Sticks and Stones Aren’t the Only Things that Break Bones

If you insult a man’s mother, repeatedly and aggressively, should you be either surprised or outraged when the guy takes a swing at you? Has the vengeful son violated your “freedom of speech” or “freedom of expression”? Or have you simply suffered the consequences of your boorish behavior?

Likewise, if you publish years’ worth of insults against a major religious figure, have the followers of that religion violated your “freedom of speech” or “freedom of expression” when they react to your deliberate provocation? Shouldn’t adults, particularly world-weary ones who claim a jaundiced sophistication, understand that victims of relentless mockery and verbal abuse will almost always react?

Naturally, I do not condone murdering journalists and graphic artists. But let us be very clear that these killings have nothing to do with freedom of speech or expression, regardless of how much Our Rulers and France’s try to cast them that way. Governments are the only ones who can restrict either freedom, and so far reports of this atrocity have not implicated France’s administration regardless of its other crimes. (I’m not even sure we could call it censorship had the government of Yemen, say, ordered Charlie Hebdo to cease publication of its calumnies against Islam. After all, what power can Yemen exercise over a foreign publication?)

No matter: facts never trouble demagogues set on inciting us against one another. Both the yahoo in the White House and his lapdog in London will continue bleating about “freedom of the press” and the various other liberties they eviscerate in their own countries while pretending that Moslem terrorists have somehow damaged us far more than our own totalitarianism has.

The slaughter in France is reprehensible and tragic—and the French government is an accessory because its senseless disarmament of its people has turned them helpless. But those who taunt and ridicule should understand that their incendiary insults may one day come home to roost. Simple courtesy and good taste would have precluded most of what Charlie Hebdo published – and might have saved lives, too.


9:43 am on January 8, 2015