Pam Geller and the Passive Voice

Editorial standards. Way to have them:

It is in this genteel setting that Ms. Geller, 52 and a single mother of four, wakes each morning shortly after 7, switches on her laptop and wages a form of holy war throughAtlas Shrugs, a Web site that attacks Islam with a rhetoric venomous enough that PayPalat one point branded it a hate site. Working here — often in fuzzy slippers — she hascalled for the removal of the Dome of the Rock from atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem; posted doctored pictures ofElena Kagan, the Supreme Court justice, in aNazi helmet; suggested the State Department was run by“Islamic supremacists”; and referred tohealth care reform as an act of national rape.

Ms. Geller has been writing since 2005, but this summer she skyrocketed to national prominence as the firebrand in chief opposingPark51, the planned Muslim community center she denounces as “the ground zero mega-mosque.”

Operating largely outside traditional Washington power centers — and, for better or worse, without traditional academic, public-policy or journalism credentials — Ms. Geller, with a coterie of allies, has helped set the tone and shape the narrative for a divisive national debate over Park51 (she calls the developer a“thug” and a “lowlife”). In the process, she has helped bring into the mainstream a concept that after 9/11 percolated mainly on the fringes of American politics: that terrorism by Muslims springs not from perversions of Islam but from the religion itself. Her writings, rallies and television appearances have both offended and inspired, transforming Ms. Geller from an Internet obscurity, who once videotaped herself in a bikini as she denounced “Islamofascism,” into a media commodity who has been profiled on “60 Minutes” and whose phraseology has been adopted byNewt Gingrich andSarah Palin.

Does it not occur to any of these people that they’re feeding the beast? That part of what makes Geller worth noticing is that people are noticing her? That she’s “become” an acceptable voice in American media because the American media have MADE her an acceptable voice? The passive voice is not the reader’s friend in this instance.

Read this sentence again:

Her writings, rallies and television appearances have both offended and inspired, transforming Ms. Geller from an Internet obscurity, who once videotaped herself in a bikini as she denounced “Islamofascism,” into a media commodity who has been profiled on “60 Minutes” and whose phraseology has been adopted byNewt Gingrich andSarah Palin.

Her TV appearances have transformed her into someone who makes other TV appearances. For chrissakes. TV producers who only have one name filed under L for Lunatic or B for Bigot don’t get a pass here. Neither does any reporter who calls somebody who’s been quoted by a lot of other reporters. Lazy reporting is lazy reporting.

In about two more paragraphs, we discover that the NY Times assignment editors who greenlighted this piece have no pride at all, nor respect for their employees, as they gleefully grant real estate (and don’t try to tell me this is some kind of hit piece, the passive praise scattered throughout here, as well as the random selection of bloggers credible enough to quote, make that impossible) to someone who hates them:

THE day last December when The New York Times firstreported plans to build a Muslim community center two blocks from ground zero, Atlas Shrugs immediately objected. “I don’t know which is more grotesque,”Ms. Geller wrote, “jihad or the NY Times preening of it.”

This thing goes from mildly infuriating to fucking gross:

Mr. Spencer and Ms. Geller said they would rather have galvanized the nation with accounts of Muslim girls killed by male relatives over violations of family “honor.”

Yes. It was a major bummer you could only use dead firefighters and not dead Muslim girls to make your point. Dead Muslim girls are much, much better copy.

And then we get back to the poisonous passivity again:

It is difficult to determine who finances their movement, since their new organization has yet to win tax-free status requiring documentation of donations. Mr. Spencer estimated that since 2009, the two have raised and spent about $150,000 for things like the bus ads and giant television screens for the 9/11 rally, some of it donated through Mr. Spencer’s Jihad Watch, a 501(c)3 nonprofit agency. In recent years, Jihad Watch has been a program of theDavid Horowitz Freedom Center, which pays him a $132,000 salary and, has reported, has received significant contributions fromphilanthropists who back the Israeli right.

Asked how much her blog collects in reader donations and advertisements (one promotes acreationist Web site), Ms. Geller said only that it was enough to live on.

It’s difficult to find out who finances the movement, even though (as the Times chickenassedly puts in a link)it’s totally possible to find out who finances the movement:

Though it was not listed on the public tax reports filed by Horowitz’s Freedom Center, POLITICO has confirmed that the lion’s share of the $920,000 it provided over the past three years to Jihad Watch came from Chernick, whose husband, Aubrey Chernick, has a net worth of $750 million, as a result of his 2004 sale to IBM of a software company he created, and a security consulting firm he now owns.

A onetime trustee of the …Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Aubrey Chernickled the effort to pull together $3.5 million in venture capital to start Pajamas Media, a conservative blog network …

The David Horowitz Freedom Center had a budget of $4.5 million last year, according to its tax filings, of which $290,000 came from the conservative Bradley Foundation, which also gave $75,000 to the Center for Security Policy last year. Horowitz has received an average of $461,000 a year in salary and benefits over the past three years, while Spencer has pulled in an average of $140,000, according to the center’s IRS filings.

But hey, she just happened to burst upon the national scene and become a phenomenon and make TV appearances! She must be speaking for some deep part of the American psyche! We’d better not miss out on reporting on this important person! Quick, everybody, to the Batmobile.

This goes to the heart of what I talk about with regard to all our media all the time, which can be basically boiled down to: SACK UP. If you don’t want to cover something, don’t cover it. If you think something’s seriously crazy, don’t give credence to the crazy by doing three-page profiles on it talking about how awesome its bazillion-dollar co-op living space is. If some other news organization lets a crazy person come on, instead of falling all over yourself to book her next, try standing alone. Try having those standards you like to jaw on bloggers all the time for lacking.

People like Pam Geller don’tbecome influential voices. They’remade influential voices. With lots of dirty wingnut bigot cash buying them entry to this kind of circle jerk.


10 thoughts on “Pam Geller and the Passive Voice

  1. Ya lost me at moving the “Dome of the Rock”.
    To the Muslims, this is a Holy Site based on what is said to have happened there. You can’t go back 1500 years and change history. Shall we ask the Israelis to move the Wailing Wall?
    Not to mention, that between the Jews, Christians, and Muslims, the place is full of Holy sites. Plenty of them are Holy to more than one group.
    Otherwise, you nailed it when you said that the media personalities are made. Look at all the Bush Cabal that are now news personalities.

  2. People like Pam Geller don’t become influential voices. They’re made influential voices.
    And then they’re pushed, and pushed repeatedly to a public that I can only half-blame for not paying close enough attention (I say half-blame because on the one hand we should be “an informed electorate,” on the other, I’m well aware of the stresses/difficulties of daily existence and the utter lack of genuine civics education in this country) anyway, there were plenty of Pam Gellers a generation ago, but for the most part the media treated them like the crackpots they were/are.
    Now they get profiled in the New York Times. Your librul media at work…

  3. You know that there are people whose job is to push this stuff to the media. PR people, SEO experts and just plain ol horse traders. They go first to the RW media and they log roll.
    For example did you know that the Tea Party E xpress buys ads on NewsMax and Fox and other places which then write about them. I’m not saying that if you buy ads you get media, but it’s a nice bit of log rolling. “Thank you for promoting our event, yes we will buy another 10,000 ad next time we do an event.”
    The right wing have plenty of rich people who are willing to fund crazy right wingers. On our side we are expected to do this because it’s the right thing to do.

  4. “Poisonous passivity.” I like that.
    Of course, anyone who’s covered the Pentagon for any length of time understands that very, very well, since the Defense Dept. is always willing to use Weapons of Media Disorientation, including the abovementioned chemical weapon…

  5. Does it not occur to any of these people that they’re feeding the beast?
    Ummm .. in a word … NO! Did you read Dana Milbank’s column on Sunday? Where he accuses Glenn Beck of offering an ideological shelter to crazy nutjobs like the guy who tried to shoot up the Tides Foundation? I had to write Dana Milbank adn remind him that Glenn Beck was a fringey radio host until fucking CNN gave him a TV show.
    No of course it does not occur to them.

  6. Atlas’ Juggs and Sarah Palin. Christine (no relation) O’Donnell. Michelle Bachman.
    Michelle Malkin. Sharron Angle. Meg Whitman. Carly Fiorina.
    The stupid, it … it’s like kudzu made of napalm.

  7. You know you’re off track when Charles Johnson calls the woman you are profiling dangerous. WTF is up with the NYT? I want to write a letter and ask if they’ll next write a profile about the schizophrenic who hollers on the corner of 7th and 14th. (Yeah, I don’t know if there IS A schizophrenic hollering on that corner, but y’all know what I mean.)

  8. Ms. Geller also came out of her divorce/ex’s-home-sale several million dollar in the black. More than enough to buy a seat at the table. Look behind every success on the Right and you find an assload of money bankrolling it. Look behind most of the Liberals sites I admire and you find a small army of sleep-deprived wonks subsisting on Costco taters, free trade coffee and handing the same $15 PayPal contribution back and forth. This is not a sustainable situation.

  9. Driftglass — This is why I maintain that there are no actually “liberal” billionaires. The billionaires (and almost-billionaires) on the right (Scaife, Kochs, Mellons, Cathy etc.) are more than happy to put their money where their mouths are…but where is our equivalent? Contra the wingnuts, Soros doesn’t actually put up much cash to political causes (and can barely be considered “liberal” by any stretch of the imagination — he seems to be a self-interested, pro-tax technocrat more than anything else). Certainly Buffett and Gates don’t; while they fund a lot of good causes, they don’t do anything that I know of that might actually help change the political status quo. It’s kind of hypocritical of them, don’t you think, to come out in public saying “Sure, I support paying more taxes because it’d be good for everyone if I did,” when they’re unwilling to actually invest what counts towards political change that might cause that to happen. The right has got a well-funded propaganda machine with well-connected think tanks, bought-and-paid-for apparatchik media outlets and mainstream publishing houses (is thereanything on the left equivalent to Regnery Press?), and an army of well-paid talking heads, professional bloggers, paid trolls and astroturfers, and otherwise more clout than you can shake a fasces at.
    And the left has… a small army of sleep-deprived wonks subsisting on Costco taters, free trade coffee and handing the same $15 PayPal contribution back and forth, a few shoestring media monitoring orgs, a couple of mostly-coopted think tanks, and a demoralised, exhausted base, many of whom have essentially made a moonlight job out of being on the barricades…for the last 20 or 30 years. It’s a wonder we’ve all managed to hold our respective forts this long, really.

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