A Year After Charlie Hebdo Western Liberals Have Folded, the Killers Have Won

The jihadist assault on Charlie Hebdo a year ago was more than an act of mass murder. It was a gruesome test of Europe’s commitment to Enlightenment values. It was an attempt to enforce, through a summary execution of heretics, the idea that there should be limits to the liberty to speak and rile, and that anyone who breaks these limits will be punished. It was a question mark, written in satirists’ blood, demanding of all Europeans: “What is more important: the right of cartoonists and hacks to say whatever they like, and offend anyone they dislike, or the right of religious groups to feel respected?”

Tragically, many Western liberals gave the wrong answer to this question. They effectively agreed with the killers that scurrilous speech, especially of the allegedly Islamophobic variety, should be kept in check, and ideally not expressed at all. They expressed in pained op-eds what the murderers had declared with brute force: that it’s wrong to sacralize freedom of speech at the expense of the self-esteem of minority groups.

In the weeks after the massacre, so-called liberals implied that Charlie Hebdo’s staff brought their murders upon themselves. A writer for The Guardian hoped for a new post-Charlie era in which we’d all remember the “obligations…upon those who wish to live in peaceful, reasonably harmonious societies”, primarily the obligation to “guard against the understandable temptation to be provocative”. In other words, if you don’t want to have your head blown off, then censor yourself, bury your beliefs.

Such craven demands for self-silencing were widespread. A Financial Times columnist slammed the “editorial foolishness” of Charlie Hebdo. The mag wasn’t “strik[ing] a blow for freedom” by mocking of Muhammad — it was “being stupid”. You could picture him at the scene of medieval executions of earlier blasphemers, shouting as the flames licked their bodies: “This is what happens when you say stupid things!” A columnist for the left-leaning New Statesman wrote a tirade about “free-speech fundamentalists.” He insisted there are speech lines that “cannot be crossed”. It was exactly what the killers thought, only expressed more eruditely: “Don’t cross the line, or else…”

The post-massacre illiberal liberalism reached its nadir when big-hitter novelists complained about American PEN giving a courage award to Charlie Hebdo. They said it was “inappropriate” to decorate a magazine that mocked Islam. Apparently freedom of speech should only be used for ‘nice’ ends, not to make challenging statements. Which would not be free speech at all, of course: it would be sanitized speech.

The moaning novelists and apologist columnists seem not to understand that freedom of speech, by its very definition, must apply to all or it does not exist. A society in which we are not free to draw a picture of Muhammad with a bomb on his head is not a free society.

Western liberals effectively did the killers’ dirty work; they wrote the chilling, illiberal manifestos that the murderers didn’t get around to writing.
And they dealt a devastating blow to the Enlightenment itself.

The Enlightenment, coming after the Inquisition, was fundamentally about insisting that people should not be punished for what they believe or say. As John Locke argued in his 1689 “Letter Concerning Toleration”, no man should be attacked by “fire or sword” for what lurks in his mind.

In Europe in 2015, cartoonists and writers were punished by “fire” — gunfire — for their beliefs. And in treating this as understandable, liberals showed that they haven’t only abandoned Charlie Hebdo — they’ve abandoned the very idea of the Enlightenment, the modernity-defining freedom to doubt and disbelieve and be heretical.

They justify their caginess about offensive speech as an attempt to combat Islamophobia: they just want to make sure Muslims don’t feel unvalued or threatened. Don’t be fooled by such PC-speak.

For their true concern is the one that has motored every censor in history: that the masses might be whipped into a frenzy if they’re allowed to engage with “dangerous” ideas.

Their fear that Charlie Hebdo might unleash Muslim-baiting among the populace is like Torquemada’s concern that heretical texts could turn the plebs against God, or Victorian censors’ worry that images of scantily clad women could make men rapacious. With its panic about the presumed passions of the masses, the post-Charlie call for moral self-policing is indistinguishable from the elitism and dread of the public that always underpin censorship.

The anti-Charlie elitists are having a dire impact on freedom of thought. They’re limiting what people feel they can say about Islam. They discourage eccentric thinking in favor of having us all to bend our knee at the altar of safe, PC ideas.

And their myopic obsession with Islamophobia also makes it hard to discuss anti-Semitism in Europe, as evidenced by the fact that the massacre of four Jews in a kosher deli two days after the Charlie killings rarely features in our look-back on those days. Perhaps it’s Islamophobic to talk about anti-Semitism, especially if it comes from Muslims?

The Charlie killings revealed that there are individuals who will slaughter us for what we say, and an army of pseudo-liberals who will apologize for their actions. The gunmen killed 12 people; but it’s these chattering-class moral cowards who are killing the Enlightenment.

  • ellake

    hmm, unfortunately I can not read the full article,Haaretz wants me to pay.

  • Charlie Hebdo’s new cover calls G-d an assassin, because these people are too cowardly to call the Muslims assassins. They pretend to be tough, but they are wimps.

    • It was very sad to see.

    • UCSPanther

      Charlie Hebdo was never very courageous, as most of those atheists who make fun of religion generally are.

      Last year, an atheist confessed that the real reason he does not mock Islam, is because he is afraid of getting his head lopped off with a scimitar or shot in the face with an AK…

  • Would you wear a T-shirt with a Mohammad Hebdo cartoon printed on it?

    You might in Montana. Don’t try it in Mecca.


    Because, Islam trains a small number of its most devout believers it’s OK to kill. And Islamic killers have been trained to kill anyone who insults Allah and/or Mohammad.

    In Montana you’d have a good chance none of these Islamic killers would see you.

    In Mecca you wouldn’t last five minutes. One of Islam’s killers would come from out of nowhere and kill you. It is that simple.

    You don’t believe me? Ask any Muslim!

    This is the beginning of my thesis “Islam is Fear”.

    The crux of the thesis is simple. “More Muslims in a society equals more fear of death at the hands of an unhappy Muslim thug”.

    Read it all at: http://islamsfatalflaw.blogspot.com/

    • All tyrannies, actual or potential, are based on fear due to violence. Terror is extreme fear, terrorism is the production of fear.

      • I agree, all tyrannies are based on fear due to violence.

        Islam is unique because it takes advantage of one of humanity’s most shared traits. Within all human societies, a portion of the population believes in (some sort of) spiritual being.

        Islam’s social blueprint (Islamic theology) uniquely “promises” heavenly rewards to devout believers who kill and die in the name of Islam. This “promise” creates what I call a phantom army. An army where no one needs orders and each soldier knows exactly what to do. An army where no one is really in control. An army as deadly as any on earth.

        All other tyrannies require some way to pay their “secret police”. And without pay the SS, KGB or others would not exist for long. Islam eliminates the need to pay its thugs. It promosis them sex after death. And way too many believe this.

        The sad reality about Islam’s killers is this; Because Islam makes a continuous claim of religious legitimacy, Islam, as a system, can rely on a huge, unpaid, unseen, unorganized, individually acting, empowered to act, widely distributed group of highly motivated devout believers who are willing to kill in order to keep Islam the way it is.

  • pdxnag

    Core free speech is the right to criticize government and government officials, particularly against tyrants so as to halt tyranny. Muslims and their Islam are contenders for political power, albeit inherently one of the most tyrannical ever devised by man. They deserve not a hint of respect, indeed they deserve double doses of criticism if not summary expulsion.

    There is no whimsy about an even handed right to yammer on about nonsense. It is about deadly serious repulsion of tyrants by way of words, as the last best hope to avoid actual violence to remove a tyrant. Muslims, to a man demand respect of their claim of a divine right to rule with an iron fist, particularly over their subhuman Infidels. Supremacism is seemingly their only goal, and it is a quintessentially political one.

    If you cannot suppress their supremacist urges then boot the lot of them out – and certainly deny them the right to vote until you can boot them out physically.

    • The current era of Islamic expansion will not stop till all Muslims are kicked out of the West.