Most trade publishers declined to offer Pamela Geller’s brazen book, “Fatwa: Hunted in America”, and I rather agree, there may have been an element of fear in their declinations. So Milo Yiannopoulos made his little publishing company called “Dangerous Books” (founded after his own fallout with Simon and Schuster over the bad “rumors” about his own supposed advocacies last February) a multiple author one, and took up the project himself, publishing (Miami) her 251-page epistle, which includes endnotes but no index.
The book is not particularly polished and tends to be a bit repetitious, sometimes screed-like; Milo’s own writing skills seem superior to Pamela’s. But she hits hard the point of drowning free speech with tribalism and intimidation, and the book needs attention. The book includes a foreword by Geert Wilders, “the Dutch Donald Trump”, who, like Geller, was banned (in his case temporarily) from entering the UK purely out of fear that his presence would agitate violence. Wilders writes quite succinctly that the Left has turned its head on its traditional causes (especially gay rights) to defend Muslims as a minority.
Pamela Geller is probably best known for her May 2015 “draw the prophet” contest, which was attempted at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas. Having lived in Dallas myself from 1979-1988, I am familiar with the area, on the northeast side of the city, just north of I-635, to the east of the wealthier Richardson and Plano suburbs along 175. Two extremists attempted to attack the gathering and were shot by security and police, and later killed by a swat team. Geller only briefly mentions the 2010 “Everybody draw Muhammad Day” organized by Molly Norris, which resulted in her disappearance into hiding in something like a witness-protection program (CNN). The Norris narrative really would justify the title of the book (as well as reminding me of the 2006 Lifetime movie “Family in Hiding”). Of course, Norris followed on the Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy in Denmark . That would culminate in the terror attack and assassinations at Charlie Heebdo in January 2015 in Paris (and generate the documentary film “Je Suis Charlie”). The book includes an inset of colored photos, including a copyrighted image of Bosch Fawstin’s winning cartoon in the “AFDI Muhammed Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest”. The Danish controversy has inspired other books, such as Flemming Rose (now at Cato), “The Tyranny of Silence“, which examine the problem of religious combativeness to silence speech. Let us also remember Bruce Bawer’s earlier “While Europe Slept“, which had covered the assassination in Amsterdam of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh for the short film “Submission“.
Geller does cover in detail the radical Islamist idea that non-Muslims cannot be allowed to draw the Prophet (as Muslims cannot) and points out that no other major religion enforces this kind of idea. The Mormon church did not react violently to the popular Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon”. Judeo-Chrisitianity has never embraced such demands even though the Old Testament is filled with concerns over “idol worship” which seemed quite important to me as a child. Geller sometimes tries to have it both ways, seeming to imply that she sees all Islam as a political entity (seeking political control “for its own sake” of the world, like fascism and communism) rather than just a religious movement. In other places she faults moderate Muslims who simply practice a “personal” faith as not calling out the extremists in the faith (and evangelical Christianity has its own share of violent extremists – in the US sometimes connected to White supremacists, as we all learned from Charlottesville).
But it is the free speech idea toward the end of the book that hits the hardest. Her writing comes to a head at the top of p. 126 when she (in a section about the cartoon ads), writes, “We cannot submit to the assassin’s veto”. Indeed. If a person gives in to that, he is nothing (other than someone else’s pawn or prole) and becomes personally dishonored. But then what about his family? This is “alternative morality”, like “alternative facts”? A lot of people don’t get the fracture in our culture over individualism v. tribal loyalty.
Later she will describe the DDOS attack on her own original blog (“Atlas Shrugs”) so severe that her hosting provider dropped her. She reinvented her web presence with the “Pam Geller Report” (link in table below). Geller accuses big tech companies of colluding to protect themselves from radical vetoes by taking down hate speech – and indeed we saw this with the way Daily Stormer (however extreme in the white supremacy area) got knocked off the web by private companies, as did some Airbnb accounts, after the Charlottesville riots – but this had little or nothing to do with Islam. She then presents her lawsuit attacking Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act (the so-called “Communications Decency Act”, the censorship portions of which were struck down by the Supreme Court in 1997). She complains that Section 230 allows big private tech companies to censor (anti-Islamist) content out of fear and intimidation. But in a broader view, Section 230 is part of the legal landscape that allows user generated content on the Internet to flourish because by and large, hosting companies and service providers are protected from most downstream liability for what users do. (The Backpage (sex trafficking) controversy and proposed legislation could present a serious challenge to 230’s effectiveness, but the whole idea of “knowingly”, as with child pornography, would seem to be a critical concept). Section 230 does allow service providers some discretion in monitoring content to comply with their own terms of service.
Geller is right, however, that the Left as a whole is becoming strident in shutting down speech that the Left believes “legitimizes” certain groups, like neo-Nazis, on the theory that even “meta-speech” from those not directly affected becomes viewed as a kind of incitement (related to what I have called “The Privilege of Being Listened to” elsewhere). I am concerned myself about this idea. Could “community engagement” be required to accompany the speech?
Geller covers a lot of other issues, including the banning of “all political ads” by transit systems supposedly because of protests of hers. That’s true: I can’t buy an ad for “Do Ask Do Tell” on the DC Metro because it would be viewed as “political advocacy”. She covers her battles in San Francisco and New York. San Francisco is particularly in a bind as a “ gay” city. She points out that in Iran, homosexuals are required to go trans and have sexual reassignment surgery (I had never heard that before). She is critical of some well-known organizations (CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, not to be confused with the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition) and the Southern Poverty Law Center. . She describes her opposition to the Park51 Islamic Center near the World Trade Center site in New York. She claims that stores enforce Halal standards for meat against non-Muslims.
She also promotes her American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) At the end of the book, she makes a plea to join her cause collectively. She ends with “I am one person. So are you. Together we are an army”.
Wiki picture of Chris Culwell Center in Garland, Texas.
|Title, Subtitle:||“Fatwa: Hunted in America”|
|Publication:||Dangerous Books (Miami), 251 pages, endnotes, hardcover, 11 Chapters, color photos, Foreword by Geert Wilders|
(Posted: Wednesday, December 6 at 2 PM EST)