Old Geezers Out to Lunch

Old Geezers Out to Lunch
The Geezers Emeritus through history: The Mathematician™, Dr. Golf™, The Professor™, and Mercurious™

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thoughts on Events in Garland, Texas

Like most people, I reacted to the news of the terrorist attack on the cartoonists' conference in Garland, Texas with weary discouragement and outrage. It lent fuel to my increasing belief that we are currently in a new form of World War, with radical Islam battling pretty much the rest of the world. The definition of a World War, after all, is a conflict "involving most of the world's most powerful nations."  The 15-year "war on terror" seems to qualify, given the involvement of the US, Great Britain, France, etc. etc. (It does seem to me, though, that calling this a "war on terror" is slightly misleading. Let's call it what it really is: a war of Judaic/Christian culture vs. that of fundamental Islam.  It's really a particular subcategory of terror that we're fighting here.)

Like many westerners, each time a new such episode occurs, I have the slightly shameful thought that the west should go whole-hog and stamp this thing out once and for all; a small, rarely vocalized thought that if radical Islam wants jihad, then the west ought to respond in kind and get this thing over with. After all, they started it. But then I tell myself that this group represents a small faction of a religious philosophy that includes many, many innocent people. I'm a bit ashamed of the angry knee-jerk reaction I sometimes harbor.

It also bears consideration that we (meaning some members of the west) have a role in this. Somewhat lost in our outrage is the fact that a principle organizer of this event, Pamela Geller, turns out to be a hate-monger of the most dedicated and profound ilk. In her recent history, she has made a tidy career of persecuting all manifestations of Islam, including organizing successful opposition to the construction of mosques and Islamic culture centers. A key organizer of the American Freedom Defense League Initiative, as well as a highly visible supporter of the English Defense League—both organizations seeking the virtual extinction of Islam—her blog "Atlas Shrugs" has been labeled a hate site by PayPal and government watch groups. (Ironically, given her own Jewish heritage, members of the English Defense League often appear in public wearing swastikas; the passion here is not ideology but pure hatred).  Her response to the Texas shooting was something akin to jubilation—it proved her point and justified her career of hate-mongering. Violence was the goal of organizing the event.

None of this excuses this or any other Islamic terrorist activity in any way. Our culture is based on freedom of speech, and much the way Westboro Church has the right to scream hate messages about gay people, this woman has a right to organize a conference aimed, really, with hopes of a violent response from Islamic radicals. But neither can we ignore the full reality of the situation. If police officers had been killed in this operation, Pamela Geller and other organizers would have borne some moral responsibility for inciting violence.

And before we automatically trumpet the rights of expression for a conference aiming to caricature the prophet Mohammed, we should make sure that we'd be equally comfortable if Ms. Geller had organized a conference awarding a prize for the best depiction of Jesus Christ fornicating with the Virgin Mary. I wonder how serious we'd be about defending freedom of speech in that instance.


  1. After a few minutes of pure horror at the news, I also wondered what the response would be if the conference had been focused on caricatures of Jesus. Minus the whole fornicating part, though. That's a special touch that could bring down a fair amount of wrath upon your own head, my friend.

  2. Yes, we'd be less insensed, whatever...but it is interesting how it's being protrayed, your blog is just an example. I've read the same in NY Times, SF Chron, etc. It's a religous war, Islam (usually phrased as Radical Islam) against some form of Christianity or Western Secular Philosophy.

    This idea focuses the issue, narrows the interpretation. But what if it is not accurate? What if it is some other manifistation, the result of marginalization of our and other countries poor and disenfranchised? Yes it seems focused through the lens of Islam vs Christianity, but what if it is something more, or a combination of things?

    I don't think it's useful to narrow the thinking like this.

    1. Interesting perspective that bears some thought. Possible that such a label distracts us from the real issue? Maybe. I suspect every conflict is subject to layers of interpretation and analysis.

  3. Terrorist attacks are horrible, but so is mocking your enemies. Jesus certainly spoke against it and so does the Hebrew notion of humanity's creation in the image of God.

  4. There is a lot to your notion of a new kind of world war. Terror, by non state players, has widened and it's had the impact of throwing out old political notions. Groups, large and small, political and/or criminal or ideological can now render a threat to stability and a sense of safety. There is no check for that except continuing to prosecute a counter attack.
    You raise a good point about the convenient nature of our outrage at the attempt to silence cartoonists. Freedom of course extends to idiots, provocateurs, hate mongers and all manner of swamp scum too. However I wonder how we would feel, or how Geller would feel, if local authorities simply refused to provide security to AFDL gatherings. It might not be too long before the law of the jungle cures the hate baiters.

  5. Not convinced the conflict is rooted in religion. Since the turn of this century, Al-Qaeda and now Isis seem to establish territorial influence in strategically important, oil-rich areas and impart to them a religious significance they would not otherwise have. Once again we have political and economic contenders divided along religious lines. Happened in Ireland as I recall from my youth and led to protracted violence. Still feel this so-called jihad is as all-about-oil as it's always been.