Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bozell & Graham Do The Shuffle Over Anti-Muslim Hate Group

MRC Watch Dept. - On Monday, Scott Whitlock complained that the press was describing a controversial anti-Muslim hate group (the American Freedom Defense Initiative) as a controversial anti-Muslim group and he chose to spotlight some outlets that noted AFDI's designation as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. This led to a series of Newsbusters articles on the same theme[1] and by Tuesday night, Brent Bozell, the perpetually unhinged head of the Media Research Center, had tag-teamed with Tim Graham to offer his take on the matter. Bozell and Graham plunge off the abyss in their very first words:
"Liberals claim to be the world's boldest defenders of freedom of expression, which is, of course, nonsense. Here's another canard: Liberals also claim to be the most offended against anyone 'blaming the victim.' What liberals possess is an ideological system which identifies favored groups as victims, and supports squelching the free speech of anyone challenging them. One of those favored groups are Muslims."
Uh huh. Hold that thought.

A little background: Muslims consider any physical representation of their prophet Muhammad as blasphemy and on Sunday, the AFDI was holding a contest aimed at producing cartoons of Muhammad. The event was being held at the Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, a venue chosen because back in January, it had hosted a conference of Muslims "against terror and hate." As local ABC affiliate WFAA reported at the time:
"They gathered for a conference preaching peace, and stood united against the stereotypes...
'Whoever does these acts of terrorism, they don't represent us and they sure as heck do not represent me,' said Manal Abdulhadi, who attended the conference.
"She's referring to the killing of 12 people at a French satirical magazine a little more than a week ago by Islamic militants.
"Event organizers also condemned the attacks.
"'We consider these our enemies of Islam who are hurting Muslims and neighborly relations toward the world.'
"Inside the Culwell Center, it was a show of solidarity as everyone waved American flags."
Apparently, a gathering of peaceful Muslims who condemn terrorism was too much for the AFDI to bear. Its co-founder, the crackpot Pamela Geller, organized a protest of the event. Then Sunday's Muhammad art contest was, as the Dallas Morning News reported, "intentionally booked for the same site." And as the affair was winding down, a pair of gunmen turned up, intent on shooting up the event. Fortunately, they were killed by police before they caused any serious harm.

"So how did the press respond, ask Bozell and Graham? "Liberal journalists deplored AFDI's exercise of free speech and blamed the targeted victims for the attack."

My goodness! Where did this happen?
"Within hours, ABC described AFDI as 'notorious for its anti-Islamic views.' The shooters were not 'notorious,' the shooting targets were."
Even the, shall we say, less literate can do a Google search for the definition of "notorious" and get, "Famous or well known, typically for some bad quality or deed." While the AFDI is, in fact, notorious for its rabidly anti-Islamic views, the gunmen involved were entirely unknown to the public. Proof that bozells shouldn't try to use big words they don't understand.
"On the Monday evening news, all three 'objective' networks were repeating a leftist group's highly emotional 'hate group' designation."
And here, we get to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the group that so categorized the AFDI. Lindsey Bever of the Washington Post is slammed because, it's said, she "went to that same highly emotional leftist source for a smear." Bozell and Graham then drift away from the subject for a bit:
"NBC terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann even claimed they [the AFDI] were not holding a free-speech event: 'These people are not standing by that principle, they're standing by the principle of hatred for other people. That's their guiding light. That's what they do. They are intentionally trying to provoke a response from the Muslim community.'
"This spin is obnoxious and offensive. By this standard, MSNBC spends most of its waking hours operating on the "principle of hatred of other people," people who define themselves as conservatives."
...except the AFDI portrays Muslims as reactionary, animalistic extremists who are violently intolerant of criticism of their religion. If those at AFDI believe their own propaganda, they were certainly trying to provoke an incident -- there's no other logical conclusion. Here's the spin Bozell and Graham deliver about AFDI's leaders:
"Activists like Geller and her partner Robert Spencer are making a provocative point about how free speech is being uniquely curtailed out of sensitivity to Muslims, who apparently 'earn' this sensitivity by being violent or making threats of violence."[2]
But, of course, no government agency prevented Geller and Spencer from holding their Muhammad art contest, just as no government agency has shut down their vile hate group in all the years it has operated. When a pair of would-be killers turned up to cause trouble, a lawman shot them down without the least concern about "sensitivity to Muslims." Bozell and Graham, whose overarching thesis, recall, is that liberals are "squelching the free speech of anyone challenging" their "favored groups," are advancing one of the MRC's patented right-wing versions of "free speech" that says a rightist's speech is being curtailed unless he's allowed to say whatever he wants without ever facing any criticism from other citizens exercising what is supposed to be their own right of free speech.
"...freedom of speech for criticizing Islam? There's apparently no room for that in America. They won't even show the cartoon."
To note the obvious, free speech doesn't include the right to have one's cartoon shown on the evening news, nor does it immunize one from being criticized by an NBC terrorism analyst, an analyst who was, by the way, entirely correct in noting the AFDI doesn't even believe in freedom. Its platform, as previously noted here, "calls for, among other things, government surveillance of mosques, government closing of mosques that are found to advocate 'jihad or any aspects of Sharia that conflict with Constitutional freedoms and protections,' a ban on immigration of Muslims into non-Muslim nations and so on." That, along with every other crazed and ugly thing ever uttered by the trash at the AFDI, is fully protected in the U.S. -- they enjoy all the freedoms they'd enthusiastically take from others.[3] The portrait by Bozell and Graham of an America where there's no "freedom of speech for criticizing Islam" bears no resemblance to the real thing.

The pair finally return to the SPLC:
"The Southern Poverty Law Center -- yes, that group that has also labeled the Family Research Center a 'hate' group for supporting traditional marriage, leading to an assassin using their 'hate map' to go to FRC's building and open fire, seriously wounding a security guard, with the intent to kill as many staff as possible, before being subdued.
"The leftist media know that. And still use SPLC as their source."
A fairly important point here:  the assertion that the FRC made the hate groups list "for supporting traditional marriage" is a direct and intentional lie, a defaming smear of the SPLC, just as is the ludicrous attempt to lay at the feet of the org the activities of that would-be assassin, as if the the SPLC's having noted the FRC's decades of hate somehow loomed larger than those decades of hate themselves. As the SPLC has made quite clear, the FRC made the list because of the group's promotion of anti-homosexual propaganda that is both defaming and entirely false. Not arguably false or a false that depends on interpretation but directly, demonstrably and incontrovertibly false. Because it would mean having to acknowledge literally decades of their wallowing in the worst sort of mendacity, all of it aimed at dehumanizing an entire class of persons (and would hinder their efforts to continue to do the same in the future), those from the FRC will under no circumstances address the real reason for their listing. To avoid the matter, they chalked it up to their opposition to gay marriage and their apologists at reactionary outlets like the MRC have followed their lead.

Bozell and Graham also smear the SPLC by describing its characterization of the AFDI as a "smear," depending on their own smear to discredit the org while they again refuse to address the reasons it so characterizes the AFDI. The material is readily available.[4]. Contrary to Bozell and Graham, one doesn't have to rely on liberals in this matter either. Conservative blogger Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs broke with Geller over her insane views. He paints a portrait of her as an obsessive, hatemongering dunce who hobnobs with racist terrorists; Geller has, in return, described Johnson as a "misogynist... in service of savages" and "now viciously pro-jihad." In 2013, Geller, Spencer and fellow anti-Muslim crackpot Frank Gaffney were banned from CPAC, the major righty shindig:
"Anti-Muslim activist and blogger Pam Geller said Saturday at a CPAC panel of rogue conservative activists that a board member of the group that puts on the annual conservative conference is worse than a terrorist killed by an American drone strike in Yemen.
"Geller said the reason she and the other panelists -- including fellow anti-Muslim activists Frank Gaffney and Robert Spencer -- were barred from CPAC because of the nefarious influence of board members Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan.
"The three anti-Muslim activists have for years accused Norquist and Khan of being members of the Muslim Brotherhood and secret Islamist agents,but Geller took her rhetoric against Khan, a Republican consultant and former Bush White House official, to new heights today.
"'Am I saying that Suhail Khan is as bad as Awlack? He's worse!' she said, referring to Anwar al-Awlaki, the American citizen jihadi who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2011.
"She added that it was a 'crime' that she and the other panelists were not invited to CPAC, warning that the snub is a threat to the freedom of speech. 'Free men will have to resort to violence in the absence of the freedom of speech,' she added darkly.
"Spencer had his own anti-Khan tirade, encouraging activists in the room to 'go find him and take your picture with him.'
"Gaffney called Khan a 'prince of the Muslim Brotherhood.'"
The Anti-Defamation League has condemned the AFDI:
"Consistently vilifying the Islamic faith under the guise of fighting radical Islam, the group has introduced a growing number of Americans to its conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda... [A]ny organization or individual that opposes their efforts is dismissed as part of this Islamic conspiracy or compared to Nazi collaborators."
On Fox News on Tuesday, Bill O'Reilly himself called the AFDI's activities stupid and counterproductive and said the Muhammad art contest "spurred a violent incident." Right-wing radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham, appearing as a guest, agreed with him.[5] No reasonable person of any political orientation who has examined any real amount of this material could make any case that the SPLC's characterization is anything other than fair and accurate -- if anything, it understates matters.

But we're not dealing with the reasonable when it comes to Bozell and Graham or the Media Research Center. There, fairness and accuracy are the first casualty when it comes to the day's miserable work of defending enemies of freedom by sliming the liberals who criticize them as enemies of freedom.



[1] While the MRC gang has furiously objected to characterizing the AFDI as "controversial" or "anti-Muslim" or "notorious" or what have you, none among them have explained how the press could, if it chose to conceal these details, even report what happened -- this information the MRC wants suppressed formed the likely motive of the killers.

[2] Only a couple weeks ago, a mailman flew a gyrocopter into the capitol to try to bring some attention to the issue of money in politics. Though there was never any real danger to anyone, the MRC's writers went out of their way to describe it as a reckless stunt that placed in danger everyone in its path. In the Texas matter, the AFDI's decision to hold a blatantly provocative exhibition in the hopes of provoking an incident -- an incident that put hundreds of innocent people in direct danger -- is merely their "making a provocative point" about free speech.

[3] Even the Muslim community whose rights the AFDI would crush has spoken out in defense of her rights.

[4] Some of the info the SPLC has collected on AFDI co-founder Geller:
"Geller uses her website to publish her most revolting insults of Muslims: She posted (and later removed) a video implying that Muslims practiced bestiality with goats... Geller also has denied the genocide of Bosnian Muslims by Serbian forces in Srebrenica – calling it the 'Srebrenica Genocide Myth,' even though the Serbian government itself issued a state apology for the massacre. She wrote, 'Westerners are admitting to their role in something that didn't happen, and digging their own graves.'
"Geller will ally with virtually any individual or movement that expresses stridently anti-Muslim sentiments, no matter how otherwise repugnant. As a result, she has frequently rubbed shoulders with elements of white radicalism... Geller's anti-Muslim stance has... drawn the admiration of white nationalist and even neo-Nazi proponents on the extreme right – a rather remarkable feat, considering she is Jewish. She has been the subject of positive postings on racist websites such as Stormfront, VDARE, American Renaissance and the neo-Confederate League of the South.
"Geller was one of several prominent anti-Muslim activists cited by the Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik in the manifesto he posted online hours before killing 77 of his countrymen, mostly teenagers, at a left-wing youth camp in August 2011. In the wake of the attack, Geller downplayed the influence of her views on Breivik, making much of the fact that his screed had only mentioned her by name once. This conveniently ignored the manifesto’s dozen citations of her blog and 64 mentions of her SIOA partner, Robert Spencer. At the same time, Geller couldn’t help displaying some sympathy for Breivik’s actions against the young multiculturalists. 'Breivik,' she wrote, 'was targeting the future leaders of the party responsible for flooding Norway with Muslims.'
"Despite Geller’s willingness to publish outright lies (such as her baseless theories about President Barack Obama) and align herself with European racists and fascists, she likes to present herself as the voice of reason, unfairly tarred as an extremist.
From the SPLC's profile of Robert Spencer, AFDI's other co-founder:
"Spencer argues that radical Muslims, like Osama bin Laden, are interpreting the Koran properly. Peaceful and moderate Muslims, according to Spencer, either do not understand their own holy book or are faking their moderate stances. He depicts isolated incidences of extremism as normative and representative of the entire group. Critics have been quick to point out that Spencer’s argument requires an exceptionally narrow reading and that it exempts the Koran, hypocritically, from the benefit of interpretation granted to other religious texts, like the Bible. One example of this tactic can be seen in Spencer’s and Geller’s treatment of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the American-born project leader of the Park51 project aiming to build a mosque in lower Manhattan, near the site of the 9/11 attacks. By painting Rauf as a radical Islamist who was striving to build a 'victory mosque' to celebrate the destruction of the World Trade Center, the two leaders of SIOA sought to block the project while portraying all Muslims as radical – an assertion simply not supported by facts.
"Spencer also attacks individuals and organizations that claim to represent moderate Islam. This is most commonly done through accusations of those entities acting as secret operatives to destroy the West. Spencer engages in fear-mongering through steady reference to theories like 'stealth jihad,' eminent 'Islamization of America,' and the infiltration of Congress by 'Muslim spy interns.'
"Spencer is known to have associations with European racists and neo-fascists. However, he claims that his contact with them is merely incidental. On June 25, 2013, Spencer and Geller were banned from Britain after planning to attend a rally organized by the English Defence League, an anti-Muslim extremist group. According to a letter issued by the Home Office of the United Kingdom, 'The Home Secretary has reached this decision because you have brought yourself within the scope of the list of unacceptable behaviours by making statements that may foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence in the UK.” Spencer’s response to the announcement was to accuse the British government of being a 'de facto Islamic state.'"
Visit the links for much more.

[5] While Bozell and his MRC now condemn as "blaming the victim" even perceived criticism of Geller in the wake of this incident, Bozell himself, back in January, had no trouble openly condemning French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in the aftermath of the terrorist murders of its staff. In his current column, he rejects the obvious, that the AFDI was goading extremists; back in January, he agreed with the assessment of an Al Jazeera executive that "baiting extremists isn't bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending moderate people as well." He called the material Charlie Hebdo published "a moral wrong":
"Well, you can defend a legal right; you cannot defend a moral wrong. Just because you have a legal right doesn't make it right. It's a moral wrong. What they're [the Charlie Hebdo staff] doing in insulting Islam, as these people were saying in al Jazeera – they were saying, they were goading – the terrorists. And some people are suggesting – well, that makes them apologists. No! They were goading the terrorists. Let's be make – let's be very clear about that. They were goading the terrorists."
As this article goes to press nearly 12 hours after that O'Reilly Factor broadcast, none of the MRC subdivisions have made a single mention of it.

[This article was written for MRC Watch, a blog dedicated to a critique of the work of the Media Research Center.]

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