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In flap over mosque near Ground Zero, conservative bloggers gaining influence

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The Washington Post's Michelle Boorstein talks about two of the bloggers who have seen their online voices begin to influence the national debate on the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan.

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In addition to Geller and Spencer, other conservative bloggers who focus on Islam include Debbie Schlussel and Brigitte Gabriel.

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In recent months, traffic to their Web sites has spiked. They've made more media appearances and have been active in organizing opposition to smaller mosque projects across the country.

Video from June of a rowdy town meeting in Staten Island, N.Y., about a proposed mosque shows Spencer being cheered when he states his name. Those who turned out to oppose the mosque said they heard about the meeting through Geller's Facebook page.

Asked if his ability to make money -- through Web site donations, book sales and speaking appearances -- has improved, Spencer said, "It's changed a lot" but wouldn't elaborate. He said only that he and Geller were able to raise $50,000 in recent months for their bus and taxi ad campaign.

The topic may be heavy (violent religious extremism, a conspiracy to take down the Constitution), but the tone among the activists and their critics teeters on satire.

A site monitoring the Muslim critics is called Loonwatch. Coblognspiracy theories about murder attempts and bestiality are common on the blogs. People on both sides say they get death threats and can't disclose where they live.

Asked if he was being deliberately combative and provocative, Spencer chuckled.

"Why not?" he asked. "It's fun."


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