Time magazine bureau chief: Why did that firebombed French magazine have to stir up trouble by mocking Mohammed?

Is this worth posting? I’m not sure if this attitude qualifies as “news” anymore, even when it’s held by a journalist.

Don’t worry, he’s careful to check the “violence is bad” box at the end of the piece.

Okay, so can we finally stop with the idiotic, divisive, and destructive efforts by “majority sections” of Western nations to bait Muslim members with petulant, futile demonstrations that “they” aren’t going to tell “us” what can and can’t be done in free societies? Because not only are such Islamophobic antics futile and childish, but they also openly beg for the very violent responses from extremists their authors claim to proudly defy in the name of common good. What common good is served by creating more division and anger, and by tempting belligerent reaction?…

We, by contrast, have another reaction to the firebombing: Sorry for your loss, Charlie [Hebdo], and there’s no justification of such an illegitimate response to your current edition. But do you still think the price you paid for printing an offensive, shameful, and singularly humor-deficient parody on the logic of “because we can” was so worthwhile? If so, good luck with those charcoal drawings your pages will now be featuring…

It’s obvious free societies cannot simply give in to hysterical demands made by members of any beyond-the-pale group. And it’s just as clear that intimidation and violence must be condemned and combated for whatever reason they’re committed—especially if their goal is to undermine freedoms and liberties of open societies. But it’s just evident members of those same free societies have to exercise a minimum of intelligence, calculation, civility and decency in practicing their rights and liberties—and that isn’t happening when a newspaper decides to mock an entire faith on the logic that it can claim to make a politically noble statement by gratuitously pissing people off.

That’s lovely, but there’s really only one faith which free societies are expected to treat with scrupulous intelligence, calculation, civility, and decency, and that expectation exists precisely because they might end up being firebombed if they don’t. Goofing on the others may get you some disapproving clucks and a lecture from Bill Donohue on Fox News, but you’ll walk away intact. Why this guy wants to frame that double standard in terms of “decency,” I don’t know; this must be the first time that word has been used to describe the phenomenon of being nice to someone who might hurt you if you aren’t. Says Crumley at one point, “Defending freedom of expression in the face of oppression is one thing; insisting on the right to be obnoxious and offensive just because you can is infantile.” But again, the whole point is that you really can’t in this particular case. If you could, the South Park guys wouldn’t have to literally black out images of Mohammed on their show at Comedy Central’s behest. Government isn’t the only force capable of oppression.

The fact that he’s treating this parody as some fifth-grade prank tantamount to giving Muslims a wedgie on a day when the paper’s offices were gutted from a Molotov cocktail is surreal. It may not be “politically noble” to do dumb jokes like these, but it’s certainly brave. And while I take his point about not using mockery to alienate people you’re trying to assimilate, parodies like these do have an assimilating element to them. They normalize the expectation of criticism of Islam and press Muslim community leaders to speak out against violent replies to speech. Which, to their credit, they did today after the bombing. (Charlie Hebdo’s editor responded in kind by calling the attackers “radical stupid people who don’t know what Islam is.”) The punchline is, for all the scolding by Time’s man in Paris, we’re not even sure that a Muslim was responsible for the attack. Charlie Hebdo has offended lots of people over the years, yet even Crumley — who apparently initially entitled his post, “Firebombed French Paper: A Victim of Islamists or Its Own Obnoxious Islamophobia?”(!) — is familiar enough with this very familiar plot line to jump to a reasonable conclusion about who the aggrieved party must be.

I want to know: If, as he suggests, the “common good” would best be served for the time being by laying off speech that offends Muslims, what’s the endgame for that two-tiered system? You can’t sustain it indefinitely; other faiths will grow to resent the double standard even more than they do now and that’ll create its own divisions and temptations to belligerence. Is he thinking of a time limit? Say, 30 years of quietude for everyone to assimilate and then satirists can dip a toe back into the cultural water? The media could, I suppose, try to build a new ethic of less mockery of religion generally, not just of Islam, but that’d be ironic for a profession that normally likes a wide berth for criticism and fancies itself as willing to speak truth to power even when those truths are unpleasant. There’s no way out except for everyone to grow a thicker skin. And if there is, tell me — who do I need to kill, literally, to get preferred treatment too?