As he so often does, James Taranto makes the best case against people like Barack Obama who say “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”
But what can one say about this week’s column by DeWayne Wickham, dean of Morgan State University’s School of Global Journalism and Communication in Baltimore? Choudary and Wickham make nearly identical arguments. Their columns are titled, respectively, “People Know the Consequences” and “ ‘Charlie Hebdo’ Crosses the Line.” Neither man expressly endorses the terrorists’ actions, but both strongly imply the victims had it coming because they offended their killers’ religious sensibilities.
Call it the assassin’s veto. And there is no principled basis to apply such a doctrine only in cases of Islamic supremacist violence. Martin Luther King and other civil-rights leaders were assassinated by white supremacists angry over the things the victims had said. By Wickham’s logic, that would have justified government censorship of speech in favor of civil rights. If the courts adopted the Wickham doctrine, extremists of all stripes would have a powerful incentive to kill.
Martin Luther King knew he was shouting “fire” in a crowded church, not least because there was a fire, or a bomb.
He also knew that by speaking out, he might not live to see the day about which he dreamed.
Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Who knows how many death threats he received? Who knows how many other black Americans were killed in that lawless century between the Civil War and the Civil Rights era? What Dr. King did know, for sure, was that he was poking a white-robed-and-hooded bear. “I just want to do God’s will. … I’m not fearing any man.”
He may not have feared any particular man, but he would have had plenty to fear from J-School deans like DeWayne Wickham and their ilk in academia and the media. King knew that the possibility of his assassination was a necessary prerequisite for speaking out. Politically correct dimwits like DeWayne would have used it as a reason to censor him.
Yes, you had a dream, Marty, that’s nice. But no one wants to hear about that now. Be a good boy and come down from that mountaintop before anyone gets hurt.
Free speech absolutists (among whom I count myself) claim that censorship is often used against the very people it was meant to protect (anti-pornography laws women “performance artists”). That couldn’t clearer here.
Obama and Kerry tiresomely repeat that we should not hold against all Muslims the acts of a few Muslims (who aren’t really Muslim at all). Agreed (up to a point). But then why the admonition against “slandering the prophet of Islam”? Don’t we have laws and law enforcement to protect us from those very few crazies who would take offense to violent extremes? Should we refrain from going out after dark because of the actions of a very few violent criminals? Or should we live our lives according to the liberties guaranteed in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence—and expect that the government do one of its enumerated jobs and protect our rights (including the right of self-defense, I would argue)?
I think I know how Dr. King would answer that.