The New York Times published a long profile of Pamela Geller, a firebrand blogger who peddles the idea "that terrorism by Muslims springs not from perversions of Islam but from the religion itself" and who "skyrocketed" to international prominence when she took a lead role in opposing the so-called "Ground Zero mosque." The reviews are mixed: Geller, who was interviewed at length for the profile, criticizes it as "extraordinarily nasty and fallacious"; John Hinderaker at conservative Powerline calls it "not entirely unflattering" or "unsympathetic"; and one-time ally Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs says The Times "went way too easy on this deranged illiterate bigot." Here, the highlights:
She grew up in an affluent Jewish family on Long Island
Geller, 52, is a single mother of four who lives in "a modern full-floor unit in a high-rise on the East Side of Manhattan that could belong to a socialite." But she grew up in Hewlett Harbor, "an affluent, heavily Jewish enclave" on Long Island. She was close to her father, who owned a textile mill in Brooklyn. The girls went to Hebrew school, but the family was not particularly religious or concerned with Israel — of which today Geller is an aggressive defender.
She is motivated by 9/11, and nostalgia
Pamela Geller says she started blogging because of the Sept. 11 attacks, after which she "felt guilty that I didn't know who had attacked my country." She educated herself about Islam by reading writers largely critical of the religion. But Geller says her "holy war" against the Muslim faith is motivated by more than 9/11: Growing up at the end of the Baby Boom, she felt a now-lost sense that "we were free" in this country. Pamela's sister Jessica summarizes: "What my sister really wants is for everything to get back to normal in America."
She got her blogging start at Little Green Footballs
It seems odd, given their mutually antagonistic relationship now, but Geller "got her start as a frequent commenter" at Johnson's Little Green Footballs. She launched her blog, Atlas Shrugs, in 2005. Her first big uptick in traffic came in early 2006, when she published controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It continued to spike "whenever she took on hot-button issues," The Times says.
Her money comes from blogging, and her divorce
Geller says advertising on her blog provides enough income for her to live on. But she also received nearly $4 million upon her 2007 divorce from wealthy car dealer Michael Oshry, who died in 2008, according to Oshry's lawyer. She also got some of the $1.8 million from the sale of Oshry's Hewlett Harbor home, and their kids are the beneficiaries of a $5 million life-insurance policy taken out by Oshry. (Geller calls those numbers "grossly, wildly inaccurate," but doesn't provide others.)
The Park51 community center isn't her first target
Geller's first big win was in 2007, with her important role in forcing the resignation of Debbie Almontaser, a Muslim principal who started an Arabic public school in Brooklyn. Later that year, she attended a "counter-jihad" conference in Brussels, Belgium, where she formed enduring ties with collaborator Robert Spencer and "anti-Islamic Europeans whom even some allies considered too extreme."
Among her allies, she's the lead singer
Spencer describes their collaboration as him providing the research and ideas, and Geller using her "genius," plus her "charm and appeal," to turn those dry concepts into catchy, persuasive language. "I think of her like Roger Daltry," says fellow collaborator Rich Davis. "He had a good look, a strong personality, and that’s how I think of her. She’s the front man for so many of us who feel the same way." Take note, "aspiring lady right-wing media" stars, says Gawker's Adrian Chen. If you want to follow in Geller's footsteps, "get fit, get funny, and get mean."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- What is driving the increasingly weird behavior of the polar jet stream?
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- Christians have no moral rationale for spanking their children
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Should you hope to die at 75? Absolutely not.
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- Why America should team up with Bashar al-Assad's regime
- 4 simple steaks you can cook in a pan
Subscribe to the Week