What we witnessed in Garland, Texas was the intentional display of one American freedom and the necessary display of a second |American freedom. Though somewhat risky, the first freedom on display was a risky, outright, and in your face expression of free speech, the kind of free speech which Pamela Geller and Geert Wilders have both made their signatory claim to fame though I would be hard pressed to choose which has been more brazen. The third person mentioned in the coverage of the event also is no stranger to controversy though his method is through political writings where Robert Spencer has also challenged Islam and the Western World’s cowardly reaction, something extremely appropriate at this event as here too subjects and brutal truths were the theme of the day. The three are all well-known by the media and often interviewed leading up to and in the aftermath of their often edgy events or their provocative speaking engagements, but this time have been mostly left high and dry by media at both extremes of the political spectrum and many inbetween. What makes this particular series of events an interesting juxtaposition was how the First Amendment right to free speech was so appropriately protected by the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. This was proof in spades that the First Amendment would be worthless without the Second Amendment to protect it and why the Second Amendment needs to be forever protected by the First Amendment. The main spectacle displayed was the depiction on the inexorably changing media view of Draw Mohammad Cartoon events with near universal expressions and even outright support and praise across the political spectrum for the bravery of the original draw Mohammad cartoon contest when it first appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten which published twelve initial editorial cartoons on September 30, 2005; which shrank to largely conservative and libertarian support for Charlie Hebdo Magazine and its slaughtered cartoonists and staff in the assault on their offices by two violent Islamist extremists in Paris, France; to the near universal condemnation from the self-proclaimed stalwarts of the conservative media as well as the liberal media, which has long held out long knives for Pamela Geller, for the event in Garland, Texas sponsored American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) of a Draw Mohammad Art Contest to honor the murdered Charlie Hebdo cartoonists. Equally craven has been the excusing of those condemning this event claiming that the main reason for the sudden timidity exhibited by much of the conservative media has to do with the proximity of the Texas event bringing the kind of threat to people attending one such event from happening in “distant” Europe and bringing it to America’s doorstep and in this they saw in this their own vulnerability to attack by similar forces over much of their former coverage of such events and this motivated the weak-kneed responses as they attempted to back away and distance themselves from such controversial and provocative events.
We would be remiss were we not to point out the true hero of the hour who stood single handed, out gunned and facing what must have appeared to be certain death and with the cool and steady hand one could only expect to see on a movie screen, an off-duty police officer who before his heroic stand had been assigned to traffic duty. The statement made by Garland police spokesman Joe Harn stated the obvious, “He did what he was trained to do and under the fire that he was put under, he did a very good job.” I might be tempted to go slightly beyond a “good job” in my description and be inclined to use words like heroic, herculean, courageous and the kind of actions beyond all expectations and more inclined to be witnessed performed by movie heroes than expected from one previously not apparently inclined to such heroics. The officer’s name is being withheld for his own safety and rightly so. Even so, there was a SWAT team also on location placed behind the building just in case they might prove needed, and they would have been except for the gargantuan bravado of a single man to whom many owe their lives. The two would-be jihadists were armed with, according to a law enforcement source close to the investigation, six guns, a mix of assault-style semiautomatic rifles and handguns exited their vehicle firing AK-47s, a high-powered assault style semi-automatic .30-calibre rifles against the lone armed officer with a .45-caliber Glock semi-automatic pistol. Making the standoff even more uneven was the fact the would-be jihadists were wearing full body armor leaving only limited target area vulnerable to the officer’s handgun while he at best was wearing standard police protective jacket which the rifle rounds would have torn through almost effortlessly. Still, when the smoke cleared and by the time the SWAT team arrived on scene from behind the building the lone officer who was accompanying the unarmed security person who had been responsible for checking the tickets of those entering the hall and who did receive injuries, had taken down both perpetrators and did so in under fifteen seconds. That is what is called excellent and efficient gun control, the good guy standing his ground despite being grossly overmatched in firepower and armored protection and yet calmly and coolly took down both threats presented before him. One could continue to lavish praise upon praise and still not match the acts of pure bravado and stouthearted selflessness by this sole brave individual and had preventing the two criminals from gaining entrance to the hall where events were still unfolding.
In the aftermath the coverage had mostly been vindictively assailing Pamela Geller claiming that she had endangered people needlessly by her provocative actions. CNN reporter Chris Cuomo accused Pamela Geller in his tweets of being guilty of hate speech is not protected by the Constitution and the First Amendment. Kudos goes to Fox News’s Megyn Kelly shooting down a guest and the host, Bill O’Reilly, on the O’Reilly Factor. According to the presumed intrepid Bill O’Reilly, “It’s always cause and effect, OK? And the cause, because they did it, the two jihadis are dead. Now I know a lot of people aren’t feeling sorry for them, and I’m certainly not either because they were trying to kill other people. However, all right, this is what happens when you light the fuse. You get violence.” This is from the ‘No Spin Zone?’ This sounds more like the ‘Centrifugal Spin Zone’ where the target of Mr. O’Reilly had shot straighter and with less spin than was evidenced on his show. Megyn Kelly’s retort ending the discussion may have appeared over the top but how else does one halt a charging O’Reilly on his own show, so she shot back, “You know what else the jihadis don’t like? They hate Jews. Should we get rid of all Jews? That’s the path we’re gonna go down if we start catering to the jihadis.” Still, she has a point even if the description was a bit coarse and over the top. Then there was one we must credit with getting it correct; Piers Morgan, somebody I likely feel about the same towards as he does Pamela Geller, but he got it right stating, “Pamela Geller is a revolting human being. I despise everything about her, and everything she stands for. Yet I also support her right to free speech.” Very well stated and framing the argument near perfectly. I believe it was attributed to Voltaire as a summation of his attitudes towards free speech where it was succinctly put, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
That should be the attitude of every American and every lover of freedom when it comes to free speech. Uncontroversial speech does not need protection. Popular speech needs no protection. Everyday banter at the water cooler needs little protection. Political speech, especially radical speech, that is what needs protection. Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders and Robert Spencer with their Mohammad Cartoon contest and tribute to Charlie Hebdo required protection of free speech and if the two men who came to shoot the purveyors of speech with which they disagreed had instead of baring guns and the intent to use them had instead broken out protest signs and protested replete with their speaking out against the insult they perceived, that too would have deserved protection. Where people may have been offended by somebody’s spoken word, no words spoken have ever killed somebody and if there has been speech which called for violence against others, especially if the intent was purposeful to have people thus act, that is not protected. That is true hate speech which many are attempting to equate Pamela Geller with making. Their argument falls apart under any scrutiny as the only people threatened to become victims of the speech being practiced within the convention hall in Garland, Texas, were the people inside the hall exercising free speech for which two men illegally were attempting of denying them their right to free speech. Had somebody held a counter rally outside the convention hall, they too would have been making protected free speech. But had either the people within the hall or those outside the hall called for their group to proceed to kill the others, that is not protected speech. What so many are getting confused over is the difference between ‘hate speech’ and ‘call to violence speech’. The former is protected while the latter is not protected speech. Where both are a form of hate speech, only the one calling for the commission of violence is illegal. Has everybody forgotten the fight in the courts over the Nazi Party’s plans to march through the largely Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois, outside Chicago where a Nazi concentration camp survivor brought suit to stop their march and the ACLU and some of their lawyers who happened to also be Jewish defending the Nazi right to march won the Nazis defense of their freedom of expression. The march itself never took place and their demonstrations drew less than fifty people total including the media, but they won their day in court against a Jewish man while having Jewish lawyers argue their case, a point they were quite pleased with, but they proved there can be no limit to speech provided there is not call to violence. If Jews can defend the rights for Nazis to march through Skokie, then why have so many former defenders of free speech turned out to have arguments of clay as soon as it becomes slightly dangerous to protect their freedoms? Has the desire to remain free wilted to such an extent that we now must fear the death of those freedoms? I pray not, for the United States should stand for the rights of the weak and the threatened against all threats of violence and do so steadfastly and with the bravery shown by one exemplary actions of a traffic cop who must remain nameless in Garland, Texas. Perhaps if he could depend on all Americans to stand as he did when the chips were falling, then perhaps he would not need to have his name withheld and we could celebrate this man as he deserves.
Beyond the Cusp