This week it seems every pundit and commentator devoted at least a little time to weighing in on the deadly terrorist attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. Three attackers yelling “Allahu Akbar” left 12 dead at the magazine’s offices in Paris on Wednesday. Some of the reactions to the attack are worth sharing:
Of course the attacks have something to do with Islam and saying so isn’t racism, writes David Hirsanyi:
The late Christopher Hitchens never actually said “Islamophobic is a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons,” but he did call it a “stupid neologism” that “aims to promote criticism of Islam to the gallery of special offenses associated with racism.”
Detesting ideas and hating people are not the same thing. Muslims are, and should be, protected equally under the liberal principles everyone else enjoys. Yet, for some reason, when it comes to our discourse, Islam is given a special dispensation from the standards that apply to everyone else who operates under these rules. A criticism of a faith – and the customs and philosophy that go with it – has been transformed into an act of racism.
I’ll never understand why so many on Left feel compelled to provide the most pervasively illiberal ideology on Earth this kind of cover. Nor, for that matter, why so many of my fellow atheists reserve their venom for Christianity (a religion that made secularism possible) while coddling an ideology that would surely destroy it. [The Federalist, January 9]
Enough with the “We are Charlie” business, says Mark Steyn:
And to be honest, it makes me vomit to see people holding these Princess Dianafied candlelit vigils, and using the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie – I am Charlie – and in effect appropriating these guys’ sacrifice for this bogus solidarity. It makes me sick to see all these ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ cartoons that have appeared in newspapers all over the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, Australia, everywhere, from other cartoonists, again expressing solidarity with these very brave men – but not doing what they did...
These guys are dead because back in 2005, these Danish cartoons were published in an obscure Jutland newspaper, and a bunch of fanatics went bananas and started killing people over them. So a couple of publications on the planet, including mine in Canada, and Charlie Hebdo in Paris, published these cartoons... Le Monde didn’t, and the Times of London didn’t, and the New York Times didn’t, and nobody else did. And as a result, these fellows in Charlie Hebdo became the focus of murderous rage. If we’d all just published them on the front page and said “If you want to kill us, you go to hell, you can’t just kill a couple of obscure Danes, you’re going to have to kill us all”, we wouldn’t have this problem. But because nobody did that, these Parisian guys are dead. They’re dead. [SteynOnline, January 9]
In case you haven’t been keeping score, Western societies have done little to stand up to this kind of intimidation so far, writes Walter Olson:
If you defend freedom of speech today, realize that “blasphemy” is its front line, in Paris and the world.
There is no middle ground, no soft compromise available to keep everyone happy–not after the murders at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Either we resolve to defend the liberty of all who write, draw, type, and think–not just even when they deny the truth of a religion or poke fun at it, but especially then–or that liberty will endure only at the sufferance of fanatical Islamists in our midst. And this dark moment for the cause of intellectual freedom will be followed by many more.
Can anyone who has paid attention truly say they were surprised by the Paris attack? The French satirical magazine had long been high on a list of presumed Islamist targets. In 2011—to world outrage that was transient, at best—fanatics firebombed its offices over its printing of cartoons. Nor was that anything new. In 2006, the Danish cartoonists of Jyllands-Posten had to go into hiding for the same category of offense, as had author Salman Rushdie before them.
In a new book entitled The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech, journalist Flemming Rose, who was at the center of the Danish cartoon controversy, traces its grim aftermath in the self-silencing of Western opinion. Most of the prestige Western press dodged the running of the cartoons, and beneath the talk of sensitivity was often simple fear. As journalist Josh Barro noted today on Twitter, “Islamists have by and large succeeded in intimidating western media out of publishing images of Muhammad.” [Time, January 7]
There are the times when blasphemy is called for, and this is it, writes Ross Douthat:
[T]he kind of blasphemy that Charlie Hebdo engaged in had deadly consequences, as everyone knew it could … and that kind of blasphemy is precisely the kind that needs to be defended, because it’s the kind that clearly serves a free society’s greater good. If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said, because otherwise the violent have veto power over liberal civilization, and when that scenario obtains it isn’t really a liberal civilization any more. Again, liberalism doesn’t depend on everyone offending everyone else all the time, and it’s okay to prefer a society where offense for its own sake is limited rather than pervasive. But when offenses are policed by murder, that’s when we need more of them, not less, because the murderers cannot be allowed for a single moment to think that their strategy can succeed. [New York Times, January 7]
The Daily Signal has a sampler of Charlie Hebdo covers with translated captions. Here is one of them:
“If Mohamed came back” depicts an argument: “I am the prophet, you idiot!” “Shut your face, infidel.”
[Daily Signal, January 8]