The NYT’s ‘Softball Profile’ of Pamela Geller

Salon’s Justin Elliott says the New York Times did a softball profile of hate monger Pamela Geller, and he’s right.

I wouldn’t call it a “puff piece,” exactly, but it’s another example of “magical balance fairy” journalism — lacking quite a bit of context about Geller’s more extreme statements and associations. They went way too easy on Geller, who earned the web nickname “shrieking harpy” with years of whacked out, hateful posts, often supporting and glorifying people who can only be described as white supremacists and genocidal war criminals.

The Times story exhibits some of the worst tendencies of objectivity journalism. The reporters, Anne Barnard and Alan Feuer, do a middling job laying out some of the outrageous, and racist, things that Geller has written (though they miss a lot too — more on this below). But in their quest for even-handedness where even-handedness is not really appropriate, the reader gets gobbledygook lines like this:

The outrageous and the solemn are deeply intertwined in her character.

And this:

But if many people have a general unease over the idea of a mosque downtown, Ms. Geller has provided a vocabulary to express it and a framework to understand it: worries about Islam.

The reader is also subjected to a lot of tip-toeing around important facts:

Operating largely outside traditional Washington power centers — and, for better or worse, without traditional academic, public-policy or journalism credentials — Ms. Geller, with a coterie of allies, has helped set the tone and shape the narrative for a divisive national debate over Park51 (she calls the developer a “thug” and a “lowlife”).

All of that is true — Geller is neither a journalist nor a scholar nor a Washington insider. But none of that is as relevant as the fact that goes unmentioned by the Times: she is a conspiracy theorist, one with a long record of making demonstrably false statements. The best example, which is conspicuously missing from the Times piece, is the time Geller wrote a lengthy post laying out her theory that Barack Obama’s real father is Malcolm X.

(Geller also believes Obama’s birth documents are forged. She regularly speculates that he is Muslim.)

Recently, after being soundly mocked by the blogosphere, Pamela Geller has developed an excuse for her ludicrous “Malcolm X was Obama’s daddy” post; she now claims she wasn’t the writer of the post (although she didn’t credit anyone else when it first appeared), and she only posted it because she thought the author made some other excellent points. She praises it as a “spectacular job.”

Here’s the post at her hate site: HOW COULD STANLEY ANN DUNHAM HAVE DELIVERED BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA JR. IN AUGUST OF 1961 IN HONOLULU, WHEN OFFICIAL UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON RECORDS SHOW HER 2680 MILES AWAY IN SEATTLE ATTENDING CLASSES THAT SAME MONTH? - Atlas Shrugs.

As you might be able to tell from the all-caps title, it’s a rambling, deranged Birther conspiracy theory, it’s thoroughly nuts, and it’s very long. Geller marked it up with bold, red, and different sized text, and included dozens of pictures. The page is about 3.5 megabytes in size. It’s huge. It took quite a bit of work to post.

But even if you take Geller’s laughable excuse at face value and forget about the claim that Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child, the rest of this “anonymous author’s” psychotic rant is every bit as bad. What part of this ugly mess is supposed to be a “spectacular job?”

And that’s just one post.

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