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J Thomas

People are mixing up two different issues here.

One of them is "free speech" versus "censorship".

The other is "western" versus "muslim".

If we want free speech we have lots of room to work for it.
How about the right to carry a sign in public that doesn't support Bush?

If a european newspaper had published cartoons supporting NAMBLA and a bunch of christians got upset about it, would we be all up in arms against the christians?

We get a whole lot of subtle censorship. People who have some power don't have to do riots to prove it.
Here's a new zealand cartoonist who got fired for printing cartoons about israel. He was fired "on legal advice". How often do such things happen without any publicity at all?

Have Republicans been censoring the US media? You know they have. Do newspapers publish anti-Roman-Catholic cartoons? Only when there's a specific scandal. Do they publish anti-LDS cartoons? Never. Do they publish anti-Scientology cartoons? No, they'd get a lawsuit every time.

And now some muslims are utterly unsuccessful at attempting to censor things they get offended at, and we are raising a big fuss about the attempt.

I agree, we don't want to let the poor and uninfluential do censorship. We want to let people say bad things about NAMBLA, or the Bloods or Crips, or al Qaeda, or the Myanmar government etc, and if they don't like it then too bad, there's nothing they can do about it. But shouldn't the bulk of our free speech effort go to suppression by the powerful? Suppression by B'nai Brith, by the GOP, by large corporations and industry groups....

No, wait. they are powerful. They have the right to urge people not to buy particular newspapers, they have the right to suggest legislation, they have the right to organise boycots etc. Just as muslims do, except that muslims have very little power that way just yet since there are only a few million muslim immigrants and they're relatively poor.

Free speech in the USA only says the US government won't take official action to shut down communication. Like Cindy Sheehan getting arrested. Unofficial action like Bush telling the NYPost not to publish a story and them sitting on it for a year, is legal. Has the US government proposed to do any censorship in favor of muslims?

But I doubt these fine nuances get through to arabs. They see that other people get to censor our media, and they don't even when it's the things they care about most deeply. Back when the palestinians first got some semblance of a recognised government (remember the israelis up to then had claimed that there was no such thing as a palestinian, there were only arab refugees), the PLO tried to publish an ad in a US newspaper. It was fairly innocuous, but it did express their view. There was a news story that they almost completely failed, that no US newspaper was willing to take their money. Finally the Christian Science Monitor let them publish it. I suspect that the news story was considered publishable partly because the zionists who wanted to keep the palestinians from getting a single ad published also wanted to brag about how powerful they were.

Is this fair? Of course not. The strong do as they want, the weak respond as they must. There's a fundamental difference between people who can censor the media and people who can't. Muslims are weak and they can't.

But the uproar here isn't really about free speech. It's about taking sides between muslims and their enemies. It's about persuading americans -- liberals and moderates -- and incidentally europeans that muslims and arabs are the enemy. The enemy we must not give in to. And it's about persuading muslims and arabs that we do not listen to them, we only listen to their enemies. That we are not fair, we care nothing about their concerns. That we are the enemy.

The point is to prepare both sides for inevitable war. And it's succeeding. Very cleverly done. I don't see what to do about it, and if I did see an alternative still I have no budget.


Sign me on the Olivier Roy "this story is WAY OVERBLOWN" bandwagon. The size of the rent-a-mobs is not particularly impressive. I see basically a government-encouraged media firestorm, not a real groundswell of rage.

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