“You know, a cartoon is a small thing. It’s not The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
It’s not a big work. People get a pencil, they do a little sketch, and it’s in the paper the next day, and they forget about it. It’s a funny thing. It makes you laugh.
And the joke is an important signifier of society. A joke is a small thing, but it’s part of the societal glue. It’s what holds us together. Jokes are about recognition. When you tell a joke, people understand the social norms that are being mocked in it…
Now we live in a world though, where they don’t just end your career. These people are so serious about jokes — cartoons, gags — that they want to kill you for it.
And the correct attitude of all those people who intervened, all the politicians who spoke up and said ‘I deplore the offense that was given by this cartoon’ is completely wrong.
You should just say, ‘Look, we’re in a free society and we don’t regulate jokes here.’ […]
My friend Ezra Levant once observed that one day the Danish cartoon crisis would be seen as a more critical event than the attacks of September 11th.
He was wrong, obviously, in terms of the comparative death tolls, but he was absolutely right in what each revealed about the state of Western civilization in the 21st century.
In the long run, the ostensibly trivial matter of some not-terribly-good drawings in an obscure newspaper… will prove to be a more important signifier of the collapse of Western civilization than a direct, violent assault on the citadels of American power in Washington and New York.
Because if you provoke on the scale of 9/11, even Western civilization in its present decayed state will feel obliged to respond.
So yes, if they blow up St. Peters, if they blow up the Eiffel Tower, then yes, they’ll get a response.
But the cartoon crisis confirmed to our enemies that at heart we don’t really believe in ourselves anymore. That we won’t defend our core liberties, and that you can steal them from us one little bit at a time.”
Pulled from the inimitable Mark Steyn’s recent speech in Copenhagen to mark the decade anniversary of the Danish cartoon crisis. As a wise man recently noted, “It used to be that they came for the Jews first. Now it’s the cartoonists. Then the Jews.” Quite surreal, that.
I highly encourage you to check out Steyn’s speech below (and buy Charb’s newly minted, posthumously published book). Steyn is a truly first rate orator. If the pulled text gives you the sense that this is another dour, Doomsday-Is-Here rant about Western Civilization’s imminent collapse, then it’s giving off the wrong impression. Steyn is utterly hilarious, astonishingly articulate, and always fun to listen to. I think he’s the best raconteur and pure talker out there since Hitchens passed. For a sample, you can start here. Also, you can keep up with his daily output of writing — mostly on this topic, though also about his jazz cat album — at his website, steynonline.com.
- John Podhoretz and Jonah Goldberg riff on why defending freedom of speech often means defending controversial speakers
- Salman talks about why it’s normal to be offended sometimes
- Douglas Murray discusses why we have to defend liberty at home first