By Lowell Ponte, Special for USDR
Are progressives like cartoonist Gary Trudeau and caricature Chris Matthews worse than the radical Islamists who threaten to kill those who depict Islam’s Prophet Muhammad?
Trudeau and MSNBC host Matthews now say that the assassinated artists of French satire magazine Charlie Hebdo and the almost-attacked attendees at a May 3 event in Garland, Texas courted doom by insulting Muhammad, which Islamists see as a sin punishable by death.
What Trudeau and Matthews revealed is that progressives are not liberals. True liberals, like their modern libertarian kin, genuinely believe in freedom of speech — a freedom that our First Amendment extended especially to speech that offends others, who therefore want it silenced.
The dirty little secret of today’s collectivist progressives is that they share with Islamists the dogma that speech contrary to their own beliefs should be forbidden.
Many progressives want to silence any speech that is skeptical of global warming, or opposes abortion, or offends Democrat-supporting minorities, or questions the welfare state or other progressive big government policies.
On climate change, some progressives whose radical beliefs verge on religious cultism have called for silencing, imprisoning, or even killing global warming skeptics.
Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva, a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, in February 2015 wrote to university presidents demanding that they send documentation of any purported financial “conflicts of interest” of skeptical faculty weather and climate scientists — a “witch hunt,” one scholar called it, apparently intended to chill the climate for free discussion at universities dependent on government funding.
Some so-called progressives have long practiced intimidation politics, e.g., through labor union thugs and partisan regulatory enforcers. How many conservatives have never put a Republican bumper sticker on their car, fearing that their car’s paint would be keyed, windows smashed or tires slashed? Democrats have no such fear of law-abiding Republicans.
How did we get to today’s idea that speakers who offend others somehow are to blame for any violence that results? In 1942 the U.S. Supreme Court created a “fighting words” doctrine (Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire) implying that some words are so insulting as to be tantamount to a physical assault that others may justifiably respond to with force.
Needless to say, this capricious standard can become a slippery slope, and violence can be justified by the easily-offended “ear of the behearer.”
“Fighting words” have led to laws that turn “thought crimes” into “hate speech.” These selective laws, as I once wrote in a Wall Street Journal column, never make it a crime to preach Progressive class warfare hatred against the rich.
After protestors disrupted a 2010 speech by Israel’s ambassador, the dean of the University of California Irvine Law School, liberal scholar Erwin Chemerinsky, wrote that once such a speech has begun, “You have the right — if you disagree with me — to go outside and perform your protest.
“But you don’t get the right to come in when I’m talking and shout me down. Otherwise people can always silence a speaker by heckler’s veto, and Babel results.”
The organizer of the Texas event, which offered a $10,000 prize for the “best cartoon” depicting Muhammad, is Pamela Geller, head of the American Freedom Defense Initiative. When Donald Trump accused her of “taunting” Islamists, Geller replied that such speech was her right and that “there’s a war going on.”
This war, says Geller, is between the Western Judeo-Christian tradition of free speech and tolerance, and the de facto imposition of Islamist Shariah law that would stifle all speech critical of Islam’s prophet.
Geller’s centrist critics argue that by goading Islamists, she put event attendees and Garland police at increased risk of being killed in the war she fights. Shall we instead give a “heckler’s veto” over our freedom of speech to anyone who threatens lethal violence?
When progressives in the American media blame Geller instead of violent zealots, asks Wall Street Journal columnist (and former Jerusalem Post editor) Bret Stephens, are they signaling Islamists that intimidation works and can snuff out our constitutional right to freely discuss their politicized religious ideology?
“Europeans said ‘Je suis Charlie,’ ‘I am Charlie,’ following the killings by Islamists at Charlie Hebdo,” says Geller. “America’s leftist media now, in effect, are saying ‘Je suis jihad’.”