"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Monday, February 13, 2006

Freedom of Speech for Them but Not for Us

Charles Krauthammer has it just right in his column on the Western intellectuals' and journalists' reaction to the "studied frenzy over the Danish Muhammed cartoons" in the Muslim world. Krauthammer makes the point that Western self-styled "moderates" are not being evenhanded when they endorse the principle of free expression while "they criticize the Danish newspaper for abusing that right by publishing offensive cartoons, and they declare themselves opposed, in the name of religious sensitivity, to doing the same."

In refusing to republish the cartoons, the Western media are giving in to a mob:

The mob is trying to dictate to Western newspapers, indeed Western governments, what is a legitimate subject for discussion and caricature. The cartoons do not begin to approach the artistic level of Salman Rushdie's prose, but that's not the point. The point is who decides what can be said and what can be drawn within the precincts of what we quaintly think of as the free world.

Krauthammer points out that the Western press and intellectuals have shown no sympathy whatever when Western leftists have created works openly insulting Christianity. You can easily find photos of "Piss Christ," a so-called art exhibition that explicitly did just that. When Christians are being attacked, the Western pseudointelligentsia and their journalistic catamites stick their fingers in their ears and shout "freedom of the press!!!!"

But when it is Islam being insulted, suddenly freedom of the press is less important than sensitivity. But why are the the intellectuals and their bag carriers so concerned about the sensitivities of alien people living thousands of miles away in self-created nightmare conditions when these same self-styled Western eminences are so unmoved by the concerns of their Christian neighbors? (Those same neighbors whose principles led to the modern idea of freedom of the press, incidentally.) Westerners who praise the Islamic "moderates" who are asking the mobs to quiet down, the Western press are, in Krauthammer's apt phrase, endorsing the goals of the mob while not endorsing the means:

What passes for moderation in the Islamic community -- "I share your rage but don't torch that embassy" -- is nothing of the sort. It is simply a cynical way to endorse the goals of the mob without endorsing its means. It is fraudulent because, while pretending to uphold the principle of religious sensitivity, it is interested only in this instance of religious insensitivity.

Have any of these "moderates" ever protested the grotesque caricatures of Christians and, most especially, Jews that are broadcast throughout the Middle East on a daily basis? The sermons on Palestinian TV that refer to Jews as the sons of pigs and monkeys? The Syrian prime-time TV series that shows rabbis slaughtering a gentile boy to ritually consume his blood? The 41-part (!) series on Egyptian TV based on that anti-Semitic czarist forgery (and inspiration of the Nazis), "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion," showing the Jews to be engaged in a century-old conspiracy to control the world?

A true Muslim moderate is one who protests desecrations of all faiths. Those who don't are not moderates but hypocrites, opportunists and agents for the rioters, merely using different means to advance the same goal: to impose upon the West, with its traditions of freedom of speech, a set of taboos that is exclusive to the Islamic faith. These are not defenders of religion but Muslim supremacists trying to force their dictates upon the liberal West.

Krauthammer says, "What is at issue is fear. The unspoken reason many newspapers do not want to republish is not sensitivity but simple fear. They know what happened to Theo van Gogh, who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through the chest with an Islamist manifesto attached." The Westerners' sensitivity, he says, is simply an attempt to keep the Islamic hordes' anger concentrated on the Danes and the few other European newspapers that reprinted the cartoons.

I believe that the level of fear is an important element, however. The Western intellectuals certainly fear Islam, but the threat appears quite distant and attenuated at this time, so they believe that they can dismiss Islamic rage as no real, immediate threat. They figure, if radical Muslims do anything really bad to us, as they did five years ago, we can always get behind our government in a concerted response as we did then, while the fear-adrenaline was still coursing through our veins. That should stop the problem. Plus, most Muslims are moderate and really don't want to kill us, and they certainly don't want to get bombed and crushed under Westerners' tanks because of a few big-mouthed religious fanatics in their midst. We can count on their good sense to stop the radicals among them, and if that fails, our government will step in and threaten the bad guys with serious retaliation, at which point they will retreat with their tails between their legs and resume murdering people in Indonesia, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Africa, and other places that don't affect us.

In short, they believe, Islam is a threat, but a distant and easily defeatable one.

Christians and believing Jews, by contrast, are all around us, the Western psuedointelligentsia observes, and these particular religious fanatics pose an immediate threat to our freedom. These lunatics want to force us to have replicas of the Ten Commandments on our courthouse lawns, to hear people pray in our forcibly tax-supported schools, to have voters (instead of the Supreme Court) decide what a human life is and how it should be protected, to teach children that Darwin's theory is just a theory, and other such instances of their repulsive Western version of Sharia law.

Those people must be stopped, and any way we can undermine their faith is a very good thing indeed, think the Western intellectuals and their lapdogs in the media. That is why there is this disconnect between the Western press's treatment of Islam and its attitude toward Christianity and Judaism.

10 comments:

Matt Huisman said...

Very perceptive, Mr. Karnick. The primary issue here has little, if anything, to do with the violation of Muslim sensibilities. The more pressing fear in Europe is that an American style right wing coalition may gain some traction.

The entire EU concept is built upon the notion that the world needs a counterweight to the US, both economically and geopolitically. The development of their moral superiority over crass American imperialism has been one of the primary sales tools of the whole EU concept to their populations. There's no way that they want to let a cultural skirmish jeopardize all that they have built.

Tlaloc said...

"In refusing to republish the cartoons, the Western media are giving in to a mob"

In either case they can be said to be responding to pressure, i.e. there is a mob on both sides.

Personally I have no problem with any paper choosing to publish or not publish the cartoons as a matter of free speech principle. What I object to is publishing or not based on sensationalism and using free speech as a cover.

In general if find such displays to be fairly crass and tacky. That includes both the cartoons and the Kayne West as Christ cover of Rolling Stone and "piss christ."

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

In order for the press to remain important, it must have a line that it will not cross; ie, it must have some kind of standard. Whether we agree with the standard is another issue.

If the press does not have a standard, it risks becoming The National Enquirer.

Take Tlaloc's example of Kanye West and the Rolling Stone. Now Kanye says he should be in the bible...can we really take TRS seriously? Not that anybody ever did ...

Matt Huisman said...

In order for the press to remain important, it must have a line that it will not cross; ie, it must have some kind of standard.

I'll buy that. The problem is, this case has nothing to do with standards about what is or isn't sensible. I suppose in theory it could have been, and a discussion would be worthwile for that reason. But this story is about a game of chicken between two...make that three sides.

The original offense of creating an image of the prophet and making jokes at his expense turns out to be false. There is no such understanding, and if there was, it's interesting to note that the rioting occurred in a rather limited area. Case in point: an Egyptian paper ran the same set in Oct '05 - with no outbreak of rioting.

It also turns out that some of the cartoons that were used to 'incite' the Arab street after the fact were not even run in the original Danish set.

The whole situation smells like a group of local Danish imams working a shakedown angle - hence the extended negotiations and calls for punishment of the newspaper - that went horribly wrong when the Danish Prime Minister forgot how these things are supposed to be handled. When these would-be Sharptons were denied, they found some sympathetic muscle in Iran and Syria willing to use the 'controversy' for their own purposes.

Frustrated with all of the trouble caused by the whole affair, EU leaders have been scrambling to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Despite initial reports that they supported the Danish govt's reaction, I think you can be quite certain that they were none to happy with the way things were handled.

All of this is to point out how feeble the MSM is in bringing us this story. Hamstrung from so many angles, they were completely unable or unwilling to relate the truth. If they really want to remain important, they better figure that out.

The Classic Liberal Anonymous said...

So Matt ... if the MSM of the West is screaming:

"Hey, look at us ... we are being sensitive to Islam! We are being responsible! As for you Danes (and assorted French and German newspapers), you ought to learn from us; Shame on you."

we ought to call BS? :)

Karnick said...

I believe that freedom of speech gives the media the right to publish whatever they please (except libel etc.) but I also believe that as private enterprises they should use discretion when choosing what to publish. It does no one any good to incite riots on the street by publishing offensive material. However, I also believe that western media should not be swayed by these anti-western sentiments. If, as Sam touched on, newspapers find it necessary to publish materials offensive to one religion they should not refrain from publishing materials offensive to another. Do not pretend to be sympathetic to religion when you try to offend another. The press needs to be equal in their anti-religious dealings if they insist on it at all, and not be swayed by these mobs.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Nah, we don't call BS around here, CLA, even when they're third parties and even when they have it coming. :-)

Europe has let its Eurabia problem fester, and so this boil-lancing is inevitable, with much more to come.

As previously noted, the existential crisis of Europe has been going on for 100 years. The problem with Europe isn't Islamicism, but in Europe's heart itself. It's a good thing that it's taking an long-overdue look in the mirror. Islamicism is the catalyst, not the cause, for doing so.

(STK, perhaps we need a European edition. Shaw and Chesterton are dead, and there's nobody left there now...)

Matt Huisman said...

The problem with Europe isn't Islamicism, but in Europe's heart itself.

No kidding. The trouble with Europe is that they've gone corporate - it's one giant M&A project that has all the soul of the recent K-Mart/Sears merger. Just because there's an opening in the market and a bunch of lawyers and investment bankers say the numbers work doesn't mean that you are building anything worth noticing.

"Not a single company [we studied] that qualified as having made a sustained transformation ignited its leap with a big acquisition or merger. Moreover, comparison companies—those that failed to make a leap or, if they did, failed to sustain it—often tried to make themselves great with a big acquisition or merger. They failed to grasp the simple truth that while you can buy your way to growth, you cannot buy your way to greatness." —Jim Collins/Time/11.29.04/on Sears-Kmart

(I don't know about any of you, but I have no idea what they're about - and I certainly don't see any Jeffersons, Franklins or Washingtons around.)

It's a good thing that it's taking an long-overdue look in the mirror.

I don't know how long that long-overdue look is going to be. Until they witness the emptiness of their conglomerate first hand, they're not going to give up on it.

Tom Van Dyke said...

And, Sam, more apropos to your point and closing paragraph, the reason the Western media has so seriously miscalculated on this is that they indeed are used to spitting on everyone's religious beliefs with impunity.

Given that Christians have learned to live with it in this secular age, as dictated by their principles, and that Jews have never been in a position to demand (or even request) respect for their beliefs (at the exposure of their lives), this is quite an epiphany for the children, nay, stepchildren of the Enlightenment.

Tlaloc said...

"If, as Sam touched on, newspapers find it necessary to publish materials offensive to one religion they should not refrain from publishing materials offensive to another. Do not pretend to be sympathetic to religion when you try to offend another. The press needs to be equal in their anti-religious dealings if they insist on it at all, and not be swayed by these mobs."

My thoughts precisely. Publishing something that offends because it is legitimately news is one thing. Publishing sheerly for shock value to sell copy another. And hypocritically refusing to publish something that offends one group while being eager to publish another is still another.

We're having entirely too much agreement recently. I'm gonna start checking your basements for pods...