Pamela Geller, one of America’s most rabid Islamophobes and a woman who is scheduled to testify today to the Alaska House of Representatives, thinks people like her should be able to decide what news people like you get to see. And she doesn’t think you can handle news presented by Middle East-based Al Jazeera English.
Geller, writing for the right-wing Daily Caller website Saturday, offered her insight on the constitutional rights and privileges of foreign media in the U.S. market. “Al Jazeera is planning to expand into the United States, and the chattering classes are treating it as a simple free speech matter,” Geller wrote.
“Let’s not let the Islamic supremacists once again invoke the freedom of speech to kill our freedom of speech,” Geller continued. “The ruse of using freedom of speech to allow propaganda broadcasts over our airways is another stealth attack on the United States of America. The issue of the expansion of Al Jazeera into the United States can only be likened to an expansion of [Nazi propagandist Joseph] Goebbels’s media network into the U.S. at the height of World War II.”
To protect freedom of speech, in other words, Geller bizarrely suggests America should suppress certain speech and control the media. Because, after all, Al Jazeera, whose coverage of the recent uprisings in the Arab world was widely lauded because it was so much more comprehensive than that of other media, is just like the Nazis.
Remarkably, given her radical views, Geller is set to testify today on behalf of Alaska’s House Bill 88, yet another proposed state law meant to stop the purported spread of Shariah, or Islamic religious, law. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has asked the Alaska House to rescind its invitation to Geller, citing her history of hateful commentary against Muslims. Geller quickly denounced CAIR’s request, accusing it of “using freedom of speech to kill freedom of speech” — essentially recycling the same charge she levied against Al Jazeera.
Geller, the executive director of Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) — a group dedicated to the idea that all devout Muslims in America are really violent radicals plotting to dislodge the Constitution and install a Shariah-driven Islamic caliphate over the United States — seems to be reaching for new lows in her attacks on Muslims. In the past, she has called Islam “the most radical and extreme ideology on the face of the earth,” said that the only moderate Muslims are secular Muslims, and equated Muslims with “savages.” Her blog, Atlas Shrugs, has published claims that President Obama was once involved with a “crack w----,” that he does the bidding of his “Islamic overlords,” even that he is the “love child” of Malcolm X.
Still, she has generally not attacked basic American creeds, like the notion that the best ideas will rise to the top in the free marketplace of ideas, until now. The irony is that Geller, a radical even in the superheated world of professional Muslim-bashers who nevertheless manages to get plenty of press, is suggesting that America would be a better place if the government decides who can speak and who cannot — a notion that most Americans would probably find wildly un-American.
Remarkably, in response to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s listing of SIOA as a hate group, Geller wrote in February that the her organization is “dedicated only to defending the freedom of speech and legal equality for all citizens.” Her latest posting certainly seems to directly contradict that pious claim.
Al Jazeera, based in Doha, Qatar, launched Al Jazeera English (AJE) in November 2006. It has 21 bureaus, plus broadcasting centers in Washington, D.C., London and Doha. AJE claims to reach 130 million homes in 100 countries, but has had poor penetration into the American and Canadian cable and satellite markets. According to National Public Radio, however, more than half of Al Jazeera English’s online traffic is from North America. In 2008, AJE won the award for “Best 24-Hour News Program” at the Monte Carlo Television Festival in Monaco.
Geller’s latest rant was apparently inspired by Al Jazeera’s March 9 announcement that it planned to introduce a children’s programming network to North America next year – an announcement also carried on the Daily Caller website.
Geller was picking up on a theme sounded a month earlier by long-time far-right propagandist Cliff Kincaid, who denounced Al Jazeera’s aspirations in North America. “Amazingly,” he wrote, “despite the savage attack [on 9/11] against the United States, al Jazeera was able to turn the tables against Washington by portraying the United States as waging war against Islam, and not in defense of its own security.” Geller will be the featured speaker Friday in Washington, D.C., at an “emergency” conference sponsored by Kincaid’s organization, America’s Survival, entitled “Al-Jazeera, Global Jihad and the Suicide of the West.”
Geller never explains exactly how she would stop al Jazeera’s access to the U.S. media market. Send federal agents into their studios to arrest its correspondents? Try the U.S. citizens on its payroll for treason? The one remedy Geller seems unwilling to trust is the classic one — allowing Americans to make up their own minds.
Then again, Geller doesn’t seem to have much passion for the First Amendment, even for Americans. “Freedom-loving people have to listen to the Katie Courics and the Matt Lauers and all the other schmucks in the mainstream media laud the coverage of Al Jazeera, while slamming and smearing Fox News,” she complains.
It’s not much of a surprise that it was the Daily Caller that published Geller’s latest rant. The online “news” operation was launched in January 2010 by former Dick Cheney adviser Neil Patel and right-wing commentator Tucker Carlson, who told The Washington Post that “we’re not enforcing any kind of ideological orthodoxy” on the site’s writers. But that turned out to be patently untrue — in fact, the Daily Caller seems clearly to specialize in attacking people like liberal commentator Keith Olbermann and then-Washington Post blogger David Weigel. Perhaps its most ridiculous attack came this Jan. 22, when John Rossomando wrote a ludicrous piece attacking the SPLC because a piece written by Hatewatch Editor Mark Potok had been reprinted on the website of the newspaper of the Communist Party USA. Although the article had been offered free to whoever cared to print it by a nonprofit that helps market “progressive” ideas, Rossomando’s article suggested that Potok’s failure to denounce its republication by CPUSA somehow put the SPLC in bed with Communists. All in all, it was a performance worthy of Joe McCarthy.
Geller’s latest round of speaking isn’t limited to lecturing Alaska lawmakers or Cliff Kincaid’s far-right outfit on the non-existent “threat” of Shariah law. On April 9, she makes her way into the world of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement that produced so much violence in the 1990s. The San Fernando (Calif.) Valley Patriots is co-hosting the West Coast premiere of the SIOA propaganda film “The Ground Zero Mosque: The Second Wave of the 9/11 Attacks,” with co-producers Geller and Robert Spencer – with whom she co-founded SIOA – in attendance.