Thankfully, a bunch of attorneys did not write the founding documents of our nation. Otherwise, we’d be stuck with a Bill of Rights about 700 pages long, and a “we’ll have to pass it to find out what’s in there” attitude. Instead, we have simple things, like Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. That’s easy, isn’t it?
Not to everyone. As NRO’s Jonah Goldberg notes, some folks think that free speech has a whole bunch of clauses, sub-sets or rules that apply before you can actually say what’s on your mind. He is particularly upset that there are a number of people who believe that it’s okay to say what’s on your mind, as long as it isn’t upsetting to, well, Muslims.
Upon receiving the George Polk Career Award last month, Garry Trudeau, the creator of the satirical comic strip Doonesbury, attacked the staff of the French magazine Charlie Hebdo:
‘By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voilà — the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world.’
Putting aside Trudeau’s tendentious misreading of France’s hate-speech laws — which were not written to prevent violent protests outside of France — there’s a perverse irony here. After all, there’s surely no greater act of “punching downward” or “attacking the powerless” than castigating a corpse. That’s not debate; it is verbal gibbeting.
It’s not okay to draw Muhammad, let alone in a less than flattering light. And if you do, and it happens to draw gunfire, it might just be your fault … at least, that’s what many Tweeters said after the recent shooting in Texas. Goldberg says that too many journalists have an agenda that doesn’t match up with the First Amendment:
Many journalists recite the saying that the press must “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” as if it were their Eleventh Commandment. The mantra of countless intellectuals is that they must “speak truth to power.”
The problem is that they define the powerful and powerless based upon their own preferred narratives. When the truth interferes with the narrative, the truth must be bent or jettisoned.
Is bigotry all right? No. Should we make fun of anyone? Nope. Do we have the right to do it? Yep. Hard truths, but hard truths are better than making up our own “truths” as we go along.