It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the ugliness Pamela Geller has exposed, and how grateful we should be to her.
Geller’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit & Contest” in Garland, Texas, on May 3, sponsored by her American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and Jihad Watch, featured “about 350 entries depicting Muhammad” — in drawings and cartoons.
For this — creating drawings and cartoons — radical Islamists have declared that she and others associated with the event must die.
After numerous online and other Islamist death threats during the preceding week, two ISIS-inspired jihadists drove 1,000 miles from Phoenix to Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center hoping to carry out the demanded executions. Fortunately, thanks to a heroic police officer’s aggressive action, they were killed before they could carry out their plan.
As will be seen shortly, it is no exaggeration to say that long-established organizations in the international “human rights” community opposed the exercise of free speech embodied in that event, and believe that its sponsors and attendees deserve to be punished.
Elite U.S. reactions to Geller’s and her attendees’ near-death experience demonstrate just how far their campaign against so-called “hate speech” has progressed. The answer is, “farther than almost anyone might have thought.”
A much greater than expected swath of elite commentators and pundits on both the left and right clearly believes that Geller and event organizers — again, by exhibiting drawings and cartoons — provoked the attack. Many of them believe the event was an example of “hate speech,” and that it should not have taken place. Some have gone further, declaring that it should not have been allowed to take place. Those who truly believe in freedom should be thanking Pamela Geller for helping us identify genuine enemies who until now have cloaked themselves in respectability.
Sadly, the surface desirability of eliminating “hate,” especially in speech, is powerful.
After all, the great religions of the world – with the notable exception of certain far from minor strains of Islam — treat genuine hate as sinful. In Catholicism, hatred “(targeted) directly at the person … is always sinful.” Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu, is credited with saying “Hate the sin, love the sinner.”
This nation’s Founders were religious too — and uncommonly brilliant. As they declared this nation’s independence from Great Britain, they, uniquely in human history, also declared that human beings’ rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, were God-given and not conferred by men or their governments. The Founders’ First Amendment-confirmed definition of “liberty” clearly includes the right to say, write, draw, or produce whatever one wishes. Given the intensity of political discourse at the time, it’s clear that they did not intend to carve out any kind of exception for “hate.”
The creation of the “hate speech” construct is irrefutably communist in origin, and goes back to the afternath of World War II:
… the introduction of hate-speech prohibitions into international law was championed in its heyday by the Soviet Union and allies. Their motive was readily apparent. The communist countries sought to exploit such laws to limit free speech.
The dominant force behind the attempt to adopt an obligation to restrict freedom of expression was the Soviet Union.
The states where criticism of totalitarian ideology was prohibited were the ones that internationalized hate-speech laws.
The initial Soviet-led efforts were too ham-handed and obvious for most of the rest of the then-free world to stomach. So, the definition of hate speech evolved:
… hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.
Now, “hate speech” is a tool to be exploited by the perpetually aggrieved. Note the definition’s obvious implication that truly hateful speech directed at anyone who is not a “protected individual” or in a “protected group” cannot be considered “hate speech.” People not in protected groups are also apparently not worthy of federal protection when violently threatened.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, the “internationalization” to which the excerpt above refers has left this nation as one of a very few without oppressive “hate speech” laws favoring “protected individuals or groups” on the books. This intensely frustrates the so-called “human rights” community, many of whose members believe that the U.S. is a haven for “hate” and must be ostracized by the international community until it falls in line.
Most, but not all, of those who wish to impose their totalitarian regime on us have been circumspect about their ultimate goals. One such exception is Tanya Cohen, who claims to have worked with a number of “human rights” groups.
The headlines and content of Cohen’s recent columns will quickly disabuse those who still hold the quaint notion that banning “hate speech” is merely a project designed to ensure that everyone is civil to one another.
Her April 18 entry, “It’s Time To Put An End To Anti-Choice Speech,” is a prime example. In Cohen’s version of a supposedly free society, lobbying for pro-life legislation, demonstrating at an abortion clinic, or even publishing a pro-life opinion on your Facebook page would be outlawed. In Ms. Cohen’s ultra-scientific opinion, such people are “spreading lies,” and must be stopped.
Banning any discussion of abortion’s morality, which if logically extended would drive Catholicism and many of the world’s other major religions underground, is just a start. In that same column, Cohen clearly is on the side of a professor she quotes who wishes to similarly squelch speech “for climate denialists” and even “the tobacco industry.”
Separately, we find that Ms. Cohen has advocated an online command-and-control regime in Australia about which George Orwell’s Big Brother could only have dreamed:
What I propose is something called a Human Rights Online Act. This Act would not only make it a severe criminal offence on the federal level to publish, distribute, promote, or access hate speech online, but implement a federal Internet filtering system to protect Australians from being exposed to hate sites run out of the US. The Internet filter should block access to all hate sites, and anyone who tries to access any hate sites should be sent to gaol (i.e., prison — Ed.) … anyone accused of offending, insulting, humiliating, or intimidating other people should be required to prove their innocence or be declared guilty automatically …
Cohen has also celebrated how “attempting to link Islam with terrorism, saying that gay marriage isn’t really marriage, or saying that trans women aren’t really women would get you charged with discrimination and/or incitement to hatred” is “one of the most admirable things about Europe.”
Those with totalitarian impulses have created the idea of “hate speech” out of thin air and have turned the entire idea of “human rights” on its head, transforming it into the tyrant’s ultimate tool.
Now we know, and must react accordingly.