Thursday, January 8, 2015
James Poniewozik is so wrong.
Writing about the terrible attack on the headquarters of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, in which (at this writing) 12 people have been killed, Poniewozik writing for TIME says this:
Maybe you would never have read Charlie Hebdo or seen The Interview. Maybe you think mocking beloved religious figures, or fictionally blowing up the head of a living world leader, is in poor taste. That’s fine; decent people can lawfully criticize speech and still hate it being attacked unlawfully.
That’s fine; I agree with him one hundred percent.
But then he starts to get a little wobbly:
But if you care about freedom, you don’t always have the luxury of defending monumental art. If speech rights only protected polite comments that everyone could agree with, we wouldn’t need them.
If I care about freedom? Why yes I do. But I also care about treating others with kindness. Treating others as I wish they would treat me. I also care about not deliberately poking people in the eye just to see what happens.
Then he writes the horrible sentence:
And no matter who you are or what you like, these attacks are also attacks on you.
No, they’re not.
Don’t get me wrong: This attack is beyond deplorable. If you dislike what someone writes or draws about something you believe in, the answer is not to barge in with ski masks and guns blazing. That’s where Poniewozik and I agree.
But saying these attacks are against me is a false flag. It’s the same false flag many used to justify the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that spawned this ISIS crisis in the first place. No, this attack is against a magazine that has constantly thrown oil on the fire, doing so rightly behind the protection of free speech, as Poniewozik writes. It's not against me. Or the West. Or any other of the hobgoblins form the long list of terrorist "they-made-me-do-it" targets. If I happened to be foolish enough to wander into ISIS territory, I would be a target.
I’m not that headstrong.
It’s true – we have the right to say anything we want. But we have the responsibility, once in a while, to consider whether the right we have to say whatever we want ought to be tempered by the thought: Should I say whatever damnfool thing pops into my head?
You don’t shake the devil’s hand and say you’re only kidding, as TMBG sings. And there has to be a seed of racism, a seed of xenophobia, that spurs hatred, even hatred that’s legally and rightfully protected by any rights of free speech.
And I have to believe that Poniewozik’s Defense would not be applied equally. Terry Jones’ showing of a low-budget film that depicts the prophet Mohammed as a “thuggish womanizer” and who promoted Sept. 11, 2010, as “Burn a Koran Day” could also rightly hide his hateful message behind any free speech amendment, but you certainly don’t hear the likes of Poniewozik defending him, do you? Nor the Westboro Baptist Church and their anti-muslim and anit-flavor-of-the-week whatever’s flown up their nostrils.
I call it the Myrna Minkoff Defense, named after the character from John Kennedy Toole’s novel “A Confederacy of Dunces,” in which the character Myrna Minkoff is thrilled with a message she believes will save society – until she discovers it’s from a pamphlet written by the Ku Klux Klan. She’s embarrassed by the “right message, but from the wrong people.”