Mr. Douthat defends blasphemers as necessary to the ‘liberal order’ of the West, using the attack and murders at Charlie Hebdo as his eventual point of reference, although the first order of business is a statement of principals.
1) The right to blaspheme (and otherwise give offense) is essential to the liberal order.
2) There is no duty to blaspheme, a society’s liberty is not proportional to the quantity of blasphemy it produces, and under many circumstances the choice to give offense (religious and otherwise) can be reasonably criticized as pointlessly antagonizing, needlessly cruel, or simply stupid.
3) The legitimacy and wisdom of such criticism is generally inversely proportional to the level of mortal danger that the blasphemer brings upon himself.
Then comes this unsurprising comment, not on the situation in Paris, but an extended rant on the corrupting influence of political correctness in American life : propagandizing is the first order of Mr. Douthat’s scribbling, not to speak of his utter American parochialism :
The first point means that laws against blasphemy (usually described these days as “restrictions on hate speech”) are inherently illiberal. The second point means that a certain cultural restraint about trafficking in blasphemy is perfectly compatible with liberal norms, and that there’s nothing illiberal about questioning the wisdom or propriety or decency of cartoons or articles or anything else that takes a crude or bigoted swing at something that a portion of the population holds sacred. Such questioning can certainly shade into illiberal territory — and does, all-too-frequently — depending on exactly how much pressure is exerted and how elastic the definition of “offensiveness” becomes. But our basic liberties are not necessarily endangered when, say, the Anti-Defamation League criticizes Mel Gibson’s portrayal of the Sanhedrin in “The Passion of the Christ” or the Catholic League denounces art exhibits in the style of “Piss Christ,” any more than they’re endangered by the absence of grotesque caricatures of Moses or the Virgin Mary from the pages of the Washington Post and New York Times. Liberty requires accepting the freedom to offend, yes, but it also allows people, institutions and communities to both call for and exercise restraint.
He also mentions Tony Barber’s essay at the Financial Times among others: on the political schizophrenia at the FT, as that Party Line coalesces, I have written about in this post, which I insert here:
‘A significant number of those who have joined jihadi movements from France have been converts to Islam, including a number of women.David Thomson, a French journalist and author of Les Français Jihadistes, a book on the rise of Islamist militantism in France, says the rise of jihadism goes beyond the issue of simple alienation of Muslim youth. “Many of those I have made contact with are people from well integrated families, including those not from an immigrant or Muslim background,” he told the Financial Times in a recent interview.’
‘The English author Andrew Hussey, who lives in Paris, published a book last year called The French Intifada, in which he described France as “the world capital of liberty, equality and fraternity . . . under attack from the angry and dispossessed heirs to the French colonial project”. The murders in Paris throw down a challenge to French politicians and citizens to stand up for the republic’s core values and defeat political violence without succumbing to the siren songs of the far right.’
What is the emerging political orthodoxy on the question of this ‘terrorist attack’ ? This essay/report hints at the riots of 2005, but the first news story quotes an ‘expert’ on the ‘mirage'(well integrated members of Muslim families as jihadist candidates) of the blaming the complete lack of attempts to integrate immigrants and their children from the old empire.
See this Wiki entry on those 2005 riots:
If Jews had been the subject to such merciless attacks, as appeared in this French ‘satirical’ publication, the rightful exercise of opprobrium and condemnation would have been perfectly appropriate. But Europeans and Americans look upon Islam as the definition of the execrable other, rather than as part of the Abrahamic Tradition as our common inheritance, no matter what one might think/feel about this tradition, pro or con! The riots took place ten years ago!
There is much more to the Douthat essay as the critical reader will find as she/he reads it to it’s end. Brevity and succinctness are strangers to Douthat’s thought and rhetoric, allied to a pernicious American political/cultural parochialism.