The British Daily Mail recently posted a story about the French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo‘s new comic book life of Muhammad; they illustrated the story with a photo of a man standing in front of the Charlie Hebdo offices after Islamic jihadists had firebombed them. The man is holding one of the earlier issues of the paper that featured cartoons of Muhammad, but the Daily Mail pixelated out the image of Muhammad that was on the front cover of the paper the man was holding.
This is the suicide of the free press. The Daily Mail is generally better than the other papers in Britain in covering the jihad threat, but it is also careless, sensationalistic, and — as this proves — execrably cowardly. The Daily Mail is hereby signaling that violent intimidation works, and that all you have to do to get the West’s vaunted “free press” to cower before you and give up its freedom is lob a few bombs, kill a few innocents, and make a few threats.
The Daily Mail editors would probably protest that they simply did not want to give needless offense to Muslim readers, and certainly a case can be made for avoiding giving needless offense to anyone’s religious sensibilities. But there is no way this argument can be sustained in light of the obvious fact that no one in the mainstream media is concerned about hurting the delicate sensibilities of Christians or Jews by publishing images insulting to those religions; indeed, such images are likely to get National Endowment for the Arts awards and praise from the New York Times.
No, the sensitivity to offending Muslims on the part of the Daily Mail and all the innumerable publications that didn’t run any of these Muhammad images, despite their news value, even in pixelated form, is wholly and solely due to the fact that when such images are published, an uncomfortable number of Muslims tend to riot and kill in response. But that is no reason for the Western press to go wobbly about the freedom of speech; indeed, it is all the more reason for it not to do so.
The proper response to violent intimidation is not for its victims to curtail their activities and to change their behavior. That only encourages the bullies. The proper response is to stand up to them, show them that they will not get their way, and do all one can to protect those whom they may harm. This would show the world that the West will not give up its principle of free speech, our foremost bulwark against tyranny, and will stand for our principles against attempts to intimidate us into enforcing Sharia blasphemy laws upon ourselves.
At the same time, however, the leader of the international Islamic campaign against the freedom of speech, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the 57-government Organization of Islamic Cooperation, “urged all Muslims to exercise restraint in the face of this incitement,” according to a report in Arab News. “He reiterated the OIC’s principled position on developing an international consensus on dealing with a frequency of deliberate acts of incitement, within the framework of the Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18.” In other words, don’t riot and kill this time, since soon we will prevail upon dhimmi Western governments to outlaw criticism of Islam. After all, the dhimmi press is already falling into line on its own accord; how far away can ultimate victory really be?
The United Nations passed Resolution 16/18 in July 2011; it calls on member states to adopt legal restrictions on speech that fosters “defamation of religions.” Secretary of State Clinton and Ihsanoglu issued a statement urging member states of the United Nations “to take effective measures, as set forth in Resolution 16/18, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief.”
That sounds high-minded and impossible to be opposed; after all, who could be in favor of “intolerance, discrimination, and violence based on religion or belief”? However, when state authority is given the authority to define what constitutes “intolerance,” and Islamic supremacists like Ihsanoglu define as intolerant any honest discussion of how the texts and teachings of Islam are used to justify violence and recruit terrorists, this becomes a call for authoritarian restrictions on the freedom of speech.
They’re coming. And even if they don’t, many of our media outlets will adopt them of their own accord. Just like the Daily Mail.
Related: The New Free Speech Movement