‘FREE SPEECH’ SQUABBLE: Controversial Cartoon Contest Divides Conservatives

Published on May 10, 2015

by Leonora Cravotta
Clash Daily Guest Contributor

The “Draw Muhammad” contest which Pamela’s Geller’s American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) hosted has generated mixed response from both conservatives and conservative media. The controversial contest, which awarded $10,000 to the cartoonist who did the most compelling job of lambasting the prophet Muhammad, almost came under terrorist attack on May 3 when Nadir Soofi, 34, and Elton Simpson, 30 opened fire at the Garland Texas venue which had 200 attendees.

Fortunately, the two would be terrorists were fatally shot by one of the event’s security officers before they could execute their murderous intentions. Typically when an incident likes this takes place, responses tend to fall along party lines. The Garland contest has sparked an unexpected conservative divide with individuals such as Fox News talk show host Megyn Kelly, 2016 GOP presidential candidate and former Fox News host Mike Huckabee strongly supporting Pamela Geller and the AFDI’s freedom of speech rights.

Their position is in sharp contrast with that of likely GOP 2016 presidential candidate Donald Trump and other Fox News voices including Bill O’Reilly, Geraldo Rivera, Greta Van Susteren, and Martha MacCallum who condemned the contest as irresponsible and intentionally provocative. They likened the contest to crying fire in a crowded theater.

While this analogy may make a good headline, it is hardly accurate. Crying fire in a crowded theater is a deliberate action to manufacture a crisis and create panic in a crowd. The “Draw Muhammad” contest was a controversial tactic for mobilizing a social media community response against radical extremists.

Doesn’t the First Amendment give us the right to be provocative? The American Freedom Defense Initiative which is also known as “Stop Islamization of America” has its share of critics including The Southern Poverty Law Center which has described the five year old organization as an anti-Muslim hate group. Furthermore, Pamela Geller’s personal communication style is probably not everyone’s cup of tea.

AFDI’s mission, marketing tactics and the personality of its spokesperson are not at issue. The organization’s right to freedom of expression is. AFDI firmly believes that controversial activities such as the “Draw Muhammad” contest are a grass roots way to get their message against radical Islamic terrorism out. If we silence AFDI, we are depriving them of their fundamental liberties.

The protection of our liberties, including our freedom of expression, is the matter at hand. If we silence Pamela Geller because we don’t agree with her, we begin the slippery slope of silencing everyone with whom we disagree. Actually, Pamela Geller deserves to be applauded for not backing down even in the wake of extremists such as Imam Anjem Choudary calling for her to be judged by Sharia Court and put to death if found guilty. Silencing our voices because we are afraid of a potential negative response is more dangerous than “provocative behavior”.

AFDI knew that their contest could incite violence, that is why they took extra security measures. But if they had canceled the contest in fear of a potential reaction, they would have let the terrorists win. This is not the way a free society operates. In a free society, all voices have a right to exist. If we start censoring all of our communications and behavior, we will completely lose our voice. And then we become a greater prey to dangerous extremists. We cannot let that happen. The risk of losing all of our personal liberties is just too great.

Image: http://www.ccoli.com/videos/yt-khFVOMJsd0s

leonora cravottaLeonora Cravotta is the lead writer/editor for BugleCall.org; and the Co-Host for the Scott Adams Show, a political radio talk show. Her professional background includes over fifteen years in corporate and nonprofit marketing. She holds a B.A. in English and French from Denison University, an M.A. in English from University of Kentucky and an M.B.A. from Fordham University. The Scott Adams show is available on Buglecall.org, Red State Talk Radio, iTunes, Tune-In, Spreaker, Stitcher and Soundcloud. Also:
https://www.facebook.com/buglecallphilly;; https://www.facebook.com/scottadamsshow;;