The news that I got on my CNN feed last night was a bit ambiguous: the two people killed in the attack on the exhibit of Mohammad cartoons in Garland, Texas were actually not attendees, but the attackers themselves. Both were apparently killed by police after opening fire; one policeman was wounded in the leg but has been released from hospital.
If anything was “provocative,” this was. The event was organized by Pamela Geller of the right-wing American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI)— an Islamophobe if anyone is—and featured Geert Wilders as a speaker. As the New York Times reports:
“As today’s Muhammad Art Exhibit event at the Curtis Culwell Center was coming to an end,” the [City of Garland’s] Facebook posting said, “two males drove up to the front of the building in a car. Both males were armed and began shooting at a Garland I.S.D. security officer.”
The Garland Independent School District said in a statement that its security officer, Bruce Joiner, was shot in the ankle and taken to a hospital. He was later released.
The Daily Mail suggests that Muslims were involved, which is a reasonable guess, but it’s based on one tw**t and so is premature:
In a series of tweets and links, a jihadist named as Abu Hussain AlBritani, which SITE said was British IS fighter Junaid Hussain, claimed that ‘2 of our brothers just opened fire’ at the Prophet Muhammad exhibition in Texas.
I have no great love for Ms. Geller, and don’t consider this exhibit nearly as admirable as Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons, which were intended to mock religion—not believers themselves—and defend immigrants. Geller does indeed intend to provoke, and from what I know of her she aims to criticize not just Islam, but Muslims. Wilders has been accused of the same, though I haven’t followed his actions as closely. Regardless, both have the right to say what they want without fear of violence, and I’ll defend that right.
In the meantime, the osculators are already beginning to cry that the event brought the violence on itself. At the ever-osculating Huffington Post, for instance, the recriminations appear in an article reprinted from artnet News called “Texas ‘Draw the Prophet” contest is shameless Muslim-baiting.” (So much for objective journalism.)
An image announcing the contest riffs on Norman Rockwell’s most famous self-portrait, showing Muhammad painting a self-portrait and thus aiming to highlight the contrast between traditional American values and the beliefs of Islamist extremists. By enlisting Rockwell’s saccharine vision to her cause, Geller only underlines her simplistic version of America.
I’m not sure what that last sentence means. It’s clearly critical of the poster, which I actually think is cool (see below), but otherwise reeks of postmodern sanctimoniousness. Remember that Rockwell was famous for his Four Freedoms paintings, depicting the freedoms outlined in 1941 by Franklin Roosevelt. One of them, published in 1943, depicted “freedom of speech”. Here’s that painting in the Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, a site I visited with Dawkins and Dennett during the “Moving Naturalism Forward” meeting. It shows an ordinary citizen at a New England “town meeting” standing up to say his piece.
And here’s the poster advertising the Texas exhibit. Note that HuffPo didn’t know what it was doing when it put this up, for the sit has now put itself at risk by its own “Muslim-baiting”! Do they not realize that this is going to anger Muslims? As I said, I actually think this ad is quite clever; pity it was used by Pamela Geller.
Here’s the famous original by Rockwell:
PuffHo continues with some snark in the final sentence:
“The beacon of freedom, the shining light on a hill, is running scared,” Geller told Breitbart Texas of the Western media’s reluctance to publish controversial images like the Charlie Hebdo cartoons (see Accused of Charlie Hebdo Censorship, AP Removes Piss Christ Image,Belgian Museum Cancels Charlie Hebdo Exhibition, Security Threats Force London’s V&A to Remove Prophet Muhammad Artwork, and Why Self-Censorship of Controversial Artwork is Wrong). “We’re holding this exhibit and cartoon contest to show how insane the world has become—with people in the free world tiptoeing in terror around supremacist thugs who actually commit murder over cartoons. If we can’t stand up for the freedom of speech, we will lose it—and with it, free society.”
No word on exactly how free speech is under threat, an especially untenable claim in view of the widespread publication of Charlie Hebdo cartoons.
“No word on exactly how free speech is under threat”? What the bloody hell are they talking about? This very exhibit was attacked by two murderous thugs, as was the Charlie Hebdo office. Just because people reprint the cartoons doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory. Whoever wrote that article is clueless.
The noises we’re about to hear are the moans of social justice warriors and religion-coddlers telling us that this exhibit was unduly provocative. They will tell us that it is very different from Charlie Hebdo, and thus indefensible. In one way it is different—in the nature of the organization displaying the cartoons—but in the most important respect it’s not: showing us that the freedom of speech should hold regardless of how much you dislike the ideas expressed, or the intent behind them, and that we should defend that right as strongly as we can. For every strong opinion will offend someone.
What the “cartoon shamers” like Garry Trudeau really mean is that we should simply stop criticizing Islam because the Religion of Peace will kill us if we do. Odious as Geller is, she should be able to promulgate her views without fear. Likewise for the vile anti-Semites who are once again beginning to spew their venom in Europe (see post later today).