Question for Josh Earnest: Was it "appropriate" for Americans to hold a Mohammed cartoon contest?

Via Mediaite, you know he’s itching to drop a “hell no” here. Didn’t his boss once say that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”? Didn’t our own State Department, helmed by Hillary Clinton, drop $70 Gs in Pakistan a few years ago denouncing the “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube video? Hasn’t Obama’s Joint Chiefs chair been known to dial up critics of Islam and ask them to stand down for the good of the war effort? Didn’t Obama himself say in February that defending a blasphemer’s right to free speech also “obligates” us to condemn the blasphemer? {What?}

Of course the White House thinks it’s inappropriate. But even they have the basic good sense not to say so after an attempted mass murder, when criticism of the event will be seen as blaming the victims. I wonder what Earnest’s answer would have been in an alternate reality where the cartoon contest came off without a hitch.

Oh, incidentally, the hot new theory on the left to justify blaming Pam Geller for what happened is that she might, just might, have wanted terrorists to try to kill her. You’ve heard of “suicide by cop.” Meet “suicide by jihad,” I guess.

There’s a moral theory, called the doctrine of double effect, that says you shouldn’t be blamed for foreseeable consequences that you don’t want. We sometimes rely on it, as in justifying collateral damage as a result of an otherwise morally correct use of force.

This moral doctrine of double effect has no place in evaluating a conscious provocation. Geller was trying to provoke a reaction. If the reaction was reasonably likely to be violent, she can’t hide behind the notion that she didn’t want anyone to get hurt…

If — and I say if — Geller intended to provoke violence, she did something much worse than giving offense. By willfully trying to provoke violence, Geller was trying to create a situation in which innocent people could have been harmed or killed. As it was, a security guard at the event was injured. (By the way, the guard who shot and killed the attackers counts as a hero who saved lives, regardless of Geller’s motives.) If Geller wanted violence to happen, her actions were morally culpable — even though she obviously didn’t commit it.

That’s an interesting conundrum for the left, acknowledged elsewhere in the piece by author Noah Feldman. Have we reached the point in western civilization where violent attacks on people who blaspheme Islam qualify as “reasonably foreseeable”? If you say no, Geller’s off the hook. If you say yes, you’re conceding that the threat of Islamic violence in response to images of Mohammed is now sufficiently great and steady that we should actually count on it happening in response to events like this, an admission that tends to undercut the “tiny minority of extremists” narrative. (Coming soon, perhaps: Lefties arguing that the fact that Geller had security for the event “proves” that she was hoping for a violent reaction.) Maybe that should have been the question put to Earnest — not whether Geller’s event was “appropriate” but whether Geller herself is culpable morally for the attack. One big reason why the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam, presumably, is that things tend to blow up when they do. Does Geller, the slanderer, bear any responsibility for that? This is not an academic question.

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