Via Breitbart, this is unexpected. Not the part where he says Geller had the right to hold her contest; that’s an orthodox enough position even on the left that the New York Times ended up making it in the course of sneering at her about “hate speech.” What’s unorthodox is Hayes defending the contest as important and something that should have been held. The standard two-step this week from grudging Geller defenders is that we must protect the right to draw Mohammed while strongly encouraging people never to exercise that right in the name of public safety, on pain of being blamed themselves for any violence that results. E.g.:

Hayes counters that with an analogy to editorial freedom. If MSNBC told him he couldn’t run a segment because it might reflect badly on an advertiser, he’d feel obliged to run it even if he thought initially that it was too weak to air. Once you’ve been extorted over something you have a right to say, it’s more important to resist the extortion than to worry about whether what you have to say is particularly interesting. It’s about incentives, and reducing the extorter’s incentive to extort is a valuable contribution to free speech even if airing your crappy segment isn’t. Geller’s cartoon contest, like Charlie Hebdo’s post-massacre cover, is an attempt to show jihadis that attacking blasphemers won’t end the blasphemy; if anything, by making martyrs and celebrities of them, it’ll encourage it. It’s a bid to reduce the incentive to kill. Whether it’s a smart strategy is hard to say — some jihadis may want to encourage public expressions of sympathy with Charlie Hebdo and Geller, to show western Muslims that the decadent infidel sides with those who insult the prophet — but it’s not, as many stupid media types have claimed this week, an attempt to get people at the event killed. On the contrary, it’s a way to show would-be killers that they need to try another tactic if they’re serious about ending blasphemy, or at least ending public interest in it. Take away the risk of bombs going off and Geller’s cartoon contest wouldn’t have gotten any press at all this week. That’s the lesson. Nice to know that one left-wing media personality got it.