It’s been three months, but quite possibly we’ve just been treated to the most morally confused and cowardly examination of the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris. And from a cartoonist, no less.
Last week “Doonesbury” creator Garry Trudeau became the first cartoonist ever to receive the George Polk Career Award, and he used his acceptance speech to blame the Charlie Hebdo victims for their demise at the hands of two Islamist gunmen. Denouncing “free speech absolutists,” Trudeau shamefully advocated self-censorship, and not only blamed the Charlie Hebdo staff for their own deaths, but also the violent and deadly protests that happened after it published cartoons of Muhammad:
“Traditionally, satire has comforted the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. Satire punches up, against authority of all kinds, the little guy against the powerful. Great French satirists like Molière and Daumier always punched up, holding up the self-satisfied and hypocritical to ridicule. Ridiculing the non-privileged is almost never funny—it’s just mean.
“By punching downward, by attacking a powerless, disenfranchised minority with crude, vulgar drawings closer to graffiti than cartoons, Charlie wandered into the realm of hate speech, which in France is only illegal if it directly incites violence. Well, voila—the 7 million copies that were published following the killings did exactly that, triggering violent protests across the Muslim world, including one in Niger, in which ten people died.“
It would be difficult to imagine a more wayward reading of the situation than this. There is nothing — and I mean nothing — in the world that is more privileged than religion, which is exactly what Charlie Hebdo had mocked numerous times, be it Islam, Christianity, or Judaism. Religion enjoys immense influence and power in this world, and on a nearly universal level it’s considered impolite or even blasphemous to criticize a person’s faith. At the same time religion possesses this cross-cultural immunity from criticism, it is constantly being foisted upon nonbelievers around the world, many of which must suffer in silence.
The privileged status of Muhammad is perhaps the most stark example of theocratic accommodationism. Not only is Muhammad not depicted in Muslim societies because it’s considered haram, he is rarely depicted in non-Muslim societies as well, which is the reason Charlie Hebdo was attacked in the first place. Most major Western media outlets have been cowed into censoring themselves on the Muhammad issue, and even when they reported on the Paris massacre, they cravenly agreed not to show the very cartoons in question. By caving in to theocracy and inaccurately decrying the drawings as “hate speech,” people such as Trudeau endanger the people who do show the cartoons, which contrary to what Trudeau thinks, is an act of punching up, not down.
Furthermore, Trudeau’s contention that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists are to blame for the outburst of deadly violence in Muslim countries that happened afterward is absolutely disgraceful. What he’s essentially saying is that Muhammad is so revered by Muslims, that it would be morally unreasonable for us to expect or hope that the publishing of a cartoon — and let’s repeat, the publishing of a cartoon — won’t incite deadly violence among some of his 1.6 billion votaries. Such a standard, so goes this logic, is just too high.
This is the kind of monstrous moral relativism we’ve come to expect from multicultural leftists, for whom tolerance of intolerance makes a good liberal, and not say, advocating the right to draw cartoons without being murdered for it. For Trudeau and other enablers of theocracy, the problem can never be Islam, and the blame for the latest Islamist terrorist attack can never be placed squarely on the perpetrators. Rather, the root of the matter is to be found in the legacy of colonialism or in contemporary foreign policy. And if the attackers shout “Allahu Akhbar” and “The prophet has been avenged” as they kill artists for being artists as they did at the Charlie Hebdo office, we must discard these proclamations and get on with the serious business of implicating a Western menace.