Instapundit has several times mentioned how self-censorship in regards to Islam sets up an incentive structure for any group that wants to avoid criticism: simply have enough of your adherents willing to murder people for insults, and hey-presto, people will cease insulting you.
Over on Vox Popoli, discussion revolves around the question “Did the French cartoonists have it coming?” and includes discussion of the real point, “Does free speech include antagonizing a group infamous for violent retaliation?”
Obviously, this is dealing with the principle of free speech as a social good, not a mere limitation against government retaliation for speech. I am of the opinion that it is vital for “free speech” to be a social moral precept that limits individuals’ reactions to offensive speech: because otherwise we get exactly what we see in this incident (one among many similar) in France. The jihadis who murdered the Charlie Hebdo staff were in no way violating the strict “First Amendment rights” of the cartoonists (if this had happened in America). This legalistic excuse – using “consequences” as a fig leaf for using organized and deliberate terror tactics to limit speech – is the first one rolled out by pint-sized totalitarians who support using social media pressure to get people fired and ruin their livelihoods if they say something offensive. The jihadis are merely the literal, non-ironic Social Justice Warriors.
If the principle of free speech merely protects individuals from government prosecution, while not protecting individuals from persecution and retaliation from an offended group, then free speech is not actually worth anything as a principle. All the government has to do is manipulate a sufficiently strident group of “concerned citizens” into retaliation and persecution, and voila, there you go: self-censorship reinforced by the chilling effects of seeing people fired, blacklisted, or killed for publicly expressing a controversial message. (That the murderers will be caught, or killed resisting arrest, does not change the fact that people died for their speech. Activists are often willing to break laws if they perceive the payoff as being worth the price.) All this happens without government involvement that would trigger First Amendment protection, and is quite effective even when the government upholds the laws against murder.
However, this principle of “free speech” – of not retaliating against someone who has deliberately and with malice aforethought spoken something for the sole purpose of offending you – is a specifically Christian ideal. Other cultures obviously value upholding their honor and their sacred ideals through the use of force. Even Christian cultures have historically recognized a certain amount of leeway on the matter of offensive speech and personal honor; but of course, a bout of fisticuffs or a formal duel are far different than a pack of military-trained gunmen slaughtering a bunch of writers.
Those who have ceaselessly worked to expunge Christianity from America and the West in general should be warned that there are those who are not Christian who see very well the incentive structure and the new rules of the game, and are making notes.
Well, for those who think a propensity to violence is a good reason for a society to just shut up and not offend the violent group in question, let me warn you: You are offending me right now, I consider you a traitor to Western civilization who we need far less of, and when this inevitably culminates in civil warfare to preserve our civilization and remove the barbarians, I will gladly kill you for it as part of the enemy.
My religion prevents me from taking vengeance against those who insult and revile me, even when they attempt to shut up and shut down any opposing viewpoint in the marketplace of ideas. But such revilers should not expect my aid in defending them, either: let them be judged by their own standards, and cast out from whatever part of Western civilization that remains to fare with the barbarians and so receive their just recompense.
To do otherwise would be to disrespect their belief in multiculturalism, after all.
Charlie Hebdo was not a friend to any Christian, but I honor them for their courage and their bravery: they stood for freedom without compromise, and I hope that France will take prudent and practical steps in the future to prevent an atrocity like this from happening again. The Muslims do not believe in freedom of speech, and are willing to use deadly force to curtail the speech of others? Very well, let theirs be curtailed by the deadly might of government; let every mosque in France be shut down, and the slaves of Islam go to their own countries to serve their bloodthirsty demon among their own savage people. Islam is not compatible with the West.