The Best Defense Is Being Offensive

Expanding on what Tom said below, a perfect example of the necessity of societal limits of relativism that Tom was talking about comes in the form of King Reasonoid Matt Welch raising the bar on freedom of speech to “being offensive as humanly possible” in the wake of yesterday’s Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo.

So no, we’re all not Charlie—few of us are that good, and none of us are that brave. If more of us were brave, and refused to yield to the bomber’s veto, and maybe reacted to these eternally recurring moments not by, say, deleting all your previously published Muhammad images, as the Associated Press is reportedly doing today, but rather by routinely posting newsworthy images in service both to readers and the commitment to a diverse and diffuse marketplace of speech, then just maybe Charlie Hebdo wouldn’t have stuck out so much like a sore thumb. It’s harder, and ultimately less rewarding to the fanatical mind, to hit a thousand small targets than one large one.

And it’s not just those of us in the media business who have failed to be Charlie Hebdo. Every person in the broader West, whether it be a Financial Times editor or the president of the United States, who wrongly thinks that speech should not offend, and falsely believes that artistic commentary can somehow incite murderous violence, are also contributing to an ever-worsening cultural climate of speech, and therefore freedom.

Today is an awful day for the basic project of free inquiry. Do you really wanna be Charlie Hebdo? Then get on out there, live and speak bravely. And God help you.

You are free to say whatever you want, Matt.  You are however not free from the consequences of saying whatever you want.  Being brave enough to offend everyone is not bravery, it’s just vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake that doesn’t contribute very much.  Is it necessary, as Tom said?  Yes, absolutely.  Does society have a right to say “we reject that?”  Absolutely.  That’s your marketplace of ideas at work, mac.

The terrorists who shot up Paris yesterday are the worst kind of censors possible and they had no justification whatsoever to do what they did, but let’s not conflate that obscenely awful act or the people who committed it with “political correctness.”

There’s a huge gulf between saying “Hey, I don’t agree with your statement and I find it offensive” and “Hey, I don’t agree with your statement and I’m going to shoot you now.”  The first is what people should be doing, talking out their differences and debating the merits of why we think the way we do.  The second is terrorism and murder, period.  Implying that the former is as bad as the latter is just lazy.

Next he’ll be saying it’s really about ethics in political cartooning.

71 replies
  1. 1
    Matt McIrvin says:

    This is a thing I was afraid of, that the response to this is going to be “We all now have a moral duty to insult Muslims as grotesquely as possible!”

  2. 2
    Botsplainer says:

    I’ve noticed that those who most often lament “political correctness” are the ones most eager to punch down.

  3. 3
    Ben Cisco says:

    @Matt McIrvin: Well, that particular response had the virtue of being predetermined; the only (semi-) unknown was exactly which path was going to be taken to arrive at the destination.

  4. 4
    Bobby Thomson says:

    @Matt McIrvin: There are a lot of people already taking that stance. The Oatmeal reposted his “How to Suck at Your Religion” strip yesterday and a lot of people were criticizing him for not drawing Mohammed.

  5. 5
    RP says:

    Expanding on what Tom said below, a perfect example of the necessity of societal limits of relativism that Tom was talking about comes in the form of King Reasonoid Matt Welch raising the bar on freedom of speech to “being offensive as humanly possible” in the wake of yesterday’s Paris attack on Charlie Hebdo.

    I’m no fan of Welch, but I don’t think that’s what he’s saying.

  6. 6

    @Matt McIrvin: That’s probably the point of the shooters too. Heighten the contradictions!

  7. 7
    catclub says:

    Where is Welch on the spectrum of showing dead American soldiers in US media?

    I thought that was known to ‘only help the terrorists’.

  8. 8
    beltane says:

    How many of these free speech advocates were in favor of bombing Al Jazeera offices during the Iraq invasion because FREEDOM. I am somewhat dubious over the strength of the commitment many people have to the principles of freedom of expression in all cases. For example, during the furor over the “Piss Christ” painting, my conservative Catholic in-laws were quite open about wishing bodily harm to befall Andres Serrano. Although they were far too comfortable in their lives to risk lifetime imprisonment or suicide by cop in order to achieve their wishes, I doubt they would have been all too upset if someone else did the deed. Lots of people are like this. The danger comes from people who have nothing to lose from carrying out their bigotry.

  9. 9
    Fred says:

    Of course the trouble with satire is, doing it well takes a lot of talent, dedication and good judgement. You just are not going to get scads of people/organizations out there doing it well. So the brilliant lone wolves are going to be hanging out there in the wind.
    As Dan Rather once said (and only once) “Courage.”

  10. 10
    Botsplainer says:

    @beltane:

    I’m also certain that a lot of the same folks had little trouble with the murders of Tiller and Slepian.

  11. 11
    ruemara says:

    For some reason, the speech that is most in need of protection is the one that is intentionally insulting. At least, this is what I’ve been told. I thought free speech meant you could draw what you want in response to a tragedy, without government interference. But it seems that it must be whatever could be the most reactionary and awful. I join most people in feeling the only harm the killers have done is to the Islamic faith itself. But it’s a big faith and will survive. My hope is that it modernises quickly, faster than the weapons the leadership of extremists are more prone to latch on to.

  12. 12
    NickM says:

    @Botsplainer: I’ve noticed the same thing but you summed it up really well.

  13. 13
  14. 14
    dedc79 says:

    @beltane: Deleted – I misread your comment first time around.

  15. 15
    Laertes says:

    I didn’t find anything in the Welch piece to quibble with. I also didn’t find the direct quote you lifted out. As of this writing, your link to the Welch piece is labeled “being offensive as humanly possible,” which passage is neither in the text nor the spirit of the linked piece.

  16. 16
    C.V. Danes says:

    There’s a huge gulf between saying “Hey, I don’t agree with your statement and I find it offensive” and “Hey, I don’t agree with your statement and I’m going to shoot you now.”

    This is true. But also, the more guns we have on the streets, the more likely that the latter is going to be the response…

  17. 17
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    He’s an asshole. He’s fortunate he lives in a society where being an asshole is a form of protected speech.

  18. 18
    Liberty60 says:

    We all have sacred taboos.
    Why is individual autonomy sacred? Why shouldn’t the individual be subsumed within the needs of the group? For instance, what’s wrong with arranged marriages and being obligated to work at your father’s trade?

    I’m being facetious of course, but we often imagine that our secular Western beliefs are somehow universal and impartial, reflecting some objective reality to which no reasonable person could object.

    The current round of free speech arguments have the aura of supremacy about them, that we demand that Muslims accept the defaming of their idols.

    Even as a Christian, I don’t want legal protections for the image of Jesus; but we should remember that the limits and boundaries of our cultural attitudes towards free speech were not unilaterally imposed, but rather, negotiated with religious and secular people over a period of centuries. There was give and take on both sides, and this negotiation needs to happen with the newer groups, Muslims, Hindus and others.

  19. 19
    Laertes says:

    Zandar sez:

    but let’s not conflate that obscenely awful act or the people who committed it with “political correctness.”

    @Botsplainer:

    I’ve noticed that those who most often lament “political correctness” are the ones most eager to punch down.

    Much like the quote that Zandar wrongly attributes to Welch, neither the word “political” nor the word “correct” appears in Welch’s article.

    Seriously, have you guys even read the article you’re commenting on? I was all ready for Welch to be a douchebag, because I’ve read Welch before, but what the hell is there to object to in this piece? The quotes Zandar lifts are either fabricated or perfectly reasonable.

    And “eager to punch down?” Here’s Welch:

    “these weren’t some kind of Andrew Dice Clay acts looking for ever-more vulnerable minorities to kick; Cabu, for instance, is most famous for creating the provincial, typical-French character Mon Beauf, who he mocks for being crude and bigoted toward minorities.”

    That doesn’t sound like a guy who’s cheering for puncher-downers.

    Seriously. What are you guys talking about?

  20. 20
    Corner Stone says:

    @Laertes: As much as it pained me, I had to click the link and read the article. And I agree with your reading, whatever dbag Welch is, he isn’t saying what Zandar claims Welch is saying.

  21. 21
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Botsplainer: Absolutely. The greatest reservoir of “political correctness” in this country is the right. Far and away. Just look what happened when some suggested that the name of Governor Goodhair’s hunting lodge was inappropriate.

  22. 22
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Liberty60:

    I’m being facetious of course, but we often imagine that our secular Western beliefs are somehow universal and impartial, reflecting some objective reality to which no reasonable person could object.

    Precisely,,,,especially the bolded part.

  23. 23
    Cacti says:

    While a group of satirists in Paris being murdered is a tragedy, I’d say the US has some more immediate problems with free speech…

    Like say, St. Louis County law enforcement gassing journalists and arresting them without charge, or requesting unnecessary no-fly zones to keep news helicopters out of an area, or threatening to shoot peaceful protesters, etc.

  24. 24
    H.K. Anders says:

    You are free to say whatever you want, Matt. You are however not free from the consequences of saying whatever you want.

    Something that Sarah Palin fails to grasp every time she whines about the First Amendment when she is criticized for saying something stupid and/or offensive (almost always both).

  25. 25
    Spinwheel says:

    This is incoherent and shoddy even for Zandar.

    Welch doesn’t even remotely imply anything that Zandar says. This isn’t the first time either that Zandar has gone after someone and missed totally.

    Surely the other front page posters have to be concerned with this?

  26. 26
    Bill says:

    @ruemara:

    I join most people in feeling the only harm the killers have done is to the Islamic faith itself.

    Twelve dead journalists and their families may disagree.

  27. 27
    Cacti says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Absolutely. The greatest reservoir of “political correctness” in this country is the right. Far and away. Just look what happened when some suggested that the name of Governor Goodhair’s hunting lodge was inappropriate.

    Or alpha male jock Curt Schilling crying like a toddler that he didn’t make the Hall of Fame because he’s a Republican, rather than the fact that his career numbers make him a marginal HOF candidate.

  28. 28
    Bill says:

    @Liberty60:

    The current round of free speech arguments have the aura of supremacy about them, that we demand that Muslims accept the defaming of their idols.

    Nope. They don’t have to accept my blasphemy. What they do have to do is refrain from murdering me over it.

    This is true of people of all religions and political beliefs.

  29. 29
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Bill: That’s your perspective.

    It’s not theirs.

    And that’s where we have a problem. One that can’t be resolved with reason, because one party is totally uninterested in such an approach.

    My way or the highway.

  30. 30
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Spinwheel: Derp, derp, derp.

    Did I mention derp?

  31. 31
    Bill says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Maybe they aren’t interested in reason (although I have a hard time accepting such a blanket statement), but it doesn’t mean I should alter my behavior. As I stated in an earlier thread, a right that can’t be exercised under threats of violence is not right at all.

  32. 32
    Pogonip says:

    Washingtonpost.com has an article about Muslim views on blasphemy. ( Summary: views range from “Ignore those bladphemous assholes” to “Kill those blasphemous assholes,” much as in all other religions.)

  33. 33
    Liberty60 says:

    @Bill: I don’t disagree with that- the idea that we prohibit violence as an answer to insult.

    But it reminds me a bit of race riots, where people suggest that violence is counterproductive and that the ritoers respect the verdict of the courts.
    Its true, very true, but there is more going on here than simply cartoons.

    Is the relationship between the Muslim world and the West cordial, warm and filled with mutual respect and goodwill? And this cartoon/ attack simply a bizarre freakish episode that comes out of the blue?
    Or rather, is the relationship filled with suspicion and fear and loathing, and marked with repeated violence which has left hundreds of thousands dead over the past few decades?

  34. 34
    Nemo_N says:

    What about “Hey, I don’t agree with your statement and I’ll get you fired for it”?

  35. 35
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Liberty60:

    Or rather, is the relationship filled with suspicion and fear and loathing, and marked with repeated violence which has left hundreds of thousands dead over the past few decades?

    The battle has been going on for longer that a few decades. This story has been unfolding for over 1200 years.

  36. 36
    Sherparick says:

    @Botsplainer: They are also quick to pull the “offensive” and “victim” card themselves. Just mention “white privilege” or “gun nuts” around Faux News and see the resulting “fire works” of hurt fehs – fehs. Bill Donahoe and Bill O’Reilly both into conniption fits when some one makes fun of the Catholic Church and organized Christianity (Christ in piss, anyone?).

    By the way, one of the French policeman murdered by these assholes was Muslim. So Faux and the right think the way to get back at these assholes is to shout abuse at the dead man’s co-religionists? But the way to respond to speech you don’t like or find offensive is criticism in reply or boycott (see Rush Limbaugh, boycott sponsors). If you feel speech incites you to violence, you are the problem, not the speech because you need learn how not to be an asshole.

    Finally, Faux News and right wing media have quickly again associated “Muslim” with “black” and “brown” skin color. This has been going on for sometime, and hence one reason Republicans and Faux News viewers (but I repeat myself) believe that the Muslim population in the U.S. is “15%,” approximately the same size as the African-American population. Actual Muslim population of the U.S. is 1%.

  37. 37
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Liberty60:

    Or rather, is the relationship filled with suspicion and fear and loathing, and marked with repeated violence which has left hundreds of thousands dead over the past few decades?

    Oh, certainly it can’t be THAT.

    /sarcasm

  38. 38
    Bill says:

    @Liberty60:

    Is the relationship between the Muslim world and the West cordial, warm and filled with mutual respect and goodwill? And this cartoon/ attack simply a bizarre freakish episode that comes out of the blue?
    Or rather, is the relationship filled with suspicion and fear and loathing, and marked with repeated violence which has left hundreds of thousands dead over the past few decades?

    Clearly there is a larger context, but just as our invasion of sovereign nations and the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocents was wrong, so too were these murders wrong. I’m not making an excuse for the behavior of western countries toward the muslim world, I’m saying that people – all people – have a right to not be murdered.

    And while you can make an argument that these murders were not “out of the blue” there is no doubt that free speech issues are at the core of what just happened. One side was so offended by the speech of the other that they committed violence. That’s simply unacceptable.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t see this as a Muslim vs West issue so much as religious vs secular. We in the west are infested with our own brand of violent religious fanatics.

  39. 39
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Bill:

    As I stated in an earlier thread, a right that can’t be exercised under threats of violence is not right at all.

    You can’t seriously be asserting this, can you?

    You haven’t studied history? You didn’t know that there was a fucking WAR fought to establish this country and the Constitution under which it functions? That another WAR broke out four score and four years later over concepts of rights?

    What a wonderful world you must live in.

  40. 40
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Cacti: If only St Louis County law enforcement were Muslim, we’d have a totally different take on this.

  41. 41
    Bill says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Not sure I get your point. Yes there was a war to win some of our rights. Doesn’t that highlight just how important those rights are and why we shouldn’t be willing to hand them over under the threat of violence?

  42. 42
    Gator90 says:

    @Liberty60:

    we demand that Muslims accept the defaming of their idols.

    If by “accept” you mean “refrain from committing murder in response to,” then yes, “we” demand that. It strikes me as a very reasonable demand.

  43. 43
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Bill: Well, yes, but the point is that if those rights are important, they’re worth defending. With force, if necessary.

    And our friends the religious extremists (of all flavors) seem to be unwilling to stick to non-violent means to engage us.

    The question is not “why do we fight?”. The question is “what is worth fighting for?”

    The gunmen in Paris have stated their view, punctuated with the staccato of rounds being sent into the offices of a satirical magazine.

  44. 44
    Liberty60 says:

    @Bill:
    Again, there isn’t any justification for killing innocents (whether French cartoonists of Afghan children at a wedding party).

    But that’s why Shakespeare called them the “dogs of war” – because once they are unleashed, they run riot and out of control.

    Hundreds of thousands of innocent men women and children have been slaughtered in just the past few decades- the scale of grief and rage in the Mideast is beyond reckoning.
    Did anyone here really think it would never reach out and touch us? Or that it would precisely target only the guilty parties in the halls of power, and spare the rest of us?

    I find it hilarious that we speak of globalism and its ability to shrink the world, as if it were a unalloyed good thing.

    I can pick up the phone and speak to a guy in India like he was right next door! I can do finance with a bank in Zurich like it was right next door! I can transact business with a firm in China like it was right next door!

    Yet when there is slaughter and violence in Mexico or Pakistan or Bangladesh, we shrug and assure ourselves that those places are far, far away, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with us.

  45. 45
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Dammit one of my comments was marked as “spam” during the editing process. Please retrieve from the tyranny of FYWP.

  46. 46
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Gator90: I think it’s a reasonable demand, but then again, those who are engaging in murder think that they are righteous and perfectly justified in doing so.

    So we’re left with backing up our demand in the language of those we are issuing the demand to. So they have understanding, because speech is not cutting it as a means of communication with these people.

  47. 47
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Liberty60: As far as those gunmen are concerned, the French cartoonists were ANYTHING but “innocent”. This doesn’t fit in with our cultural perceptions, but it’s a fact.

  48. 48
    Bill says:

    @Liberty60:

    Did anyone here really think it would never reach out and touch us? Or that it would precisely target only the guilty parties in the halls of power, and spare the rest of us?

    Yet when there is slaughter and violence in Mexico or Pakistan or Bangladesh, we shrug and assure ourselves that those places are far, far away, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with us.

    So the fact that it has “reached out and touched us” means we shouldn’t condemn it? (Just as many of us condemned our own countries actions.) We shouldn’t examine the meaning of our rights and how they are impacted by these actions?

    And I’m not sure who you think is shrugging off violence overseas. I’ve been following this blog for a long time (although I’ve infrequently commented until recently) and I don’t see a lot of that kind of behavior here.

    Maybe we are speaking past each other. Let me try to express myself again. I understand that violent and intolerant people exist in the world. I also understand they may be that way because of actions our country undertook. But I also think that the individual rights we hold dear are important. And when violence is committed against “us” in response to the exercise of those rights, the best response we can have is to go right on exercising them. To lead by example.t That may come with risks, but again a right that I’m willing to hand over because it’s threatened isn’t really a right at all.

  49. 49
    Liberty60 says:

    @Bill:

    What does “condemning” it do?

    OK, so we all here, universally and to a man, rise up and in one voice CONDEMN THIS VIOLENCE!

    Now what?

    This is my point- that this isn’t a freakish one-off, a lone psycho who can safely be locked away. This is an episode in a long running interaction between the modern secular world and the Muslim world, a billion strong and rising in power.
    I mentioned Mexico and China, as part of this. We are intimately entwined with every corner of the world, and share a combined fate.

    The drug wars in Mexico, headless bodies hanging from bridges, is as close as the riots in Ferguson. The growing power of China means that our cultural notions of liberty, egality, and fraternity will very soon be questioned by people who come from a radically different cultural tradition that sees those notions as odd and foreign. Including the guy who signs your paycheck.

    This won’t and can’t be “solved” by “demanding” that they do jack shit. This is a meeting of equals, an encounter of different cultures that requires dialogue and negotiation and painful compromise.

  50. 50
    JoyfulA says:

    @Sherparick: A Muslim copyeditor was also killed in the attack.

  51. 51
    ruemara says:

    @Bill: Didn’t know I needed to clarify for people that there’s a difference between the personal harm to the dead and their families and the long term harm done to the muslim communities in Europe where they’re seeing a resurgence in anti-semitic, anti-muslim rhetoric and violence. Death is once, the mourning is long, but the hate can live for centuries. Does that make it clearer to you?

  52. 52
    Laertes says:

    Next he’ll be saying it’s really about ethics in political cartooning.

    And if he doesn’t, we can just make up a quote and have a thread about it anyway. Who’ll check?

  53. 53
    Tractarian says:

    @ruemara:

    Let me step in here. You said “I join most people in feeling the only harm the killers have done is to the Islamic faith itself.” Maybe you didn’t meant to say what you said, but the words that you typed are just despicable. If you were trying to insult and disrespect the families of the dead you couldn’t have done any better that that. Of course it needed clarification. Better yet, outright retraction.

  54. 54
    Laertes says:

    @ruemara:

    “Sucks about those people who got hurt, but I think we can all agree that the real victims are these other people that I care about more.”

    Have I got that about right?

  55. 55
    Tractarian says:

    @Liberty60:

    This won’t and can’t be “solved” by “demanding” that they do jack shit. This is a meeting of equals, an encounter of different cultures that requires dialogue and negotiation and painful compromise.

    Dialogue, negotiation, and compromise. OK.

    Party #1: “You have offended us by depicting our prophet. Our holy book, which of course is the literal Word of God, therefore commands us to kill you.”

    Party #2: “But free speech is essential to a functioning democracy. Without a vibrant marketplace of ideas, society becomes stagnant and cannot progress!”

    Party #1: “But God specifically instructed me to kill you.”

    Party #2: “I see your point. How about you just maim me and rape my children?”

    Party #1: “I’m going to shoot you now.”

    Party #2: “Well, I’m glad at least we had this dialogue. Do you want me to get on my knees or would you rather watch me squirm?”

  56. 56
    Bill says:

    @Liberty60: Condemnation is part of the discussion process you seem to want. It’s a strong statement that we will not accept violence as a response to ideas. And that concept’s equally applicable to our own government. And then we move on to act exactly as we deem appropriate without deference to people who murder in response to cartoons.

    I’m interested in your idea of compromise though. What does that look like in the context of this particular dispute. A group of people say offensive depictions of their religious icons are unacceptable and should be outlawed. Another group says sorry but we value free speech over your desire to not be offended. Where do you see the compromise going?

  57. 57
    Liberty60 says:

    @Tractarian:

    Yep.
    I know you meant it sarcastically, but re-run your dialogue again, with the assumption that you are to him, what a Bangladeshi garment worker is to Charles Koch.

    And note the hilarity of you “demanding” he respect your rights.

    The day is coming when Americans can negotiate as equals, or beg as inferiors. But gone are the days when we can demand as superiors.

  58. 58
    Bill says:

    @Laertes: I think you hit the nail on the head.

  59. 59
    Liberty60 says:

    @Bill:
    First off, the idea that “Muslims” want complete and unconditional surrender of the West to their ideas is nonsense, the stuff of Fox news talking points.

    Most Muslims are happy to coexist with Christians and secularists. So a peaceful compromise would start by engaging Muslims as equal partners in society, and listening to them speak in their own words about what it would look like. I don’t have a template I can lay over this and make it all work out right- that’s kind of my point. Muslims are going to be the co-shapers of this new world we are living in.

    Maybe I can explain from where I am sitting.
    Literally, my desk faces the new Wilshire Grand high rise in Los Angeles, the tallest building on the west coast, built by Korean Airlines. The project I am working on is another group of high rises in Los Angeles, being built by a Chinese consortium. Its about a billion dollars by itself. Both projects omit some of the floors ending in 4- 14, 24, etc. This is apparently unlucky in Asian culture.

    IOW, the new masters of the world power elite won’t be white Christian men, steeped in Anglo Saxon notions of the secular and sacred. It will be people for whom Locke and Rousseau and Jefferson are oddities, and our notions of individual liberty are strange and alien.
    They are going to stamp the world with their own superstitions, taboos, and sacred notions.

    Defiantly telling them that you “demand” they pay obeisance to the Founding Fathers is laughable.

  60. 60
    kc says:

    @Sherparick:

    Finally, Faux News and right wing media have quickly again associated “Muslim” with “black” and “brown” skin color.

    Seems like the left is doing that as well, else I wouldn’t keep seeing comments on this blog asserting that criticism of Islam is racist.

  61. 61
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Liberty60: Most Muslims are happy to coexist with Christians and secularists.

    Yet some are not. Some want to return the world to the 12th century, roughly, and for a time were the government of a nation-state (and may be again.) How do you propose to deal with them as co-shapers of the world you would like your children to live in?

  62. 62
    Liberty60 says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    How do you propose to deal with them as co-shapers of the world you would like your children to live in?

    Preferably, in a strong alliance of Christians, Jews, and Muslims who reject them. But I kinda need some help in creating that.

  63. 63
    burnspbesq says:

    Presumably, the irony of this blog (of all blogs) decrying “vulgarity for vulgarity’s sake” is not lost on anyone.

  64. 64
    Bill says:

    @Liberty60:

    First off, the idea that “Muslims” want complete and unconditional surrender of the West to their ideas is nonsense, the stuff of Fox news talking points.

    IOW, the new masters of the world power elite won’t be white Christian men, steeped in Anglo Saxon notions of the secular and sacred. It will be people for whom Locke and Rousseau and Jefferson are oddities, and our notions of individual liberty are strange and alien.
    They are going to stamp the world with their own superstitions, taboos, and sacred notions.

    Defiantly telling them that you “demand” they pay obeisance to the Founding Fathers is laughable.

    To be clear, at no point did I make any generalization about “Muslims” wanting surrender from the West. Yesterday’s massacre was an act by a very small subset of Muslim’s willing to use violence toward an end. I see their thinking as not really “Muslim” in nature, but more generally religious. It could have just as easily been a Christian, Hindi or Scientologist group as far as I’m concerned.

    If your point is that there are a lot of Muslim’s in the world, and they will have a role in shaping world politics, I don’t think that’s a controversial statement. If, however, you’re advocating that the fundamental rights of this country be changed to accommodate the religious beliefs of anyone, I can’t disagree in strong enough terms.

    While I strongly dislike theocratic governments, they do exist and people who want to live there can do so. We aren’t that country though. Neither is France. If someone chooses to live in a western-secular state, they have to be willing to accept the messy baggage that comes with that. Including free speech. Ironically, our legal structure accommodates everyone’s “superstitions” and “taboos” though. What we’re really talking about is not tolerance though, it’s allowing the imposition someone else’e religious beliefs. That’s just not acceptable.

  65. 65
    burnspbesq says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Did I mention derp?

    Can’t be said often enough.

  66. 66
    Liberty60 says:

    @Bill:

    If someone chooses to live in a western-secular state, they have to be willing to accept the messy baggage that comes with that

    Sez who?
    Or else what?
    You and what army, pal?

    That’s what I keep getting at- we are going to have to speak WITH Muslims, not AT them. We are going to need to PERSUADE them to adapt to liberal democracy, not COERCE them.

  67. 67
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Liberty60: “Chooses to live.” If I were to choose to live in Saudi Arabia, I would have to be willing to accept that certain behaviors are unacceptable, and that the freedoms I was accustomed to (like buying a beer) may be constrained. If someone from Saudi Arabia chooses to live in Paris or New York, why do they need persuasion to accept that, say, it’s OK for women to drive?

  68. 68
    Bill says:

    @Liberty60:

    That’s what I keep getting at- we are going to have to speak WITH Muslims, not AT them. We are going to need to PERSUADE them to adapt to liberal democracy, not COERCE them.

    Yep. And the way we do that is to continue to live in our liberal democracies. Exercising our liberal democratic rights. And showing by example why that’s a a great system. And when people want to move here (“people” being not just Muslims but anyone) explaining: “Hey, look, we live it a place where everyone can worship whatever sky daddy they like, or none at all. That’s the law. We have freedom of speech and the press. Which means sometimes people are going to say offensive things about your sky daddy. They’re allowed to do that. You cool with that? Yes? Great! Come on in.” Or if the answer is “No” responding with: “I’m sorry but that’s how it works here.”

    Based on my experience most Muslims who live in Western countries are perfectly happy with liberal democracies. They want the freedom to practice as they like, and are perfectly willing to let other people do the same.

    But please tell me what you envision this “persuasion” looking like.

  69. 69
    Another Holocene Human says:

    Right wing bigots are loving this victim narration, now they can be a heroic victim, truth teller, brave, etc, for spewing their race hate.

    Race hate is not a victimless crime. Plenty of countries actually restrict this kind of speech, and not because some Al Qaeda-admiring berserkers made death threats. They restrict it because Jew baiting in Nazi Germany was the preparation for systemic genocide of ethnic and religious minorities. It’s not a “joke”, it’s not harmless fun, it’s an attack with real consequences and an incitement to more visceral kinds of violence.

    Again, the gist of the conflict goes back to the unabashedly racist Danish cartoons. The RW in the US was furiously masturbating to the cartoons and the Muslim outrage. They dreamed of upsetting, angering, and disturbing Muslims that much. They want all Muslims to be fearful of them. They want them to wonder where the rhetoric ends and the Abu Ghraibs take off.

    The irony is that all of the Hebdo covers being retweeted were attacks on religious and political extremism and political violence. And we can see who squealed first–Bill Donohue, who hated the same magazine for satirizing Catholicism and pulling no punches there. The American right wing is complicit in the same violence. They cheer it on, fund the instigators, subvert the sane and incite the insane, and then feign shock at the outcome.

    The frat boys of the right wing love this opportunity to be called “brave” for spewing their race hatred and bullying rather than being called out for it like they are every other day of the year. It has echoes of the contretemps over the racist cartoons in Hustler, but with an edge of more incipient danger. A white man tried to bomb an NAACP office in the continental US just the other day….

  70. 70
    Liberty60 says:

    @Bill:
    See, your language and logic envisions a minority of Muslims immigrating to a dominant culture of liberal Western democracy.
    And in your framework, the tolerant liberal majority inculcates the dominant values in the new arrivals, who peaceably adopt them, just like all the previous waves of Irish, Italian, Poles and Hispanics did. And if they don’t comply peaceably, we deport or shut them out.

    But this isn’t the only alternative- as I pointed out, America itself and the Western liberal democracies of Europe- are becoming smaller and less powerful than the rising non-Western powers.
    As we have seen in Algeria, Marseilles, and Mississippi, illiberal forces can easily overwhelm the liberal ones, and redefine “rights” any way they choose.

    I would love to tell the Mississippi legislature that “abortion on demand is how it works here”- but that’s not working out so well is it?

    Further, with economic globalism, even those who are shut out, who are noncitizens (like my Chinese employer sitting in her office in Shanghai) can effectively manipulate the levers and controls that affect our daily lives.

    Again- its a mistake to frame liberal democracy as a all or nothing, take it or leave it, triumphalist prospect. Because that might not turn out well for us.

  71. 71
    Bill says:

    @Liberty60: This is getting off topic, but I’m happy to discuss Mississippi and it’s approach to abortion. First, we do tell Mississippi that abortion on demand is the law. They scream and yell. They pass unconstitutional laws that get struck down. They try to restrict access to abortion every day. And we tell them: “Sorry Roe v Wade is the law of the land.” That’s how it works. (But actually I’d be happy to let Mississippi and it’s southern brethren break off and get the conservative paradise they want. I don’t mean this as a joke, I really do think we can solve a lot of problems by admitting it time to break up the US. Again, far off topic.)

    But I’ll ask one more time. What does this compromise or discussion you envision look like? You are long on saying we should compromise and short on explaining which of my rights you’re willing to bargain away.

Comments are closed.