Let us properly condemn the primitive evils that compel people to respond to affronts with murder.Or, we might ask, how do you say "consider the source" in rag-head? David Brooks is thinking along those lines.
But perhaps there is an additional lesson to be gleaned from this tragedy: that while we should never obligate restraint to appease terrorists, we do well to nudge discourse away from the basest urges of today’s shock-addicted commentariat.
The best restraint comes from a desire to aim higher, to engage more constructively— namely, to grow up.
Some will heed that instinct. Many will not. So for those choosing to enjoy the fleeting marketplace rewards of the gutter, we will stand ready with pens to hoist in solidarity should they pay with their lives for their insolence.
Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in.Thus, even in areas of High Politics and Fraught Controversy, there is division of labor.
We might have started out that way. When you are 13, it seems daring and provocative to “épater la bourgeoisie,” to stick a finger in the eye of authority, to ridicule other people’s religious beliefs.
But after a while that seems puerile. Most of us move toward more complicated views of reality and more forgiving views of others. (Ridicule becomes less fun as you become more aware of your own frequent ridiculousness.) Most of us do try to show a modicum of respect for people of different creeds and faiths. We do try to open conversations with listening rather than insult.
Yet, at the same time, most of us know that provocateurs and other outlandish figures serve useful public roles. Satirists and ridiculers expose our weakness and vanity when we are feeling proud. They puncture the self-puffery of the successful. They level social inequality by bringing the mighty low. When they are effective they help us address our foibles communally, since laughter is one of the ultimate bonding experiences.
Moreover, provocateurs and ridiculers expose the stupidity of the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are people who take everything literally. They are incapable of multiple viewpoints. They are incapable of seeing that while their religion may be worthy of the deepest reverence, it is also true that most religions are kind of weird. Satirists expose those who are incapable of laughing at themselves and teach the rest of us that we probably should.
Most societies have successfully maintained standards of civility and respect while keeping open avenues for those who are funny, uncivil and offensive.The reason Mr Brooks notes healthy societies do not suppress speech is to emphasize a point he raises earlier in the column.
In most societies, there’s the adults’ table and there’s the kids’ table. The people who read Le Monde or the establishment organs are at the adults’ table. The jesters, the holy fools and people like Ann Coulter and Bill Maher are at the kids’ table. They’re not granted complete respectability, but they are heard because in their unguided missile manner, they sometimes say necessary things that no one else is saying.
Healthy societies, in other words, don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect. Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect. People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct.
The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression, but let’s face it: If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.Put another way, there might be a few of the Perpetually Aggrieved on campus and their enablers among the diversity hustlers in the administration that ought to first consider the source.
Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.
Just look at all the people who have overreacted to campus micro-aggressions.
Or be thought of as excessively fragile, just as the Saudi belief system is revealing itself.
Raif Badawi was found guilty of insulting Islam on Free Saudi Liberals, a website he created, and also ordered to pay about $266,000 in fines. A court originally sentenced him to 600 lashes and seven years in prison, but a judge increased the sentence after an appeal. Amnesty International said he will receive 50 lashes each week for 20 weeks.Belief system must not be a strong enough opiate for the primitives.