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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Lighting a Very Short Fuse

Yesterday's attack on a Muslim cabbie understandably caught a lot of people's attention. While it's now unclear that the assault was connected to the Park51 controversy, a lot of people -- myself included -- immediately assumed that it was. Allow me to demonstrate why:

That was a protest against the Cordoba House community center at Park51 last weekend. Mr. Brimless Cap there was mistaken for a Muslim and the crowd turned on him, with Mr. Hardhat trying his damnedest to start a fight. Of course, Mr. Brimless Cap would've been torn apart by the crowd if Mr. Hardhat was successful. Mr. Hardhat's courage is the courage of knowing that a hundred equally crazy idiots have your back. In short, Mr. Hardhat is a coward and a bully. Given that this crowd is completely terrified by the prospect of what will essentially be a YMCA, finding cowardice within it isn't all that surprising. Mr. Brimless Cap is escorted out of the crowd, followed by some idiot shouting "Mohammed's a pig! Mohammed's a pig!" which is always helpful and constructive. Later, we learn that Mr. Brimless Cap is a carpenter at Ground Zero, not a radical jihadist. His only crime was making a fashion choice that hate-filled morons found confusing. Worse, had they been correct, his crime would've been being Muslim on a New York City street.

Is he for the project, is he against it? Who knows? All we know is that they saw someone who wasn't white, dressed in a way that was vaguely similar to Muslims they've seen on the teevee (I'm having a hard time believing these were New Yorkers for that reason), and decided that someone needed a good old-fashioned threatening. This could so easily have turned into a lynch mob, a riot, or both. In fact, this video is so embarrassing to the anti-Muslim cause that the main author of the hysteria, rightwing nutcase Pam Geller, has washed her hands of this protest altogether, saying "I had nothing to do with this rally and knew nothing about it." She couches her denial in an attack on a tweet by blogger Max Blumenthal -- as if the media is hanging on Blumenthal's every 140 characters, waiting to pounce and destroy Pam Geller.

And, of course, he doesn't take her denial lying down:

Geller's claim that she had "no idea" about the August 22 rally is ridiculous. According to the Daily Caller, "Beth Gilinsky, an organizer for The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero and founder of the Jewish Action Alliance, is coordinating the rally." And Gilinsky and Geller have worked hand-in-glove for years. At the April 25 Stand With Israel rally in New York City, Gilinsky introduced Geller as "a very dear friend" for whom she holds "enormous admiration." (Geller proceeded to wave a scarf reading "Yid Army" before the crowd, making a cartoonish attempt at Jewish ethnic identification while at the same time expressing her admiration for violent British football hooligans.) Geller has also lavished praise on Gilinsky, hailing her as one of the "warriors" who attempted to stop the Khalil Gibran Academy from opening in Brooklyn.

Considering that Geller and Gilinsky spearheaded the campaign against the Girban Academy and that they at least claim to be "very dear" friends, it is hard to imagine that Geller had "no idea" that Gilinsky and company were planning a major rally on August 22. So Geller is simply deceiving her readers. And given that many of those on the list of organizations and individual racists supporting The Coalition To Honor Ground Zero are scheduled to appear at the rally Geller is planning on 9-11 against Cordoba House, Geller appears to be disparaging her own allies as well, conceding that they are in fact a bunch of deranged, potentially violent bigots whose actions are "harmful to the cause of freedom of expression."

But Geller isn't just deceiving her readers. She knows that this phony outrage she helped create has made her a minor celebrity, so what's on her blog is aimed as much -- or more -- at the media as it is her supporters. Bllumenthal's tweet is just her excuse to distance herself from the whole thing. In this case, P.T. Barnum's rule doesn't apply: there is such a thing as bad press and Geller doesn't want any of it. Still her irrationality shines through, as she begins her post with "Max Blumenthal, notorious Jew hater, is lying, slandering and making up racist propaganda against me again." Racist? Really? In what way? And Blumenthal, like Geller, is Jewish. Like all rightwingers, Geller resorts to hurling random insults and strawmen when backed into a corner. Their model for a perfect debater is Don Rickles. How do you know when a wingnut thinks they're losing a debate? They get really, really nasty.

So, what we see is Geller completely terrified that all the hatred she's heated up is on the verge of boiling over and spoiling her fifteen minutes of fame. If she's so certain this is on the the edge of the cliff, why is it so surprising that everyone else is as well?

It should also be noted that, while the man who assaulted the cabbie, Michael Enright, is associated with an organization that supports the Park51 project, he is not an employee (I originally reported otherwise, consider this my retraction). He was a freelance film maker. And the only thing suggesting that he isn't opposed to Park51 is this association to the pro-Park51 Intersections International. Ideologically, I think stabbing a guy for being Muslim might just put you in the same camp as Mr. Hardhat up there. Just a guess, mind you. But it doesn't seem like much of a leap of logic. I also think a budding documentary film maker (Enright is still a student) wouldn't be extremely choosy about the groups helping him expand his film catalog. You don't have to have a good opinion of Park51 or Muslims to make films about veterans with PTSD.

So, did I and a lot of other people jump the gun in assuming that Enright's crime was based on opposition to Park51? I suppose we did. But that's only because we share something with Pam Geller: we know this stands a good chance of blowing up eventually. The difference is that we're interested in stopping that explosion, while Geller is only interested in not being there when it happens.


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