They say everything’s bigger in Texas, and it looks like that applies to right-wing freak-outs, too. Things in the Lone Star State have gotten so loony that every former Texas governor Rick Perry can’t make sense of it.
On Monday morning, Americans were shocked by news that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed credit for a shooting in Garland, Texas. Two gunmen opened fire outside of a “draw Muhammad” contest in the Dallas suburb. A security guard was injured, and the two gunmen were shot and killed by a traffic cop who happened to be on the scene.
The gunmen were later identified as Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, two roommates who shared an apartment in Phoenix, Arizona. Simpson was known to FBI agents, and was convicted five years ago of lying to federal agents about plans to join a terrorist group in Africa. ISIS has claimed responsibility, though there is no evidence of the groups involvement thus far. Simpson also linked himself to ISIS in a tweet posted just before the attack.
The Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest was sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups lists AFDI as an active anti-Muslim group. The organization is known for previous sponsoring anti-Muslim posters in the New York subway, and opposing the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.”
The contest offered a $10,000 prize for cartoons of the prophet Muhammed, which many Muslims consider blasphemous. In attendance was Pamela Geller, whom the SPLC describes as “the anti-Muslim movement’s most visible and flamboyant figurehead.” Geller, whom the SPLC also describes as “relentlessly shrill,” previously made headlines for her coarse denunciations of Islam, and for making ridiculous claims, like that President Obama is the “love child” of Malcolm X. After the Garland shooting, Geller got busy living up to the way the SPLC described her.
Taking up the banner of Charlie Hebdo to justify the event, Geller said in a CNN interview, “It’s dangerous because increasingly, we’re abridging our freedoms so as not to offend savages.” One of the surviving writers of Charlie Hebdo made it clear there’s “absolutely no comparison possible” between the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the Garland shooting. Film critic Jean-Baptiste Thoret said the writers and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were criticizing religion in general, “not Muslim people in particular.”
“We are here for freedom of speech,” Gellar said. “Everything else is a smear.” But the history of her organization and the tone of the event suggested that the goal was to provoke. She also expected trouble. Gellar chose Garland in reaction to an Islamic “Stand With the Prophet” conference held there last January, as a fundraiser to build a new center to combat extremism and negative perceptions of Islam. Muslim participants were met by thousands of protesters, holding signs bearing anti-Islam slogans. Gellar reportedly gave $10,000 to the Garland police force to cover security for the two-hour event.
Mayor Douglas Athas told the Dallas Morning News that Geller’s actions “invited” the attack. “Her actions put my police officers, my citizens and others at risk. Her program invited an incendiary reaction,” Athas said. Geller compared Athan’s comments to blaming a rape victim. “That’s like saying the pretty girl was responsible for her own rape,” she told the BBC.
Geller managed to stun even Fox News hosts when she compared herself to civil rights heroine Rosa Parks.
Some on the far right rallied around Gellar, but this time Gellar may have gone too far even for some on the far right.
- Radio host Sandy Rios, of the American Family Association, dedicated her radio show to the shooting, and warned “there has been a real strategic colonization of Muslims around the country.”
- Fox News contributor Rob O’Neil claimed the Garland shooting was “a prime example of the difference between a gun-free zone and Texas.”
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) blamed President Obama for the shooting, accusing the administration of bungling, and claiming that federal officials should have intercepted the men before they reached the event.
- Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) found a way to make it all Hillary Clinton’s fault: “When people like Hillary Clinton say that police should not have weapons of war, the fact is we are at war,” King said. “We are at war with Islamist terrorism and we have to have all the weapons and all the resources available and thank God that officer last night was able to kill those two.”
- Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told CNN that the Geller’s event inspired a shooting because “Western civilization is superior.”
- Rush Limbaugh accused President Obama of effectively giving the “green light” to ISIS to carry out the shooting.
- Likely presidential candidate Donald Trump blasted Geller for “taunting” Muslims with the contest. “What the hell is she doing?” Trump asked, “Isn’t there something else they could be doing?”
- Even right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham thought Geller’s event went too far. “There are a lot of things that we can say, that we have a right to say, that we shouldn’t say,” she told Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
- Fox News contributor Juan Williams unloaded on Geller during an appearance on Sean Hannity’s show. Williams compared Geller to a self-promoting pyromaniac, by “intentionally trying to provoke this [violent] reaction.”
- Appearing on Fox & Friends, correspondent Geraldo Rivera said of Geller, “She most reminds me of the Aryan Nation, KKK, racists. I see them on television now and I feel like taking a shower.”
- Things got heated on Fox News, when Megyn Kelley accused Bill O’Reilly of “catering to the jihadis,” for questioning Gellers’ incindary brand of “free speech.”
- Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center SPLC, said on Monday that he was not surprised that Pam Geller’s anti-Muslim group “got the response they were seeking.”
In the end, ISIS and Geller’s group of Islamophobes were probably the only ones pleased with how things turned out. Local Muslim leaders, familiar with Geller’s attacks on Islam, decided to simply ignore her. They refused to take the bait. ButMuslim American activists countered Geller with their own “Draw Muhammed” contest.
U.S. Invades Texas!
The right has always harbored paranoid fantasies of government conspiracies. Deep in the dark heart of Texas, those fantasies have grown big enough to generate events that seem to justify them; so big that they’ve metastasized to afflict elected officials.
Last week, hysteria over the “Jade Helm” military exercise let to conspiracy theories that the federal government was preparing to launch an “invasion” of Texas. It got serious enough that governor Greg Abbot had to monitor the military exercises, just to calm people down. One week later, the hysteria still hasn’t died down.
- Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said that he understands where the conspiracy theorists are coming from, blaming the Obama administration for “disrespecting the liberty of the citizens.”
- Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) also blamed the president during an appearance on “Washington Watch,” saying the president incited anti-government sentiment because of the administration’s involvement in a case concerning Little Sisters of the Poor and the Affordable Care Act’s contraception coverage mandate.
- Meanwhile, Rep. David Bratt (R-Va.) told The Washington Times that Texas is under threat of an armed insurgency, not because of Jade Helm, but because “it looks like we have an ISIS center in Texas now.”
- On the other hand, former governor Rick Perry thought it was all too much.
- Texas Republican state Rep. Matt Schaefer introduced a bill that would force women to carry non-viable pregnancies to term. Schaefer explained that the fetuses “are going to suffer, they’re going to feel pain,” and “That’s part of the human condition, when sin entered the world, and it grieves us all.”
- [Wisconsin Republicans on the state legislature’s public benefits committee voted to ban food stamp recipients from purchasing “crab, lobster, shrimp, or any other shellfish.](http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/05/07/1383156/-Wisconsin-Republicans-push-bill-to-bar-poor-people-from-buying-shellfish-Oh-or-Wisconsin-cheese)” The bill in question would also severely limit food stamp purchases of Wisconsin cheese. Fortunately, the move is purely symbolic, since state legislatures don’t have the power to limit food stamp purchases.
- Alabama Republican state Rep. Mark Butler introduced legislation that would see science surrounding “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, and human cloning,” subject to religious scrutiny by teachers. Butler wrote on Facebook that his bill would ““encourage debate if a student has a problem learning he came from a monkey rather than an intelligent design!”
- Kansas governor Sam Brownback was told off by a Topeka waitress who marked the tip line on his receipt with a large “X,” and wrote “Tip the schools.” In March, Brownback switched public schools to a block grant program for two years. The program also freezes funding for two years.
- Virginia Republican state Delegate Hyland “Buddy” Fowler Jr. quickly scrubbed a joke about police dogs eating Baltimore protesters from his Facebook account, after being called out by Blue Virginia.
Here’s the rest of the best of the worst in wingnuttia this week:
- Appearing on “Outnumbered,” Fox news contributor Dr. Keith Ablow said, “I think men should be able to veto women’s abortions if they’re willing to care for the child after it’s born.” Ablow made the comment during a discussion of actress Sofia Vergara’s battle with ex-partner Nick Loeb over frozen embryos the couple created during their relationship. None of the four female panelists challenged Ablow’s comment.
- As if Fox News’ coverage of Baltimore wasn’t bad enough already, anchor Shephard Smith had apologize to after the network erroneously reported that Baltimore police had shot a black man in the back as he fled an arrest attempt.
- Fox News host Anna Kooiman lashed out at the black community for not rioting when police officers are killed in the line of duty. “Where is the outrage?” Kooiman asked.
- Radio host Bryan Fisher wants conservative commentator Guy Benson fired for being gay. Benson, political editor of the conservative site Townhall.Com, reveals in his forthcoming book that he is gay. Fischer called Benson a “particularly nice and friendly individual,” but also “particularly dangerous to the conservative cause.
- Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality is also concerned about Benson’s position. “They may be conservative on a bunch of issues, and do wonderful work on those issues, but when it comes to homosexuality, they become gay rights activists,” LaBarbera tweeted.
- Glenn Beck warned his listeners that the events in Ferguson and Baltimore were a “set-up” to create instability so that the government can take over local police forces. Beck also predicted that someday he would be killed (presumably by the government) in an attempt to silence his prophetic voice.
- Conservative columnist Morgan Brittany wrote in her most recent column that the unrest in Baltimore may be a “set-up” so that President Obama might “have to institute martial law to preserve order, form a national police force and postpone the 2016 elections.”
- Radio host Rick Wiles called President Barack Obama an “uncircumcised philistine,” for joking about former Rep. Michele Bachmann’s claims that his policies would bring about the “End Times.” Wile’s did not reveal just how he knew whether the president is circumcised or not.
- According to a Public Policy Polling survey, 57 percent of Republicans would support a law making Christianity the official religion of the United States.
- A Christian game developer uploaded a game called “Kill the Faggot” to the Steam digital game service. The game — a first-person shooter in which players earn points for killing gay characters, earn bonus points for hitting a transgender person, and lose points for hitting “straight” targets — was available for download for two hours before, and drew angry comments before it was pulled from the site. Developer Randall Herman called the gaming community “overly sensitive and easily offended,” and promised more releases.
- A Nebraska woman, identifying as the “ambassador” for plaintiffs “God and His Son, Jesus Christ,” filed a lawsuit against all homosexuals on earth, for breaking “religious and moral laws.” A federal judge ultimately dismissed the lawsuit.
- Convicted criminal, adulterer, and convict Dinesh D’Souza asked for a “summer break” from his community service, because the Catholic School where he’s been serving is on summer recess. Request denied. D’Souza was sentenced to eight months in a halfway house and community service after pleading guilty to violating campaign finance laws.