Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.
--Daniel Patrick Moynihan

May 12, 2015

Pamela Geller and the Anti-Islam Movement

(published on The New Yorker Web site)

By David K. Shipler

     The winning cartoon in the contest to draw the Prophet Muhammad, early this month in Garland, Texas, which two gunmen attacked, depicts a fierce Prophet waving a scimitar and saying, “You can’t draw me!” The artist, whose hand and pencil are visible, replies from outside the frame, “That’s why I draw you.”
     And so the principle of free speech confronted American society’s unwritten code of restraint on contemptuous stereotyping. .  . Freedom of expression suddenly looked like two overlays on a map, the legal landscape and the cultural landscape, each with its own boundaries. . . . 
     Virtually all the alarm over the coming Islamic takeover and the spread of Sharia law can be traced back to an old document of questionable authority and relevance, “An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.” Dated May 22, 1991, it was found in 2004 by the F.B.I., buried in one of a large number of boxes uncovered during a search of a house in northern Virginia.


  1. Mr. Shipler

    I just watched you on C-Span promoting your new book on Freedom of Speech. It was a subject that I was looking forward to...someone had done research on the various societies, historically, culturally, etc..and I was going to learn about the many facets of free speech...how exciting!

    But that's not what I heard. What I heard was one blast after another, on various conservative pundits: Rush Limbaugh, Tea Party, Glenn Beck, the Koch brothers, and even the more than tired excuse that people do not like Obama because he is black.

    Do you not see how far off the subject you ran? While I agree with you about the absurdity of 'speech is money' Supreme Court decision, neither Obama nor Hillary would buck the boat on that, sine the 'oligarthy' you mentioned is on both sides of the isles.

    Who said "facts" are stubborn things? Right. Adams. The democratic party has it's money engine in the teachers union and Lawyers, not to mention Soros and movie stars.

    Nevertheless, where was your subject? Is your book just a clever way to get a conservative audience to read your progressive opinions and ideas?

    At first, I had to laugh. And then, it became kind of sad.

    By the way, most of my opinions differ greatly from yours, I am an Independent as my ancestors before me.

    But thanks to a few good men who had the brilliant idea of putting freedom of speech in our Constitution,I am sadden greatly by the attacks the left has for the right, and how both parties use the propaganda (and I heard today just how many sites you love to read on the internet) to further their own power, and keep the people of America from expressing their own.

    The internet is our last resort of free speech it seems, and both Obama and Hillary want to control political debate on the internet. They want to finish what John McCain started.

    And on a note of the curious, I wanted to hear what you had to say about the fact that blacks have the right to use the "n' word in every video, and to each other...and whites do not.

    That's not...free speech. That's...a form of tyranny in itself.

    What is your opinion?

    By the way, I live near Ferguson, MO. And what you didn't see on the news is that thousands of black live in 250,000 homes not far from there. You did not see that, but I walk in those neighborhoods ...and I see them and talk to them with my own mouth and eyes.

    Too bad, America did not see the whole picture. .

  2. First, a couple of corrections: I didn't mention the Koch Brothers or use the word oligarchy. Could you be remembering something said by David Axelrod, who followed me to the podium?
    In any case, I did not find racist statements on the Internet (one of the subjects I addressed) made by liberals or Democrats. If you are an independent, I hope you're open to the fact that such statements come largely from the right. It's undeniable. That doesn't mean the left is pure on speech issues--I mentioned the efforts to silence certain speech on campus, and noted Ward Churchill's infamous remark. But when it comes to book challenges and the invocation of traditional racial stereotyping, the right is way ahead of the left.

    I address blacks' vs. whites' use of the 'n' word in my chapter on race, which I hope you'll read. It's a much more thorough and nuanced discussion of the whole issue than I was able to provide at my talk. I'd be interested in your thoughts after you read it. Then, too, if you really want to delve into this issue, please pick up my book, "A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America." I think you'll find it very interesting, even if you don't agree with all of my observations.

    One further note about money and politics: I did not attribute the problem that's raised by big money to one party or another. I was talking only about the hierarchy of class in the public debate. The problem exists at both ends of the spectrum.

  3. I can't help noticing that in all these months, you haven't come back for a fuller discussion. I wonder if you took the trouble to read what I wrote and address it. Apparently not.