This is the Age of Cowardice, as the cowards tell each other that they’re being “prudent,” and “respectful,” and not practicing “cultural arrogance.” But Robert Tracinski here capably explains why, when all is said and done, this is really just the Age of Cowardice.
“Mohammed Cartoons: If You’re Not Publishing, You’re Pretending,” by Robert Tracinski, The Federalist, May 12, 2015 (thanks to Buster):
…The non-subtle problem is the commentators who outright oppose the publishing of the cartoons and have openly given up on free speech. That’s a phenomenon I have already written about, and the Washington Post‘s Erik Wemple offers his own excellent round-up of “The Week That Cable News Failed Free Expression.” The only problem is that he limits himself to cable news, when the print and online media were furnishing plenty of other examples, from the New York Times to Bloomberg to the Washington Post itself.
Yet the subtler problem is with those who agree that the Mohammed cartoons are free speech and should be protected, and who want to express how much it makes them sad that someone would kill over a drawing—but who won’t even show us the drawings that the controversy is all about. They have decided that this is one controversy in which the public shouldn’t be encouraged to see the evidence and judge for themselves. This is one “provocative” issue on which they don’t really want to provoke anyone. So sure, they want to indicate their disapproval of a lethal prohibition on drawing Mohammed—but without doing anything to actually defy or weaken that prohibition.
That’s what gives these comments, like the “Saturday Night Live” sketch, the hollow feeling of a statement that doesn’t really state anything.
Do you want to take a stand in favor of free speech? Then I’m afraid you’re going to have to draw Mohammed. Or if you don’t possess that particular skill (and I sure don’t), then publish some of the cartoons that started this controversy.
Nearly a decade ago, after the first “cartoon jihad,” I argued for why this is necessary:
This is not merely a symbolic expression of support; it is a practical countermeasure against censorship. Censorship—especially the violent, anarchic type threatened by Muslim fanatics—is effective only when it can isolate a specific victim, making him feel as if he alone bears the brunt of the danger. What intimidates an artist or writer is not simply some Arab fanatic in the street carrying a placard that reads “Behead those who insult Islam.” What intimidates him is the feeling that, when the beheaders come after him, he will be on his own, with no allies or defenders—that everyone else will be too cowardly to stick their necks out.
The answer, for publishers, is to tell the Muslim fanatics that they can’t single out any one author, or artist, or publication. The answer is to show that we’re all united in defying the fanatics.
That’s what it means to show “solidarity” by re-publishing the cartoons. The message we need to send is: if you want to kill anyone who publishes those cartoons, or anyone who makes cartoons of Mohammed, then you’re going to have to kill us all. If you make war on one independent mind, you’re making war on all of us. And we’ll fight back.
So I was happy to see this same point reiterated recently by Mark Steyn:
[N]o cartoonist or publisher or editor should have to stand alone. The minute there were multimillion-dollar bounties on those cartoonists’ heads, The Times of London and Le Monde and The Washington Post and all the rest should have said, “This Thursday we’re all publishing the cartoons. If you want to put bounties on all our heads, you’d better have a great credit line at the Bank of Jihad. If you want to kill us, you’ll have to kill us all…”
Steyn, of course, has the courage of his convictions, so he includes an image of Bosch Fawstin’s winning cartoon from the Garland contest.
Simlarly, Eugene Volokh and the Washington Post get credit, not only for linking to Steyn, but for including an image of another Fawstin drawing, which is not explicitly of Mohammed but could definitely be interpreted that way.
As for myself, I’ve included the first Fawstin cartoon at the top of this article and below. And it’s not the first time. Back when my own newsletter still had a print version, this was our cover for the Danish cartoons controversy.
That’s Kurt Westergaard’s brilliant cartoon. The rest were published inside.
I don’t say this to boast about my great courage because I don’t think it takes great courage. Some other people who made it their business to be lightning rods have already made themselves the primary targets. I can publish these with confidence that before the jihadists go after me, they’ll go after Kurt Westergaard and Pamela Geller and Bosch Fawstin—by which I mean that they’ll go after them a second time—and then they’ll come for Geert Wilders and Mark Steyn. Eventually, they’ll come for me, but I’m a lot farther down the list. And anybody else who publishes it will have the privilege of going on the list after me.
But that’s the whole point: to spread out the danger by putting as many people on the list as possible.
This is why, despite all the throat-clearing about how such a provocation was unnecessary, Geller’s event was absolutely necessary and was the only way to make a real statement about free speech. Sometimes the only way to protect an endangered right is to exercise it. The only way to protest against a restriction on freedom of speech is to violate it. The imperative is summed up in Fawstin’s winning cartoon, in which the illustration of Mohammed declares “You can’t draw me,” and the artist replies, “That’s why I draw you.”…