Friday, 8 May 2015

Hate Speech vs Free Speech

Letter to the New York Times:
How disturbing and depressing to read the "paper of record" giving a free pass to jihadi murderers.
That is the effect of your editorial "Free Speech vs Hate Speech" (Leader, May 7).
You lump them all together, the would-be murderers in Garland Texas, the Charlie Hebdo slaughterers in Paris, the "barbaric killers" of ISIS or Al-Qaeda... and ... Pamela Geller --  because she held a conference!  A conference at which -- pace your last sentence that she was motivated only by hate --  participants spoke of freedom of speech and conscience, and the equal rights of women and minorities.  Not one speech I saw could have been labelled racist, xenophobic, or even Islamophobic.
But you lumped them all together, the murderers and Geller, because Geller has "inflicted deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims" (including mass murderers, it seems).
Well, isn't that the price of living in America? Sometimes to be "anguished" by what others say of you?
Aren't millions of devout Christians "anguished" at the daily scoffing at their god and their beliefs ("Piss Christ" anyone?), aren't millions of devout Mormons "anguished" at the satire in the Book of Mormon?  But, oh no, these devout folk are told just to suck it up. (which they do).
Uniquely, it's Islam -- and the Jihadis and Islamists -- that are given the free pass. Of whose "anguish" we are supposed to be exquisitely sensitive.
This is a twist on the "soft bigotry of low expectations" They can't help it, you see.  We (or at least your leader writers) expect Muslims to be violent, not to turn the other cheek, not to be able to put up with the rough and tumble of a boisterous, free-speech-loving society.
And, therefore, the likes of Geller need to just... well, shut up.
Three cheers to reader David R. Lurie, for reminding you of a much more glorious and principled editorial of 1978, when you stood up for hated speech, in that case hate speech of the Nazi party, rather more of a concern, one might have thought, than a conference by Pamela Geller, whatever you might think of her.
Unless you get back to that clear and principled stand we shall, slowly but surely, be rendered mute in the face of militant Islam.
Yours, etc,