CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 7, 2015 – CNN continues to prolong the Muhammad cartoon debate with Pamela Geller by perpetuating the idea that Geller “relishes being the target of terrorist threats.”
Appearing Friday on Sean Hannity’s program on FOX News, Geller responded to comments made by Erin Burnett of CNN that it would be foolish for someone “to promote themselves to get killed.”
Geller went on to say that Burnett “covets beheading,” which is just as ridiculous a statement as Burnett’s claim against Geller.
The battle of words makes for “good television,” but the reality is that the truth lies somewhere in between. Both Geller and Hannity and other FOX anchors insist the basic argument has to do with free speech, which is not really the point.
When the Charlie Hebdo office was attacked in Paris, that was a free speech issue because the magazine’s focus is satire. They were simply doing what they always did.
The same was probably true with the publication of the Muhammad cartoons in a Danish newspaper several years ago.
But Geller’s case is different, though she refuses to admit it.
Pam Geller makes a living criticizing the hypocrisy of Islam and its various discrepancies. She was all too aware of that before she organized and promoted the Muhammad cartoon contest on her website. It is her business to know.
If anything Salman Rushdie’s fatwa experience after writing “The Satanic Verses” should have been a red flag to someone as astute about Islam as Geller.
Erin Burnett has a legitimate point. Geller was provocative and intentionally agitated an easily inflamed group of people who will automatically respond violently to virtually any outward abuse.
Imagine in a major league baseball game if two batters hit back-to-back home runs in a very close ball game. The first batter drops his bat and runs around the bases at a normal speed before accepting the accolades of his teammates in the dugout. The second batter stands at the plate and admires his work. Afterward he trots slowly around the bases in order to prolong the applause from the crowd.
Now ask yourself which hitter is going to get the high hard fastball under his chin the next time he comes up?
That is precisely what Pamela Geller did with her Muhammad cartoon contest and, for the most part, it had little or nothing to do with free speech.
“This is projection,” said Geller to Sean Hannity. “I can’t imagine why anyone would self-promote to get themselves killed. If you’re into self-promotion, you don’t go into counter-jihad work. In Muslim countries they kill you for blasphemy. In the West, they kill your good name and assassinate your character.”
The new round of controversy arose when a report earlier in the week said that Usaama Rahim, the Boston terror suspect who was shot and killed by local police, had been plotting to behead Geller.
Since then Geller has taken to social media to plead for funding because of her need for the increased security she has been forced to employ for protection.
It is a sad situation because Geller gets it right, just as numerous others do who have similar perspectives and who are doing their best to educate the world about the serious threats presented by extremist Islam.
On the other hand, Geller created this situation herself with a cartoon event that could have no positive alternative. If the Texas cartoon-fest was intended to arouse awareness, that awareness was minimal and quickly swallowed by the 24/7 news cycle.
It was a foolish effort that Geller knew would have serious consequences. Calling it a “free speech” issue is an afterthought to justify a stupid idea.
Had Geller printed a political cartoon in “Atlas Shrugs,” her online blog, that made an important statement about Islam or ISIS or the Middle East, then perhaps her free speech argument would be justifiable because that is the core element of her work. A cartoon festival designed to aggravate Muslims is not.
Hopefully the furor for Geller will fade away and she will one day be able to return to living a normal life. Unfortunately for her, the Islamic mindset is long and unforgiving, and she is aware of that. Normalcy may appear to return, but it is when that false sense of security slips in that the threats become most dangerous.
The safest time to fly is the days immediately following a terrorist attack on an airplane because that is when security is at its highest. It is also the period when the instigators are running for cover rather than building more bombs.
Pamela Geller is fearless. She will not back down. She is tenacious. But she did make an error in judgment and now she is paying the price.
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News
Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod