I was surprised and pleased, upon scouring the Internet, to find that Pamela Geller, the anti-Islam activist, is a looker. I would have supposed, listening to the many male commenters who have been denouncing her, that she must be partly bald, with most of her remaining hair sprouting from her nose and chin, and with the most repulsive, irregular facial features. But no, she really is attractive, and I say this objectively. My appraisal has nothing to do with the fact that I am considerably older than she is, and am finding it tougher to get dates. And yet hearken to what people, even some on Fox News, are saying about her.
Geraldo Rivera: “She most reminds me of the Aryan Nation, KKK, racists….I feel like taking a shower.”
And high time, Geraldo.
Bill O’Reilly: “It’s always cause and effect. This is what happens when you light the fuse; you get violence.”
Donald Trump: “Nobody would fight harder for free speech than me but why taunt, over and over again…?”
The Donald gave voice, almost word for word, to the rallying cry of many of Ms. Geller’s critics, which begins “I believe in freedom of speech, but…” Most of the people who say this are liberals, but obviously not all.
In case you haven’t been following the Geller brouhaha, it began on Sunday, May 3, when two Islamic radicals attempted to raid a conclave she had organized in Garland, Texas. Outraged by the precepts of Sharia Law that conflict with American values, and dismayed by those Americans who seem inclined to knuckle under to the radicals, so as not to offend them and make them dislike us even more, she defiantly held an art contest in which she invited participants to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Drawing images of Muhammad, cartoons or otherwise, is one of the big No-nos in the Muslim world. Ask Charlie Hebdo.
The two miscreants, armed with high-powered firearms, who attempted to crash the art contest and murder the participants, fortunately were shot and killed by a policeman before they could carry out their mission.
Because Pam Geller is not, despite her agreeable visage, the right kind of American heroine, she became fair game for the media. We were treated to many variations on the theme “She asked for it,” which as Sean Hannity points out is usually reserved for rape victims wearing revealing garments. As one TV personality fatuously observed: “It there hadn’t been a cartoon contest, those gunmen wouldn’t have gone to Garland.”
So let’s finally just chuck the First Amendment. Too dangerous.
All this craven, gutless, sniveling blame-mongering summoned up for me a recollection of an experience I had nearly fifty years ago, during my days as a journalist. I was in Columbus, Georgia, home to the Royal Crown Cola Co., researching an article about the principal soft-drink producers. I went from office to office, interviewing some of the top executives of the company.
As you may recall, Georgia a half-century ago was not exactly a bastion of civil rights. Although it was off the point, I got to chatting at lunch with one executive about the civil-rights movement, which was dominating the public debate of the day.
He was a well-spoken, buttoned-down type, by no means a Georgia redneck. But he was not a civil-rights enthusiast either. The conversation turned to Viola Liuzzo, a white civil-rights activist from Michigan, who had been murdered in Alabama by the Klan the year before while riding in her car with a young black man. The black man shared her fate.
The executive said he deplored those murders as much as the next man, but that “she should have realized that riding in a car with a black man in that part of America could have deadly consequences.”
If the pious, pompous fools who are denouncing Pam Geller these days could have sat in on that conversation with the Royal Crown executive, they would have howled bloody murder. “How could anyone be so insensitive?” I hear them cry. “Who has the effrontery to say that Viola Liuzzo, by exercising her freedom of expression, and her right to travel freely throughout the United States, had it coming?”
Rivera, O’Reilly, Trump – and the rest of you – it is time for a refresher course in civics.