It’s not what he’s saying that’s novel — he’s made this point before, and seems to be making it more often lately — but the forum in which he’s saying it. I wonder if there was anyone else featured across the four broadcast networks’ news/current events programming yesterday to raise the point that the “tiny minority of extremists” isn’t so tiny when you consider the raw numbers. Kimmel is uncomfortable from the start, partly because Maher went out there with a point to make rather than engage in the usual dreary late-night banter and partly because he’s violating a liberal taboo in noting that jihadi fanatics are sustained by a larger, decidedly illiberal culture. Criticizing the tiny minority on TV is okay provided that you emphasize their tiny-minority-ness. When, however, you try to connect up the actions of the worst offenders to the cultural fishbowl they swim in — a practice the left not only engages in but insists upon in every other context except Islamic fanaticism — then you’re over the line. Watch Kimmel scramble for a commercial break as Maher tries to get going on that point. Listen to how silent the audience is throughout, as if they dare not disrespect their host, ABC, by encouraging him. No wonder Maher had to move his own show from broadcast TV to pay cable.
As for his numbers, I can’t find a poll of Muslim opinion that asks directly whether satirists who insult Mohammed deserve death. I can find other polls endorsing draconian penalties for offenses against the faith, though, starting with this one from Pew last year.
That’s not a poll of the total population in each country, merely a poll of those Muslims who believe that sharia should be the law of the land. But that number is itself sizable: Of the 38 countries with large Muslim populations that Pew surveyed, a majority endorsed sharia rule in 25 of them. In 18 of those countries, the majority supporting sharia was 65 percent or more. Clearly you’re talking about many millions of people across many different nations that support capital punishment for apostasy. What sort of bold leap is it to think that there’s widespread, if not majority, support too for the idea that a bunch of infidels who serially mocked Mohammed might have gotten what was coming to them?
Exit question: If the media believes the conventional wisdom it pushes that it’s only a “tiny minority” they need worry about, why are they so afraid to take a risk by publishing cartoons of Mohammed? Strictly speaking, there are a tiny minority of extremists within Christianity, Judaism, and every other faith as well. Take a big enough population and, to a statistical certainty, you’ll stumble across people who are more open to violence when their sacred cows are slaughtered. Yet only one group’s tiny minority so worries the media that they’ll black out key parts of a major international news story to avoid offending it. That is to say, not through its words but through its actions, the media routinely shows that it kinda sorta agrees with Maher about the comparative magnitude of risk. They’re just not as honest about it as he is.