fresh voices from the front lines of change







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.


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.

Looney-Tunes Lawmakers

Here’s the rest of the best of the worst in wingnuttia this week:


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