It’s quite astonishing to watch what is unfolding in America today as our media engages in self-censorship while acting as apologists for the actions of Islamic terrorism. By doing this, the media not only sacrifices the freedom of speech that is essential to our pluralistic society, but it also promotes the fear that jihadists seek to instill by dictating what is and isn’t “off limits” to debate. This is already happening with news reporters such as Ayman Mohyeldin of NBC now calling for special speech protections for Islam in the wake of Sunday’s terrorist attack in Garland, Texas.
Pamela Geller ‘s American Freedom Defense Initiative had been hosting a “controversial” contest in Garland over cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad. Towards the end of the event, Muslim convert Elton Simpson and his roommate, Nadir Soofi, armed with semi-automatic weapons and body armor, drove their vehicle into the parking lot and began shooting at nearby police. One officer was wounded before returning fire and killing both terrorists. The attack, which the Islamic State (ISIS) has officially claimed responsibility for, was carried out by “two soldiers of the caliphate on an art exhibit that was portraying negative pictures of the Prophet Muhammad.” ISIS then vowed more attacks to come warning, “We tell America that what is coming is more bitter and harder and you will see from the soldiers of the Caliphate what harms you.”
The media has responded collectively to this threat and the terrorist attack itself by faulting Geller for practicing her First Amendment right. It is now only a matter of time before the government gets involved in a manner similar to how the Canadian government sought to chill Ezra Levant. For instance, in 2006, Ezra Levant was the only publisher in Canada to allow his readers to see the so-called controversial “Mohammed cartoons” originally published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. “As a result he was investigated by the Government of Alberta and subjected to three long years of judicial harassment”, notes Mark Steyn. “Halfway through his ordeal, Mr. Levant observed that one day the Danish cartoons crisis would be seen as a more critical event than the attacks of September 11, 2001. Not, obviously, in terms of the comparative death tolls, but in what each revealed about the state of western civilization in the twenty-first century”, notes Steyn.
Nine years later, Levant’s statement sounds prophetic as we look at how our own society has responded in calls to curtail our freedom of speech and condemn those who dare engage in “provocations”. This is precisely what Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson attempted to do in their joint letter addressed to Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson regarding the “visit of Mr. Geert Wilders “, a Dutch lawmaker invited by Geller to speak at events like the one held in Garland, Texas.
The letter in it’s entirety can be read below.
Ellison and Carson write that Wilders is “known for perpetuating ‘Islamaphobia’ [and] request that the U.S. government deny Mr. Wilders entry due to his participation in inciting anti-Muslim aggression and violence.” Furthermore they write that “In the U.S., freedom of speech is a bedrock principle that distinguishes free societies from ones living under oppressive regimes. Freedom of speech, however, is not absolute. It is limited by the legal and moral understanding that speech that causes the incitement of violence or prejudicial action against protected groups is wrong.”
In a pattern that is becoming all to familiar throughout the media, Ellison and Carson cite freedom of speech as being a bedrock principle to our society, then in the very next sentence, contradict what they previously said by claiming “however, it is not absolute.” It is this “however” that is antithetical to freedom of speech.
As Afshin Ellian of Time Magazine writes, “Today, some intellectuals and politicians are saying: ‘Freedom of speech is good, but…’ that but is a huge problem”, for it allows terrorists to determine the limits of free speech out of fear of provocation. If the drawing of a cartoon depicting Islam’s “prophet” is not protected under the First Amendment then neither is the elephant dung covered Virgin Mary painting by Chris Ofili or Andres Serrano’s which depicted a photograph of a 13-inch crucifix in a jar of urine. Essentially what the media and Congressmen like Ellison and Carson are attempting to say is that while the photograph Piss Christ and the feces covered painting Virgin Mary is considered art, a cartoon of Muhammad is considered a provocation. Slander Jesus Christ and its accepted, slander Muhammad and you deserve to be attacked, killed, and slaughtered.
This was illustrated on Monday during an exchange between Pamela Geller and CNN‘s Alisyn Camerota as Geller highlighted “the fact that we have to spend upwards of $50,000 in security speaks to how dangerous and how in trouble freedom of speech is in this country. And then we have to get on these news shows and somehow we are — those that are targeted, those that were going to be slaughtered are — the ones who get attacked speaks to how morally inverted this conversation is.”
Yet, that’s where we are in today’s society with a media apparatus that is far more concerned with upholding the fictitious narrative that deems those like Pamela Geller Islamaphobic. This has created an implicit assumption on behalf of the media to portray Geller as much, if not more than, the problem as the jihadists themselves.
Rich Lowry of National Review writes, “In today’s circumstances, criticism of Islam is at the vanguard of the fight for free speech, since it is susceptible to attack and intimidation by jihadists and calls for self-censorship by the politically correct.”
This is no understatement either, if we apply self-censorship to ourselves out of fear for terrorism, freedom of speech will become a hollow phrase. And this is only the beginning.