Another Counterpunch Piece on the Cartoons
Actually, Mark, I thought this piece by Michael Neumann at Counterpunch was much better. Having attenuated free speech in our own societies in the name of protecting people from being offended, we are hardly in a position to be outraged by the Muslim response to the cartoons. Hoisted on our own petard, as they say. Key paragraphs:
I cannot say whether the official Western culture of piety, enthusiastically promoted worldwide, played a role in the reaction to the cartoons. I do know that Western piety has left the West without a leg to stand on in this dispute. It is no good trumpeting rights of free expression, because these rights are now supposed to have nebulous but severe limitations. From the moment Western countries started criminalising topless posters in locker rooms, hate speech, emotional abuse and many other sins of impurity, free expression was at the mercy of Western piety. It cannot be invoked against piety of another sort.
The point here is not that the West is hypocritical. Maybe it is; maybe it is just inconsistent: who cares? Hypocrisy is among the most harmless of sins; indeed that it has become such a fetish is one more indication of a culture of piety. The point is rather than the West has put ideological weapons in the hands of those it now wants to repel, and thrown away the weapons that might have proved useful in such an effort. The most basic notions of the rule of law -- that you should not be punished for what you cannot help, like the feelings you have, that no one should be expected to obey laws so vague that the criteria of obedience are mysterious -- were thrown away years ago. They cannot be picked out of the trashcan and held up as shiny Western ideals just because it is now convenient to do so.