Politics & Policy

Victim-Blaming Inverts Cause and Effect of Jihadist Terrorism

Pamela Geller

The criticism leveled against the would-be victims, rather than the perpetrators, of Sunday night’s attempted terrorist attack in Garland, Texas, reveals how “morally inverted” America’s conception of free speech has become, Pamela Geller told CNN on Monday.

As if to prove her point, on Wednesday the Washington Post published the following headline:

Event organizer offers no apology after thwarted attack in Texas

Wrote the Post’s Sandhya Somashekhar: “If the contest was intended as bait, it worked.” And, “In an interview with the Washington Post, Geller said she and her fellow organizers were ‘prepared for violence’ this past weekend. In tweets immediately after the shooting, Geller appeared almost gleeful that she had been right.”

Imagine Ms. Somashekhar’s report in another context, and the absurdity is obvious: “If putting a naval base at Pearl Harbor was intended as bait, it worked. . . . In an interview with the Washington Post, President Roosevelt said he and his fellow organizers were ‘prepared for violence’ this past weekend. In tweets immediately after the attack, Roosevelt appeared almost gleeful that he had been right.”

Then again, compared with Linda Stasi, Somashekhar is downright sympathetic to Geller: “Looks like Pamela Geller will get her wish: More dead Americans at the hands of radical Muslims,” Stasi wrote Tuesday in the New York Daily News. She continued:

Geller, like ISIS and al Qaeda, revel[s] in hate and nothing would make any of them happier than to be the catalyst for the killing of hundreds of innocent Americans to prove a point. Geller would be a hero to the hateful. Damn the cost in innocent lives, damn the heartache.

That paragraph should win a prize for moral equivalence.

But, in fact, the victim-blaming and victim-shaming that has transpired in the wake of Sunday’s events proves right at least one of Geller’s central claims: The understanding of Islamic terrorism that predominates in many of America’s circles of influence is deeply, dangerously confused.

Geller or Geert Wilders or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or any of the Left’s favorite “Islamophobes” is not responsible for Islamic terrorism. Islamic terrorism is responsible for Geller, Wilders, et al.

If, as Stasi writes, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi were indeed “two violent radical Muslims,” how is what they did in any way Geller’s fault? Weren’t they “violent” and “radical”? What Stasi really means is what those who suggest that Geller was responsible for Sunday’s attack all de facto imply: that Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi were in some sense not really terrorists; theirs was a crime of passion provoked by a roving temptress. Had Pamela Geller had no cartoon contest, Messrs. Simpson and Soofi would probably have lived out their days peaceably contributing to their local community. There is almost the hint of a lament: Too bad Pamela Geller turned these two young men into aspiring murderers.

It’s a distressing confusion, because it inverts, to use Geller’s word, the cause-and-effect of terrorism. Geller or Geert Wilders or Ayaan Hirsi Ali or any of the Left’s favorite “Islamophobes” is not responsible for Islamic terrorism. Islamic terrorism is responsible for Geller, Wilders, et al. They are reacting to a preexisting reality.

And if one accepts that, one must also accept that terrorists will carry out acts of terror — not because they are “provoked,” but because that is what fanatics do. The disorder of head and heart that approves of slaughtering innocents in a Dallas suburb or in a Paris magazine office is rooted in causes much deeper than Pamela Geller’s calendar of controversy. There was no “provocation” for flying a jetliner into a skyscraper in lower Manhattan; no one at Cantor Fitzegerald had uttered “hate speech.” We can debate whether what Geller and others are doing is counterproductive, or moral, or prudent, but — make no mistake — we would have met Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi whether or not Geller held her event. Compared with the alternatives, Sunday’s result was far from the worst outcome.

Sandhya Somashekhar and Linda Stasi and others think that events such as Geller’s are sowing terrorists like dragons’ teeth. In reality, Geller and others are trying — albeit tastelessly, and perhaps unsuccessfully — to point out that terrorists already exist, and before they spring up and devour us.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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