Firebombing Freedom of Speech

by EDWARD CLINE November 7, 2011
 
There have been numerous fine articles condemning the November 2nd firebombing of Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper in Paris that dared mock Islam and front-paged a cartoon of Mohammad with the balloon caption, “One hundred lashes if you don’t die laughing.” Needless to say, this act of terrorism is just another instance of censorship by force.
 
Robert Spencer drew my attention to a November 2nd Time Magazine article by Bruce Crumley, “Firebombed French Paper is No Free Speech Martyr.” Crumley is Time’s Paris bureau chief. Spencer handily rebuts many of Crumley’s statements in that article in his FrontPage article of November 3rd, “Firebombing Free Speech in Paris,” and I won’t repeat them here.
 
Crumley, unfortunately, is merely indicative of the problem with the American press; in fact, with most of the Western press. Aside from its unabashed multiculturalist liberal-leftism and wholesome political correctness, and penchant for endorsing every welfare state piece of legislation, proposed or enacted, it has gravitated inevitably and obtusely into an ideological détente with that other major totalitarian contender, Islam. Before correcting Crumley’s dhimmitudal ramblings, however, there are precedents to revisit – numerous precedents – of that meek halal journalism and publishing behavior. Here are a few of them.
 
In October 2008 the offices of Gibson Square Books, a British publisher, were firebombed, causing the publisher to “suspend” publication of Sherry Jones’s The Jewel of Medina, a novel about Mohammad’s wife, Aisha. This was after Random House in New York scuttled plans to publish it in the U.S. after a University of Texas professor, Denise Spellberg, bird-dogged the novel, citing possible offense to Muslims, saying that it turned “sacred history” into “soft pornography.”
 
Random House then sent the manuscript to three Muslim scholars. Two said the subject matter could offend some Muslims. On May 21, Random pulled the plug.
 
So, on the basis of potential offense and imagined reprisals, Random House caved. Beaufort Books in the U.S. picked it up. The novel itself is of marginal literary value. Sequels to it are planned. One may as well have written a fictional account of the romantic life of Adolf Hitler and how he met Eva Braun. For the whole sorry history of the novel, see the Wikipedia entry here.
 
On November 2nd, Tom A. Peter, writing for The Christian Science Monitor, after a brief report on the firebombing of Charlie Hebdo, reprised three other “violence-provoking” incidents involving images of Mohammad. The article is interesting only because it goes to great pains to be “balanced” in its assessment of the value of the images as instances of freedom of speech, mentioning the advocates of freedom of speech but insinuating caution concerning the “sensibilities” of Muslims to such images. Recounting the reactions to the Danish Mohammad cartoons in 2005, Geert Wilders’s trial over his 2008 film Fitna, and the “Everybody draw Mohammad Day” imbroglio instigated in April 2010 by cartoonist Molly Norris (who has since vanished into the purgatory of unpersonhood on the recommendation of the FBI) over the South Park Mohammad in a bear suit episode, Peter thought it necessary to end each narrative with a “balancing” proviso. After the Danish cartoon story, he writes:
 
In an article explaining Muslim outrage over the cartoon, the BBC wrote that the cartoons fueled the “widespread perception among Muslims across the world that many in the West harbour a hostility towards – or fear of – Islam and Muslims.”
 
Ad libbing a line from Crumley’s article, one is tempted to say, “Well…yeah,” there is a hostility towards Islam and Muslims, and even a fear. After all, in whose name have 99.99% of the terrorist attacks over the last thirty years been made, but Mohammad’s and Islam’s?
 
At the end of his recounting of the Geert Wilders story, he felt it necessary to add,
 
In 2010 the far-right politician was put on trial for inciting hatred against Muslims in the Netherlands. In June of 2011, Wilders was acquitted. A Dutch court noted that his speech was legitimate political debate, but walked a fine line.
 
That “fine line” is drawn by whom? The Dutch judiciary, or by “radical” Muslims? And at the end of his squib about “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day,” he noted:
 
The stunt had a number of outspoken critics in the West who said the day was not part of a constructive discourse. “The problem with the ‘in-your-face message’ of ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed Day’ is not just that it is inconsiderate of the sensibilities of others, but that it defines those others – Muslims – as being outside of our culture, unworthy of the courtesy we readily accord to insiders,” wrote James Taranto in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal.
 
James Taranto made several other statements in that April 26, 2010 Wall Street Journal op-ed, “Everybody Burn the Flag,” that reveal the tenuous state of journalism’s regard for the First Amendment. In the op-ed, he quotes Ann Althouse, a University of Wisconsin Law School professor:
 
Our reflexive response to "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day"--which we too thought was serious, not having seen Norris's cartoon or her disclaimer--was sympathetic. But Althouse prompted us to reconsider. Here is her objection:
 
“Depictions of Muhammad offend millions of Muslims who are no part of the violent threats. In pushing back some people, you also hurt a lot of people who aren't doing anything. . .I don't like the in-your-face message that we don't care about what other people hold sacred.”
 
If depictions of Mohammad offend millions of Muslims, why? Because they look at them. Has anyone forced them to look at them? Or to read Sherry Jones’s novel? Or to watch Geert Wilders’s film? No. The issue here is not whether or not such things offend Muslims. The issue is that most Muslims lead such pitifully insular lives that neither the cartoons, the novel, or the film would have been noticed by them had not their “champions,” such as CAIR and university professors and dhimmified media brought the offending actions to the attention of these pious folk.
 
As noted above, Taranto ends his article with:
 
The problem with the "in-your-face message" of "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" is not just that it is inconsiderate of the sensibilities of others, but that it defines those others--Muslims--as being outside of our culture, unworthy of the courtesy we readily accord to insiders. It is an unwise message to send, assuming that one does not wish to make an enemy of the entire Muslim world.
 
Is not Taranto aware of the fact that America is already an enemy of the entire Muslim world, that the United States is Dar al-Harb, or the “Land of War”?
 
Yes, Islam and Muslims are outside American culture, which Taranto does not define, but which I will: it is the culture of individualism, of capitalism, of self-reliance, of being responsible for one’s own life and actions, of being left alone by state and religion – anyone’s religion. Islam reflects none of these qualities. Muslims who flaunt their “Muslim-ness” in dress and behavior in public do not reflect that culture. They are alien to it, and hostile to it, and I will say here and now that I am hostile to Islam and to anyone who submits to it or apologizes or defends it. Islam is anti-individual, and anti-mind. I stand with Jefferson who swore “eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." Islam is demonstrably an enemy of the mind. See my review of Robert R. Reilly’s excellent disquisition on the nature of Islam, The Closing of the Muslim Mind, about why Islam necessarily must suborn and sabotage independent minds.
 
 
Back to Bruce Crumley’s sniveling prudery. Robert Spencer, in a Jihad Watch article on the Charlie Hebdo firebombing, made a number of observations.
 
So Crumley's argument boils down to saying that we should capitulate in the face of violent intimidation. This is not really about being sensitive. It is about doing what the thugs want so they won't hurt us again.
 
Or even a first time, as Spencer experienced, together with Pamela Geller, when the Hyatt Palace Hotel in Houston and the Hutton Hotel in Nashville cancelled their talks about the perils of Sharia law in this country after the hotels received threatening calls objecting to their appearances.
 
Spencer later in the Jihad Watch piece scores Crumley for his suggestion that Muslims should be patronized and protected from “hate speech” or offensive cartoons because they haven’t the mental equipment to understand some basic principles:
 
There are millions of Christians in France even now. And their religion is routinely insulted and mocked on comedy shows, in movies, etc. Do they riot? Do they firebomb? They do not. And why not? Because they understand what civil liberty means. How ethnocentric of Crumley to expect that Muslims will never be able to grasp this point, and call for us to lower our expectations for them.
 
I must qualify my agreement with Spencer on this point. Frankly, my own expectations are low, not for any “ethnocentric” reasons, but because of the mind-altering drug of Islamic ideology, instilled in Muslim children at a very early age and administered to them in increasing dosages as they mature into adolescents and adults.
 
How else to explain second and third generation Muslims who never left France or Britain or the Netherlands but became “radicalized” “extremists”? Who was responsible for their “addiction” to Islam? All those humble Muslims one never hears about, “a lot of people who aren't doing anything,” as Ann Althouse put it. The parents and relatives and teachers of those “extremists,” firebombers, and other “radicals.” In lieu of forming rape gangs in Britain and the Netherlands, terrorizing Jews in Malmo, or taking over public streets in France for mass pray-ins, that is what those anonymous Muslim manqués do: turn their children into post-conceptual savages by having nothing to say about the violence of their ideological brethren. The creed forbids it. Submitting to Islam entails the Faustian bargain of self-censorship, and if such a bargain stigmatizes Muslims, so be it.
 
On the other hand, it would be fair to stigmatize Bruce Crumley as a dhimmi. Observe the wholly locker-room rap-session manner with which he begins his Time article:
 
Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren't going to tell “us” what can and can't be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?
 
First of all, the “antics” of Charlie Hebdo are not “Islamophobic,” not in the sense that Crumley means. Expressing one’s satirical or even damning view of Islam is exercising one’s freedom of speech. The editor, Stephane Charbonnier, did just that, and in a country that is experiencing an inexorable conquest by Muslims. Crumley ought to know that, being Time’s Paris bureau chief and being a first-hand witness to that conquest. Charbonnier fears the Islamization of France. He does not equate Islam with freedom of any kind. That is not a “phobia,” but a justifiable worry. His way of expressing his objection to his country’s Islamization is satire. Mine is the written word. Our means differ, but our goals are the same: to expose Islam for what it is, a killer of freedom.
 
But Crumley would rather no one cause “division and anger” and tempt “belligerent reaction.” France, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, even the United States, should just expire quietly without making a ruckus and concede a caliphate. Those who value their freedom had better be divisive and angry. Muslims don’t have a monopoly on them.
 
As Spencer points out in his Jihad Watch and FrontPage articles, Crumley blames the victim for the violence. Just as Islamic terrorist groups and Muslim clerics and Muslim thugs do when non-veiled women are raped, Jews murdered, and hotels threatened when they don’t comply with the Islamic world-view of how things and people should be.
 
Crumley sticks out his tongue and chides the editor of Charlie Hebdo:
 
But do you still think the price you paid for printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the logic of “because we can” was so worthwhile? If so, good luck with those charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring.
 
Not exactly adult behavior, is it? No camaraderie or journalist brotherhood or support in evidence there. Just nasty spitefulness. Crumley charges Charbonnier with wanting to provoke Muslims with the “Mohammad-edited” edition of Charlie Hebdo. Probably not. Charbonnier was exercising his freedom of speech. Crumley didn’t like the way he exercised it. Neither did the firebombers. An appropriate kinship.
 
Crumley isn’t satisfied with holding Charbonnier’s feet to the fire for having shown what he thinks of Islam. The Paris bureau chief is soured on France’s pathetic, draconian gestures of defiance against the Islamic occupation of the country. To him it’s an “over-heated issue” that can only drive Muslims crazy and make them feel alienated and “outside the culture.”
 
Because like France's 2010 law banning the burqa in public (and earlier legislation prohibiting the hijab in public schools), the nation's government-sponsored debates on Islam's place in French society all reflected very real Islamophobic attitudes spreading throughout society. Indeed, such perceived anti-Muslim action has made France a point of focus for Islamist radicals at home and abroad looking to harp on new signs of aggression against Islam. It has also left France's estimated five million Muslims feeling stigmatized and singled out for discriminatory treatment—a resentment that can't be have been diminished by seeing Charlie Hebdo's mockery of Islam “just for fun” defended as a hallowed example of civil liberty by French pols.
 
So, it’s better to not talk about growing Muslim arrogance, of the Sharia-governed, crime-riddenbanuilesno longer under French law, of the reduction of non-Muslims to the status of second-class citizens in their own country for fear of inculcating division and anger. Crumley’s sarcasm makes one wonder whose side he would’ve been on during the Nazi occupation of France. What was the Noël Coward song? Don’t let’s be beastly to the Germans?

After an obligatory chastising memo to Muslims that they mustn’t let things like Charlie Hebdo get their goat and cause them to misbehave, Crumley pimps for censorship:
 
But it's just evident members of those same free societies have to exercise a minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their rights and liberties—and that isn't happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble statement by gratuitously pissing people off.
 
Other Frenchmen might want to mock Islam and Muslims, too, you see, because intelligence, calculation, civility and decency have failed to stop Muslims from wanting to take over France.
 
Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile. Baiting extremists isn't bravely defiant when your manner of doing so is more significant in offending millions of moderate people as well. And within a climate where violent response—however illegitimate—is a real risk, taking a goading stand on a principle virtually no one contests is worse than pointless: it's pointlessly all about you.
 
It wasn’t “moderate” Muslims who firebombed Charlie Hebdo, those “silent majority” manqués who have nothing to say about their more consistent colleagues. Crumley earlier mentions that “Muslim leaders in France and abroad also stepped up to condemn the action,” but apparently he has never heard of taqiyya, the art of Muslim double-speak. (Demonstration: Muslim cleric says to your face in English, French, Dutch, German, pick your language: “We condemn violence, we are for human rights!” Cleric turns to his companions: “He is an ape, a pig, a dog and not human. When the time comes, we’ll clean his clock, take his daughter, his wallet, his property, and his head, just as Mohammad did and said we must do, blessings and peace be upon him!”)
 
So, yeah, the violence inflicted upon Charlie Hebdo was outrageous, unacceptable, condemnable, and illegal. But apart from the “illegal” bit, Charlie Hebdo's current edition is all of the above, too.
 
I’ve read better journalism in The Rolling Stone. You expect to encounter this level of semi-literate smarminess and ignorance in the denizens of Occupy Wall Street, not in a national news magazine. And, as Robert Spencer emphasizes, what Crumley’s article boils down to is a call for censorship, for “responsible” discourse that won’t encourage Muslims to carry Molotov cocktails or bombs or knives to the debate. This kind of gagging will be accompanied by unspecified penalties for “risking” any kind of violence with words.
 
Crumley made a point in his article of asserting that one doesn’t have a right to shout “Fire!” in the “increasingly over-heated theater.” But suppose the heat is caused by actual fire, a conflagration set by Muslim arsonists? This scenario Crumley refuses to imagine. And if hot-headed Muslims did set the fire, he asks, who can blame them?
 
Crumley shouldn’t worry much about it, however. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, The Muslim Brotherhood, and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation are all working assiduously but secretly to bring about the criminalization of freedom of speech. Words, images, and attitudes, after all, they claim, can be just as hurtful and injurious as bombs, fire, and knives at one’s throat.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Edward Cline is the author of a number of novels, and his essays, books, reviews, and other nonfiction have appeared in a number of high-profile periodicals.
 

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