Thursday, May 7, 2015

Waters and Graham Crackers: More MRC Mush on the Muhammad Art Contest

MRC Watch Dept. - The cranks at the Media Research Center continue to grind out articles complaining about the coverage of the attempted terrorist attacks on the American Freedom Defense Initiative's Muhammad art contest in Texas. Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight made a really obvious point:
"[AFDI co-founder Pamela] Geller and her claque pretend that they are the beleaguered defenders of a dire threat to 1st Amendment guarantees of free speech. Apparently we are not meant to notice that no attempt was made to shut down, censor or otherwise prevent their ugly art exhibition from taking place."
"....Other than those two amateur jihadis with assault rifles," interjected the MRC's Tim Graham. But to point out another of those really obvious facts, the 1st Amendment is a limitation on the power of government. Two Barney Fife-variety jihadis have no more power to revoke one's 1st Amendment rights than would some random stone in a forest. People who try to terrorize and kill other people are a problem but as long as the antagonist isn't the state, they're not a 1st Amendment problem. For all their carping on this matter, Geller and her American Freedom Defense Initiative cronies and apologists have at no point in any of this faced any effort to curtail their 1st Amendment rights.

Knight notes there's "no one to root for on either side" in this matter and no one comes out looking very good; Graham's characterization of this: "Knight can’t make any moral distinction between Geller and the terrorists."

Thursday, Clay Waters weighs in, going after some items in the New York Times. He slams the Times for double-standard-ism in declining to print cartoons of Muhammad while reprinting "offensive anti-Christian art," and while Waters' attribution to the Times of "eagerness" to reprint the latter is his own fantasy, he makes a fair point. He probably should have stopped there.

"The latest exhibition of the double standard," he instead continues, "involved the terror attack at a 'Draw Muhammad' exhibition in Texas Sunday night: the paper's pathetic response to the terrorist attack by two Muslim extremists," and then he fails to note in that response any actual example of double-standardism, despite tackling three different articles.

Waters starts with a Times story that pointed out Pamela Geller's "vitriol against Islam" and noted that local Muslim leaders had declined to demonstrate against the Muhammad art contest on the grounds that "there was no point protesting and giving her free publicity." By Waters' creative reinterpretation, this "drew propagandistic lines between bigoted Geller supporters and peaceful Texas Muslims." While this adds to the growing number of details about this story the MRC writers have, in effect, argued the media should suppress,[1] it doesn't even hint at any sort of double standard on the part of the Times.

Waters' next non-example is an article about Geller by Alan Feuer (whom Waters can't resist calling "notoriously shallow"):
"In typical hypocritical Times fashion, Feuer, a journalist who makes his bread on the First Amendment, is more scathing about Geller's sponsorship of free expression than on her would-be murderers."
Waters bolds some of Feuer's language to make his case: Geller has hosted "a long list of inflammatory events" like the Muhammad art contest, she went after a proposed Islamic cultural center in New York "with a typical blend of vitriol and media savvy," her blog attacks Islam "with language so venomous that PayPal, the service she uses to collect donations, once branded it a hate site." All pretty much basic, uncontroversial stuff. The lack of "scathing" commentary thrown at Geller's "would-be murderers" is hardly surprising; the article is about Geller, not them. It's unclear what Waters means by "Geller's sponsorship of free expression," as Geller has never offered any such sponsorship and, in fact, doesn't believe in free expression. Presumably, Waters meant this as a reference to Geller hosting those inflammatory events, in which case Waters' "hypocrisy" charge hinges, in part, on pretending as if those events, hosted by an org that is openly hostile to freedom, amount to "sponsorship of free expression."[2] And even if one did accept that Orwellian premise, where would there be any hypocrisy? Geller has a right to free expression but Feuer has no such right and can't criticize her?

That is what the MRC has effectively been saying in these many articles on this subject this week. They attack anything that can even remotely be interpreted as critical of the AFDI, to the point that if one were to bow to the MRC's complaining, it would actually be impossible to report even the basic facts of the story. The tale the MRC is spinning is that you have to love Geller or you're with the gunmen. That's made clear again by Waters' last non-example, an editorial from Thursday's Times which read, in part:
Whether fighting against a planned mosque near ground zero, posting to her venomous blog Atlas Shrugs or organizing the event in Garland, Ms. Geller revels in assailing Islam in terms reminiscent of virulent racism or anti-Semitism. She achieved her provocative goal in Garland -- the event was attacked by two Muslims who were shot to death by a traffic officer before they killed anyone.
Waters writes, "the paper blamed the target Geller, accusing her of bigotry and of inviting the attack." Geller's bigotry isn't something of which one must make accusations -- it's a matter of public record, no more debatable than gravity. When it comes to her "inviting the attack," Waters, as a retort, approvingly quotes one of Geller's remarks:
"Geller's response to similar criticism: '...that’s like saying the pretty girl was responsible for her own rape.'" empty and completely idiotic comparison -- the "pretty girl" didn't do anything to deliberately provoke what happened to her. The correct metaphor in play here -- if one must resort to metaphors -- is poking a hornet's nest. Geller's intent can be inferred from the likely outcome of her actions. There are hardcore reactionary Muslims who are violently intolerant of criticism of their religion. Geller not only points this out at every opportunity, she throws rocket-fuel on the matter by inferring that all Muslims are like this and stages events that relentlessly attack their religion. One can only find her innocent of an intention to deliberately provoke a violent incident by arguing she's both an idiot and someone who doesn't even believe what she, herself, is saying.

The Times editorial says events like the Muhammad art contest "can serve only to exacerbate tensions and to give extremists more fuel," a point Bill O'Reilly and ultra-right-wing radio talk-show host Laura Ingraham made on Fox News Tuesday night (to date, the MRC has declined to relay this to its readers). The editorial ends:
Some of those who draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad may earnestly believe that they are striking a blow for freedom of expression, though it is hard to see how that goal is advanced by inflicting deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.
Clay Waters can fume about "hypocrisy," but he can't find any more in this than he could in the rest. One can deplore both the terrorists and the trash they targeted and frowning upon the latter does nothing to justify the actions of the former. Just ask MRC founder Brent Bozell. If you're looking for double-standard-ism, he's a good place to start too.



[1] As this blog has noted repeatedly, the MRC has, among other things, attempted to scandalize the press for noting that the AFDI is "controversial," that its event was "provocative" (though MRC founder Brent Bozell would later use that same word to describe it), that it's "anti-Muslim" (even though that forms the motive for the would-be killers), and so on. Now, Waters would suppress the fact that local Muslims declined to protest in order to try to deny Geller and co. publicity. How, exactly, does the MRC think a working journalist supposed to report what happened?

[2] As this blog has noted repeatedly, the platform of the American Freedom Defense Initiative 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. You don't get to publish a platform like that then pose as defenders of freedom.

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

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