Freedom of Expression

Insidious totalitarianism

Michael Totten interviews Christopher Hitchens. New blasphemy laws in Ireland, and the attack on an aging cartoonist by an Islamist, are part of the discussion:

Hitchens: Let’s do a brief thought experiment. I tell you the following: On New Year’s Eve, a man in his mid-seventies is having his granddaughter over for a sleep-over, his five-year old granddaughter. He is attacked in his own home by an axe-wielding maniac with homicidal intent. Your mammalian reaction, your reaction as a primate, is one of revulsion. I’m trusting you on this. [Laughs.]

MJT: Oh, yes. You are correct.

Hitchens: Then you pick up yesterday’s Guardian, one of the most liberal newspapers in the Western world, and there’s a long article that says, ah, that picture, that moral picture, that instinct to protect the old and the young doesn’t apply in this case. The man asked for it. He drew a cartoon that upset some people. We aren’t at all entitled to use our moral instincts in the correct way.

This is a sort of cultural and moral suicide, in my opinion. It’s not exactly comparable to the reaction of the church in Ireland which wants to make it illegal to criticize any religion, which in Ireland doesn’t really mean much more than one. Many Irish people I know are already publicly planning to break this law.

There you see, I have to say, a different phenomenon, maybe a different version of the same one, a claim of the right to protection against offense from a church that just lost at least two senior bishops who had to resign not because they had not thoroughly enough made themselves aware of the child abuse—why do we call it abuse? The rape and torture of children—where it seems from the Irish government’s report that only a minority of children were not made victims of this hideous iniquitous predation.

The same absurdity is present in both cases. These two religions make very large claims for themselves, that “without us you cannot get to heaven, and without us you will go to hell.” They claim the right to high, middle, and low justice over everything from public affairs to private morals. They make these immense claims for themselves and further say they should be immune from criticism. It’s not enough to be an absolutist party, but you’re not allowed to disagree. This is totalitarianism.