Category Archives: free speech

Should condoning terrorism be a crime?

Repellent as condoning it may be, writes Dalrymple,

I do not think so. I am not even sure about incitement. After all, everyone is normally held (until proven otherwise) to be responsible for his own acts, and it seems to me a poor defence to a wicked deed that someone else encouraged me to do it, even if I was the part of a mob at the time being whipped up to frenzy by a demagogue. There is no better way to infantilise people than to make others responsible for their acts.

He is willing, however, to be persuaded otherwise on the question.

I might concede that I am being psychologically unrealistic in expecting everyone to be able to resist the siren-song of accomplished hate-mongers. And if at the time of the Salman Rushdie affair the British authorities had taken a more robust stance towards those who marched through British streets calling for Salman Rushdie’s death, it is even possible that the world might have been saved quite a lot of trouble. The episode pretty clearly revealed how lukewarm or feeble was our defence of free speech when it was seriously threatened by a determined enemy.

New-look Little Mermaid (warning: satanic content)

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 20.02.51Dalrymple chuckles at the cartoon pictured right, which is from Le Canard enchaîné. He notes that the verb relouquer

brings to mind reluquer, which means to ogle — doubtless a play on words.

He also likes the ‘Mahomet overwhelmed by the fundamentalists’ cover of Charlie Hebdo (‘It’s hard sometimes, being loved by these cretins’).

From the outset of the Danish cartoons crisis, Dalrymple points out, the French

have vigorously defended the right of free expression, unlike the British and Americans, whose pretence that they ‘understand’ Muslim outrage has fooled no one and given the fanatics the (correct) impression of weakness and lack of conviction — and thus encouraged them.

Le Canard enchaîné and Charlie Hebdo have

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 19.44.37with Voltairean aplomb published a series of cartoons mocking the Islamists and their beliefs as they deserve, with a courage and frankness almost entirely missing from the British and American media. They have inflicted a humiliation on the Islamists, in the best possible way, by exposing their intellectual nullity to withering scorn.


no one can accuse the two papers of racism, xenophobia, or any of the other crimes of lèse-PC, since they criticise and mock everyone (who deserves it) without fear or favour.

Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 20.40.44The French emerge

as far stauncher and more fearless and unapologetic defenders of freedom than the Americans or the British. They have stuck to an important principle without calculation of immediate interest or even short-term consequences.

The French

find the equivocations of the Anglo-Saxons strange, spineless, and reprehensible, and in this instance they are absolutely right.


Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 20.39.47

The Western idea of a free Press

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 01.54.59Perhaps no tyranny in history, Dalrymple writes,

has enjoyed such a good Press, and for so long, as Cuba under the Castro boys. When it comes to Cuba, restrictions on freedom of opinion, thought and expression, which have been both severe and long-lasting, are deemed by liberals to be unimportant, of no fundamental significance in their assessment of the regime.

Meanwhile the Brooklyn Museum

has only to be prevented from showing pictures of the Virgin Mary surrounded by blobs of elephant dung — without any private institution being prohibited from showing them — for the cry of ‘Intolerable censorship!’ to go up.

The Holy Virgin Mary. Chris Ofili, 1996. Oil, elephant dung, polyester resin, glitter, collaged pornographic images.

The Holy Virgin Mary. Chris Ofili, 1996. Oil, elephant dung, polyester resin, glitter, collaged pornographic images

Mohammedan and infidel ambivalence

Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 02.40.49Dalrymple says he has found himself swinging like a pendulum between taking Islam as a threat seriously and not taking it seriously.

Reasons for taking Islamism seriously

  • much of humanity is Muslim
  • an aggressive and violent minority has emerged in that population with apparently very widespread, if largely passive, approval
  • the leadership of Western countries is very weak and vacillating in the face of this, or any other, challenge

Screen Shot 2013-12-28 at 02.11.14Reasons for not taking it seriously

  • in the modern world, Islam is intellectually nugatory
  • the disproportion in power between the rest of the world and the Islamic world appears to be growing rather than contracting
  • behind the bluster about the certain possession of the unique, universal and divinely ordained truth is anxiety that the edifice of Islam, while strong, is brittle, explaining why free enquiry is so limited in Islamic countries
  • free philosophical and historical debate could quickly and fatally undermine the hold of Islam on various societies. Fundamentalism might be a manifestation of weakness

Ethics 101

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Moralist                               Moral myope