September 26, 2021

ROGER KIMBALL: How It Might End, Act I.

As we look around at the many assaults on free discussion today, the prospects for the continuation of our regime of liberty seems up for grabs in a more fundamental way than at any time since World War II. It was only a few years ago that the United Nations pondered an international law against blasphemy—against blasphemy!—to defend Islam against its detractors. A bit later, representatives of the United States met in London with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to discuss whether speaking about religion can violate international law. Yes, that’s right. Around the same time, Egypt convicted eight Americans in absentia for blasphemy; if apprehended, they could face the death penalty. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the Taliban has just announced that it is reintroducing barbaric punishments like stoning and amputation for offices against the faith.

I think Bagehot was right: free discussion is an integral ingredient, a veritable pillar of liberty. But that freedom is under serious threat today by religious fanatics, overweening government bureaucrats, and a complacent populace. David Hume once observed: “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” It seems to be that we have alarm bells going off all around us. The oddity is that so few people seem to hear them. No wonder secession is once again in the air.

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