When political commentators note that there is no justification for sexual violence, they aren’t adhering to doctrinal feminism but the tenets of civilized Western thought. No woman, a responsible citizen would say, invites violence merely because their assailant was uncontrollably stimulated by their victim’s choice of attire. This is such a bedrock principle of human decency that it barely needs to be said. Only the most brutish and crude among us would contend otherwise. Why then does it appear vogue to imply that a terrorist attack on a Texas American Freedom Defense Initiative event organized by the group’s president, Pamela Geller, was the inevitable result of provocation on the part of the victims?
Yes, the event that was targeted by Islamist militants in Texas was specifically designed to provoke an inflamed response. The AFDI event promised a $10,000 reward for the attendee who drew the best caricature of the Islamic Prophet Mohammed – an offense that inspired the massacre of editors and cartoonists at the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo.
Far from being spontaneous, this act of violence was preceded on Twitter by users praising the attackers as “mujahideen” and approving of their decision to martyr themselves for the cause of radical Islam.
— Carol Costello (@CarolCNN) May 4, 2015
To suggest that by attacking the censorious sensibilities of Islamist fanatics with this display of protest is absurd and dispiritingly defeatist. Nevertheless, that’s what so many of the usual suspects have done today.
Not even a week after justifying the violence that characterized Baltimore’s “uprising” and expressing the hope that the riotous mobs in Charm City would “riot strategically,” CNN commentator and Morehouse College professor Marc Lamont Hill claimed that he supports free speech, but…
I understand and respect free speech. But to organize hate speech events, purely because you're legally allowed to, is disgusting.
— Marc Lamont Hill (@marclamonthill) May 4, 2015
Hill wasn’t alone. New York Times foreign correspondent Rukmini Callimachi, a reporter who focuses on Islamic extremism, agreed.
Free speech aside, why would anyone do something as provocative as hosting a "Muhammad drawing contest"?
— Rukmini Callimachi (@rcallimachi) May 4, 2015
Through implication, a variety of respected reporting outlets spent whole paragraphs outlining the conditions that might have inspired two radicalized Muslims to shoot up this event and wound a security guard.
The AP made note of the history of provocative acts in which Geller and her organization have engaged during their campaign of opposition to murderous Islamist extremism:
When a Chicago-based nonprofit held a January fundraiser in Garland designed to help Muslims combat negative depictions of their faith, Geller spearheaded about 1,000 picketers at the event.
One chanted: “Go back to your own countries! We don’t want you here!” Others held signs with messages such as, “Insult those who behead others,” an apparent reference to recent beheadings by the militant group Islamic State.
In The Daily Mail, AP reporters contributed to a photo spread outlining Geller’s “long history of hatred.”
“The AFDI is listed as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a watchdog organization that describes Geller as ‘prone to publicizing preposterous claims, such as President Obama being the ‘love child’ of Malcolm X, and once suggested that recent U.S. Supreme Court appointee Elena Kagen, who is Jewish, supports Nazi ideology,’” that report read.
This isn’t the first time an organization listed as a “hate group” by the SPLC was attacked by gun-wielding maniacs, but you don’t see many media outlets looking into the climate of murderous violence inspired by this liberal advocacy group.
These comments in this Daily Mail report are tasteless, but they by no means justify the violence that was visited on this AFDI event last night. The AP’s decision to list the grievances of the attackers as though they merited any consideration suggests, however, that the coastal reporting establishment believes otherwise.
As a matter of fact, the American Muslim community appears to be far less willing to accept the claims of Islamic radicals that have been used to justify attempted murder than does the press. The Daily Beast’s Dean Obeidallah noted that, despite the fact that so many American Muslims are “offended and/or disgusted” by Geller’s work, they haven’t dared go so far as to accept that her attempted murderers maybe had a point.
One of Charlie Hebdo’s surviving cartoonists, an artist who goes by the moniker Lulz, revealed last week that he would no longer draw the images of Mohamed that got so many of his friends killed. The assassin’s veto is upheld. For the AP and others, another murderer’s claim apparently deserves a fair hearing. If only Geller hadn’t worn that short skirt…