Free Speech, Fundament of Democracy and Equality

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 21:44 GFP Columnist - G. Tod Slone
Today, criticism of Islam is at the vanguard of the fight for free speech, since it is susceptible to attack and intimidation by jihadists and calls for self-censorship by the politically correct. Geller refers to her meeting as a free-speech event while her critics prefer to call it an anti-Islam event. They are really one and the same. - Rich Lowry, editor, National Review.

The New York Times editorial board, comprised of 19 journalists, published a paltry attempt to circumvent the reality of free speech.  Its “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech” essay addressed the Garland, TX draw Muhammad cartoon event.  How did 19 journalists actually agree to publish such an egregious example of what Salman Rushdie called the “but brigade.” 

So, what is the “but brigade”?  Rushdie provides a few examples to illlustrate the phenomenon:  “I believe in free speech, but people should behave themselves.” “I believe in free speech, but we shouldn’t upset anybody.” “I believe in free speech, but let’s not go too far.”  Get it?  Hopefully, you do.  In essence, the “but” indicates that the person(s) using it do not really believe in free speech at all.  They believe in limited speech that does not offend; that is, speech that clearly does not need legal protection.

Those New York Times editorial journalists stipulated up front the usual superficial support for free speech typically given by “but brigade” members:  “There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies.”   Then in typical “but brigade” fashion, the 19 journalists attacked and disparaged those who exercized their right to free speech and were almost massacred for doing so.  They argued the Garland event “was not really about free speech,” but “was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.” 

With that kind of aberrant logic, any speech subjectively designated as “hatred” by the 19 journalists is not about free speech.  How can so many journalists be so wrong about the concept?  What blocks their thinking process?  Clearly, hate speech for them is not hate speech for the event organizers.  In fact, the editorial by those 19 journalists could certainly be viewed by the latter as hate speech because it dismissed them as “bigots.”  Moreover, how can expressing an opinion on Muhammad and Islam possibly constitute a “blow for freedom”?  What an absurd contradictory notion!  It simply makes no sense. 

Those 19 journalists clearly implied that suppressing negative opinions on Muhammad and Islam somehow helps promote the cause of freedom.  Wow.  Somehow, they really believe their collective notion will clarify the debate, which they argue has become, due to the Charlie Hebdo massacre, “a furious and often confused debate about free speech versus hate speech.”  They evoke the PEN members who opposed the selection of Charlie Hebdo for PEN’s courage award to bolster their case:  “hundreds of PEN’s members have opposed the selection for ‘valorizing selectively offensive material.’”  Yet clearly the award was presented for valor, not for content.  The 19 New York Times journalists help provoke, rather than clear up the “confused debate”!

They make a febrile attempt to separate right-wing Pamela Geller, the event’s chief organizer, from left-wing Charlie Hebdo, by demonizing the former as “motivated purely by hatred for Muslims.”  In essence, criticize with reason and logic Islamic doctrine and be deemed a hater and Islamophobe.  How did such facile dismissal of free speech become the modus operandi of purportedly intelligent people?  The only concrete evidence of the alleged “long history of declarations and actions” of “hatred” cited by the 19 journalists is Geller’s successful fight against the planned Ground Zero mosque.  But imagine a mosque at the site where hate-filled Muslims murdered 3000 innocent Americans!  It seems those who pushed for that mosque are the haters, not those who did not want it. 

<They make a febrile attempt to separate right-wing Pamela Geller,
the event’s chief organizer, from left-wing Charlie Hebdo,
by demonizing the former as “motivated purely by hatred for Muslims.”>

The real fight against free speech is being waged by journalists like those 19 on the editorial board who proclaim as hatred anything they do not like.  Cite a negative truth about Islam, a direct quote from the Quran even, and they will deem you a hater.  Is that not absurd?  How can truth and fact be hatred?  How can a purported religion of peace stipulate:  "Fight those who do not believe in Allah”?  Absurd!  Obama is absurd for pushing that narrative and backing the Ground Zero mosque!  For the 19 journalists, exercising ones freedom of speech and freedom of expression becomes a “provocative goal”, that is, if those journalists do not approve of the speech and expression.  Absurd!  For them, speech and expression become “blatantly Islamophobic provocations,” even when such speech and expression are simple statements of fact.  Absurd! 

If speech, as the 19 journalists argue, serves “only to exacerbate tensions and to give extremists more fuel,” then what does silence and self-censorship do?  Well, it surely ends up empowering extremists.  All dictatorships seek to silence opponents.  Successful ones achieve that goal.  Why do those journalists not even evoke Sharia law, which makes blasphemy a crime? 

Finally, violent hate-filled Muslims have succeeded in bringing focus back to religion after a refreshingly-long hiatus?  The Age of Reason had pushed religion out of power.  But today, thanks to those hate-filled Muslims and numerous apologists like the 19 journalists, religion has been pushing back on reason.  Instead of manifesting the guts to underscore the lack of reason involved when people want to kill because of pictorial depictions of some ancient warlord called Muhammad, those 19 journalists back (dare not help free) an ignorant people, intellectually chained to a medieval religious ideology that sanctions torture and murder of infidels.  If “millions of devout Muslims” indeed feel “anguish” because of mere cartoons, perhaps rather than protecting their sensitive feelings, as those 19 journalists seek to do, they need help in developing intellectually, and that means help to valorize fact and reason over fantasy and idolatry.  Unfortunately, the anti-reason ideology of political correctness, espoused by those 19 journalists, is opposed to that.  Killing the messenger both literally and figuratively serves to shut up those who have different opinions and to otherwise shut down free speech and democracy. 

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