Pamela Geller: Hollywood Is "In the Pocket" of Jihadists (Q&A)
The organizer of a deadly "Draw Muhammad" contest also challenges Bill O'Reilly to debate his coverage of the controversial event. "I expect he knows he would be shown up," she says.
Pamela Geller has been on a rampage against radical Islam for years, beginning notably in 2010 by spearheading of the opposition to what she called the “Ground Zero Mega Mosque” near the site of the destroyed World Trade Center. Her most recent controversy was the organization of a "Draw the Prophet Muhammad" contest in Texas.
At the event, two self-described jihadists shot a security guard before police killed them. Then, on June 2, police killed a knife-wielding Muslim man in Boston whose goal was allegedly to behead Geller in retaliation for the contest. Even though the contest was a major news story, few media outlets published the winning cartoon. Geller’s group, American Freedom Defense Initiative, put the image on billboards, 100 of which debuted in St. Louis on Monday with the tagline “Support Free Speech.” She spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about how the (largely hostile) media is portraying these events.
Why are you being overly provocative, purposely insulting Muslims?
I am not being overly provocative or purposely insulting Muslims. Islamic jihadists, not I, made Muhammad cartoons the flash point for the defense of the freedom of speech when they began killing over them. If we don't stand against them on that point, the only alternative is surrender and submission. I did not make the cartoons a flash point, the jihadis did.
But if you just don’t insult their prophet, they’ll leave you alone, no?
No. The death penalty for insulting Muhammad is just one aspect of Sharia. There is much, much more of infidel behavior that violates Sharia. If we refrain from drawing Muhammad, more demands to adhere to other aspects of Sharia will follow. Millions are suffering or have been slaughtered under Islamic Sharia law in Muslim countries. Islamic supremacists mean to impose it in the West.
Why shouldn’t cartoons insulting a religion be regarded as hate speech instead of protected free speech?
There is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. "Hate speech" is a subjective judgment. If it were outlawed, the authority with the power to decide what constitutes it would have the power to control the public debate.… If a group will not bear being offended without resorting to violence, that group will rule unopposed while everyone else lives in fear, while other groups curtail their activities to appease the violent group. This results in the violent group being able to tyrannize the others. Cartoons have been used as satire since the beginning of satire — especially in our country — and no one gets a pass. Not the Pope of Rome, president of the United States or Hollywood's biggest movie stars.… If you don’t like it, don't look at it, boycott the network that airs it, don't buy the publication, make counter-images, make a million, fine, but you have to adjust to us, not we to you, and if that's too much, don’t come here. Threaten violence? Commit violence? The consequences are yours to bear.
It seems many media pundits who claim allegiance to the First Amendment aren’t persuaded by your arguments.
They are afraid of being killed by Islamic jihadists and camouflage their fear and cowardice as "respect" for Islam and Muslims.
Are there any TV hosts who have been particularly hostile to you during interviews?
Yes. Martha MacCallum, Erin Burnett, Alisyn Camerota, Chris Cuomo — although he let me speak and make my case.
How about behind your back?
Yes. Bill O'Reilly and Laura Ingraham. They said I was insulting the entire religion, one held by our moderate allies such as Egypt and Qatar. They are wrong in assuming that we must submit to Sharia to placate moderates, rather than that moderates need to accept the freedom of speech. Roman Catholics don't like their religion mocked or the mockery of other religions, but Roman Catholics don't kill when their religion is mocked — and so no one talks about "provoking" them or "respecting" them. In any pluralistic society, we have to put up with being offended and even with our core beliefs being mocked. Roman Catholics have learned that. Mormons and others have learned that -- look at The Book of Mormon on Broadway. Why must we condescend to Muslims and think they cannot learn that? It's the low expectation of soft bigotry.
So this isn't entirely a partisan issue where conservatives stand by you and liberals don't?
No. Chris Hayes stuck up for me on MSNBC. This is not a left/right split, it is a free person/slave split.
Did any TV host say something that struck you as particularly wrongheaded?
They all say I have the right to draw Muhammad but shouldn't out of respect. They don't seem to realize that any surrender on this point will only be seen by the jihadists as a victory and embolden them to make more demands. CNN's Erin Burnett said I relished being the target of a beheading. It's madness. Who self-promotes to get killed?
So you’re not purposely courting danger, as Burnett and others have insinuated?
Of course not. I love life. But I will not live as a slave.
Are there any TV hosts you’d like to face off with but who won’t have you on?
Bill O'Reilly. I expect he knows he would be shown up.
We know about the man arrested who intended to behead you. Any other threats you can share?
I have received many threats. The FBI and NYPD are aware of them and on the case.
Anyone in Hollywood reach out to you to offer support?
Should Hollywood care about threats against you?
They may think they're exempt, but they aren't. Islamic supremacists will be demanding they adhere to Sharia as well. Of course, most producers already are careful not to show anything that might offend Muslims, including accurate representations of jihad plotting and activity, so Hollywood is mostly already in their pocket. But this is their issue, and the entertainment industry should be on the front lines in the information battle space. The jihadists aren’t just coming for me, they are coming for all of us that believe in freedom.
So why do you think Hollywood, which routinely claims to push the envelope in its art, hasn’t supported you?
They're afraid of being ostracized.
Your "Draw Muhammad" event certainly got a lot of news coverage. Should mainstream media outlets have published the winning cartoon?
Every media outlet should publish the Muhammad cartoons. They can't kill us all. By kowtowing to violent intimidation, they are inviting more of it. Instead, they should be showing that we will all stand together for free speech. If the media had published the Danish cartoons back in 2005, this would never have become an issue. The submission by media, entertainment and academic elites empowered the savages.
The Southern Poverty Law Center included you on their list of "hate groups." Are they right?
Of course not. They're the hate group, using that label to demonize and stigmatize all who don't share their hard-left agenda. The SPLC smear machine does not profile jihad groups, but they target and libel patriots, veterans, Tea Party organizations and other groups that work in defense of freedom. They named [Republican presidential contender] Ben Carson as a hate group. That should tell you everything you need to know about them. Their [sympathizers] have violently attacked family groups, and one tried to assassinate Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. And a few months back an SPLC [sympathizer] killed three Muslims in a parking dispute in North Carolina.
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