Muhammad Cartoon Contest In Garland, Texas Had Nothing To Do With Free Speech

First things first: Freedom of speech is a cherished liberty among all Americans and most citizens of the rest of the world. It is the bedrock upon which all other freedoms rest. Preserving it is critical for civilized societies to exist. And it must be honored for all speech, especially that which is regarded as unpopular or offensive.

That said, in the practice of defending free speech we must be able to distinguish between actual expressions of genuine thoughts and beliefs, as opposed to cynical exploitation aimed at inflaming emotions and inciting violence. Just as shouting “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire is not protected speech, staging events meant to cause harm is not an excusable act under the First Amendment.

Hypocrites who pervert the notion of free expression need to be called out. They are often easy to spot. They complain bitterly when they are not allowed to malign and insult others with impunity. And while they insist that any derogatory speech directed at their heroes be condemned and suppressed, they outright lust for words and pictures that offend those whom they don’t particularly like. That’s how they can justify support for blatantly repulsive speech against Muslims or other enemies of right-wingers, but the slightest perceived slur aimed at Christians or other conservatives is an abomination. [Just ask the Dixie Chicks and the casualties in the War on Christmas]

Cletus Free Speech

The affair in Garland, Texas was advertised as “The Inaugural Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest.” But lest anyone mistake it for a legitimate exercise in free speech, the facts about its organizers and purpose must be known.

The event was a project of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a virulent anti-Islamic operation that has been been identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. It is run by notorious Islamophobes, Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. Geller & Co. have often produced media-centric events to promote an overtly bigoted agenda, of which the event in Garland is just the latest example.

To underscore the evil intentions behind this gathering, note that the venue chosen was the very same venue where Muslims held a conference in January of this year with the stated mission of making it clear that terrorists like ISIS and Al Qaeda are “enemies of Islam who are hurting Muslims and neighborly relations toward the world.” That event was heckled by right-wing protesters who apparently object to peaceful Muslims who repudiate terrorism.

Geller admitted that she picked this site as a response to the previous, pro-peace event put on by area Muslims. Which also raises the significance of the fact that the Garland community has a growing Muslim population. Consequently, holding an openly hateful event in such a community is purposefully provocative.

So can this rightly be called a “free speech” event when the primary activity is an alleged “art” contest that the producers know will be inflammatory; the site was chosen as a deliberate poke in the eye; the community is home to those the organizers wish to offend; the guests include international anti-Islam activist Geert Wilders; and the participants are professional hate mongers? Wouldn’t it more more correct to call this a deliberate provocation intended to incite violence?

There was obviously no intent on the part of Geller and her hate brigade to engage in a sincere public discourse. It is far more likely that she got exactly what she wanted when a couple of would-be terrorists showed up with guns blazing. Sadly, what isn’t being reported in the media is that the leaders of the broader Muslim community at large condemned the shooting and expressed unreserved support for the free speech rights of Geller et al. They also counseled other Muslims in the area to refrain from even showing up to protest the event, in order to preserve the peace. In that effort they were successful as there was no onsite protest. The only alleged Muslims who showed up were, unfortunately, the gunmen.

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It’s really too bad that there are people like Geller whose sole purpose in life is to create chaos and disharmony. And it makes it all the worse that they twist cherished principles like freedom of speech to incite violence. It is also too bad that there are idiots who will take the bait and give the hate mongers what they yearn for. Yes, Geller is just as entitled to free speech as anyone else. But she is coming awfully close to that line where she is shouting “fire” and hoping that innocent people get trampled.


47 thoughts on “Muhammad Cartoon Contest In Garland, Texas Had Nothing To Do With Free Speech

    • Sure ya’ are. This is still The United States of America despite what jack-legs like Mark NC says. By the way, anyone notice how “Mark NC” doesn’t have the guts to give his last name? And when you’re done Steve, move over because it’s my turn.

      • Of course any moron capable of reading english would have seen Mark did affirm it was their right even though they used that right solely to offend and attempt to incite.

        • He likes to affirm that right (like all rights) CONDITIONALLY – you clearly haven’t read enough of his collection of writings to see him for what he is. He likes to do all the badmouthing of conservatism and other ideas not firmly in the liberal sphere but doesn’t like other forms of speech HE finds offensive. So those forms get special treatment from him and he thows in a “supportive of free speech” comment thinking that absolves him of any attempt to push censorship of certain ideas or offensive speech. He’ll say he puts up with me as confirmation he is a strong defender of the first amendment – which he certainly does mostly. If he wasn’t such a hypocrite in this area it wouldn’t require any comment – but he is all too human and is a hypocrite like the rest of us are in one way or another. Most of us can admit it though.
          There are lots of idiotic ideas thrown around daily and I’m happy to have them freely shared – even when they are ignorant to my beliefs or even offensive.
          And calling out muslim extremists with pictures of their ridiculous “prophet”

  1. I must admit, your bag full of reasons for people to reject and give up their own freedoms is really bottomless – I’ll agree all day long some behaviors are just not a great idea – but hey, just so you can continue to insult anyone who isn’t ideologically in line with you that’s all that matters. You are the worst kind of hypocrite and as dangerous to this country as any of those religious nuts. We’re heading for the dark ages if these kooks get their way and all you can do is attack those that stand against these ignorant fools. But hey, just so feelings aren’t hurt here. Maybe you can add to your website a list of books, music and movies that don’t offend any group so we can self censor ourselves and make the world more to your liking. Maybe people don’t need to pick fights, but some fights are worth having.

    • Spot on.

      People on the left accusing Geller of inviting the attack are missing the point. Yes, she basically did and in doing so, she did us all a favor.

      If there had been an anti-Christian event with disrespectful pictures of Jesus, would armed gunmen have appeared despite such an “invitation?”

      If there had been a Nazi rally advocating extermination of Jews, would Jewish attackers have shown up?

      When was the last time a Klan rally was attacked by armed black men?

      Is the “slutty” girl wearing a provocative outfit asking to be raped?

      I have always viewed Geller as an Islamophobe and someone who perpetrates hate BUT there is a simple reality here that cannot be denied: in exercising her right to free speech (whatever her real agenda may have been), no matter how much we deplore what she had to say, she revealed that radical Islamists DO NOT RESPECT THAT RIGHT the way others of us who have to face disdain and disrespect every day have learned to do.

      End of story.

  2. Heaping scorn and ridicule on religious extremists (of ALL varieties) is jolly good sport, and as a confirmed unbeliever, I find it hard to resist. That said, it’s ultimately not worth the effort to offend the easily-offended (like shooting fish in a barrel) unless there is a worthy point to be made. Yes, we should be able to mock Mohammad and other bogus deities in a satirical way, but I don’t think dumfuks like Geller and Spencer even get satire… but I bet they’d love to see some muslim kook try something “terroristy” so they could push for more, more, and even more war in the land of oil & sand. To RWNJs, there simply is no downside to war… it’s their life-blood.

    • I agree, but the criticism of this speech by supposed supporters of free speech is not good in any way. I don’t go out of my way to criticize Islam – I enjoy doing that to christianity much more as a recovering catholic, islam is starting to close the gap though – but it’s all the same in the end. I’m still trying to figure out if judaism or islam is worse – they are both ridiculous beliefs and are both dangerous in their own ways.

      • Actually, most Jews are not terribly religious, even in Israel. The problems Israel have with the Islamic world that surrounds them is mostly political (defense and territorial) but the hatred Muslims have for Jews is both political and religious, and the religious aspect is the reason there can’t be peace in that region. If it was just a fight over real estate, a roomful of lawyers would have the matter settled in an afternoon.

        The clashes in France and the Netherlands were over art that had a pointed political element, which makes sense because those countries have large Muslim populations that are politically engaged. The US has a small Muslim population with virtually no political power at all, so there’s really no political argument to engage in here. That makes the “free speech” angle kind of a red herring in my eyes. Why should we provoke such a small, powerless minority? It just seems like mean-spirited bullying.

        People like Pamela Geller are cynical promoters of religious hate and they wanted a violent reaction (as I noted yesterday) and surprise – they got it! I don’t know if the cartoons were satirical or just hateful (or both) but it hardly matters anymore. Blood has been spilled and the political shit is hittin’ the fan. I love art and freedom of expression, but I just don’t see any “good guys” in this scenario. Hate is ugly and violence is uglier. I am sickened by all of it.

        • The criticism of Judaism is more about what is found in the old testament – the insane violence against whoever doesn’t fall into their dumb club or on their “promised land” – which coincidentally is where the fight is today. Their holy books are just as violent as what Islam pushes – maybe it ‘s from a long time ago and they just got over the killing.

        • Muslims actually don’t have any religious reasons to hate the Jews. In the Qur’an God says they are our fellow people of the Book, and the differences between us he will judge and solve on the Last Day. The issues and strife in the middle east now are ALL political in nature, began in 1948.

          • Really? Then why did so many Jews get massacred in Hebron of 1929?

    • I totally agree. I have nothing to add as you articulated it perfectly!

  3. Just because something is offensive to an individual or a specific group, religious, ethnic, or otherwise, doesn’t mean it should be banned. Serrano’s Piss Christ and Ofili’s Holy Virgin Mary were terribly offensive to many Christians, the difference being that they didn’t run out and start killing people for offending them or mocking their faith.

    Instead of blaming the artwork and the artists for inciting violence, how about looking at the rather large group of people who choose to react to just about everything ‘offense’ with violence?

    • Oh perhaps you didn’t notice that nearly the entire muslim community stayed home and did not bother to even peotest. Thier leaders even acknowledged the free speech right to make an ass of oneself and be purposefully offensive.

      • That little factoid is correct. I give the local CAIR chapter credit for getting out the right way to respond to this gathering – by ignoring it.

      • One bad apple is all in takes, or in the case of militant Jihadists, a few thousand.

    • How can you have so completely misunderstood this article? Nowhere in it does it advocate that anything should banned. Neither does it blame any artwork for inciting violence. What’s more, it explicitly puts the responsibility for violence on the “idiots who will take the bait.”

      The point here is to highlight the hostile intentions of the organizers who are purposely seeking violence for their own sick agenda. When someone deliberately provokes violence, it is hard to consider them victims when they achieve the actual goal that they set for themselves.

      • How can one be deliberately be provoking violence by holding an art contest? Art contests and gallery showings are held all the time, yet people don’t show up with guns and explosives with the intent to kill, regardless of the subject matter. This isn’t a religious issue, but rather a free speech issue.

        If people of a certain faith feel their beliefs should be forced on others, then perhaps they should go to a country where that is common practice?

        • You ask “How can one be deliberately be provoking violence by holding an art contest?”

          Really? Do you really need that explained to you? Also, in addition to all the reasons I stated above that prove the organizer’s hostile intent, they paid $10,000 for extraordinary security, including a swat team. Do you think they were unaware that their pretend “art” exhibit was actually a deliberate provocation? That’s the answer to your question.

          And I repeat, that doesn’t justify the fuckheads who opened fire (giving Gellar exactly what she wanted), but it is important information contextually to assess the the matter as a whole.

          • They were very much aware that followers of Islam have a propensity to lash out with violence at anyone who they perceive as violating THEIR faith and said followers proved them right.

          • MarkNC So is it your belief Charlie Hebdo was trying to incite violence, right ?

  4. With the controversial work “Piss Christ” or Target in your cartoon no Christian came with guns blazing ready to kill in the name of Jesus. That is the difference. Our first amendment right was founded on protecting the speech you don’t agree with as you said in your first paragraph and you should have stopped there. Your shouting “fire”as well as other analogies are terrible since the harm is coming from the Islamic Extremists (The guys with the Guns) not Geller or peace loving Muslims. I hope to think that we are all on the same page when it comes to the brutality which is the Islamic Terrorist. But, since you continued past the first paragraph I’d be interested to know who you would appoint as the Free Speech Police. I’m sorry you think right wing people are nut jobs. I personally think that is inflammatory but don’t worry…you won’t see me coming guns blazing ready to eliminate anyone that disagrees with me. Race, Color or Creed!

    • So you just yell at people telling them to die rather than actually killing them? I just can’t.

      • So I saw a similar argument this morning on MSNBC and it utterly infuriated me. One of the keystones of free speech is the freedom to offend, because that inherently ties into the freedom of satire as speech.

        A landmark case is Nation Socialist Party v. Skokie. Here is a link for those who want more info:

        In that case, the local branch of the KKK wanted to march through a largely Jewish community in Skokie Illinois and the local government denied them a permit. The ACLU, which had a very large contingent of Jewish attorneys, represented the KKK and won them the right to march.

        The bottom line is that while you may hate what a person has to say, you cannot stop them from saying it, with a few very rare exceptions. The author decries the message because it “incited” someone. I call bullshit on that. Yes, Geller and Co. are a bunch of assholes. But if you subscribe to an ideology which drives you to violence because you are insulted, you are, and this is the same word Geller used on CNN yesterday, a savage and you have no place in civil society. More important, your ideology has no place in civil society.

        • The difference here is that Geller was knowingly inciting violence under circumstances that resulted in violence in the past. That was not the case in Skokie. Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s finding in that case was that an injunction against the Klan could have been upheld if the state had undergone the process correctly and shown that there was a compelling state interest in restricting the march..

          “If a state seeks to impose an injunction in violation of First Amendment rights, it must provide strict procedural safeguards, including immediate appellate review. Absent such review, a stay must be granted.”

          • “…knowingly inciting violence…”
            That is a lie. So they put out offensive artwork. The response to that “artwork” is not Geller’s problem.

  5. On any event, it does not matter how innocent it seems, we must look at its content and in this time of politically charged environment, because of the incoming elections, look at the sponsors. The Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest was set up by people whose only goal is steer hate towards Muslims. That in itself is reason enough to see what the purpose of such “exhibit” is. KEEP RELIGION OUT OF POLITICS.

    • So you’re suggesting people use good judgement? – that is some advice that should be shared and may be, but I’m not convinced, could be the point Mark was trying to make. But, as is typical, his progressive mindset works a certain way and it comes across different.

  6. While the group is clearly a hate group that does not change the right to draw pictures. I hate to defend them but if you were forcing Muslims to draw pictures of Muhammad that would be a problem. Forcing others to not draw pictures that are not against their beliefs is a problem too. Similar to people trying to force others not use use birth control because it is against your belief. If this was an exhibit with art full of hate speech towards Muslims that would not be protected as it is hate speech. Doing something that is against some people’s beliefs is not hate speech. Muslims living in this country need to accept that everyone does not have to believe what they do and are free to draw pictures of Muhammad. Also, Catholic need to learn that everyone does not have to believe that birth control is killing people. I could go on listing a lot of religions that are trying to push their beliefs on the population of this country but they are all the same. Things that are ok- doing things that are against someone else’s religion. Things that are not OK- belittling people, calling them names, withholding rights given to others in the country because they disagree with your beliefs (IE arguing gays can not get married because your particular religion says it is wrong when others do not)(ironically, probably the same people rightfully arguing they can draw these pictures if they want) , threatening them, holding events that are calling for you to hurt other people .

  7. i wonder how those same people would feel if there was a draw Jesus contest , where the winner had drawn him in , lets say, in the midst of a bisexual orgy , and in great detail showed a d-ck in his mouth …….

    • They would say, “That is disgusting and blasphemous.” And that’s it. They wouldn’t try to kill anybody.

      • But abortion doctors have been killed by crazed Christians. How is that one iota of a difference?

        It isn’t. The doctors, like the one in Wichita, were gunned down because a religious nut felt he was violating a personally held religious principle.

        The Muslim nut cases, who think they have to defend their prophet’s honor, are gun toting right wing easily offended defenders. I don’t think Geller has any problem recognizing that kind of hateful crazy nor knowing exactly what kind of response she was going to get.

  8. “Hypocrites who pervert the idea of free expression need to be called out…”
    Fine. I hereby declare you a hypocrite and a hate-monger – but then again, I have already done that. It just needs to be re-stated.
    This is absolutely about free speech. No amount of lying on your part will change this fact. By the way, the Southern Poverty Law Center has taken its previously stellar reputation and flushed it down the toilet with Mark Potok’s hypocrisy and partisan hackery.

  9. Seems to me that if groups here in America can burn the American flag, degrade Jesus Christ and God. Burn the bible and other religious items. Then, Why is there a debate about whether or not holding a art contest to make fun of another “god” is unconstitutional. Seems like, WE need to pull our heads out.

  10. This article is wrong. It is a veiled attack on freedom of speech. The entire argument is based on the fiction that freedom of speech is limited to those who’s intentions are good.. Ask the ACLU if you need to have good intentions in order for your freedom of speech to be protected. They will tell you that you do not.
    The event organizers did not break any laws. The event was a valid expression of freedom of speech. This article is one continuous ad-hominem smear of the event organizers.. I am disappointed in what the venue considers to be a legitimate article on ‘freedom of speech.’

  11. Stupids are born and it is in their nature to be stupid. Similarly, those who don’t believe in religion are always hate mongers against religion. There is no way to stop them, better to ignore and they want to buy attention. Theose are parasites in the society.

  12. All of a sudden Right-Wingers are Free Speech Heroes, that is as long as you insult islam.

    But, if you dare speak out against Conservatives well then death threats and violence is what you can expect.

    For instance if you were to be against the Republican War in Iraq then – “Americans need to watch what they say, watch what they do.” Ari Fleschier

    Or if you dared to criticize George W(orst President Ever) Bush, then like the Dixie Chicks you could expect death threats from Conservatives.

    But, I invite all these RightWing Free Speech is absolute 2 challenges, buy a vintage Confederate Flag and go deep into the center of Alabama and burn it and then piss on the ashes

    Or go into the Vice Lord “holy city”, North Lawndale and yell the N word and VL’s are bitches.

    Do either of these actions and we’ll never hear from you again…

    • “But, if you dare speak out against Conservatives well then death threats and violence is what you can expect.”

      You’re talking about the democrats, right? Threats of violence, vulgar name calling, hoping people get cancer – these are the signature replies of the left anytime they realize they can’t back their positions up with anything more than yelling louder.

      • No I’m talking about the conservative keyboard commandos who threatened death to antiwar activists during the Iraq war fiasco. Or right second amendment heroes who threaten to shoot people who express their 1st amendments rights calling for gun laws.

        • “…death threats…”
          A partial list of people who have received death threats – Sarah Palin, Dick Armey, Charles and David Koch, George W. Bush, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly…
          Get the picture? Just about anybody in public gets death threats. I bet even Ree Drummond gets a death threat every now and then. There are lunatics out there, plain and simple.

  13. “Congress shall make no law …. abridging the freedom of speech” but that does not require the government to provide security for those who spew hate speech and/or utter fighting words.

    See also Fighting Words

    Fighting Words
    Words which would likely make the person whom they are addressed commit an act of violence. Fighting words are a category of speech that is unprotected by the First Amendment. Chaplinsky v New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942).

  14. What I see in this article and particularly the long list of comments is a confirmation that this continued attempt to shut people up when they openly use their freedoms to criticize is getting old and the progressive Mark approach to these freedoms is falling flat. Great discussion though and hopefully the people of this country continue to push back against both liberal and so called conservative attempts to silence any speech – no matter how hateful or ignorant or dangerous.

  15. Don’t tell us to restrict our speech, teach Muslims not to kill people.

    • that isn’t how it works in progressive Mark world – if you read here long enough, you’ll see it. He certainly doesn’t hide his contempt for ANY speech he thinks is offensive!!

      • Cast out the mote from your eye Stevie, because conservatives would never ever threaten to rape and murder someone who denigrated one of their icons, say the murderer Chris Kyle.

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