Jebus! Here’s the Roll of Shame: six writers who took a misguided stand against Charlie Hebdo, apparently not understanding what the magazine was all about:
What did they do? According to an article in yesterday’s New York Times, these writers “[withdrew] as literary hosts at the group’s annual gala on May 5, adding a new twist to the continuing debate over the publication’s status as a martyr for free speech.” At that gala, the magazine will receive the 2015 PEN/Toni and James C. Goodale Freedom of Expression Courage Award, an award that apparently hurt the tender feelings of those six. Other writers, like Deborah Eisenberg, didn’t withdraw but also criticized Charlie Hebdo for “denigrating portrayals of Muslims.” Sorry, but the magazine published denigrating portrayals of Islamic belief, which Eisenberg simply gets wrong, mistaking criticism of a faith—or of bad behavior of its adherents—with hatred of people.
Here are their reasons for not showing up:
In an email to PEN’s leadership on Friday, Ms. Kushner said she was withdrawing out of discomfort with what she called the magazine’s “cultural intolerance” and promotion of “a kind of forced secular view,” opinions echoed by other writers who pulled out.
Mr. Carey, in an email interview yesterday, said the award stepped beyond the group’s traditional role of protecting freedom of expression against government oppression.
“A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom-of-speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about?” he wrote.
He added, “All this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”
. . . In an essay for The New Yorker’s website after the attack, Mr. Cole noted that the magazine claimed to offend all parties, but in fact in recent years “has gone specifically for racist and Islamophobic provocations.” (Mr. Cole declined to comment for this article.)
Seriously, “racist and Islamophobic provocations”? The word “provocation” clearly implies that the magazine is somehow responsible for what happened to its employees. And as for “racism,” well, Muslims are not a race but a religion. And I wonder if Cole would have written his essay had Charlie Hebdo made fun only of Catholicism and Christianity rather than Islam. Where’s the criticism of “Catholicphobia”? Chalk one up for New Yorker’s “let’s-not-offend-anyone-except-Republicans” attitude.
All of this, I think, rests on a deep misunderstanding of the magazine’s aims, which were to satirize Islam (along with every other religion), but also to stand up for the rights of minorities and immigrants in France, regularly mocking the French Right. Combine that with the hyprocritical Leftist double-standard of coddling Islam because it’s a “minority group” comprising people of color, and you get this kind of stupid behavior.
Andrew Solomon, the president of PEN International, was also surprised, saying this: “We all knew this was in some ways a controversial choice,” he said. “But I didn’t feel this issue was certain to generate these particular concerns from these particular authors.”
Garry Trudeau, whom I no longer admire, also belongs on this list after excoriating Charlie Hebdo for hate speech and for “punching down.” One can almost read Trudeau’s remarks as blaming the magazine itself for the murderous attack by terrorists.
The saddest thing is that PEN International has always promoted freedom of expression. That is, in fact, one of its goals. Here’s a statement from their website (my emphasis):
International PEN, the worldwide association of writers, was founded in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual cooperation among writers everywhere; to emphasize the role of literature in the development of mutual understanding and world culture; to fight for freedom of expression; and to act as a powerful voice on behalf of writers harassed, imprisoned, and sometimes killed for their views.
Thank Ceiling Cat that Salman Rushdie, a voice of sanity who himself continues to experience the same threats that decimated Charlie Hebdo, made a statement supporting PEN’s ideals:
. . . Salman Rushdie, a former PEN president who lived in hiding for years after a fatwa in response to his novel “The Satanic Verses,” said the issues were perfectly clear. Mr. Ondaatje and Mr. Carey were old friends of his, he said, but they are “horribly wrong.”
“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”
PEN issued a statement extolling Charlie Hebdo but respecting the Shameful Six for their “convictions”, misguided as they were. And the PEN statement gets the aims of the magazine right:
But, based on their own statements, we believe that Charlie Hebdo‘s intent was not to ostracize or insult Muslims, but rather to reject forcefully the efforts of a small minority of radical extremists to place broad categories of speech off limits—no matter the purpose, intent, or import of the expression.
Once again we see the cognitive dissonance produced on the Left between its Enlightenment values of free expression and of desire to protect the rights of minorities. But those values never included prohibition of criticizing “minority faiths.” The attitude of those six writers, and of their running dogs, threatens to do in all Enlightenment values, values opposed by the extremists that attacked Charlie Hebdo and the many Muslims who silently support them.
As Rushdie said, the Shameful Six are simply and horribly wrong.