Monday, February 08, 2010

Like Dominos . . .

The stories of Westerners surrendering their freedoms -- the freedom of speech, of religion, of free association, and so on -- in the face of intimidation by ideologues of sundry sorts are now so prevalent that it is easy to get the feeling that, unless something is done to reverse the trend, in very short order we will cease to be the culture that gave these freedoms to the world.

Professor Barry Rubin is exercised, as he should be, by the cancellation of yet another scholarly address, rationalized by the fear that it might offend (in this case, as in many others) certain Muslims.
Jake Witzenfeld, president of Cambridge University's Israel Society, canceled a talk by Benny Morris, an Israeli scholar, apologizing for any "unintended offense." "I decided to cancel for fear of the Israel Society being portrayed as a mouthpiece of Islamophobia," he said. "We understand that whilst Professor Benny Morris' contribution to history is highly respectable and significant, his personal views are, regrettably, deeply offensive to many....”

Mr. Witzenfeld should resign his position immediately since by leading a pro-Israel group he will no doubt be portrayed as all sorts of slanderous things and give offense to people. After all, the existence of Israel itself is “offensive” to many Muslims and others, which is not a reason for wiping it out, presumably. As Witzenfeld might know, pro-Israel groups have been banned on British campuses before and perhaps this is what he fears.

As for giving offense, his cowardice offends me, if that's his criterion for making decisions. Hopefully, someone less fearful can be found to head the society.
How many of these stories will we have to read before we realize that the culture that raised before the world the banner of freedom is busily rolling it up out of pure, undisguised cowardice? Rubin continues:
But what is most shocking about this travesty is Witzenfield's phrase “being portrayed as.” In other words, the mere fear that someone might claim that you are racist or Islamophobic—even if you know you aren’t and even if you know the speaker isn’t--is now a cause to refuse to hear a speaker or discuss an idea in the United Kingdom. Following the Witzenfield rule, any serious discussion of Middle East politics, terrorism, religion, and lots of other subjects should be banned since there are definitely those who will portray opinions they don't like as hateful, offensive, and racist (even if they have nothing to do with race).

What does the kind of behavior evidenced at Cambridge--and many other recent examples can be cited-- do but turn slander into a very effective weapon, indeed an irresistible weapon. Now if Muslims or leftists or antisemites or anti-Americans don’t like someone or something they can just attack him or her or it—even proving the accusations have some basis in truth is not important—and destroy their ability to speak to an audience.

This began with the refusal to admit Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician, to the United Kingdom and it is spreading to the point where the basic rights taken for granted by people living in democratic societies are now in jeopardy, at least in Western Europe. Wilders himself is now on trial in the Netherlands for using his right of speech. . . .
Cliche though it is, Edmund Burke's admonition hasn't lost any of its pertinence: All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Today we have learned to rationalize our cowardice with rhetorically vacuous platitudes. Our children and grandchildren will pay the price for our timidity.

1 comment:

Athos said...

The phrase that comes to mind is very biblical: "for they were afraid of the people" (Lk 22,2). The power of the mob, the hoard, the crowd is the essence of clout, and the Scimitar's clout is being made manifest in the cowering of the leaders of the secular West.

Of course, this cowering isn't called "cowering". It called most often not offending, with the concomitant accusation, "I am offended by ..." Perish the thought that we shd offend those who own our source of petro-energy.

If the West did not run on Middle Eastern oil-fields, we aren't having any of this falderal. On the other hand, the mess created by the secularization of the West wouldn't be "fixed" either. Perhaps our one hope is that the erosion of our freedoms will startle the West and awaken what remnants of virtue, faith, and honor may still remain in our fawning and obsequious soul.