When Pamela Geller** and her allies organized an “art show” in Texas around the concept of anti-Mohammed cartoons, offering a $10,000 prize, they were hoping to provoke a reaction. They got it.
It didn’t come from the local Islamic community, which studiously ignored the event and refused to give Geller what she wanted. Some even defended Geller’s First Amendment right to hold such an event. But it only takes one or two, and in our interconnected world they are likely to crawl up out of their holes from almost anywhere.
In this case, according to law enforcement, two gunmen from Phoenix took the dangling bait, drove the thousand miles to Garland and attacked the event Sunday night, slightly wounding a security guard before they were killed by local police. Since then, Geller and her group have been riding the publicity generated for their cause.
Now, that doesn’t in any way mitigate the responsibility of the two gunmen and anyone else who may have assisted them. Nor does it in any way justify their use of violence. Nothing justifies any of that. Violence can’t be the answer to speech that you find disagreeable or even reprehensible. A lot of Americans would get upset at the sight of someone desecrating our flag, for example, but that would not justify physical violence. (And if you think it would justify violence, then congratulations, you’ve just gained insight into the mindset of those who attacked Sunday night.)
But let’s be honest. The nut cases at either end of the spectrum are each other’s best allies, prodding and provoking each other in hopes of creating a maelstrom that sucks everybody else into their war. Because then they win. The more anger, fear and other thought-throttling emotions they can stir, the more recruits they will find for their own cause. And if it also generates recruits for the other side, that’s fine too.
Because that too moves us closer to the religious war that they itch to foment.
** (To those of you unfamiliar with Geller, think of her as the Orly Taitz of anti-Islamic bigotry, except that the birther queen may be slightly more grounded in reality. Among other things, Geller believes President Obama is a plant of the Muslim Brotherhood, an “usurper” out to bring down America from within.)