In my article at Front Page today I wrote this: “The worst aspect of this firebombing is that there are certain to be voices in the West over the next few days — some of them no doubt quite prominent and respected — who will call on Westerners to be more ‘sensitive’ toward Muslims, and to end this unacceptable hurting of Muslim feelings by drawing cartoons of him and making him the honorary editor-in-chief of a comedy magazine.”
And here we are. The reason why this is the worst aspect of the firebombing is that these pleas to be more “sensitive” to Muslims amount essentially to calls for restrictions on the freedom of speech and the creation of a special, privileged class that is beyond criticism. That is the death of free society and the road to tyranny, for the class that is beyond criticism will have a free hand to do whatever it wants, and what will anyone be able to say?
But Bruce Crumley of Time Magazine, like so many other enlightened liberals, camouflages his slouch toward totalitarianism in the guise of “sensitivity” and resistance to “Islamophobia.” The huge, gaping hole in his argument, however, is that he is making it after Muslims reacted violently to satire. Judaism and Christianity are lampooned on a regular basis, but Bruce Crumley never lifted a finger to call for “sensitivity” toward the religious feelings of others when Piss Christ was being displayed as a serious work of art. So Crumley’s argument boils down to saying that we should capitulate in the face of violent intimidation. This is not really about being sensitive. It is about doing what the thugs want so they won’t hurt us again.
I’d rather die first.
“Firebombed French Paper Is No Free Speech Martyr,” by Bruce Crumley for Time Magazine, November 2 (thanks to Anne Crockett):
Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?
The difficulty in answering that question is also what’s making it hard to have much sympathy for the French satirical newspaper firebombed this morning, after it published another stupid and totally unnecessary edition mocking Islam. The Wednesday morning arson attack destroyed the Paris editorial offices of Charlie Hebdo after the paper published an issue certain to enrage hard-core Islamists (and offend average Muslims) with articles and “funny” cartoons featuring the Prophet Mohammed””depictions forbidden in Islam to boot. Predictably, the strike unleashed a torrent of unqualified condemnation from French politicians, many of whom called the burning of the notoriously impertinent paper as “an attack on democracy by its enemies.”
We, by contrast, have another reaction to the firebombing: Sorry for your loss, Charlie, and there’s no justification of such an illegitimate response to your current edition. But do you still think the price you paid for printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the logic of “because we can” was so worthwhile? If so, good luck with those charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring….
Why? Because like France’s 2010 law banning the burqa in public (and earlier legislation prohibiting the hijab in public schools), the nation’s government-sponsored debates on Islam’s place in French society all reflected very real Islamophobic attitudes spreading throughout society. Indeed, such perceived anti-Muslim action has made France a point of focus for Islamist radicals at home and abroad looking to harp on new signs of aggression against Islam. It has also left France’s estimated five million Muslims feeling stigmatized and singled out for discriminatory treatment””a resentment that can’t be have been diminished by seeing Charlie Hebdo’s mockery of Islam “just for fun” defended as a hallowed example of civil liberty by French pols. It’s yet to be seen whether Islamist extremists were behind today’s arson, but both the paper’s current edition, and the rush of politicians to embrace it as the icon of French democracy, raises the possibility of even moderate Muslims thinking “good on you” if and when militants are eventually fingered for the strike. It’s all so unnecessary.
No, it isn’t. There are millions of Christians in France even now. And their religion is routinely insulted and mocked on comedy shows, in movies, etc. Do they riot? Do they firebomb? They do not. And why not? Because they understand what civil liberty means. How ethnocentric of Crumley to expect that Muslims will never be able to grasp this point, and call for us to lower our expectations for them.
It’s obvious free societies cannot simply give in to hysterical demands made by members of any beyond-the-pale group. And it’s just as clear that intimidation and violence must be condemned and combated for whatever reason they’re committed””especially if their goal is to undermine freedoms and liberties of open societies. But it’s just evident members of those same free societies have to exercise a minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their rights and liberties””and that isn’t happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble statement by gratuitously pissing people off.
In other words, don’t say anything that will gratuitously anger people. Who decides what angers people gratuitously? The people in power, of course. As I was saying about tyranny…
Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile. Baiting extremists isn’t bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response””however illegitimate””is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it’s pointlessly all about you.
A principle virtually no one contests? Obviously Crumley is unaware of the OIC’s years-long campaign against freedom of speech. But even aside from that, it manifests an extraordinary myopia on his part for him to have been able to write this in the wake of the firebombing of a magazine because of what it published.
So, yeah, the violence inflicted upon Charlie Hebdo was outrageous, unacceptable, condemnable, and illegal. But apart from the “illegal” bit, Charlie Hebdo’s current edition is all of the above, too.
That may well be so. But if we make it illegal as well as outrageous, unacceptable, and condemnable, we will sooner or later (and probably sooner) discover that the knife we fashioned to cut out the cancer of “Islamophobia” cuts out a great deal of healthy tissue as well, and ultimately kills the patient.