Monday, February 13, 2006

Robert Tracinski on the Cartoon Jihad

This column by Robert Tracinski is a must-read. He begins by pointing out that the issue here is freedom of speech, something most of us already know--but not all, and not even everyone on the right. A lot of people, including those at the State Department, have felt a compulsion to nod in the direction of the hurt feelings of the jihadists. To my knowledge, only two newspapers in the US have published the cartoons: The New York Sun and the Philadelphia Inquirer. Tracinski states that every newspaper in the US should publish the cartoons--not simply as a symbolic show of support, and not because of their newsworthiness, but for a much more important reason:

This is not merely a symbolic expression of support; it is a practical countermeasure against censorship. Censorship—especially the violent, anarchic type threatened by Muslim fanatics—is effective only when it can isolate a specific victim, making him feel as if he alone bears the brunt of the danger.
What intimidates an artist or writer is not simply some Arab fanatic in the street carrying a placard that reads "Behead those who insult Islam." What intimidates him is the feeling that, when the beheaders come after him, he will be on his own, with no allies or defenders—that everyone else will be too
cowardly to stick their necks out.
The answer, for publishers, is to tell the Muslim fanatics that they can't single out any one author, or artist, or publication. The answer is to show that we're all united in defying the
That's what it means to show "solidarity" by re-publishing the
cartoons. The message we need to send is: if you want to kill anyone who publishes those cartoons, or anyone who makes cartoons of Mohammed, then you're going to have to kill us all. If you make war on one independent mind, you're making war on all of us. And we'll fight back.

He goes on to highlight the different reactions of those on the right and left. While the left has fallen over itself to submit to the jihadists, the right has done a much better job, but has its own problems with standing against religious authority in the name of freedom.
The weakness of the conservatives is that they think the essence of the West is our religion, our "Judeo-Christian tradition"—rather than our Enlightenment legacy of individual rights and unfettered reason. Conservatives try to evade the clash between religious authority and freedom of thought by claiming that
religion provides the moral basis for liberty. But the clash cannot be avoided, and conservatives are forced to choose where they will draw the line: where respect for religious prohibitions, in their view, takes precedence over respect
for the individual mind. On this issue—involving a religion alien to American traditions—most conservatives have had no problem drawing the line in favor of freedom. But will they draw a different line when their own religious dogmas are

Read the whole thing.

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