geller, with a coterie of allies, has helped set the tone and shape the narrative for a divisive national debate over Park51 (she calls the developer a “thug” and a “lowlife”). In the process, she has helped bring into the mainstream a concept that after 9/11 percolated mainly on the fringes of American politics: that terrorism by Muslims springs not from perversions of Islam but from the religion itself. Her writings, rallies and television appearances have both offended and inspired, transforming Ms. Geller from an Internet obscurity, who once videotaped herself in a bikini as she denounced “Islamofascism,” into a media commodity who has been profiled on “60 Minutes” and whose phraseology has been adopted by Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin.

Geller is Jewish, which I find interesting, because she has become famous for demonizing a whole religion and people, in much the same way that many have demonized Jews throughout history.

For additional, related historical perspective on religious fear-mongering, do read this story.

13 Responses to “Whipping up the Mob”

  1. BenSix says:

    I read Atlas Shrugs before it was famous. *Preens*. And I thought “this stuff will probably disappear when George Bush goes“. One more thing to add to my Proust-thick catalogue of errors.
    Still, I’m not entirely sure if Geller’s all that serious
    I have no problem with hijab, I have no problem with burqa, I have no problem with purple hair. I don’t care. What I’m saying is the separation of mosque and state needs vigilance, that’s what I’m saying
    If that’s all she cares about what’s wrong with halal soup or Mosques at – well, a few blocks away from – Ground Zero? I think she’s confuzzled and, with her sleep patterns, I don’t blame her.

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    A similar theme (is she serious?) ran through a profile of another rhetorical bomb thrower over the weekend.

  3. Pascvaks says:

    With so many on the far left of the bell curve, it’s interesting to read about one on the other side.  I guess I tend to be one of those who  think that Islam has some work to do on its image in the West. The site for the mosque, in my humble and personal opinion, is designed to send a message to the world of Islam that there WAS a connection between 911 and Islam and this would-be mosque is the proof of the pudding.  In effect, saying under their breath but doing for all to see, “See what we did, thanks to our brothers who died on 911?  Etc., Etc.”

  4. Huge Difference says:

    Near as I can tell what Geller and her friends say is look at the Koran, and then they tell you their interpretation and it becomes an academic discussion.  Your scholars vs. their scholars.
    What others say is Jews killed Christ. Jews aren’t human. Jews made a deal with Satan.
    Geller stands up for apostates, for victims of honor killings, for victims of female genital mutilation.
    What your other people do is stone Jews, kill Jews.
    Geller is against one mosque for reasons she clearly articulates.
    Your other people bomb synagogues.
    Geller stands up for free speech and separation of Church and State.
    Do you remember free speech and separation of Church and State Keith?
    Since you claim to be a reporter, I would expect you to research your claims before you put them down, even in a blog post.

  5. Well, there is no question that Geller is somewhat over the top; however, to be fair, the NYT’s portrayal could probably have benefitted from some fact-checking. According to Geller’s response to the article (I believe there’s a link in one of the comments on the NYT article) they did take some liberties.  

     I’m inclined to agree with Pascvaks.  One might also want to consider a recent post by Barry Rubin 


    “This is one of those obscure  Middle East events of the utmost significance that is ignored by the Western mass media, especially because they happen in Arabic, not English; by Western governments, because they don’t fit their policies; and by experts, because they don’t mesh with their preconceptions.
    “the Muslim Brotherhood is ready to move from the era of propaganda and base-building to one of revolutionary action. At least, its hundreds of thousands of followers are being given that signal. Some of them will engage in terrorist violence as individuals or forming splinter groups; others will redouble their efforts to seize control of their countries and turn them into safe areas for terrorists and instruments for war on the West.

    “When the extreme and arguably marginal British Muslim cleric Anjem Choudary says that Islam will conquer the West and raise its flag over the White House, that can be treated as wild rhetoric. His remark is getting lots of attention because he said it in English in an interview with CNN. Who cares what he says?

    “But when the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood says the same thing in Arabic, that’s a program for action, a call to arms for hundreds of thousands of people, and a national security threat to every Western country.”

    I wonder if this “call to arms” might have contributed to the recent travel advisory alert.

  6. allenm says:

    “I guess I tend to be one of those who  think that Islam has some work to do on its image in the West. ”
    Indonesia  with a population of  238 million, the bulk of whom are Muslim,  is the largest Islamic society in the world.Indonesia has a secular government and tolerant society. One of the major gripes of my Indonesian friends is the portrayal  of Islam in the West. They tend to think that the western attitude towards Islam is simplistic, arrogant  and ignorant.

  7. Keith Kloor says:

    HD (4):

    Interesting interpretation of Geller.  As for what she and her like-minded hysterics are doing, I think Andrew Exum at CNAS gets it right here:

    “This staff editorial in National Review — like so much of the rhetoric deployed in opposition to the proposed mosque near Ground Zero — is disgusting. The passions expressed in it — and it is, fundamentally, an argument based on emotion and not reason — are a threat to American values and freedom. On the one hand, you would think “conservatives” would be pretty clear on matters related to the freedom to practice one’s religion — not to mention private property rights. But when that religion is Islam, what passes for “conservativism” these days apparently takes a vacation….Demonizing a minority sect is not the right thing. Neither is seeking to restrict their right to free assembly through a public campaign of intimidation.”

  8. Tom C says:

    Mr. Kloor –

    Your “related historical perspective” is not related at all.  The Catholics were not seeking to build the church on a site that had recently been detroyed by Catholic fanatics.  Not did they want to give the church a name that purposefully expressed violent Catholic conquest.  If you don’t think that the siting and naming of this mosque celebrates 911 as an Islamic triumph you are naive or ignorant of history.  That they have the right to do it does not make it right.

  9. Huge Difference says:

    Keith a couple of other notes.  I’m not sure what a complaint at CNAS about National Review has to do with Pam Geller.
    Also, as a point of historical context, it’s interesting to listen to Geller’s sister who says (I am paraphrasing from memory) that their parents were Democrats and staunch liberals during the 60, 70s, and so on.  I’m not saying you are wrong to consider Geller a conservative, but think of what has happened to many staunch liberals of the 60s and liberalism in particular, especially as you join the crowds stating how she is a demonizing conservative.  Maybe Keith, YOU are the individual doing the demonizing.
    Also, and this may be a stretch so I ask a big favor from you to hear me out, there is a bit of a hint of actual anti-semitism and a real logic fail in your claim that Geller needs to be more sensitive and open to other religions and not critique them.  And please, I don’t think you are an anti-semite at all, I think the argument you made is a logic fail that has an implicit anti-semitic assumption behind it.
    The logic fail is that since Jews were subject to religious discrimination, therefore they cannot make any statements critiquing other religions.  That’s a logic fail.  Someone beat you up last week, so you cannot defend yourself this week.
    And it has a very slight hint of anti-semitism in it.  By making the claim that Jews should not be critiquing other religions because other religions and other people critiqued Jews, you are sort of saying that criticism against Judaism was valid.  Well it wasn’t valid. It was blood libel.  It was satanic rituals.  It was Jews are subhuman.  Geller never says anything like that about Islam.
    Again, the very nature of Geller’s critique against Islamic extremism is very very different from the critiques that were made against Jews.  And that should be pretty clear.
    If you want to take on her arguments and prove her wrong, then prove her wrong.  Don’t just be a part of the crowd and say she is demonizing people.  Just another brown person hater.  Take on her specific arguments.  Take on what she says the Koran says.  Prove her wrong intellectually.  Prove that when she says you cannot trust what Muslims say because of Taquiya, prove that wrong.
    It’s the same as in climate change right?  Battling scholars and lots of people trying to confuse the argument with politics and what good liberals should do.
    Don’t do that.  Be the journalist.

  10. Huge Difference says:

    Regarding Andrew’s article:
    “Writing as a Christian, I am firmly within the majority in the United States. As a Protestant Christian, I am also within the majority. And as an Evangelical Protestant Christian, I belong to the largest subset of all Christians in the United States. …
    Defending America starts with defending our values. “We” are America. And “we” are Christians and Jews and Muslims and Athiests.”
    Exum is part of the largest of the largest of the largest.  When he says that he doesn’t believe radical Islam is a threat to him, I believe him.  It’s easy for him to say.  Geller is part of a group of Americans that’s on a par in size with Muslims.  A quick wikiing reveals Jews are only 3 times the size of Muslims in number.
    I actually don’t agree with Geller on many, if not most issues.
    But when you and Exum and others dismiss her arguments by rotely saying she is a bigot and a demonizer, well that is when I say, that is easy for you to say from your position as part of the biggest of the biggest of the biggest group.  But it’s not terribly persuasive stripped of the ad hominem and it’s intellectually vapid.
    Take on her claims and demolish them.  Show why one small minority group really has no reason to fear that other small minority group.  (Ten minutes, worth 20% of your final grade.)
    As a layman in religious issues as well as climate issues, I rely on reporters to not take sides, and to not just act as stenographers, and to not just editorialize what good minded people should think and do.   I rely on journalists to present the issues and to dig and to stop retweeting.
    (Although that said, I actually prefer good old fashioned yellow journalism telling only one side to new modern journalists can be objective and unbiased and neutral journalism attempting to hide lazy careerism journalism)

  11. Pascvaks  writes:
    “With so many on the far left of the bell curve, it’s interesting to read about one on the other side.”
    Seriously? A ranter on the right is a novelty to you?  Do you just not read or listen to the radio or watch TV much, or does a right-winger have to be *extra super special* crazy for you to consider them outliers?

  12. Huge Difference says:


    European Jewish communities are in serious danger’

    10/14/2010 15:15

    European Jewish Congress calls on governments to launch campaign against intolerance, anti-Semitism to remember “Never Again” concept.

    The European Jewish Congress (EJC) claimed that certain European Jewish communities are in serious danger after a recent wave of anti-Semitism, according to a statement released by the organization Thursday.

    The statement gave a recent example of a respected and government-funded Catholic school in Antwerp that hosted a “˜Palestine Day’, which was replete with anti-Semitic references and activities for youngsters.

    Analysis: Why don’t Norwegians take on anti-Semitism?
    ‘Anti-Semitism is worse in 2010 than 1910’
    Analysis: Turning Israel, Diaspora Jewry into a punching bag

    One stall at the event was titled “Throw the soldiers into the sea” where children were invited to throw replicas of Jewish and Israeli soldiers into two large tanks, the organization highlighted.

    The EJC, which is the democratically elected representative umbrella organization of European Jewry, is calling on European governments and the European Union to launch a campaign against intolerance and anti-Semitism, so to remind European citizens that the new Europe was established after the Second World War on the concept of “Never Again.”

    A number of examples of anti-Semitsm in Europe were highlighted by the EJC in an attempt to bring the issue to the attention of decison makers in Europe.

    Another one of the examples highlighted by the organization involved anti-Semitism experienced in the Malmo Jewish community. An event organized for children of the Jewish community was disrupted after gang of thugs shouted  “Heil Hitler” and “Jewish pigs.”

    Newly elected mayor of the Swedish city, Ilmar Reepalu, considered the rise in anti-Semitsm an understandable consequence of the Israel-Palestine conflict and claimed “we accept neither Zionism nor anti-Semitism,” equating Jewish national self-determination with hate and racism.

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