David Brooks: No, We’re Not All Charlie Hebdo

I rarely agree with David Brooks, the NY Times’ token conservative, who is less conservative than your average RINO. However, he makes a hell of a good point

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home. (snip)

Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.

So this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.

What’s not mentioned by Brooks is that most of the intolerant comes from Liberals, who get Very Upset whenever anyone does anything that might offend them. It’s not their exclusive domain, but, they are the ones who attempt to shut down other people much more often than those on the political right.

The first thing to say, I suppose, is that whatever you might have put on your Facebook page yesterday, it is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, or I Am Charlie Hebdo. Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in.

Actually, I can say that I do, or at least, used to, when I spent more time blogging about Islamic terrorism, before shifting more towards “climate change”. I, along with over a dozen other blogs, were banned in India due to the a snarky “flush the Koran” photoshop blogburst. I’ve run many of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, along with others, like the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, many, many times (BTW, the LA Times is calling for defending the freedom of expression, when they had previous trashed freedom of expression regarding the “movie” Innocence of Muslims. Granted, that was an op-ed contributor, but it was printed in same paper). The subhead on my site is “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all”. Look it up and see who said it. I’ve been credibly threatened over my previous focus on Islamic terrorism. That did not stop me.

If you try to pull off this delicate balance with law, speech codes and banned speakers, you’ll end up with crude censorship and a strangled conversation. It’s almost always wrong to try to suppress speech, erect speech codes and disinvite speakers.

Interesting, since the NY Times refused to run the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, the same as many other American liberal media outlets. Of course, they do not have the same problem with running anything that is nasty towards Republicans, climate Skeptics, Christians, Jews, Tea Partiers, etc. But, then, while they might get a few threats, those threats would never be serious like those from radical Islamists.

The massacre at Charlie Hebdo should be an occasion to end speech codes. And it should remind us to be legally tolerant toward offensive voices, even as we are socially discriminating.

Good luck with that, David. Progressives will never allow that.

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8 Responses to “David Brooks: No, We’re Not All Charlie Hebdo”

  1. david7134 says:

    What the people of this world need to understand is that we have a Muslim problem. In this case it was cartoons that offended them. Later it will be something else. There does not seem to be enough room on this planet for the beliefs of Islam. We blame extremist for the killings we have witnessed for over 50 years. But in some manner the religion allows its beliefs to easily move to extreme and has no real problem with killing innocent people. The closest in recent memory that we have to such a concept with Christians was the IRA. That was very much condemned by Christianity and the public. Not so the actions of Islam. It is much like trying to say that in WWII we should have been fighting the SS and not the Germans or the Nazi.

  2. Jeffery says:

    Not agreeing with David Brooks very often is to your credit.

    This may not be his dumbest column but it’s close. It’s pretty amazing that he equates a private humor magazine that depends on selling magazines to willing customers and advertising from willing advertisers to US universities and colleges with thousands or tens of thousands of students who have little input into the machinations of the institution.

    If most of the students of a university don’t want their school associated with Rush Limbaugh or David Duke, why should they?

    Oral Roberts, Bob Jones or Liberty U are not required to sponsor atheist provocateur Richard Dawkins or pro-choice activist Faye Wattleton, are they? If a liberal club on campus invited them might there be a backlash?

  3. john says:

    David we also have a christian problem that dwarfs the muslim problem. Most of the deaths that have occured in my lifetime have ocurred either when a Christian country has invaded another country (usually th eUSA) or to an even worse degree in Africa where over 5 million have died in central Africanj wars. David are you a Christian and if so why have you noy spoken up about this slaughter?

  4. Jeffrey, I think what Brooks is referring to is the notion of banning speech, free expression, people, etc, who students and administrators do not agree with at institutions that are publicly funded, and are also supposed to be about learning.

  5. Deserttrek says:

    i’m offend by muslims and ALL liberals .. can I now go eliminate them?

  6. John, a few points

    First, why do you stay in the USA when it’s obvious you hate the country? Why not go live in a country with no christians? And no Jews, because we know you hate them, too.

    The big difference is that most wars the US has been involved in aren’t based on pushing Christianity. Islamists are violent in the name of Allah aren’t my Mohammed.

    Though we do respond when Islamists attack us, it is over freedom and security. Not Christianity.

    Most of the killing in Africa has been based on Islamic fundamentalism over the last 50 years, not Christianity. Unless you’re blaming christians for being slaughtered?

  7. Casey says:

    Actually most of the deaths of the 20th century were caused by atheists and/or pagans. I depends on how you define Hitler. 🙂

    #1 killer: Mao Zedong.
    #2 killer: Stalin.
    #3 killer: Hitler.

    The follow-ups involve mostly Communist (i.e. atheist) countries either killing neighbors or their own people.

    Jeffey also ignores the fact that most of the African killing comes from Muslims killing Christians and animists.

    I do have to disagree with david about Islam. It’s not a “Muslim problem.” Have you heard of President al-Sisi’s recent Al-Azhar speech, wherein he condemns the bloodthirsty insanity of radical Islam? He has had some company in this in the Middle East, but it’s not something the regular media has been talking about very much.

    Ever hear of Claire Berlinski? No? No fainting liberal that one, but here’s a taste of a recent post on Ricochet:

    I am a Jew. I am in France. I am not leaving. Neither are many terrified Jews in France. Neither are many terrified Muslims. Nor are we even that terrified, to be honest. In fact, I think I’d enjoy killing these kinds of people every bit as much as my grandfather did, and rather relish the thought.

    I will stay here with my Jewish friends; I will stay here with my Muslim friends, and I will stay here for all the journalists at Charlie Hebdo–who were what the West is supposed to be and what I hope it will be again. I will stay here for Charb. I will stay here for all of his colleagues. I will stay here for my Grandfather. And I will stay here because too many Jews have been driven out of Europe–and I will not be one of them.

  8. Jeffery says:


    Jeffey also ignores the fact that most of the African killing comes from Muslims killing Christians and animists.

    You must have me confused with someone else. I made no such statement.

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