The PJ Tatler

Are We Really All 'Charlie Hebdo'? Are You Kidding?

Over at The New Criterion, our friend and PJ Media colleague Roger Kimball has some characteristically trenchant thoughts on the outbreak of moral preening that followed in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo:

In the aftermath of the Paris shootings, there has been a lot of moralistic posturing about solidarity with the victims and the mightiness of the pen compared with the sword. As the Australian commentator Andrew Bolt pointed out, however, the journalists at Charlie Hebdo had fistfuls of pens. The brothers Kouachi had a couple of Kalashnikovs. That was all it took. As for the herds of “Je Suis Charlie” marchers in Paris and elsewhere, it is worth noting how very few actual “Charlies” there were. It is one thing to carry a placard. It is another to take a stand by, for example, publishing a caricature of Mohammed. The Jyllands-Posten, which published the original “Danish Cartoons” a decade ago, was not Charlie. They declined a request to reprint the images because, they said, “violence works.” The New York Times, The Daily News, The Associated Press: neither they nor any other news outlet of note were Charlie either. At best, they published only pixelated images of the cartoons.

Pixelated, as if they were pornographic. Let that sink in, then let’s talk about “free speech.”

The eminent free-speech lawyer Floyd Abrams, who defended the Times when it published The Pentagon Papers, wrote a disgusted letter to the Times, castigating it for its pusillanimity. (Publishing material damaging to the U.S. government is one thing: the Left applauds. Publishing material that might be personally risky is something else entirely.) As Gérard Biard, the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo, observed on Meet the Press, by blurring the face of Mohammed, such papers “blur out democracy, secularism and freedom of religion and they insult the citizenry.” (Some of his colleagues put it more bluntly: “We vomit on these people who suddenly say they are our friends,” said one of the cartoonists.)

Physical and moral cowardice have always been hallmarks of Left, bullies when they can be and pansies at all other times; l’esprit de l’escalier marks the extent of their “bravery” when they know there can be consequences for whatever they say.

The epigraph from James Burnham’s Suicide of the West that prefaces these remarks may seem hyperbolic. In what sense is liberalism “the ideology of Western suicide”? In the course of his analysis, Burnham quotes the nineteenth-century French writer Louis Veuillot. Quand je suis le plus faible, je vous demande la liberté parce que tel est votre principe; mais quand je suis le plus fort, je vous l’ôte, parce que tel est le mien. “When I am the weaker, I ask you for my freedom, because that is your principle. But when I am the stronger, I take away your freedom, because that is my principle.” In other words, it’s the old Leninist credo: demand freedom, toleration, and diversity when out of power; practice suppression, control, and elimination of opponents when in power. What is our principle? Anjem Choudary and his friends understand what they are about. Do we?

I think we all know the answer to that question. Read the whole thing — and savor a cameo appearance of the ineffable Tanya Cohen, too!