Posts Tagged Draw Muhammad

Yeah, But Does Free Speech Have To Be So Speechy?

Seen on a friend’s Facebook page: “Pam Geller makes is awfully hard to defend the First Amendment.”

Let’s stipulate for purposes of this post that gratuitous sexual innuendo – or outright graphic depiction – aren’t really my style, and I don’t think they do much to advance the discussion about what to do about Islamism.  I don’t think that’s what Pam Geller is about, but if it lets you keep reading, we’ll stipulate that.

Let’s also stipulate the Pam Geller is a rhetorical bomb-thrower, who tells Islamists to suck it up, cupcake, and non-Islamist Muslims to examine what they’re doing (or need to do) to get their religion’s crazies back under control.  The purpose of the “What’s your jihad?” campaign isn’t to accuse Muslims of sharing Hamas’s co-joining of politics, hatred, and religion.  It’s to challenge normal, everyday Muslims to re-examine their religion’s relationship to politics.  These are unpleasant subjects, and unpopular themes.

Even with that, my friend’s commenter has it exactly backwards.

It’s not Pam Geller who makes it hard to defend the First Amendment.

It’s newspapers like the New York Times, and publishing houses like Yale University Press, who refused to publish the Danish Mohammed Cartoons – even in articles and books discussing them – out of fear.  Even Reza Aslan, in the Times article, argues for including the cartoons not because it’s correct, but because it’s now safe.

By failing to stand up to the Islamist bullies at the time, they effectively conceded that self-censorship for self-preservation made sense.  Had they done so, Geller’s event might not have even been necessary.  Indeed, had they done so, Geller herself might be either less relevant (if as inflammatory) or less inflammatory (in order to stay relevant).

Nobody decent defends the attacks by the two ISIS fanboys from Phoenix, nobody who makes excuses for them is decent.  So a denunciation of them as a prelude to, “But…” doesn’t buy the author or speaker any credibility.  The mere act of denouncing them implies there might be some decent audience who thinks they might be acceptable.

Also troublesome is the comparison of Geller to an arsonist, either by her defenders or her detractors.  The Islamists are not a force of nature, devoid of moral agency; they are people, responsible for their actions, and for the despotic creed they promulgate.

In the end, the winning cartoon wasn’t even about Muhammad per se, it was a meta-cartoon about its own right to exist:

That the two schlubs from Phoenix couldn’t tell the difference between “Draw Muhammad” and “Draw, Muhammad” tells you all you need to know about what we’re up against.


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