David Brooks: No, We’re Not All Charlie Hebdo
I rarely agree with David Brooks, the NY Times’ token conservative, who is less conservative than your average RINO. However, he makes a hell of a good point
The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.
Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home. (snip)
Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.
So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.
What’s not mentioned by Brooks is that most of the intolerant comes from Liberals, who get Very Upset whenever anyone does anything that might offend them. It’s not their exclusive domain, but, they are the ones who attempt to shut down other people much more often than those on the political right.
The first thing to say, I suppose, is that whatever you might have put on your Facebook page yesterday, it is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, or I Am Charlie Hebdo. Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in.
Actually, I can say that I do, or at least, used to, when I spent more time blogging about Islamic terrorism, before shifting more towards “climate change”. I, along with over a dozen other blogs, were banned in India due to the a snarky “flush the Koran” photoshop blogburst. I’ve run many of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, along with others, like the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, many, many times (BTW, the LA Times is calling for defending the freedom of expression, when they had previous trashed freedom of expression regarding the “movie” Innocence of Muslims. Granted, that was an op-ed contributor, but it was printed in same paper). The subhead on my site is “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all”. Look it up and see who said it. I’ve been credibly threatened over my previous focus on Islamic terrorism. That did not stop me.
If you try to pull off this delicate balance with law, speech codes and banned speakers, you’ll end up with crude censorship and a strangled conversation. It’s almost always wrong to try to suppress speech, erect speech codes and disinvite speakers.
Interesting, since the NY Times refused to run the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, the same as many other American liberal media outlets. Of course, they do not have the same problem with running anything that is nasty towards Republicans, climate Skeptics, Christians, Jews, Tea Partiers, etc. But, then, while they might get a few threats, those threats would never be serious like those from radical Islamists.
The massacre at Charlie Hebdo should be an occasion to end speech codes. And it should remind us to be legally tolerant toward offensive voices, even as we are socially discriminating.
Good luck with that, David. Progressives will never allow that.