Following the butchery at the Paris magazine Charlie Hebdo, we are in the middle of another blizzard of post-facto hash-tag bravery. All over the Internet there are whole mobs holding up little signs: “I am Charlie Hebdo,” “We are Charlie Hebdo.” The idea, I presume, is to broadcast their commitment to the Western idea of freedom of speech and the press. Let’s put it plainly: The solidarity would have been a lot more impressive, more persuasive, some time before this week’s mass butchery.
Indeed, at our universities, newspapers and broadcasters, we have seen an ever-shrinking defence of free speech, a timid reluctance to take on those who claim special privilege to shut down those they simply don’t like. The great institutions of the West, the press and the universities, have been at best complicit and at worst cowardly when it comes up to defending freedom of speech — not from threats of Islamist fanatics with guns, but in much less demanding circumstances.
Where was this “we” when a video critical of Islam was mendaciously identified as the “cause” of the terror attack on Benghazi? Where was “we” when Hillary Clinton went on Pakistani television to declaim against this “reprehensible” video and revile its maker, and at the Benghazi victims’ funerals said: “We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with.” Where was “we” when the filmmaker was arrested, while to this day the butchers of Benghazi roam the Earth unmolested?
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