In response to the gunmen shooting up the offices of a Paris satirical magazine and killing twelve people, Bill Donohue of the Catholic League has come forward with an editorial saying that the terrorists have a right to be angry. It’s a brilliant example of the religious right’s usual tactic of claiming that they don’t condone violence once or twice, and then spewing out several hundred words explains just how much the victims deserved what they got.
Meanwhile, Erick Erickson over on RedState radio is using the deaths in Paris as a cheap ploy to talk about an Atlanta fire department chief who was terminated recently for forcing his subordinates to read an anti-gay book that the fire chief wrote. According to Erickson, us gays have done just as heinous a crime as the Paris terrorists, because this guy was fired simply for publishing his beliefs. Um, no. He was fired for requiring other public employees under his command to read his book and for making numerous public statements about the suitability of queers to serve. Thus fostering a hostile work environment for any gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans employees, or any employee who didn’t share his views. That is not the same thing as merely publishing something. Particularly when, after he was suspended while an investigation when on, the fire chief went on a speaking tour of Atlanta churches, where he declared again and again when he got back to work he would keep proselytizing at work.
Then there’s the radical muslim cleric USAToday found to write Opposing view: People know the consequences.
But the most insidious and dangerous of these is definitely people like Donohue who argue that what the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo did was so offensive, that it is immoral or unethical for us to defend them (and by implication, immoral to harshly punish the terrorists if caught). Neil Gaiman wrote the answer to this some time back on his journal (in answer to a rather long letter from a fan), Why defend the freedom of icky speech?
You ask, What makes it worth defending? and the only answer I can give is this: Freedom to write, freedom to read, freedom to own material that you believe is worth defending means you’re going to have to stand up for stuff you don’t believe is worth defending, even stuff you find actively distasteful, because laws are big blunt instruments that do not differentiate between what you like and what you don’t, because prosecutors are humans and bear grudges and fight for re-election, because one person’s obscenity is another person’s art.
Because if you don’t stand up for the stuff you don’t like, when they come for the stuff you do like, you’ve already lost.
(I’ve excerpted only a small part. Neil’s answer includes the story of how a piece Neil co-created, consisted of a long passage from the Bible with accurate illustrations, almost got a publisher thrown in jail in Sweden. The full journal entry is worth the read.)