For those of you reading this, I know that I don’t have to relate the horrific events that took place in Paris last week. The deaths of eight journalists working for Charlie Hebdo magazine, as well as six bystanders and three police officers who gave their lives defending them, are the tragic result of an abhorrent act of terror perpetrated by radical Islamists who have been rightly and universally condemned by free people all over the world. As I have written before, all human life is sacred and those who deprive innocent people of that most fundamental human right are perpetrators of the lowest evil.
The negative response to the Charlie Hebdo attacks has taken on a variety of forms, from traditional missives from those on the right about the inherent danger and violence of Islam to those on the Left who have upheld the slain journalists as martyrs of free expression. Some, such as noted religion-basher Bill Maher, have not hesitated to use this tragedy as a springboard for renewed attacks on religious fundamentalism. One particular response that has grabbed my attention, however, is that of a subset of leftists who have chosen to condemn the attacks without explicitly endorsing Charlie Hebdo’s particular brand of satire. This, on its face, is perfectly reasonable, as Charlie Hebdo’s editorial cartoons are hardly tasteful and often cross the line from off-color comedy to blatant mockery. Their tone is notoriously antireligious, usually displaying subversive imagery of Christian, Jewish, or Muslim figures.
But that is precisely why I have been baffled by the decision of many liberals to object to these cartoons. Isn’t that attitude of mockery toward religion exactly what today’s Left stands for, particularly those in the United States? From the most ordinary picket-line participant all the way up to our nation’s president, the pervasive attitude is to look down on those ignorant country bumpkins who “cling to their guns and religion.” And yet, we now have people like Remy Maisel at Politico Magazine, who says that the humor perpetrated by Charlie Hebdo is not real satire, but “pseudo-satire” because it “lacks focused intent.” Maisel holds up institutions like The Colbert Report and The Daily Show as paragons of “true satire” because they are brave enough to do things like “highlight the relative ineffectiveness of Republicans at engaging with voters through social media” or reacting to 2013’s government shutdown by exposing “both the ridiculousness of the situation and the ways in which it would affect average citizens, with the added bonus of being funny.”
But Charlie Hebdo, he says, isn’t in the same league as those Comedy Central shows because “[t]here’s just nothing brave about secular white men mocking everybody else.” Ah, yes. Here we see the true heart of this peculiar argument—the real reason why most of the Left refuses to defend Charlie Hebdo. Satire may be funny when you are making fun of the Left’s enemies, particularly Republicans in Congress. But if the humor stems from white people (the Left’s undisputed universal bogeymen) making fun of other people, then it’s not funny at all. It is, at best, distasteful (when it comes to making fun of Christians, who are predominantly white) and, at worst, downright bigoted (when it involves Jews and, especially, Muslims). Silly me. I should have known that the one thing that trumps all other lines of argument, even the sanctity of free speech, is race.
Don’t be fooled. These leftists aren’t condemning Charlie Hebdo because of their general antireligious sentiment, even as they attempt to couch their criticisms in defense of “everybody.” No, they are peeved because this silly French magazine decided to go after Muslims, who are a sizable minority in France. And once you’ve achieved minority status, as far as the Left is concerned, you can do no wrong. Now, let me go ahead and say that liberals are correct in saying that we shouldn’t conflate radical Islamic terrorists with the vast majority of Muslims who live in peace around the globe. And we certainly shouldn’t use attacks like the one in Paris as an excuse to further mistreat religious minorities in Europe and beyond.
But that’s about as much slack as I will give those blatant hypocrites. Just imagine if Charlie Hebdo only ever slandered Christians and was attacked by a band of deranged evangelists. No excuses would be made for the attackers then. But then again, that’s kind of hard to imagine, isn’t it? You don’t often see even the most fundamentalist Christian legislators in the United States rallying to chants of “Death to blasphemers!” Apparently, such things happen in Pakistan. Mind you, that’s the same country where a Christian woman is currently on death row for insulting Muhammad during an argument over whether or not she could touch a bowl of water. And let’s not forget Raif Badawi, a liberal reformer in Saudi Arabia who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam.” The ugly truth is that, while the vast majority of the world’s Muslims are not terrorists, many of them live in oppressive theocracies that enforce intolerance and bigotry as the law. That is not something the Left wants to talk about. Just ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali, one of the world’s leading feminist critics of Islam, who was barred from receiving an honorary degree from Brandeis University, one of our nation’s bastions of liberal academia, just last year.
It seems to be a universal truth that the Left won’t defend white people, even if the people in question practice exactly what the liberals themselves preach. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually admire Bill Maher for having the intellectual honesty to stick with his guns (bad word choice, I know) on this one. He’s an equal opportunity offender, going after every religion with equal disdain. He, and many like him, simply believe that religion in the root of many of the world’s greatest ills. That’s a perfectly valid point to make, but the Left ought to know that if a discussion to that effect is to be had, it would be downright obtuse not to include Islam in that conversation.