Conservative blogger and Ayn Rand worshiper Pamela Geller is playing the hate-filled Republican game of false equivalencies with New York’s subways. Politico reports that she has won a court order to put ads in 10 subway stations tomorrow. The ad reads: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.”
The ad has already appeared in San Francisco on city busses and she filed suit on Thursday to plaster it all over Washington, D.C.’s metro system.
Geller commits a couple of egregious sins here. She paraphrases an Ayn Rand quote, which is offensive enough – I mean, we really do not need Pamela Geller to share her personal deficiencies with us. Secondly, she creates a false equivalency between Israel and Jihad. Are we to take it from her that Israel is the opposite of Jihad? The Jewish Bible promotes Holy War. In it, the Jews “dedicate” entire cities to their God. By dedicate, of course, is meant “sacrifice” – and we know what that meant to the citizens of those cities – men, women, and children.
Religious terrorism has been with us a long time, and on a much more horrific scale than the World Trade Center.
Geller ignores all the problems her advertising campaign brings up. What about the fundamentalist Christian calls to crusade? During the Iraq War, even Bush referred to the war as a crusade, though he quickly backtracked. Lt. General William Boykin still refers to that war as a crusade, and said it was not a war against an Iraqi dictator but a war against Satan.
Boykin is now working for the FRC. He has met with Romney. The idea of anti-Muslim crusade is now inextricably linked to the Republian presidential campaign. And as documented here, the Religious Right has used both the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan as crusades against Islam through proselytizing – conversions, distributing Bibles, and the like. The Air Force and the Air Force Academy and other areas of the U.S. military have been infiltrated by fundamentalist Christian zealots who preach holy war, particularly against Islam.
Not least of Geller’s sins is that her ad insults Muslims. And not just terrorists, as she disengenuously claims, as you will see in a moment.
There is not a lot we can do in our open society to combat the evils of free speech except by countering it with the good of free speech. In San Francisco, for example, Mother Jones reports, San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency, Muni, may have to run Geller’s ad but there is nothing stopping them from running their own ad.
While being all for her own right of free speech, of course, Geller became totally unhinged that Muni thought it also had the right to free speech. Muni put up ads next to Geller’s (with an arrow pointed toward it) with a disclaimer that reads: SFMTA policy prohobits discrimination based on national origin, religion, and other charateristics and condemns statements that describe any group as “savages.”
This is unprecedented in the history of outdoor advertising. This is the manifestation of Sharia in Western society. Any war on innocent civilians is savage. They are reading the idea that “all Muslims” or “all Arabs” want to destroy Israel into my ad. That is nowhere in my message. They are the Islamophobes and racists.
Ah, so now Muni, and not Geller, is Islamophobic? Really? Geller uses an Ayn Rand quote. But as Mother Jones points out, she doesn’t give you the entire quote. She claims she isn’t talking about all Arabs but look at what Ayn Rand said in full in the quote from which Geller borrowed (posted on the Ayn Rand Center):
Further, why are the Arabs against Israel? (This is the main reason I support Israel.) The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures. They are typically nomads. Their culture is primitive, and they resent Israel because it’s the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are. Israel is a mixed economy inclined toward socialism. But when it comes to the power of the mind—the development of industry in that wasted desert continent—versus savages who don’t want to use their minds, then if one cares about the future of civilization, don’t wait for the government to do something. Give whatever you can. This is the first time I’ve contributed to a public cause: helping Israel in an emergency.
Here, it is not Palestinian terrorists Rand is referring to. It is Arabs as a whole. This is more than Islamophobia. It is racism as well. The Arab culture is “primitive” and they apparently resent Israel’s flush toilets or something (which says a lot about Ayn Rand’s thinking at least if not the Arabs’).
It is funny how much conservatives hate free speech when it isn’t their free speech. And why is free speech that disagrees with their Islamophobic messages always “Sharia” compliant? All Muni did was recognize the facts behind the quote. And how Geller and other conservatives hate facts.
Fundamentalist Christians love to advertise their message and, as part of that message, condemn “Paganism” (everything not fundamentalist Christian in character) but God forbid an Atheist group, for example, dares express itself with a billboard or a subway message. They how like stuck pigs if anyone else dares use their First Amendment rights to say something they do not like.
And that is all that is happening here. Somebody else (Muni, in this case) is using First Amendment rights to disclaim an ad they are being forced to run because of Geller’s own First Amendment rights. The choice here seems less about Israel and Jihad than about universal applicability of the First Amendment. And what Geller carefully ignores is that even three Jewish groups have denounced her New York advertising campaign, according to Mondoweiss. Geller claims she is defending Jews from anti-Semitism but Jews themselves do not appear to see it that way – at least not all Jews. You can be sure she will continue to carefully avoid noticing that little fact.
The first is a false choice. A choice for Israel isn’t a choice against Jihad. The second is a very real problem facing Americans. The First Amendment applies to everybody, not to any one group. Speaking your mind invites others to speak theirs and they have every right to do so, including Muni.
Just wait till some Muslim group realizes it also has the right to have its voice heard on the issue o being called savages. Oh the temerity!
Geller says “If it’s not a film it’s a cartoon, if it’s not a cartoon it’s a teddy bear,” she said. “What are you going to do? Are you going to reward Islamic extremism? I will not sacrifice my freedom so as not to offend savages.”
And we will not sacrifice our freedom so as not to offend those who would deny everybody but themselves the right of free speech and the right to freedom of religion. Grow a thicker skin, Pamela, and get used to the idea that the rest of us have a right to express our opinions as well.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.