Free speech was under assault long before the Social Justice™ mob emerged from the sewers of American liberal arts colleges. Once upon a time, in the age of the War of Terror, some of the biggest enemies of free expression in the West were Muslim activist groups.
Whenever Muslims got their feelings hurt over the slightest offense, they got special airtime on corporate media to call for censorship, because diversity and tolerance and our values and whatever — the same essential justifications that modern-day LGBTQ+++ totalitarians use now to censor their political opponents.
Back in the day, in 2006, a Danish artist had the audacity to draw some cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and Muslim rioters worldwide went hog-wild on the streets. The Guardian reported:
Governments across Europe, the Middle East and Asia were reluctantly sucked into the Danish cartoon row yesterday as hundreds of thousands of Muslims took to the streets to protest.
The dispute spread to London for the first time. More than 500 people, led by the extremist group al-Ghuraba, formerly al-Mujahiroun, marched to the Danish embassy in Knightsbridge carrying banners calling on Muslims to “massacre” those who insult Islam and chanting: “Britain, you will pay, 7/7 on its way.”
Instead of exhorting them to calm down and introducing them to the Western value of freedom of speech, the corporate media brought on a diversity consultant to blame the West for setting the rioters off and call for “strategic discourse” (aka censorship).
The CNN anchor framed the issue from the outset by calling it 50/50:
“Any depictions of Muhammed are offensive to the faithful. But in many Western nations the freedom of expression is a sacred right as well.”
On the one hand, you have the hard-won fruits of the Renaissance and Enlightenment that literal revolutions were fought over. On the other hand, you have the delicate sensibilities of a barbaric sixth-century throwback religion with a long tradition of chopping off the heads of dissidents.
Tomato, tomahto. Right, CNN?
A guy named Ahmed Younis from the Muslim Public Affairs Council appeared on screen to instruct viewers on how to best comply with the edicts of his religion. “This is not about hurt feelings,” he lectured; “This is about strategic discourse.”
Fortunately, the late, great Christopher Hitchens was there to deliver some sorely needed instruction on how free speech works in the West. “Strategic what?” he interjected sarcastically.
The Muslim apologist continued, “Freedom of expression and the responsibilities of …those with power and privilege to ensure that there is comity between different groups … It’s about strategic discourse … Why would we offend the identity of 1.2 billion people?”
“What is this babble?” Hitchens responded. “Why when Jewish people or Christians … or those of us who don’t believe … why, when we’re offended, why don’t we take the occasion to go and set fire to the embassies of democratic countries or kidnap civilians? … You’re still claiming Muslims have a special right to be offended. … They claim that their own bigotry is divine.”
We saw the same kind of dynamics during the George Floyd era. Anti-COVID-restrictions activists, offended at being locked inside their homes and stripped of their essential civil liberties, were barred from protesting or even gathering at church or in gyms. Yet BLM was allowed to run hog-wild in the street. The left always employs a double standard in favor of its pet project de jour.
The war over free speech never ends. The current cancel culture is merely the most recent outgrowth of the well-established (and ironic) leftist practice of censorship in the name of tolerance. Hamas uses the same basic principle when it fires rockets at the IDF from hospital rooftops.
Whatever the fabricated excuse to censor, it’s incumbent upon us, the inheritors of the Renaissance and Enlightenment, to push back on the bastards and remind them that we are a free people who will not be silenced for the sake of appeasing a violent mob.
There will be no haggling over the First Amendment.