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February 10, 2006
Kinsley's Not Surrendering (Update: Neither Is Krauthammer)

Michael Kinsley at the Washington Post understands the stakes involved in the controversy surrounding the Prophet cartoons. He points out the spectacular flop of a cartoon depicting Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler circulated by European Muslims as a tit-for-tat response to their outrage over the Jyllands-Posten editorial cartoons, and argues that the Muslims aren't demanding equality in any case:

Meanwhile, whatever point these European Muslims were making with their cartoon of Hitler and Anne Frank is more or less disproved by their very exercise. No one tried to stop them from putting the cartoon on the Web. The notion that jokes about Frank are beyond the pale is provably false. ...

By contrast, in a spectacular exercise of self-censorship, almost every major newspaper in this country is refraining from publishing the controversial Danish cartoons, even though they are at the center of a major news story that these papers cover at length every day. An editorial in the Times on Wednesday said that not publishing the cartoons was "a reasonable choice" because they would offend many people and "are so easy to describe in words." ...

Of course it is not Western values that are trampling freedom of expression, it is the ayatollah's own values, combined with the threat of violence. The other problem with his little joke about double standards, and with the whole, supposedly mordant, comparison between denying the Holocaust and portraying the prophet is that the offended Muslims do not want a world where people are free to do both. They don't even want a world where people are not free to do either, which would at least be consistent. They want a world where you may not portray Muhammad (even flatteringly, slaying infidels or whatnot), but you may deny the Holocaust all day long.

Freedom of speech necessarily means that people will be offended by its exercise. It makes no sense to guarantee free speech and then demand "voluntary" speech codes designed to take all of the potentially offensive speech out of the marketplace of ideas. Under those circumstances, what freedom does anyone have left? Those who want to exercise speech now have to meet everyone's threshold of offense, which in a global community means 6.5 billion standards.

Of course, what we're talking about here isn't refraining from offending everyone, anyway -- we're just talking about meeting the threshold of a group of people based on their capacity for violence. After all, as Kinsley points out, the Muslims themselves have routinely printed the most foul accusations and cartoons about Jews, Christians, and Westerners in general, and they're not proposing to stop. All they're demanding is that we don't offend them, and they're killing people in order to make their point.

Offering respect and restraint in response to violence isn't an act of "maturity" or responsibility, as some argue; it's a surrender, and more dangerously, it's an invitation for the violence to spread. After all, when people see that the way to earn "respect" from the West and its media is to commit violence and riot in large numbers, that behavior will begin to repeat itself. That is exactly the reason we don't negotiate with terrorists of any stripe -- and this is no different.

If newspapers print offensive opinions, let the offended protest, boycott, and use free speech to counter with their own opinions. Those actions are a proper exercise in a free society. When the free societies start giving up their right to speak out because of violence, they give up their freedom and tacitly endorse the rule of the bullet and the bomb. In the end, we will all wind up as dhimmis if we allow that to happen.

UPDATE: It's not often when Michael Kinsley and Charles Krauthammer agree on a topic, especially on the same day -- but on this topic they are united:

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.

We have a choice in this instance - we either will declare that we will be ruled by fear or remain free, a freedom we offer all people regardless of their religion or ethnicity.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 10, 2006 5:46 AM

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