The left and "Islamophobia": We believe in free speech, but...

Increasingly, we see people demanding speech live up to their standards of virtuousness before being deserving of any protection. This week, two House Democrats urged the Obama administration to ban firebrand Geert Wilders from entering the country. “Mr. Wilders’s policy agenda is centered on the principle that Christian culture is superior to other cultures,” they argued. This is a position well within the bounds of genuine debate. Ironically, the lawmakers want to use the International Religious Freedom Act, a law that empowers the State Department to ban the entry of a foreign leader responsible for severe violations of religious freedom, to deny him entry. We see it in the moral confusion of Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau, who suggesting that it was “hate speech” for the satirists at Charlie Hebdo to mock those who threatened to kill them. “Not only was one cartoonist gunned down,” he explained, “but riots erupted around the world, resulting in the deaths of scores. No one could say toward what positive social end, yet free speech absolutists were unchastened. Using judgment and common sense in expressing oneself were denounced as antithetical to freedom of speech.” No, having others dictate what our judgement should be is antithetical to free political speech—which deserves special consideration. This is true, whether it is dictated by the majority or by one self-proclaimed arbiter of common sense. I mean, what sort of positive social good does a Doonesbury strip offer? Newspapers buy it. People read it. But if Doonesbury triggered threats of violence from around the world, the social worth of it changes, because even a preachy comic strip is worth defending for the larger idea of free expression. And when people are gunned down for their satire, they may not have used the best judgment or their common sense. They may not be the Dixie Chicks or Robert Mapplethorpe or W.A.S.P., or any of the other false martyrs of free expression we’ve had over the decades. They risked something real.