Editor’s Note: I got the idea for this watching “Morning Joe” on MSNBC. Mika Brzezinski was trying to defend a statement her father, a former advisor in the Carter Administration, had made in the press about the need to do something about satire that offends people. Mika did a rather poor job of defending her father, probably because her heart really wasn’t in it.

The Standard for the ‘But Squads’ Should Be Zero Tolerance


As an atheist, I’m grateful for a Constitution that protects my right to live safely as a godless heathen. The First Amendment allows me to write things that, in less-civilized countries, might be illegal or could get me killed. And, because this isn’t a theocracy, blasphemy and irreverence are sectarian concepts, rather than legal matters.

During his HBO talk show, host Bill Maher compared Islam to the Mafia, and pointed out that, when a comic makes fun of Catholics, the Vatican doesn’t dispatch its Swiss Guards to kill him; however, the same can’t be said of Muslims. This supports one of his oft-stated contentions: “Our Western culture isn’t just different from theirs. It’s better.”

The Paris massacre illuminates this idea. When Charlie Hebdo poked fun at Jews, Catholics, atheists and Protestants, those groups didn’t resort to violence. Among the world’s major religions, only Islam has asserted an obligation to kill blasphemers. Even the godless North Korean communists, who hacked Sony’s computers when its movie “The Interview” disrespected their Beloved Leader, drew the line at cybercrime.

The Muslim attack against our sister democracy has put the French in a whole new light. You have to admire the fact that they didn’t cower the way Sony did when threatened by North Korea. World War II veterans must be surprised that the Japanese cravenly caved in to Kim Jong-un, while the French have been brave and defiant.

However, some in the media are already intimating that, although the Charlie Hebdo murders were a brutal crime against humanity, the victims somehow brought it on themselves. Novelist Salman Rushdie, who’s endured decades of threats from Islamists, has labeled those who blame the victims for criminal behavior the “But Squads.”

When pro-life fanatics bomb women’s clinics or shoot clinic patients, social-conservative But Squads often condemn such violence, but this is inevitably followed by something along the lines of, “but we understand how righteous outrage could have brought this on.” Similarly, liberals who like to “blame America first” often excuse terrorism by blaming U.S. foreign policy that causes poverty or provokes “the Arab street.”

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski claims America needs to reconsider what types of satire should be protected speech and re-examine the value of “appalling” cartoons “directed at the prophet himself.” Brzezinski’s attitude is exactly what Muslim radicals — whose goal is to compel us to be more like them — are seeking. And who should be drawing the lines we’re not allowed to cross … the Jihadis?

An interesting dichotomy has developed among Catholic leaders. The constantly surprising (in a good way) Pope Francis condemned the attack and also prayed for the perpetrators, as befits a compassionate Christian. Then he met with four imams to sign a joint declaration that stated, “Without liberty of expression, clearly the world is in danger.” Clearly His Holiness is not a member of the But Squad.

On the other hand, the head of the Catholic League, William Donohue, blames the victims, citing “the intolerance [of Charlie Hebdo] that provoked this incident.” He said Muslims object to being insulted and “I am in total agreement with them.” Speaking ill of the dead, he called publisher Stephane Charbonnier “narcissistic,” and said, “It’s too bad he didn’t understand the role he played in his tragic death.”

As a longtime member of the But Squad, Donohue told “Newsweek” he’d disapprove if an outraged Christian murdered controversial artist Andres Serrano over his offensive photograph, “Piss Christ,” but it would be Serrano’s own fault for “producing filth.” Too bad Donohue doesn’t actually work for the Vatican, so the pontiff could fire him.

Donohue’s tolerance for killers puts him in good company with the Islamofascist British cleric Anjem Choudary, who regularly goes on TV to defend ISIS beheadings. Choudary has stated that “freedom of expression does not extend to insulting the prophets of Allah,” and recommends laws against “blasphemous images.” He advocates what Salman Rushdie has called “religious totalitarianism,” which has caused the phrase “respect for religion” to evolve into “fear of religion.”

If you believe in only the free speech you like, you don’t really believe in free speech. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a controversial critic of Islam, had her invitation to speak at Brandeis University rescinded, because leftist coeds felt their desire not to listen to anything that might upset them took precedence over free expression. So they missed a chance to hear a woman who’s shown more bravery in the face of violent oppression than a whole sorority of immature, pampered feminists put together.

Politically correct students at Berkeley demanded that Bill Maher be disinvited as commencement speaker because they disapproved of his views on Islam, which they ludicrously characterized as “racist.” They failed to see the irony in the fact that Islam is not a race and Berkeley had once been the birthplace of the Free Speech movement (Maher spoke there anyway).

I’m glad I live in a nation where, despite right-wingers such as Donohue and spoiled, leftist college kids, I’m free to offend people’s faith, and they’re free to disparage my lack thereof. Despite America’s historical prudishness and puritanism, the Supreme Court and groups such as the ACLU have done a good job preserving the First Amendment. In the area of free speech, we should limit, as much as possible, the “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.”

Reuters recently reported that a Saudi cleric has issued a fatwa forbidding children from building snowmen, because this creates the image of a human being. Stories like this make me want to shout the paradoxical words of Michael Stivic from the 1970s sitcom “All in the Family” — “Thank God I’m an atheist!” And I also want to say “thank you” to the Founding Fathers for ensuring that I’m allowed to say so, at least for the moment.

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