The unanimity of outrage expressed on Twitter, the unthinking allegiance to the cause of the hour whatever that cause might be, the social positioning of writers struggling to be the most pure, the most righteous, the most moving in their indignation — all of these things remind me of other scandals, of other rages, in which the targets were not Islamic terrorists but men and women who disagree with elements of liberal dogma.Examples follow.
Do liberals actually believe in the right to offend? Their attitude seems to me to be ambivalent at best. And this equivocation was apparent within hours of the attack, when news outlets censored or refused to publish the images for which the Charlie Hebdo editors were killed. Classifying satire or opinion as “hate speech” subject to regulation is not an aberration. It is commonplace.
Indeed, the outpouring of support for free speech in the aftermath of the Paris attack coincides with, and partially obscures, the degradation of speech rights in the West. Commencement last year was marked by universities’ revoking of appearances by speakers Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali for no other reason than that mobs disagreed with the speakers’ points of view. I do not recall liberals rallying behind Condi and Hirsi Ali then.
Nor do I recall liberals standing up for the critics of global warming and evolutionary theory, of same-sex marriage and trans rights and women in combat, of riots in Ferguson and of Obama’s decision to amnesty millions of illegal immigrants. On the contrary: To dissent from the politically correct and conventional and fashionable is to invite rebuke, disdain, expulsion from polite society, to court the label of Islamophobe or denier or bigot or cisnormative or misogynist or racist or carrier of privilege and irredeemable micro-aggressor. For the right to offend to have any meaning, however, it cannot be limited to theistic religions. You must have the right to offend secular humanists, too.
And remember, after every such attack it's liberals who are first to tell us that the attack might not have been carried out in the name of Islam--heck, it might have been carried out by Tea Party right-wing extremists!--and their first concern seems to be about the potential for a backlash against Muslims in general--backlashes that never happen.