Following up on the recent flap over Comedy Central as well as the ongoing outrage from sensitive Muslims over any depictions of Mohammed and negative depictions of the religion of peace, let me throw some more fuel on the fire. Recent criticisms of the cave-ins to Islamic threats are popping up all over.
Some of the criticism has been aimed directly at the multiple missteps and kow-towing to jihadists by none other than President Barack Obama. A noted UC Berkeley Boalt Hall law professor has even jumped into the fray. No, not the political tool that Obama has nominated for a seat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Professor John Yoo, also a former Bush administration legal adviser, says that Obama's obsequiousness and failure to recognize the realities of jihadist terrorism are enabling the religion of peace and censorship. Says Yoo: "President Obama's speech in Cairo projected a vision of American weakness where people think they can make violent threats and get away with it. He does not make strong statements that America will not tolerate these threats, but instead is conciliatory."
Although many of the recent news stories have revolved around the Mohammed self-censorship of Comedy Central and the cowardice of much of the mainstream press over the Mohammed cartoons in the Danish newspaper, the discussion can easily be applied to all attitudes toward Islamic threats. If they can make meaningful and effective threats over cartoons, imagine how serious they'll be about any real action which attempts to show "disrespect toward Islam and its prophet."
The current state of war which exists in the Middle East, and to a limited extent, the entire world, comes from jihadists in a fever over the words of Allah as repeated by Mohammed and proclaimed by the Muslim clerics. Said former CIA Director Michael Hayden: "We must remember what this war is about, which is Islamic extremists." Christians have not threatened anyone over South Park's depictions of Jesus as a porn-obsessed hippie. Either have Jews over the running jokes about one of the Jewish families in South Park. But draw a picture of Mohammed, or depict jihadist terrorists, and the threats flow like water.
Following the president's lead, moviemakers, university professors and book presses, TV producers and various other media have cravenly appeased the Muslim thugs and even eliminated forbidden words from discourse such as "Islamic extremism" and "war on terror." Yale University Press has even gone so far as to print an an entire book about the Danish Mohammed cartoon controversy, but refused to print the cartoons themselves. Comedy Central is just a very recent example of caving in to Islamic threats. It has been going on for a long time now. And each time a Muslim fanatic successfully threatens the government or the media, the threats become bolder and the danger more palbable. The result of accommodation of hostile and murderous thugs is not a reduction of the hostility. In fact, it accomplishes exactly the opposite.
If the commander-in-chief will not clearly identify the Islamist threat and take it on boldly, what reasonable belief in their own safety can be expected from figures and organizations with no troops and arms of their own? If the government calls out SWAT teams to protect against the threat of the Grannies Tea Party, but won't make it clear they will brook no threats from Islamic terrorists and thugs, why should any thinking person risk his own life or the lives of his family and friends? This doesn't excuse Comedy Central's cowardice, but it goes a long way toward explaining it.
I'd like to think that I would not give in to a death threat from a known violent segment of society if it meant standing up for my First Amendment rights, but I can't be sure I would. And I'm even less sure that I would in the cause of producing a satirical cartoon for a television network. But I am sure of this. If I were going to depict the sacred figures of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and even Scientology in a satirical and derisive manner, I would make damned sure that I wouldn't back off on doing the same thing to Islamic sacred figures. That would be exactly what Comedy Central has done. They aren't protecting the First Amendment, so their cowardly stand is comprehensible. They aren't defending free speech, they're defending offensive and profane speech so long as nobody makes a threat against them. And they know who's safe, and who isn't.
For the sake of clarification, though I do not always appreciate the South Park works of Messrs. Parker and Stone, I admire and support their even-handed, if rough treatment of religious figures. I would suggest that they lower the tone a bit for all religions, but admire their guts. It's the actions of Comedy Central that I abhor. Parker and Stone know that the First Amendment was always designed to protect offensive free speech. What need is there to protect speech that offends nobody? Comedy Central believes in free speech, but only as long as it's safe to do so.