In January 2015, Muslim terrorists massacred cartoonists and writers at the Paris offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, proclaiming to be avenging Islam’s prophet. The rampage, which included the murders of hostages at a kosher market, prompted global leaders and throngs of citizens to rally in support of free expression. But was the support genuine?
In this Broadside, Andrew C. McCarthy explains how leading Islamists have sought to supplant free expression with the blasphemy standards of Islamic law, gaining the support of the U.S. and other Western governments. But free speech is the lifeblood of a functioning democratic society, essential to our capacity to understand, protect ourselves from, and ultimately defeat our enemies.
THE HORROR: Majority of Democrats–and an Increasing Percentage of Republicans–Support Criminalizing Free SpeechPosted: May 22, 2015
John Sexton reports: A new poll shows that a majority of Democrats want to limit free speech with laws that would prohibit so-called “hate speech.”
A clear example of this desire to limit speech can be found in the New York Times editorial board’s reaction to the attack in Garland. In a piece titled, “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech,” the Times criticizes Pam Geller, the organizer of the cartoon contest and the intended victim of the attack. Speaking of Geller, the Times wrote, “she achieved her provocative goal in Garland — the event was attacked by two Muslims.”
The Times goes on to argue that no amount of violence—not the Charlie Hebdo attacks, not the theatrical brutality of ISIS, not even 9/11—can justify “provocations” (i.e. cartoons) of Islam. This is the severely limited view of the 1st amendment the left-leaning NYT has already embraced.
In contrast, the opposing view, held by most Republicans and independents according to this YouGov poll, is probably best exemplified by a piece Eugene Volokh published at the Washington Post:
Eugene Volokh writes:
I keep hearing about a supposed “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment, or statements such as, “This isn’t free speech, it’s hate speech,” or “When does free speech stop and hate speech begin?” But there is no hate speech exception to the First Amendment. Hateful ideas (whatever exactly that might mean) are just as protected under the First Amendment as other ideas. One is as free to condemn Islam — or Muslims, or Jews, or blacks, or whites, or illegal aliens, or native-born citizens — as one is to condemn capitalism or Socialism or Democrats or Republicans….(read more at Washington Post)
The 1st Amendment protects all speech, but there is no doubt the left is increasingly comfortable with limiting this…
Unmentioned in John Sexton‘s analysis however, is that Republicans and Independents, not Democrats, are increasingly warming to the idea of free speech bans, while Democrat support is relatively unchanged. For example:
Democratic support for banning hate speech hasn’t increased at all; on the contrary, Dems are a bit more likely to oppose a ban than they were seven months ago, a rational reaction to the creepy spectacle of western media outlets self-censoring images of Mohammed cartoons after the Charlie Hebdo massacre. It’s Republicans and independents who are slowly warming to hate-speech bans. Indie opposition has dropped 12 points, with an increase of eight points in support. GOPers are now 12 points more likely to support hate-speech bans than they were last year.
Allahpundit‘s exit question:
I can understand why progressives would want a legal cudgel to silence their enemies but I can’t understand why conservatives increasingly would. Even if you don’t value free speech enough to abhor that sort of cudgel on principle, surely you understand that the “politically incorrect” will be the main target of prosecutions. Why on earth would you enable this?
…Hillary Clinton has said that overturning Citizens United is a priority for her if elected President. Read the rest of this entry »
‘Being Shocked is Part of Democratic Debate. Being Shot is Not’: Charlie Hebdo Receives Award, Standing Ovation at PEN GalaPosted: May 6, 2015
Josh Feldman writes: The staff of Charlie Hebdo was honored tonight at the PEN American Center gala, following much controversy, and they received a standing ovation as they affirmed their commitment to free speech and free expression.
“I perfectly understand that a believer can be shocked by a satirical cartoon about Mohammed, Jesus, Moses or even the Pope. But growing up to be a citizen, is to learn that some ideas, some words, some images, can be shocking.”
There was a recent controversy when a group of authors refused to participate in the gala because of their opposition to what they perceive as the French publication’s “intolerance.”
Salman Rushdie and a whole host of other writers stood up for Charlie Hebdo, defending them from that charge of intolerance and insisting the free speech principle is of paramount importance. Read the rest of this entry »
Sorry, Charlie Hebdo
Je suis Charlie. French for “I am Charlie,” the phrase became a global expression of solidarity and resolve after Islamist gunmen murdered 12 people at the Paris offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
“The terrorists who attacked cartoonists in Paris and in Texas hoped that murder would intimidate them—and others—into silence. As such theirs was not merely an attack on a publication; it was an attack on the foundations of liberal democracy.”
In a terrifying copycat attack Sunday in Garland, Texas, two men with assault rifles attempted to gun down people attending an event satirizing Muhammad with cartoons. A single police officer managed to shoot and kill both gunmen before they got inside the event. With some 200 people in the building, the potential for another politicized mass murder was great.
“Trumpeting the list of petition signers was no less than Glenn Greenwald, last seen lionizing Edward Snowden’s right to go public with information stolen from the National Security Agency’s efforts to track the people who committed the Paris murders and tried to do it again in Texas this week.”
On Monday authorities said one of the gunman, Elton Simpson of Phoenix, had been under surveillance for years because of interest he’d shown in joining jihadist groups overseas. He was found guilty of making false statements to the FBI, but a federal judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence that Mr. Simpson’s activities were “sufficiently ‘related’ to international terrorism.”
Against this backdrop we have the extraordinary—almost comical—irony of some of America’s bien pensant intellectuals boycotting a ceremony Tuesday by the PEN American Center to confer its annual courage award for freedom of expression on Charlie Hebdo. PEN is an association of writers, and six prominent novelists—Peter Carey,Michael Ondaatje,Francine Prose,Teju Cole,Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi—have been trying to repeal the award for Charlie Hebdo.
Against this backdrop we have the extraordinary—almost comical—irony of some of America’s bien pensant intellectuals boycotting a ceremony Tuesday by the PEN American Center to confer its annual courage award for freedom of expression on Charlie Hebdo.
Ms. Kusher said she was uncomfortable with the “forced secular view” and “cultural intolerance” represented by Charlie Hebdo, whose signature attacks were on organized religion. Read the rest of this entry »
Yet the award has become controversial, attacked by a group of writers who presume to lecture murder victims on not provoking their murderers.
“If the publication’s equal-opportunity offenders had been assaulted by right-wing extremists for their savage mockery of anti-immigrant politicians, or opponents of gay marriage or Catholicism, surely the dissenting writers would be all for recognizing Charlie Hebdo.”
These dissenters are an unabashed fifth column undermining PEN America’s devotion to free expression so as to carve out a safe space for Islam from the barbed speech inherent to a free society.
They oppose the killing of the Charlie Hebdo journalists — thanks, guys — but otherwise agree with the jihadis that the publication was out-of-bounds.
“This is a version of Garry Trudeau’s argument that Charlie Hebdo was ‘punching downward’ against the defenseless, when satire should punch up against the powerful. This is a bizarre notion of power. The weapon of choice of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists was the pen; the weapon of choice of their assailants was the firearm.”
Novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala
Jennifer Schuessler writes: The decision by PEN American Center to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has prompted six writers to withdraw as literary hosts at the group’s annual gala on May 5, adding a new twist to the continuing debate over the publication’s status as a martyr for free speech.
“In an email to PEN’s leadership on Friday, Ms. Kushner said she was withdrawing out of discomfort with what she called the magazine’s ‘cultural intolerance’ and promotion of ‘a kind of forced secular view’…”
The novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Gerard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, and Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a Charlie Hebdo staff member who arrived late for work on Jan. 7 and missed the attack by Islamic extremists that killed 12 people, are scheduled to accept the award.
“By attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech.”
— Disgraced, formerly relevant, pro-censorship cartoonist Garry Trudeau
In an email to PEN’s leadership on Friday, Ms. Kushner said she was withdrawing out of discomfort with what she called the magazine’s “cultural intolerance” and promotion of “a kind of forced secular view,” opinions echoed by other writers who pulled out.
“A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about? All this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”
— Pro-censorship Francophone author Peter Carey
Mr. Carey, in an email interview yesterday, said the award stepped beyond the group’s traditional role of protecting freedom of expression against government oppression.
“A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about?” he wrote.
“We all knew this was in some ways a controversial choice. But I didn’t feel this issue was certain to generate these particular concerns from these particular authors.”
— Andrew Solomon, the president of PEN
He added, “All this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”
Andrew Solomon, the president of PEN, said on Sunday that the six writers were the only ones that he knew of among the dinner’s several dozen literary hosts who had reconsidered their participation in the gala, which occurs during the group’s annual World Voices Festival, a weeklong event that brings dozens of writers from around the globe to New York City.
Mr. Solomon said he knew the award to Charlie Hebdo might be controversial, but added he was surprised less by the criticism itself than by the vehemence of some of it, as well by the timing — less than two weeks before the gala, a major fund-raiser that draws a star-studded crowd of more than 800 writers, publishers and supporters.
“There is courage in refusing the very idea of forbidden statements, an urgent brilliance in saying what you have been told not to say in order to make it sayable.”
— Andrew Solomon and Suzanne Nossel, in a letter sent to the PEN board
“We all knew this was in some ways a controversial choice,” he said. “But I didn’t feel this issue was certain to generate these particular concerns from these particular authors.”
“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name. What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”
— Salman Rushdie, former PEN president who lived in hiding for years after a fatwa in response to his novel The Satanic Verses
The withdrawals reflect the debate over Charlie Hebdo that erupted immediately after the attack, with some questioning whether casting the victims as free-speech heroes ignored what some saw as the magazine’s particular glee in beating up on France’s vulnerable Muslim minority. Read the rest of this entry »
I heard this in the car the other day, great story.
For NPR, Leah Binokovitz reports: On Twitter, some writers started asking the same question: Wouldn’t it be great if Amtrak offered “residencies” to writers, so they could ride the rails and write? And Amtrak said: Let’s try it.
[Listen to the story: Download]
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST: Things can take off fast on Twitter. And that’s what happened when a couple of writers expressed how much they like riding trains, Amtrak specifically. It started with an idea: Wouldn’t it be great if Amtrak would offer writers a chance to ride the rails for free and do some writing along the way? Soon, the idea was being tweeted and retweeted, and Amtrak replied: Sure.
NPR‘s Leah Binkovitz explains.
LEAH BINKOVITZ, BYLINE: Alexander Chee had been thinking about this for a while. He’s a novelist working on his second book. Last year, the literary organization PEN American Center asked him in an interview: What’s your favorite place to write?
ALEXANDER CHEE: I said that I like to write on trains and that I wished Amtrak had residencies for writers.
BINKOVITZ: His comments started a conversation amongst friends and writers on Twitter. The idea seemed to take on a life of its own.