Appearing on Real Time Friday night, Salmon Rushdie called out a media group he referred to as "The But Brigade." It sounds like a float in the Pride Parade, but it is so much more. And less.
In the wake of the shootings in Paris last week, voices of the media have been raised across the globe. The messages, however have been mixed. Some of those defenders of free speech have been reticent in their rhetoric.
As writers go, Salman Rushdie, a British Indian novelist can speak to free speech with authority. His 1988 novel, The Satanic Verses earned him a fatwa-death sentence-as well as the Whitbread Award for novel of the year.
The Satanic Verses explores certain passages of the Koran that harken back to pagan rituals and how those passages may influence Muslims migrating to England. Visitors living in foreign lands is thematic in Rushdie's body of work.
In typical fashion, the Islamic world railed against anyone talking about their holy book. The Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, then Supreme Leader of Iran declared Rushdie a blasphemer and sentenced him to death. The author was put under police protection and lived in hiding for many years, during which one of his interpreters was killed by assassins.
The Ayatollah never said if he had actually read the book or if he was doing a Kanye West. (Remember when Kanye told Taylor Swift that he didn't see her video but thought that Beyonce's was better?)
Would it be rude to say that more fundamental Muslims probably saw the Danish carton-re-published by Charlie Hebdo-than actually read a book?
Understandably, there is an element of fear involved with standing up for free speech. If I say too loudly that the Muslim prophet, Muhammad is a legitimate target of ridicule, I may be the next one targeted for death.
This would be an interesting point to discuss with Patrick Henry-were he alive today-who is remembered for a speech featuring the proclamation, "Give me liberty of give me death."
New York Times Op-Ed Columnist, David Brooks is an exemplar member of what Mr. Rushdie labels as the But Brigade.
With the world declaring, "Je suis Charlie," Mr. Brooks, in his January 8 piece chides those masses that they are not, in fact Charlie Hebdo-the French satirical newspaper, target of Islamist terrorism.
The reason, Mr. Brooks cites that we are not Charlie is that we, as adults are not deliberately offensive. Anyone who is deliberately offensive, like Ann Coulter or Bill Maher are not serious members of the media and, therefore not given full credibility.
I find that, Mr. Brooks deliberately offensive. It actually makes my blood boil, although I certainly defend your right to say it. I am not inclined, however to either shoot or behead you.
The prime directive, apparently of the But Brigade is to be anything but deliberately offensive. "We want free speech, but....."
In the 16th Century, Copernicus deliberately went against Church teachings by suggesting that Earth was not the center of the universe, but instead a planet revolving around the Sun.
Galileo ran with that theory, but he was lucky. Guns were starting to catch on about that time, but he got off with just a life of house arrest.
Martin Luther King, Jr was deliberately offensive and provocative when he marched on Selma. People lost their lives during that march, but they apparently felt that the status quo was not tolerable.
Were I to meet Mr. Brooks at a dinner party-highly unlikely-I would ask him if he had ever seen a cartoon of President Obama that wasn't deliberately offensive. The point that Brooks seems to be missing is that free speech includes the right to be deliberately offensive and provocative.
There are obvious and reasonable limitations to free speech. Yelling "fire" in a crowded theater or saying the word "bomb" on an airplane will land you in hot water, but that's just common sense.
For a member of the media, censoring your thoughts or overly prudential expression of those thoughts is the opposite of free speech. Remember, we are not talking about dropping the F-bomb on prime time, network TV. We're talking about the right to question or poke fun at political and religious leaders or even God. Yours or anyone else's.
Being afraid to speak your mind, Mr. Brooks does not make you a grown up. Ann Coulter, as much as I hate to say it is every bit as grown up as even the most timid of columnists.
Almost 7,000 American men and women have died fighting for our freedom in the Middle East. Tens of thousands more have been maimed and permanently disabled. Wouldn't it be a terrible injustice to those men and women to allow those against whom we have struggled mightily to curtail that which we most cherish, that for which we fought and died?
I never thought I'd say anything like this Mr. Brooks, but you and your But Brigade should take a lesson from the French and grow a pair.
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