Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Elan Journo of the Ayn Rand Institute considers
several interesting questions, among them:
[W]here was the solidarity nearly a decade ago for Jyllands-Posten, Flemming Rose, and the artists who were driven in to hiding after the Mohammad cartoons crisis? And before that, after the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh? Or, for Charlie Hebdo in 2011 when its offices were firebombed?An editorial at RealClear Politics, by Bill Scher, indicates that Journo is correct. Scher, noting that the left is "grappling" with Charlie Hebdo, cites a few examples:
By now people have many, many more data points. Now, as in the past, the pattern is blatant. The jihadists seek to extinguish the freedom of speech. At Charlie Hebdo, the killers declared that they were avenging the prophet. They voiced a standard battle cry, "Allahu Akbar." They executed the journalists during an editorial meeting. [link in original, minor format edits]
[Jonathan] Chait elaborated in response, summarizing New York Times conservative columnist Ross Douthat's view that "Vulgar expression that would otherwise be unworthy of defense becomes worthy if it is made in defiance of violent threats." Therefore, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons are no longer on par with [Glenn] Greenwald's examples of anti-Semitism "because nobody is murdering artists who publish anti-Semitic cartoons."Good data hardly guarantees correct conclusions, but it is heartening to see that the efforts of the jihadists may well backfire more easily than I had hoped. At least the idea that Islam, as a religion, is exempt from examination and criticism seems to be going by the wayside.
Bill Maher went beyond the encouragement of sacrilege to criticize Islam itself, in the name of liberalism no less. During an interview on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live the day of the attack, Maher insisted, "I'm a proud liberal ... It's not my fault that the part of the world that is most against liberal principles is the Muslim part of the world ... We have to stop saying, 'Well, we should not insult a great religion' ... we should insult them."
Two days later on his HBO show Real Time, he was even more denigrating of Islam: "When there's this many bad apples, there's something wrong with the orchard." [links in original, minor format edits]
P.S. For clarity, let me add that I regard all speech, even the most vulgar and offensive, that does not actually cause harm (e.g., via incitement or slander) as an absolute right and deserving of government protection. This is a different issue from one's moral evaluation of the speaker. One can morally condemn, say, an anti-Semite or a mere provocateur, while still insisting that such a person has the right to speak his mind, however small it might be.