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Meet Mr. Insensitive … Me

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“How far do we go toward accommodating religious sensitivities in a pluralistic society?” – Eric Olsen, cartoon-controversy roundup

This question underscores a huge problem with respect to how the Mohammed-caricature controversy is often being cast. What I say below should not be taken as a response to anything Eric has written, but as a response to certain rationales and characterizations I see popping up again and again in this debate, and not just at blogcritics.org.

What religious sensitivities are we talking about? Is it really a huge dilemma whether to accommodate the thuggishness of thugs, so long as they scrupulously tap the most politically-correct or religiously-correct mantras? Apparently the answer is yes, because in the West we seem to keep suffering this same “dilemma” over and over.

I don’t quite know what a “pluralistic” society is. Is that a society with more than ten people? I want a society in which all persons who disagree with others, even vehemently, retain all their rights; and in which any person who willfully violates the rights of others to go about their peaceful business unmolested is subject to the sanctions of law. That kind of rights-respecting society is in my interest and in the interest of every other reasonable person. It would naturally engender a heterogeneity of culture and viewpoint. Pluralism thus defined is a natural effect and feature of a free society, but does not constitute the core of what makes a free society possible. In a free society, there is no pluralism about whether you can hit somebody over the head and grab his wallet. It’s banned outright.

Respect. Common courtesy. Civility. Sure. Let’s have them. Since when, though, do civilized persons require being threatened with death in order to exercise the virtue of civility? But being civil does not mean never uttering a disagreeable word, nor being snivelingly “sensitive” about every surly twitch and mutter of the avowed enemies of freedom and civilization. (And when is somebody going to explain how threatening to decapitate those who disagree with you exemplifies the virtues of either civility of “sensitivity”?)

True, most Muslims, it should not be necessary to stress, are not vicious killers; only a tiny minority. Also true, not all Muslims are foes of freedom of speech; what exactly the ratio of free-speech-supporting to free-speech-opposing Muslims might be I don’t know. But reasonable persons of all creeds have every reason to be civil toward others in the ordinary course of the day (and even if something in their creed might be interpreted, or misinterpreted, as a blanket warrant for infidel-killing). And such persons have no reason to repress or threaten or kill others who deal with them peaceably in turn, no matter how offensive the articulated views of those others may be in fact or in imagination.

Another person’s desire to gag or murder me for saying something he dislikes represents the one kind of act that cannot be accommodated in a free society, if it is to remain free. Killers may be very sensitive people. Let’s grant that. But I just don’t care how sensitive a killer is to criticism about his desire to smash my skull in. Nor should I. I mean, in that case, screw it. Let’s offend. Especially if you’re a cop who happens to be passing by at the time. Don’t be so sensitive, officer. No really, shoot the guy now, cry about it later.

The MoHo-cartoon debate obliges us to choose between surrender and resistance. Do we in the West who value our lives and liberty simply hand them over to the Islamo-fascist thug-droids on a silver platter, taking pains all the while to babble furiously about how horrible the cartoons are and how “Gee, I can understand why you want to behead cartoonists and such”? Or, do we actively oppose these killers and their collaborators and the flimsy blood-soaked rationalizations with which they attempt to veil the countenance of their evil…and actively defend our own life-serving values?

At least a couple bloggers in this part of cyber-town are upset because the cartoons were reprinted by anybody, whether in support of the Danes, freedom of speech, or the truth about the connection between Islamo-fascist ideas and the ensuing Islamo-fascist murders. Never mind the Marxo-idiotic jibber-jabber about globalist-capitalist conspiracies that some of these scribblers are spouting. What it comes down to is that surrender, in their view, is the only option, if we’re to be, you know, sensitive.

I’m not that sensitive. Or rather, I am sensitive. Which is to say that I’m very offended, for example, by the scum-monkey newspaper editors who have suddenly discovered vast reservoirs of hitherto untapped “sensitivity.” I’m equally offended by the scum-monkey publisher of a New York paper, the New York Press, who prohibited his editors from publishing the caricatures. I’m not offended by the editors who then resigned in protest. Good for them.

If the allegedly journalistically-objective newspapers declining to publish the images that the squabble is all about had announced that their refusal has to do with fear of blowback, such a course would have been at least semi-honorable. It would have been honest, at least. It would have given their readers an important clue about the nature of what’s happening.

“How far do we go toward accommodating religious sensitivities in a pluralistic society?” We go as far as we go toward accommodating any sensitivity of any kind. We protect everyone’s rights, equally, to the extent humanly possible. No society protects individual rights perfectly. But each must try, lest it devolve into the kind of anti-society in which the strongest habitually stomp everybody else, with only a few stray and rapidly incarcerated or killed courageous ones ever daring to protest.

Maybe some manifestations of pluralism do accommodate thugs and tyrants. Free men and women, however, do not accommodate thugs and tyrants. Not if they plan to remain free.

No, I have no great interest in delicately persuading an Islamo-thug to stop coming at me with his sword. Sure, maybe I could sensitively ask the guy to be a little more sensitive toward me in light of how I would prefer to continue living and everything. Perhaps he would then pause and reflect and say, “You know, you’re right, here I am demanding sensitivity, and by gum … I’m not being all that sensitive … oy vey, Allah!” But the chances are low.

See, the “sensitivity” game can be played into infinity. The only place where folks never rub each other the wrong way is a graveyard. Well, we will all get there soon enough. No need to rush.

David M. Brown is the publisher of TheWebzine.com, which has published articles by Robert Ringer, Petrarch, Bill Roggio, Robert Bidinotto, Eric Dixon, Robert Hessen, Michael Masterson, Erika Holzer, Andy Hertzfeld, Claire Wolfe, Barbara Branden, Montaigne, Bill Quick, and others.

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About David M. Brown

  • Great points and argument, David. Just one thing–the New York Observer’s website reported the resignation of editors from the New York Press, an alternative NY weekly.

    I am very familiar with New York Press, having been a loyal reader for years. But in recent times it’s become a shadow of its former self, even literally–seems like most advertisers aren’t listing there any more, and the anorexic look of the paper in the last year or two seems ominous for its future.

    NYP used to be known for in-your-face outrageousness and controversy. Perhaps the resignation of editors current and past has changed the tenor of the paper.

    Though I think there might be less chance of violent protests in NYC or the US than elsewhere, if I were the editor I frankly might hesitate just in terms of personal safety for myself and my colleagues. I don’t know–it’s a tough one at this point.

  • Yeah, I know, that’s a wimpy, cowardly statement I just made. I know that the only way to fight terror is not to give into it. But it is a very scary–even deadly– situation at this point. I think if I were an editor, I might use my judgment in determining if the use of the cartoons in an article were completely gratuitious or not. Again, I don’t know. Wow, can’t believe I’m saying this, because I do feel that the press should feel free to publish these, and it does seem like a cop-out if they refuse to. Oy vey.

  • Sean

    Elvira, your statement may be wimpy and cowardly, but it is honest. What drives me crazy is that some media outlets are refusing to run the cartoons and are claiming it is because they don’t want to offend deeply held religious convictions, but they had no problems running depictions of Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ.

  • Sean, the irony is that I posted about this very issue here at BC, and part of my point was that I was furious at all those apologists who said “you have to understand how deeply offensive this is to Muslims”–while at the same time ignoring the fact that there are numerous anti-Semitic cartoons published in the Arab world on a routine basis. Guess I just had a weak moment there.

  • Elvira, thanks for the correction. I corrected the name of the paper in the file, so I hope the change will be reflected on the site soon.

    You’re right, it is scary. But there is no choice for persons in the media but to criticize and defy these killers. Publishing the cartoons is criticism and defiance. If the policy of all Western media outlets were, “Well, whenever we are threatened by those we want to criticize, we will not criticize,” gosh, that would be very nice for the Islamo-fascists and all others of an ideological-homicidal bent, wouldn’t it?

    We wonder why a particular set of cartoons at a particular paper in a particular small country was targeted when the cartoons are hardly unique as criticism of Islamo-fascist killers.

    This is why. The thugs wanted to terrorize in particular one little crew as a means of intimidating others by a vivid demonstration. Is it going to work or not? The demonstrations with the placards about chopping off heads and extermination show that other Islamo-fascists are signing up to intimidate; and the refusal of many Western editors to run the cartoons, plus the multiculty weasel words from politicians and others, shows that many Western media voices are signing up to be intimidated. The strategy is at least partly working.

    Suppose this were World War II, and the Nazis had threatened any Western papers with death for publishing any criticisms of Nazism. It might be scary, but what choice would there be but to flout such a threat?

    The irony is that the greater the acquiescence, the greater the risk. If all the papers and broadcasters had done nothing but show all the cartoons immediately and repeatedly whenever they talked about the story, what could the Islamo-fascists do then? Target the whole West? But they’ve already targeted the whole West.

    Being in the media is like being a cop. Yes, there are risks. You signed up for them when you joined the force. Can’t take it any more, quit and let somebody willing to do the job do the job instead.

  • Bliffle

    There’s a big difference between ‘respect’ and ‘civility’. Respect is earned; civility is given: it is a gift from the giver.

    The muslim extremists have earned no respect. And the muslim moderates have earned very little respect. This doesn’t seem to deter either faction from DEMANDING respect, which is simply impossible: one cannot demand that which can only be earned.

    By contrast, many western entities have extended civility. But a privilege which is often abused will inevitably be withdrawn.

  • Justin Berry

    Elvira your fears may be founded but that fear is the intent of the oppressor. The only appropriate response is to do what is right in spite of fear. Editors who have the courage to face the fears should be rewarded with our business and our dollars ( i.e.subscriptions). Not that we are anti-muslim but,pro-freedom.

  • Good point, Bliffle.

  • Howard

    The fact overlooked in the article and resulting comments is the Islamic leadership. They are the ones who fan the flames and incite the riots. These radical Islamic clerics all seem to be mad men. Is there a way to rid the world of these kooks?

  • You want military strategy, Howard. I was talking cultural strategy. But you’re right, these mass conflagrations aren’t quite Spontaneous Me, they’re instigated and organized, at least to a large extent. It wasn’t “the masses” who decided the particular provocation of the cartoons was the tipping point. Interesting how easy it was to light the fuse though.

    There are six billion people on the planet. We can’t get rid of all the violent loons; we won World War II, but there are still neo-Nazis. But in addition to whatever police and military actions might be called for against the Islamo-fascists, what we can do is decline to help our assailants to load, aim and fire their weapons when they target us. And we can answer bad ideas with better ideas.

  • David: excellent article, and extremely well-articulated–plus I have a new favorite term: “Islamo-fascist thug-droids.”

  • That’s going to be 5 cents for each usage, Gordon. You don’t have to pay each time, just keep records and tally it once a year.

  • Gordon Hauptfleisch

    The check will be in the mail.