Pamela Geller and the Bloggers of Hate

Here’s my first piece for the Guardian’s “Comment is free” site: Pamela Geller and the bloggers of hate. (I didn’t pick the title or subheading, but they fit pretty well.)

I’ll cross-post the article here (including its British spellings), but you should also check out the comments at Cif; some of them are interesting. (And of course, now that I’ve posted the link, you can expect some of the usual stalkers to show up there too.)

Pamela Geller and the bloggers of hate

My site gave Geller her ‘break’ on the web. These days, I work hard to stop such extremists drowning out the moderate majority

If you happened to read the Sunday New York Times last weekend, you might have seen Anne Barnard and Alan Feuer’s profile of Pamela Geller, the extreme rightwing blogger who’s arguably done more than anyone else to incite fear and hatred over the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. (It was hard to miss, since it was accompanied by a photo spread showing Geller with various rightwing pundits and politicians, on Fox News, and posing in her bikini.)

One thing you’ll discover in the article is that Pamela Geller got her start on the internet by commenting at my site, Little Green Footballs. She posted more than 6,000 comments at LGF in our earlier days, when our comment moderation policy was much more laissez faire than it is now.

As I said to the Times, in those days, Geller was often the first one to take the rhetoric over the top, and the target of her rage was usually (but not always) Muslims. And not just militants or terrorists, but all Muslims; Geller was quite clear, and stated often, that she didn’t believe in the idea of a “moderate Islam” at all. (Ironically, this is an opinion she shares with the leaders of al-Qaida, who insist that all Muslims must follow their extreme interpretation of Islam.)

Several years ago, I made a very public break with Geller and her allies, such as Robert Spencer, because of their increasing radicalisation and willingness to make alliances with far rightwing anti-Islam parties in Europe, such as Belgium’s Vlaams Belang and Britain’s English Defence League.

Indeed, when Geller held her anti-Islam rally in Manhattan this year on 11 September, she invited representatives of the English Defence League to attend. This turned into a bit of an embarrassment when one of the EDL leaders was refused entry to the United States because of “entry form irregularities”, and the others had their hotel rooms searched by the FBI.

There’s a much uglier side to Pamela Geller, however, that was missed by Barnard and Feuer and needs to be pointed out: in addition to her anti-Muslim activities, Geller often supports and glorifies people who can only be described as white supremacists and genocidal war criminals.

For example, last April, Geller defended South African apartheid advocate and convicted terrorist Eugene Terreblanche, blaming his murder on “black supremacism” and warning that it was the start of “white genocide” in South Africa:

“The white genocide is heating up in South Africa: South Africa race tension grows. The whites in South Africa are keenly aware of the plans to kill them, better known as ‘The night of the long knives’. They expect it to happen very soon after the death of Mandela, but to tell this to the world is a waste of energy. Atlas has been reporting on this horror that the savages in the media ignore.”

And in July, Geller posted an ode of support to genocidal Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadzic.

The most troubling thing about a person like Geller, who enables and propagates bigotry and ignorance of all flavours, is that the issues she chooses for her demagoguery are very serious ones indeed; but when voices like hers are the loudest on the scene, they drown out the legitimate critics of militant Islam.

Since the days when Pamela Geller commented frequently at LGF, I’ve made a serious effort to develop tools for effectively moderating blog discussions, so that LGF will no longer become an inadvertent breeding ground for Geller’s brand of hatred. The web’s inherent anonymity makes it far too easy for extremists and trolls of all kinds to hijack a blog’s comments; only by taking more control of the tone of the discussion can sane bloggers start to pull things back toward the centre, away from hate-fuelled internet extremists such as Pamela Geller and her cronies.

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