Free-speech hypocrisy knows no bounds

By Tom Tancredo

Each week brings news of new atrocities committed by Islamic jihadists in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and also in America. Yet as horrible and repulsive as those murderous acts are, what is more worrisome is the inadequacy and incoherence of the West’s response to radical Islamist violence.

That incoherence is rooted in the left’s own tolerance and even advocacy for violence against freedom of speech when the left’s catechism of progressive maxims is under challenge. The American left has a record of advocating and practicing suppression of free speech across American institutions whenever they gain control and are in a position to enforce their slogans and orthodoxies.

We can call this “leftist hypocrisy,” but sadly, the label will have no effect on them because they have no capacity for guilt over the hypocrisy. Traditional standards of ethical and moral consistency are foreign to progressives.

In France and across Europe this past week we witnessed a display of public outrage against the jihadists’ murder of 10 journalists at the Charlie Hebdo magazine offices. “We are Charlie” placards and banners were carried by thousands of marchers in an effort to send a message to Islamic terrorists that Frenchmen will not be intimidated into silence.

Yet, the huge “unity march” in Paris was compromised by the president of France declaring that the terrorist attack on the Paris magazine editors “had nothing to do with Islam.” None is so blind as he who will not see.

But the problem is deeper than the left’s unwillingness to acknowledge that the origins of jihadist violence lie inside Islam’s religious teachings. Indeed, the problem precedes the rise of Islamic violence. The progressive left is having a hard time defending Western values and institutions against the Islamist threat because the left does not believe in those institutions. When Obama spoke of the need to “transform America,” he wasn’t talking about raising the minimum wage.

In both Europe and the United States, indeed on every continent, silencing dissent and criticism has been the goal of the left every time they have come to power – whether an Ivy League university, the local PTA, the American Historical Association, or CBS News.

Thus, when American progressives are asked to protest jihadist violence against journalistic displays of “disrespect” toward the Prophet Muhammad, they can’t quite get their protest into second gear– even though the journalist victims of Islamic violence are overwhelmingly left of center in their politics.

Journalism, of course, is not what it used to be. There is a reason why the Associated Press banned the term “illegal alien” from its style manual, even though it is a term found throughout U.S. immigration law. It was to stifle dissent: You can’t debate a proposition if you can’t even speak its name. The same speech code is enforced on nearly every American college campus. George Orwell would be proud.

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Those Charlie Hebdo magazine cartoons that brought on the Islamist retaliation in Paris would never have been allowed to be published in a student newspaper at UC Berkeley, Swarthmore, or even the University of Texas at Austin. They would have been labeled “hate speech” and the editors hauled before a kangaroo court to answer for their crime.

But the problem goes much deeper than leftist intolerance for public criticism of Islam. Political correctness is enforced on a wide spectrum of issues, from the “gender pay gap” to “police violence against blacks,” to “climate change” and “comprehensive immigration reform.” Dissent from the reigning orthodoxy is suppressed and naysayers punished.

The immunity from hypocrisy is nowhere more evident and scandalous than in the progressive treatment of the issues surrounding immigration law enforcement. The addition of millions of low-skilled immigrants to the workforce will unquestionably have a negative impact on the jobs and wages of minority workers – and even on the wages of legal Hispanic workers. But the progressive mainstream media cannot talk about that, and no one calls them out as hypocrites for that silence.

The present situation with regard to free speech is full of irony. For example, the “Free Speech Movement” started at UC Berkeley in 1964 and was a rallying cry for the Vietnam War protests. Yet freedom of speech there and thousands of other campuses is now a historical artifact.

The conflict between radical Islam and the West is not about freedom of speech or journalists’ right to publish insulting cartoons about religious leaders. That is a small subset of a far larger problem. The conflict is over Islam’s doctrinal intolerance of all dissent of any kind, which raises the fundamental question whether orthodox Muslims who try to follow the Quran’s teachings can coexist in modern society without waging war against non-believers.

The answer to that fundamental question determines what other questions need to be asked. For example, if fundamentalist Islam and its legal extension, Shariah law, are incompatible with the freedoms enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, then Islamic immigration into the U.S. must be halted and all proponents and adherents of Shariah should be deported because their oath of fidelity to the Constitution cannot be fulfilled.

At its core, this is a conflict of civilizations. Imagining that this conflict will go away if only our writers and cartoonists will show sensible restraint and respect for Islam’s icons is a fantasy that is already having deadly consequences.

Media wishing to interview Tom Tancredo, please contact [email protected].

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