Saturday, February 04, 2006

Free expression is winning

Tim Cavanaugh thinks that the controversy over the Muhammad cartoons is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Free expression advocates have made an effort to frame the Jyllands-Posten cartoons as a responsible attempt to broaden the conversation on religious freedom, when in fact (as several of the cartoonists themselves acknowledged) the stunt is unambiguously provocative, juvenile, offensive, and irresponsible. That's why it needs to be defended.
And the last few days have suggested an interesting development for advocates of free expression: We're winning.
This may not be immediately obvious. As of this writing, gunmen in Gaza are checking hotel rooms for Danish nationals; a newspaper editor in Jordan has been fired for defending the cartoons and the president of Afghanistan has denounced them; demonstrators outside the French embassy in the U.K. are agitating to "Behead those who insult Islam;" flags of European countries are being burned around the world; and Christian and Jewish leaders are, not unpredictably, joining their Muslim counterparts in denouncing the cartoons. This afternoon, buttinskis at the U.S. State Department issued a craven condemnation of an affair that is none of their business.
But a closer look at those "Anger growing over cartoons" headlines reveals something more encouraging than just another story of the perpetually hurt feelings of Muslim community leaders. The actions of inflamed Muslims have been producing consistent reactions from their targets. The Jyllands-Posten cartoons have been reprinted by newspapers in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Hungary and Jordan, and on countless blogs. The longer the protests continue the more widely the cartoons get distributed. The issue will almost certainly lead to a revisiting of the lamentable laws against "hate speech" in Europe, and with any luck to a debate on whether these laws are more likely to destroy public harmony than encourage it. Muslim activists are finding out why getting into a negative-publicity fight is as inadvisable as wrestling with a pig: You get dirty and the pig enjoys it.

It's unfortunate that Western governments have been so craven in their appeasement mentality towards the Islamofascists, as have most of the Anglosphere print media. Nevertheless, the episode has shown that the average people of the West still possess a fortitude and a respect for individual rights and freedoms (and ironically is has been the media of Europe that has demonstrated it), despite the contempt for these ideals and the timorous dhimmitude preached by the social elites.


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