Banning is not so simple
A letter to the editor last week featured an anguished appeal for religious respect from one of our county’s Muslim residents. One can’t disagree with the writer’s impulse to condemn outrageous and hurtful statements, but it is not so simple.
One supporting example of “correct action” the writer gave was that the German government censored attacks on Christianity. Unfortunately Europe, especially, Germany, provides bad historical examples of religious intolerance. Their version of political correctness has led to the banning of Muslim headscarves in France.
The other example, that an Atlanta newspaper didn’t publish political cartoons of a terrorist Christ (mocking religious violence), illustrates the essential difference between our approach and the Germans.’ Our government didn’t stop the Atlanta paper. It was a private decision.
The U.S. has had its own problems with hysteria over attacks on symbols. People burned American flags to protest the Vietnam War and, in reaction, a constitutional amendment was even proposed to ban this expression. Fortunately we sucked it up, and flag burnings, however infuriating, are still legal. Funny, we don’t seem to be plagued by them.
The reality is that millions of offensive words and pictures are available on the internet every day
to the world’s billions. Selecting a few items in this flotsam to become hysterical about leaves the offended a victim manipulated by anyone who pushes his buttons.
As John Steward Mill pointed out, censoring something, advertises it. The rioters against this latest awful film about Mohammed have caused its wide distribution.
In our highly interconnected world, we will inevitably all learn that, rather than begging or threatening people not to offend us, it’s more effective to just ignore them.