Global lynch mob attacks free speech...
[by Mac Johnson] 2/6/06
anyone in the United States questions the propriety of the federal
government funding gay snuff films for distribution
to schoolchildren, America’s
entire mainstream media is there immediately, screaming like scalded monkeys
about the end of “freedom of speech.” Why, think of the chilling
effect such defunding could have on the whole snuff film industry. And from
there it is a steep slippery slope to Orwell’s 1984 and then … death
camps for everybody.
Johnson is a freelance writer and biologist in Cambridge,
Mass. Mr. Johnson holds a Doctorate in Molecular and
Cellular Biology from Baylor College of Medicine. He
is a frequent opinion contributor to Human
Events Online. His website can be found at macjohnson.com [go
to Johnson index]
may not agree with what you say,” they often misquote
Voltaire, “but I will defend to the death your right
to say it.” But when a real threat to our freedom to
say what we believe without fear of prosecution or persecution
comes from anyone other than the old familiar bogeymen of the
left’s world, the mainstream media often has precious
little to say.
global lynch mob calling for reprisal against the entire nation
of Denmark for daring to let its newspapers publish whatever
they want -- even about religion -- is just such a case. The
Jyllands-Posten newspaper of Denmark published a group of cartoons
solely to demonstrate a point about the increasing threat posed
to free societies by the fear of Muslim violence.
of a book on the Muslim prophet Muhammad complained that he
could find no artist willing to illustrate his book, because
they all feared they would be targeted for assassination by
religious fanatics if the book was deemed “offensive
to Islam.” When authors are afraid to write and artists
are afraid to illustrate books on important topics, we are
no longer a free society. Thus, the Jyllands-Posten opened
its pages to local artists to send in their illustrations of
Muhammad. “We will not be intimidated” was the
clear message they wished to send.
principled defense of freedom of speech, the artists and staff
of the Jyllands-Posten began receiving death threats. Apparently,
the artists that refused to illustrate the book because they
believed that Islam produces more than its share of intolerant
thugs were not merely drawing upon a caricature. But the situation
has since rapidly devolved into caricature and self-parody.
of Muslim nations began demanding that the democratic government
of Denmark punish the independent newspaper for daring to print “blasphemy” against
Islam. When the Prime Minister of Denmark, Anders Fogh Rasmussen,
explained to them that (unlike in their countries) the government
can’t tell people what to say in Denmark, Saudi Arabia
recalled its ambassador. Libya closed its embassy. Egypt refused
to repay loans from Denmark. Riots broke out in the Gaza strip,
where Islamic Jihad burned Danish flags and threatened to begin
kidnapping and killing Danes wherever they could find them.
A Pakistani group offered cash rewards for the heads of the
artists -- and keep in mind that “for the heads” is
not just an expression in some places.
terror attack, we are reminded by spokesmen from these same
Muslim nations that we must not judge all Muslims just by the
action of a few thousand, or even tens of thousands, of radicals
that enjoy the support of a majority of the population in many
of the free speech of one newspaper, the governments of many
Muslim nations are encouraging a boycott of every company in
Denmark. No butter cookies for you, Fatima! Several firms with
formerly large subsidiaries in the Middle East have been put
out of business in the region, and in several cases their employees
have been attacked. This would be as silly as disliking the
actions of the United States and deciding to burn down a Kentucky
Fried Chicken and kill all its employees. Oh wait, that actually
happened in Pakistan.
Back in Denmark,
the artists have gone into hiding and the Jyllands-Posten has
been evacuated -- because they dared, in a free society, to
say what they thought. But where is the uproar? What other
media outlets have rushed to their defense? Where is the New
York Times’ editorial page? Silent. What of CNN? They
will report the riots over the cartoons, but refuse to show
the rather tame cartoons themselves out of “respect for
Islam.” A network that cannot self-censor itself to keep
our soldiers safe in time of war will gladly self-censor itself
to avoid offending those who would so forcefully censor Denmark.
As will NBC. Other outlets are simply mute on the issue.
is not a new phenomenon.
filmmaker Theo van Gogh dared to make a movie of a script by
a Muslim woman in which she depicts the treatment of women
in many Islamic societies. It was judged “offensive to
Islam” by some -- so Van Gogh was shot, stabbed, hacked,
and beat to death on the street.
book, The Satanic Verses, offended Islam, according to the
Ayatollah Khomeini, so he issued a death sentence against the
English author to be carried out on sight anywhere in the world.
Mr. Rushdie has lived in hiding in his allegedly “free” society
well-known artists are also under death threat for work published
in Europe or America, but judged offensive half a world away.
And the complaints
about offense go to the smaller end of the spectrum as well.
A British bar owner was forced to remove a “no porking” sign
from his parking lot because it was “offensive to Islam.” Pictures
of Piglet have been removed from British government offices
because Piglet is allegedly “offensive to Islam.”
removed from a gallery in Sweden because it was “offensive
to Islam.” An Italian author was brought up on hate crime
charges because her opinions were “offensive to Islam.”
are offensive to Islam, Coca Cola labels are offensive to Islam,
Burger King Ice Cream lids are offensive to Islam, Levi’s
jeans ads are offensive to Islam. These are all actual news
American media whines on about NSA wiretapping and the Patriot
Act, they ignore a much bigger threat to free speech -- the
very real prospect of being censored or even marked for death
simply for expressing one’s thoughts on religion.
precedent is being set here. If they are smart, other media
outlets will fall in behind Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten
and establish that they will be censored by neither government
nor religion. Several European papers have reprinted the cartoons
as an act of solidarity and defiance -- including one that
declared “Yes, we have the right to blasphemy.”
It is not
just our own government that presents a threat to free speech,
and if we are serious about defending it -- rather than just
using the concept to bash political enemies -- then we must
defend it from every threat. -one-
First appeared at Human Events Online
2006 Mac Johnson