In early April, “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau took aim at the Charlie Hebdo artists and writers who lost their lives in a vicious terrorist attack in January. Trudeau claimed the magazine was engaging in “hate speech,” arguing that under the right circumstances, “free speech becomes its own kind of fanaticism.”
In the weeks since, Trudeau has been criticized for choosing to condemn the victims rather than the perpetrators. He was invited onto NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday to answer his critics. But in the process of trying to rehabilitate his image, he only managed to make things worse.
Moderator Chuck Todd asked Trudeau if “the victims were to blame for the tragedy.”
“Oh, not at all,” Trudeau said. “Perhaps I should have made it a little clearer that I was as outraged as the rest of the world at that time.”
But after establishing that point, the cartoonist went back to his original premise. “What I didn’t do was agree with the decisions they made that brought a world of pain to France.”
They brought a world of pain to France? Not the terrorists, but the cartoonists? It’s unthinkable that a fellow artist would take this position. But it’s even more disturbing that an American – regardless of occupation – would blame free expression for bloodshed.
When it comes to rape, the left insists that we must never make judgments regarding the actions of the victim. When it comes to police shootings, we may never question the actions of the “unarmed black man.” But when it comes to artists slain for satire, suddenly it’s okay to ask if they brought it on themselves.
When people are killed for expressing their beliefs, there is no room for any civilized response other than complete and unqualified condemnation. The more disturbing and disgusting the views, the more united we must be in defending their right to express them. How would Trudeau feel if he was violently attacked for his liberal claptrap? Would he admit that he should have kept his mouth shut? Of course not. But since mockery of Islam crosses some line in his head, he thinks the fault lies with Charlie Hebdo.
Part of the reason why Islam is rarely criticized in the mainstream media is because of these kinds of attacks. Reporters, politicians, columnists, and artists are scared of upsetting the apple cart. What happens when other groups see how effective this strategy is? What good is the First Amendment if everyone is too afraid to say what’s on their minds?
The day after the Paris attacks, every newspaper in the world should have published mocking images of Mohammad. Not because it’s important to offend Muslims, but because the best possible response to violent censorship is defiance. It’s why Charlie Hebdo kept mocking Islam after the bloodshed, it’s why millions of Americans wanted to see The Interview, and it’s why Garry Trudeau is flat wrong in his assessment of the Paris attacks.