Thursday, February 16, 2012
In Vanity Fair is a Christopher Hitchens piece
titled "Assassins of the Mind", in which Hitchens discusses the
self-censorship that is going on in the publishing world, even including video games (!), in the
long wake of the terroristic threats made against Salman Rushdie by the
Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 -- and our government's appeasement of those
threats and the many similar ones since then.
So there is now a hidden partner in our cultural and academic and publishing and broadcasting world: a shadowy figure that has, uninvited, drawn up a chair to the table. He never speaks. He doesn't have to. But he is very well understood. The late playwright Simon Gray was alluding to him when he said that Nicholas Hytner, the head of London’s National Theatre, might put on a play mocking Christianity but never one that questioned Islam. I brushed up against the unacknowledged censor myself when I went on CNN to defend the Danish cartoons and found that, though the network would show the relevant page of the newspaper, it had pixelated the cartoons themselves. And this in an age when the image is everything. The lady anchor did not blush to tell me that the network was obliterating its very stock-in-trade (newsworthy pictures) out of sheer fear.Hitchens gives other examples and rightly goes on from the above paragraph to note that "[s]ometimes this fear -- and this blackmail -- comes dressed up in the guise of good manners and multiculturalism". Hitchens summarizes the current state of affairs succinctly as follows: "We live now in a climate where every publisher and editor and politician has to weigh in advance the possibility of violent Muslim reprisal."
The Hitchens article is worth a read, but not without also considering that Leonard Peikoff predicted this state of afffairs back in 1989, and why he was able to make his prediction.
The ultimate target of the Ayatollah, as of all mystics, is not a particular "blasphemy," but reason itself, along with its cultural and political expressions: science, the Industrial Revolution, the American Revolution.And, much later:
The clear and present danger is that writers and publishers will begin, as a desperate measure of self-defense, to practice self-censorship--to speak, write, and publish with the implicit thought in mind: "What group will this offend and to what acts of aggression will I then be vulnerable?" The result would be the death of the First Amendment and the gradual Finlandization of America. Is the land of the free and the home of the brave to become the land of the bland and the home of the fearful?Peikoff saw this coming because he understood why it had to turn out like this, and this pathetic state of affairs will continue and worsen until we respond appropriately to these threats in the manner he recommends.
I think both articles are worthwhile, but if you have time to read only one of them, read Peikoff's.
Today: Corrected a typo.