A handful of Muslims brutally murdered some French cartoonists for blaspheming their holy man. Have we learned something new from this?
Yes, it turns out Muslims (well, the fundamentalist types, not many, but more than you’d think, although not the majority, but a significant number, in no way “all,” but in some sense “all”) don’t believe in free speech, although we Westerners know that God wrote “free speech” on tablets of stone, and emblazoned a desire for it onto all human hearts. And free speech is, of course, the cornerstone of Western society (whatever that now is). Ergo, the Muslims (some, not all, but a lot, though not too many) are attempting to destroy Western society, blasting away at the very foundation by silencing “journalists.”
With that in mind, it is not enough for us to denounce the evil that is the coldblooded murder of mortal men, no matter what their line of work, by Muslim terrorists. No, the nature of the crime behooves us to identify with the pornographers at the now-understaffed French smut magazine Charlie Hebdo. Conservatives naturally begin with the caveat that we may find some of the products of their free speech—the ones that depict incest among the Holy Trinity, for example, an image I refuse to insert here—to be distasteful. (The pornographic depictions of Muhammad, on the other hand, we may qualify as “insults real or perceived.”) Yet even if you happen to find some of the journalistic enterprise of Charlie Hebdo to be distasteful, you must nonetheless stand with Charlie Hebdo and say “I am Charlie Hebdo” in French, or at least “you can and should be in solidarity with those dead journalists . . .”
Ultimately, we are being told that the Charlie Hebdo massacre teaches us the vital importance of pornographic insults, both to the Muslim god and to ours. Celebrating shockingly dirty, blasphemous magazines is our way of standing fast in the liberty wherewith the Enlightenment has made us free. How can we not identify personally with French cartoonists who depicted our Savior as a ravening sodomizer of His (and our) Heavenly Father? To do otherwise would be to undercut the very foundation of a free society, would it not? (One pauses to reflect on what it was that motivated David to take up his sling.)
The killers of the staff of Charlie Hebdo did not plan their mini-jihad because they hate “our way of life.” They murdered because of insults, obscene and other, to Muhammad. Yet American conservatives cannot but think that this violence resulted from Muslims’ abstract dislike for “free speech.” Indeed, they insist, it is because of their illiberality that Muslims are fingered as the current Big Threat to Western civilization. To that, National Review’s “the editors” write that
[T]here is a very simple and obvious way to [respond]: Newspapers, magazines, webzines, blogs, and visual media should all publish not only the cartoons that originally appeared in Charlie Hebdo, but also those that appeared in Jyllands-Posten. In other words, the murderers of today would achieve the opposite of their intention: They would resurrect the earlier “blasphemies” they believed they had effectively killed.
More of this sort of free speech will somehow cure the jihadists’ feverish bloodlust? Or protect and keep safe the citizens of Western countries with large Muslim populations? Or may we ignore these unpleasant realities, so long as “free speech” is fêted? This is insanity. It’s insane because it postulates that the only free society is one in which the people’s deepest-held convictions are publicly trampled:
Not that we favor blasphemy and promiscuous offense-giving (we abhor both in most circumstances), but they are essential as rights against other people’s certainties—and that in both directions. The right to be offended is a guarantee of intellectual challenge and a promise of liberation from the prison of unconsidered opinion. Paradoxical though it may sound, blasphemous or offensive speech is a God-given right.
Charlie Hebdo, you see, is like Socrates, Augustine, and Luther all rolled into one.
T.S. Eliot, in Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, asks “whether any culture could come into being, or maintain itself, without a religious basis.” Our civilization has rejected Christianity and now finds such things as “blasphemous or offensive speech” to be sacred. This is the illogical ideology of Western liberalism. Today, the false religion of Western liberalism is clashing with another false religion called Islam, because their people wish to occupy the same spaces. Neither is tolerant of the other, and both are intolerant of Christianity. One has Pussy Riot to desecrate churches, and the other has imams who preach murder in the name of Allah. But Western liberalism is not only a false- but a pseudo-religion. Its platitudes derive not from divine revelations real or imagined but from denatured Christian morality. No culture can “maintain itself” on the basis of Western liberalism. Instead, the very ideology that demands abstract “free speech” with no divine revelation, even vestigially, to restrain it is the same ideology that cannot say no to Muslim invaders who wish to kill the purveyors of the sickest incarnations of “free speech.” We have sown the wind, and now we are reaping the whirlwind.
Today’s Charlie Hebdo episode is yesterday’s The People Vs. Larry Flynt, Western liberalism’s celebration of transcendent porn for freedom’s sake. In response to that film and its message, National Review’s Jonah Goldberg presciently wrote that
The argument from supposedly liberty-loving liberals goes like this: We protect “extreme” and unpopular speech because if that is safe, they’ll never get to our core liberties. If they can ban trash, argue the slippery-slopers, what’s to stop them from banning criticism of politicians?
Goldberg also said that “the notion that smut is the canary in the coal mine of our liberties is a profoundly asinine and dangerous myth, and it may be costing us the things that really matter.”
I couldn’t agree more. And yet, unfortunately, we are now getting the same argument from liberty-loving conservatives. Out of the dankest clap-ridden cesspool of the Playboy Mansion’s grotto has crawled a dogma of conservative ideology. In this ideology, to refuse to celebrate the “journalism” of Charlie Hebdo is to suggest that its staff deserved to die. That, of course, is absurd. In addition to the Muslim killers, what really deserves to die is the liberal notion that free speech is guaranteed by unfettered obscenity.