The New Yorker vs. Free Speech

America’s most prestigious weekly seems determined to express solidarity with radicals who want to silence their ideological foes by any means necessary

Two days after Islamists killed nine staffers of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo for publishing cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in January 2015, a writer for the most renowned magazine in the English-speaking world compared the victims to Nazis. On the website of the New Yorker, the Nigerian-American author Teju Cole wrote that while the slaughter was “an appalling offense to human life and dignity,” it was nonetheless necessary to realize that such violence takes “place against the backdrop of France’s ugly colonial history, its sizable Muslim population, and the suppression, in the name of secularism, of some Islamic cultural expressions, such as the hijab.” Invoking a paradigmatic free-speech test case, Cole stated that Charlie Hebdo had a right to publish blasphemous cartoons in the same way that the National Socialist Party of America had had a right to march in Skokie, Illinois, in 1979.

And Cole was just getting started.