By Rabbi Michael Lerner
When right-wing "pro-Israel" fanatics frequently sent me death threats, physically attacked my house and painted on the gates statements about me being "a Nazi" or "a self-hating Jew," and called in bomb threats to Tikkun, the magazine I edit, there was no attention given to this by the media, no cries of "our civilization depends on freedom of the press" or demands to hunt down those involved (the FBI and police received our complaints, but never reported back to us about what they were doing to protect us or find the assailants).
By Glenn Greenwald
The New York Times’ David Brooks today claims that anti-Christian bias is so widespread in America–which has never elected a non-Christian president–that “the University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality.” He forgot to mention that the very same university just terminated its tenure contract with Professor Steven Salaita over tweets he posted during the Israeli attack on Gaza that the university judged to be excessively vituperative of Jewish leaders, and that the journalist Chris Hedges was just disinvited to speak at the University of Pennsylvania for the Thought Crime of drawing similarities between Israel and ISIS.
That is a real taboo–a repressed idea–as powerful and absolute as any in the United States, so much so that Brooks won’t even acknowledge its existence. It’s certainly more of a taboo in the U.S. than criticizing Muslims and Islam, criticism which is so frequently heard in mainstream circles–including the U.S. Congress–that one barely notices it any more.
This underscores the key point: there are all sorts of ways ideas and viewpoints are suppressed in the west. When those demanding publication of these anti-Islam cartoons start demanding the affirmative publication of those ideas as well, I’ll believe the sincerity of their very selective application of free speech principles. One can defend free speech without having to publish, let alone embrace, the offensive ideas being targeted. But if that’s not the case, let’s have equal application of this new principle.
The response to the inexcusable murder of Charlie Hebdo’s staff has proved that many liberals are guilty of double standards when it comes to giving offence.
By Mehdi Hasan
Please get a grip. None of us believes in an untrammelled right to free speech. We all agree there are always going to be lines that, for the purposes of law and order, cannot be crossed; or for the purposes of taste and decency, should not be crossed. We differ only on where those lines should be drawn.
Has your publication, for example, run cartoons mocking the Holocaust? No? How about caricatures of the 9/11 victims falling from the twin towers? I didn’t think so (and I am glad it hasn’t). Consider also the “thought experiment” offered by the Oxford philosopher Brian Klug. Imagine, he writes, if a man had joined the “unity rally” in Paris on 11 January “wearing a badge that said ‘Je suis Chérif’”–the first name of one of the Charlie Hebdo gunmen. Suppose, Klug adds, he carried a placard with a cartoon mocking the murdered journalists. “How would the crowd have reacted? . . . Would they have seen this lone individual as a hero, standing up for liberty and freedom of speech? Or would they have been profoundly offended?” Do you disagree with Klug’s conclusion that the man “would have been lucky to get away with his life”?
Let’s be clear: I agree there is no justification whatsoever for gunning down journalists or cartoonists. I disagree with your seeming view that the right to offend comes with no corresponding responsibility; and I do not believe that a right to offend automatically translates into a duty to offend.
More on the hypocrisy of those who would stand with Charlie:
Vox got no threats for posting Charlie Hebdo cartoons, dozens for covering Islamophobia
By Max Fisher and Amanda Taub
Our coverage of Islamophobia has brought a very different response. Articles decrying anti-Muslim bigotry and attacks on mosques have been met with dozens of threats on email and social media.
The most common states a desire that jihadist militants will murder the offending writer: a recent email hoped that Muslims will "behead you one day" so that "we will never have to read your trash again." Some directly threaten violence themselves, or imply it with statements such as "May you rot in hell."
Others express a desire to murder all Muslims—one simply read "I agree with maher Kill them all"—also often implying the emailed journalist is themselves Muslim. One pledge to attack Vox writers begins, "Fuck you and any cunt who believes in allah."
Conservatives are crowing about free speech rights of Charlie Hebdo. What about when Christianity is the butt of the joke?
By Amanda Marcotte
Of course, Douthat, realizing his great affection for blasphemy will last only as long as needed to score this political point but wanting to reserve the right to denounce it when Christians are the ones being teased, tried to come up with an elaborate rationalization for why blasphemy is admirable when aimed at Islam but deplorable when the hurt feelings belong to Christians. It all goes to show how thoroughly phony this conservative enthusiasm for robust speech protections and a rowdy public discourse really is, because it will all be abandoned the second their own gods are mocked. Lest there be any doubt about that, here are some of the greatest hits of conservatives demanding censorship of what they believe are blasphemous messages.
While the whole thing taught me that I’m better off as a writer than a campaigner, the larger lesson was that Christian conservatives are humorless and censorious when faced with mockery of their own faith. It’s surreal now to see the American right pose as if they have always supported those willing to tip sacred cows. In reality, they are swift to try to silence those who would ridicule their religious beliefs, or even, as some of these examples show, simply hold their beliefs up for examination. Luckily, Christian conservatives mostly turn to nonviolent means to silence their critics.
But don’t mistake the current enthusiasm for blasphemy for anything but a politically convenient pose. Next time someone mocks the Christian faith, expect all this support for blasphemers to disappear in a puff of smoke.