“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” – attributed to Voltaire (1694-1778)
Free Speech or Fatwa
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
May 14, 2015
As a Constitutional Conservative and fervent supporter of free speech and expression, supporting Pamela Geller’s May 3rd Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest was a no-brainer. While those on the left, who claim the mantle of free speech and tolerance but are the biggest hypocrites in that realm only support that with which they agree, condemned Geller, it is they who did not activate their brains.
For all those donning t-shirts and claiming “je suis Charlie,” following the terrorist attacks on the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo as well as a Parisian kosher market on January 7 of this year, where are your je suis Pamela shirts in support of her freedom of expression?
Responding to Geller’s event, in a most cowardly and heinous manner were two terrorist thugs, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi, who failed in their attempt to slaughter the 150 attendees, but were put down like rabid dogs by Garland police – the real heroes of the day.
Commentators from all the major news outlets on television castigated Geller and her organization, the American Freedom Defense Initiative. This includes several members of the right of center Fox News Channel, such as Bill O’ Reilly, who disingenuously claims to support the First Amendment, but took Geller to task for what he called the inappropriateness of her event. O’ Reilly did not excoriate Geller for exercising her rights of free speech and expression, but that it was unwise.
There is no law against being unwise, Mr. O’ Reilly.
The ultra-liberal MSNBC commentator Chris Matthews suggested that Geller’s event, held at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, TX, was the root cause of the terror attack that disrupted the exhibit and contest. Then Matthews attempted to backtrack his ridiculous remarks by saying that Geller was perhaps not the cause of the terrorist’s actions, but instead she was provoking, taunting, or daring. Is there a difference? Is he also suggesting that crime victims are to blame because they own a business or have wealth?
Matthews and other commentators, while entitled to their opinions, do not seem to have grasped the concept of supporting the speaker, even if you don’t endorse the message. It’s easy to support the speech with which we agree; the real challenge is supporting the speech with which we disagree – and vehemently at that. Matthews is feckless as he apparently does not support Geller’s First Amendment rights – the same amendment that has protected his words his entire 40-plus year career.
Regardless of the event, it seems whenever Muslim extremists disapprove of something, they take to violence as the answer, shooting, beheading, firebombing, immolating their way to what they believe will be Islamic glory, when in reality they are guaranteeing their fast track to hell.
After all, do other religion’s believers take the same tack as Muslims? Did the global Jewish community go on killing sprees following the International Holocaust Cartoon Contest in 2006? This was a state-sponsored event by the Iranian despotic regime as part of their continued Holocaust denial scourge. Or how about this year, when the Iranian government sponsored the second International Holocaust Cartoon Contest? Apparently it’s alright for Iran to deny the Holocaust and expect no physical retribution, but draw a couple of cartoons of a pedophile masquerading as a deity and all hell breaks loose.
How is a Muhammad cartoon contest any more inciting than when the Nazis marched in Skokie, IL on June 25, 1978? (“Illinois Nazis. I hate Illinois Nazis!” – Jake Blues) Yet, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the National Socialist Party of America on the grounds of the First Amendment. They gathered before an even larger group of protesters who simply drowned out the Nazis using voices and signs, not violence.
Where were the fire bombings and massacres by Jews when the Protocols of the Elders of Zion began to appear in print in various machinations in the 1890s? This anti-Semitic tome played on the traditional fears and stereotypes about Jews, and yet there was peace in the land, save for the pogroms against the Jewish population.
And what about that hideously egregious disgrace called “Piss Christ,” depicting a Crucifix in urine veiled as art? If anything would incite Catholics and other Christians to violence, certainly something that virulently offensive would do it, yet physical actions were not the order of the day in 1987, as calm as well as verbal and written objection reigned supreme.
Free speech and expression are the law of the land in these United States whether we the people agree with the notions or not. Pamela Geller exercised her First Amendment right and the Muslim response was to attempt to slaughter her and her supporters, then issue a fatwa on national television. When seasoned news commentators begin to parse what should be protected speech versus what should not be protected speech, the system fails and no one’s speech and expression are protected. Remember, as Abraham Lincoln stated rather adroitly on June 16, 1858, “a house divided against itself cannot stand” – and the United States is far too divided these days.
Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.