Monday, August 1, 2011
An Open Letter To Pam Geller: It’s Not About You, It’s About US
It’s been a little over a week since the terrorist attack in Oslo, Norway and a few days since our show covering the attacks (you can listen to it here). On the show we talked to Faiz Shakir from Think Progress and Waseem Mirza, an activist from Oslo. But Pam, we really wanted to hear from you. However, after confirming thrice, you backed out saying you were double booked. I guess our listeners have to take your word for it.
And our listeners missed you too. One guy was so excited to talk to you on our show that he started reciting verses from the Quran on the air! I mean, I really don’t know why anyone would recite religious verses on a radio show, but it must mean he was really excited. Another ended up un-friending a Facebook friend after fighting with him about the show.
On the show, we asked a couple of questions. First, we wanted to know if this completely discredited idea that “All Muslims aren’t terrorist but all terrorists are Muslims” which you have spent a good amount of time perpetuating created blind spots preventing us from spotting real-live terrorists that aren’t Muslim. We also wanted to know if pundits and bloggers like yourself were helping crazy people of all walks of life try to re-create the crusades. Lastly, we wanted to give you a chance to defend yourself against charges that you were a source of inspiration for Anders Breivik, the Norwegian terrorist that killed almost a hundred people, many of them teenagers. But since you didn’t come on the show, we had to talk about this stuff without you. And you may be surprised by some of my personal conclusions.
First, the good news for you.
1. After interviewing a real live activist from Norway (Waseem), it became pretty clear that the Oslo terrorist attacks had little to do with you or any of the right-wing bloggers in your “anti-Jihad” crew. When speaking to Waseem, he seemed to genuinely not know who the hell you were. And when I asked him about the role of the American right-wing in inspiring the attack, he sort of told me in his nice Norwegian way, “America, it is not always about you.” He went on to explain that the growth of far right terror groups and political parties throughout Europe, especially in countries like Germany, is a far more likely source of support and inspiration for Anders than your blog or Robert Spencer’s blogs.
2. It turns out that the same “liberal lamestream media” and blogosphere that is having fun attacking you is just as responsible for spreading islamophobia, and the “all terrorists are Muslims” worldview as you are. As Waseem confirmed on our show, one of the first outlets to falsely spread the word that the attack in Oslo was perpetrated by a Muslim group was none other than the New York Times (the same often good newspaper, that when it’s not, helps lead us into bullsh*t wars). Similarly, a popular columnist went off in the Washington Post claiming a direct link between the Oslo attack and Al Qaeda, only to stuff both of her feet in her own mouth. Even half of the Huffington Post articles (a blog I actually really like) about Anders Breivik after he was arrested didn’t call him a “terrorist” or refer to the attacks as “terrorist attacks.” Seriously Pam, who needs you to spread Islamophobia when the mainstream media spreads false information on one hand, and then fails to report when Americans (even police officers) are killed by right wing terrorists on the other? Maybe you should get a job with the Washington Post, I mean you couldn’t be worse than Jennifer Rubin.
And now for the bad news.
1. Even if you weren’t his inspiration, it seems like Anders and you are sort of kindred spirits. So much that he mentions you, Robert Spencer, and other folks in your crew over a dozen times in his manifesto. What’s worse isn’t that you are influencing terrorists like him. It’s that you are importing his type of crazy and bringing it to this country. Sidenote: Am I the only one that sees a huge disconnect between your fans hating Europe’s socialist health care system, labor protections, and retirement system, but loving its Islamophobia? I mean isn’t Europe’s labor protections what allow its right-wingers to have enough vacation time to come to your rallies in New York? Isn’t Europe’s health care system what allows its neo-Nazis and white supremacists to live long enough to go from hating Jewish folks to hating Muslims?
2. This idea that “all terrorists are Muslim” clearly created enough of a blind spot in Norway for intelligence to wrongly conclude that right-wing terrorists didn’t “constitute a major threat” to the county as compared to “Islamic extremists” (even though, 99% of terror attacks in Europe are committed by non-Muslims). That blind spot exists in America too. The Department of Homeland Security responded to criticism of its intel reports on right wing extremists by gutting its unit dedicated to analyzing right wing terrorism. American media has its blinders are on so badly, that if often under reports right wing terror plots, even when they happen in the same city as a plot tied to radical Muslims.
3. According to Waseem, Norway responded to its recent attacks by calling for “more openness, more democracy.” Since 9/11, even under Obama’s administration of “change”, this country has opted for less openness and less democracy while consistently whittling away our civil rights and liberties. Unfortunately, the lessons learned from Norway are quickly passing from public consciousness as the news moves on to cover the death of Amy Whinehouse and the debt ceiling debate. Don’t get me wrong, Amy will be missed and I would rather import her memory and music than the English Defence League.
In the end, Pam, the Islamophobia that made you famous is part of the problem. But you aren’t the only cause for it. Its not just about you Pam, its about all of us. And the more you make all of us into just some of us, we are all screwed.
Subhash Kateel and the Let's Talk About It! Team