Audio: Hugh Hewitt versus Bill "Those Charlie Hebdo attackers were right to be angry" Donohue

A long clip but a fun one and you won’t lose much if you listen to only the first half. Things start to get hot at around 4:30 and then hotter still at 9:30.

Noah already blogged Donohue’s statement yesterday arguing that, although murder is to be deplored, the Charlie Hebdo staff provoked it by being so gleefully sacrilegious. Hewitt is appalled by that blame-the-victim reasoning, as is pretty much everyone whose name isn’t “Bill Donohue.” Today Donohue posted a new statement on the Catholic League website to “clarify” his earlier remarks. Spot the egregious lie:

My position is this: the murderers are fully responsible for what they did and should be treated with the full force of the law. Nothing justifies the killing of these people. But this is not the whole of this issue.

The cartoonists, and all those associated with Charlie Hebdo, are no champions of freedom. Quite the opposite: their obscene portrayal of religious figures—so shocking that not a single TV station or mainstream newspaper would show them—represents an abuse of freedom.

Freedom of speech is not an end—it is a means to an end. For Americans, the end is nicely spelled out in the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution: the goal is to “form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”…

Let’s forget about legalities. As I have said countless times, everyone has a legal right to insult my religion (or the religion of others), but no one has a moral right to do so. Can we please have this conversation, along with what to do about Muslim barbarians who kill because they are offended?

CNN’s not blacking out Charlie Hebdo covers because they’re shocked at obscene images of religious figures. They’re blacking them out because they’re terrified jihadis will try to copycat the Paris terrorists by shooting up CNN HQ if they don’t. And it’s frankly amazing that Donohue, who owes his public notoriety to his willingness to scream about anti-Catholic bigotry on camera, would give them a pass on that. The media usually has no qualms about passing along images like “Piss Christ” denigrating Christian icons, a point Donohue has himself made endlessly in the past. The reason he’s giving them a pass today by presuming good faith “sensitivity” to religion as a motive rather than cowardice is because he wants to encourage their anti-blasphemy ethic towards Muslims. If he plays their game by pretending that censorship is about respect for faith instead of fear, he gives them a reason to add Catholicism to their growing list of Institutions That Must Not Be Offended. He’s quite explicit about this with Hewitt too. What’s wrong with self-censorship in the name of sensitivity, he asks? Why can’t we have a social norm against blasphemy?

Hewitt asks the correct question in response: What do you do when people defy that norm? How far are you willing to go to enforce it? Donohue’s against criminalizing the practice, he claims, but is that because he genuinely opposes penalties or because he suspects people won’t hear him out if he takes too harsh of an approach to blasphemy at this point in the public debate? His logic is conspicuously similar to the collectivist logic used by fans of “hate speech” laws, including his creepy reference to “abuse of freedom”: We should protect free speech up to the point that it’s not hurting society, at which point it’s time to start carving out exceptions. It’s the “heckler’s veto” as social ideal. Provocative speech, which is hurtful to some slice of the public almost by definition, would have a tough time surviving in that moral ecosystem. In fact, years before jihadis decided to escalate the sanction, Charlie Hebdo was sued in French courts on grounds of “racism” for publishing the Danish Mohammed cartoons. They did survive, but as the entire world now knows, Charlie Hebdo was unusually dogged in its willingness to take risks for satire. Hewitt’s rightly suspicious here that Donohue’s system of “moral” sanction for blasphemy would calcify into a system of legal sanction. And you know what? Given the polling, he’s right to be.

Note what Donohue says, by the way, about major figures in the Church allegedly dialing him up and telling him privately that they agree with him. I sure hope that’s not true. The media’s anti-blasphemy drift has enough momentum as it is, without a hard shove from religious figures who actually matter.

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