A Right To Speech, An Obligation For Politeness
A shooting in Garland, Texas, a suburb of Dallas, has left a security guard injured and two gunmen dead. The target appears to have been an art competition quaintly titled “Draw Mohammad”. Further details are sketchy at this point. ISIS has reputedly claimed responsibility, but offered no further proof beyond words. The two gunmen were roommates. One of
the attackers had apparently left ample social media proof that he had been planning the attack days in advance.
The response from this has been predictable. On one side there are people claiming this is America’s “Charlie Hebdo” moment. On the other there are those accusing the event organizers hate speech and all but saying the event organizers were asking for something like this to happen. And of course, everyone is stressing this has nothing to do with Islam whatsoever.
Firstly, at this point arguing that these events, which are happening all too frequently, have nothing to do with Islam is a bit pointless. When a shooting by two Muslims occurs at an event involving drawings of Mohammad, presumably inspired by what they saw as the offense this caused to their faith (and at this point it must be emphasized that is still only presumed), saying that Islam has nothing to do with it is really just being deliberately naïve. Islam is part of the story here. Say what one will about Christianity, but it has mostly evolved to the point these days where Christians grit their teeth and take it when their faith and beliefs are insulted. Insult Christianity and the worst that will happen is you’ll get a few nasty emails or letters sent you way, and perhaps some talking head will single you out on Fox News and say you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Yes that wasn’t always the case, look not too far back and the story is actually quite different, but it is the case today. In contrast, many of Islam’s adherents still acts like the adolescent child who hasn’t yet learned that acting out when they don’t get their own way is just not acceptable behavior.
But it is a lesson that does need to be learned, for freedom of speech is an absolute right and it extends to everyone. This seems to be conveniently forgotten by many members of our liberal elite in the wake of Garland, who all too often these days seem to take the view that freedom of speech is something only certain people have a right to. “Punching down” is a phrase heard all too many times in the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo, and again following the unfortunate events outside of Garland. The right of the “powerful” to say things offensive to the “powerless” is entirely fashionable to question these days. The idea of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” is much in the similar vein, and part of a broader trend amongst our ever so evolved, progressive comrades to think that there is some right to never be offended or insulted or challenged by something even mildly uncomfortable.
This is absolute balderdash of course. Life is all about putting up with unpleasant and offensive things. There are plenty of things I find offensive. The idiot strutting around in a Che Guevera t-shirt offends me. Israeli Apartheid activists carrying their “Zionist = Nazi” signs offend me. Nosey gender activists who tell me I can’t use the phrase “man” and “woman” offend me. That doesn’t give me a right to pull out a gun and shoot them. That doesn’t give me a right to demand that they be shut up or moved out of sight where they cannot offend my delicate sensibilities. The only right I have in these cases is to exercise my right to speech to explain just how much and why I am offended.
That being said, I am rather annoyed by those calling Garland “America’s Charlie Hebdo”, because it’s not. Charlie Hebdo was a satirical magazine that used humor and wit to critique what it saw as society’s big issues. They used humor, at times quite offensive humor to be sure, to put out a message. It’s not one I found particular agreeable, in fact I found it rather crass and vulgar, but it was there. Drawing pictures of Mohammad just because drawing pictures of Mohammad gets a rise out of certain people doesn’t accomplish anything. It is rudeness for the sake of rudeness. I happen to hold that good manners are something we should not shy away from expecting in our fellow man. Indeed showing courtesy and politeness to others and expecting them in return achieves far more than the “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” demanded by the plebs of progressive modernity in my opinion. Being respectful of another’s faith and beliefs is commendable, especially when you ask for the same in return (and yes, Christians are justified in feeling that there is a double standard these days where no one seems to extend them the level of basic respect for their faith and progressives insist on for Islam). In Charlie Hebdo’s case, there was a point being served by what they did. Garland, ultimately, was nothing but cheap posturing and provocation. A world where everyone is rude just for the sake of proving they have a right to be rude would be a rather dreary one to live in.
That is the solution I would propose, ultimately, courtesy and not censorship. Show tolerance for others, but recognize you can only demand the tolerance of others up to a certain point.