In case you haven’t heard, two gunmen, at least one of whom is alleged to have been a man with serious jihadi inclinations, were killed by police last night as they attempted to attack a “Muhammad Art Exhibit” event in Garland Texas, sponsored by something called the American Freedom Defense Initiative. AFDI is one of a number of front groups for what can basically be called the “Pamela Geller Hate Empire,” which justifies its continued existence by trying to terrify gullible people about the dangers of Islam. Last night’s event included an exhibit of cartoon drawings of Muhammad, no doubt the more offensive the better, and featured a keynote speech by Islamophobic slop bucket Geert Wilders. Fortunately only the two would-be killers were actually killed; one security guard was apparently wounded but is in stable condition and doesn’t appear to be in any danger.
I’m plagiarizing from my
wildly moderately not very popular Twitter account here, but the point deserves to be made over and over again: although it would have been lost on the two shooters, in their attempt to attack Pam Geller’s hate-fest they actually gave her exactly what she wanted out of it. Instead of the gross display of Western intolerance that last night’s event really was, it now looks like a courageous defense of free expression in the face of threatened Islamic violence. Geller gets to cast herself as a champion of freedom in front of those who buy into her toxic ideology with the evidence of these gunmen to back her up.
Note that I draw a distinction between Geller herself and the people who buy what she’s selling, just as I’d distinguish any mark from the person grifting him or her. I don’t know if Pam Geller really believes what she says, like all her devotees do, and I don’t think it matters all that much. What matters for her is that she’s figured out how to turn people’s fears into a steady and hefty stream of income, by helping them make a certain warped sense out of a chaotic world, and by offering them a way to channel their fears into hatred of one particular institution. She creates the hate, then she profits off of the people who donate to support her “fight” against it. Last night’s two gunmen, in addition to being utterly contemptible in their eagerness to murder a couple hundred people over a few cartoon drawings, did more to help Geller’s cause than the “Muhammad Art Exhibit” could ever have done on its own.
The process works in both directions. ISIS can now “claim responsibility” for the actions of a couple of dim-witted but suitably bloodthirsty fans, which casts ISIS as the defender of Islam against Western hatred and lets them pretend to have pulled off a terrorist attack in the United States, even though its extraordinarily unlikely that ISIS’s leaders had any direct involvement in what happened last night. This is in keeping with the organizational philosophy that has enabled Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, or whoever is really running ISIS, to amass a couple of billion dollars in part by exploiting angsty teenagers and psychopaths who are enraged at the feeling that they have no place in Western society, a feeling that Pam Geller and a whole host of hate merchants like her do everything they can to foster. Extremism feeds extremism, here and abroad, and the particularly talented grifters are able to get rich off of the whole process.