(updated below - Update II)
Jamie Kirchick of The New Republic and Commentary commented yesterday over at TNR on Bill Donohue's successful campaign to have Kathy Griffin's Jesus joke censored. In doing so, Kirchick shares with the world his fantasies about the Grave Threat to Our Freedoms posed by Muslims:
The perpetually-outraged Donohue does have a salient point, though I'm not sure he was conscious of making it: There certainly "would have been a very different reaction" had Griffin said, "Suck it, Muhammad." Not only would the liberal PC police be after her head (figuratively), but she would have a fatwa placed on her head (literally), would be placed under 24-hour armed guard and would have to limit any public appearances, if even make them at all. In other words, the Rushdie treatment.
That a comedian cannot make an innocent joke with the word "Muhammad" in it out of fear of getting killed -- and not a supposed ban on "blasphemy" against Catholics, who don't, as a matter of course, burn effigies, destroy buildings, or murder people when someone says or writes something they don't like -- seems to be the larger outrage.
Our Civilization Warriors like Kirchick -- last seen justifying multiple new Middle Eastern wars -- are either so fearful of Muslims or so eager to demonize them as the Greatest Threat Ever (and, in the process, depicting themselves as Brave and Courageous Warriors for Freedom) that they live in a world that exists only in their imagination. If there is one thing that exists in abundance, it is anti-Islamic commentary in the U.S. Does Kirchick's paranoid claims about what happens to the brave souls who express such thoughts bear any remote relationship to reality?
The largest right-wing bloggers, such as Michelle Malkin and Charles Johnson, devote themselves on a virtually daily basis to condemning Muslims and mocking Islam. During the "Mohammed cartoon" controversy, they repeatedly published the blasphemous cartoons. Malkin has a blogger on her Hot Air blog who derisively blogs under the name "Allah". Were fatwas issued against them? Are they living in seclusion, under 24-hour guard from the Grave Islamic Menace that lives in Kirchick's head?
Both of Kirchick's bosses -- Marty Peretz and Norm Podhoretz -- have made advocacy of wars against Muslims the centerpiece of their identity. Peretz's TNR blog is a virtual museum exhibiting on a daily basis every form of known anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry. Podhoretz openly "prays" for bombing campaigns against still more Muslim countires as part of what he calls "World War IV." Are they in hiding? Are they attacked during their endless public appearances? Are there fatwas on their heads?
Mark Steyn wrote a best-selling book warning that Europe was being destroyed by primitive, fast-breeding Muslims. Robert Spencer has now written at least six books attacking Islam, with titles such as "The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion," "Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions About the World's Fastest-Growing Faith," and "Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and the West." Steyn and Spencer are anything but in seclusion. And I missed the news reports about the bombings of bookstores carrying those tracts.
Countless politicians have devoted their public careers to crusades against the Islamic world. Rick Santorum's new mission in life is to convince Americans that "Islamic fascism" is the greatest threat ever. David Horowitz declared October 22-26 "Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week." Ann Coulter calls Muslims "ragheads" and threatens them with violence.
On CNN, Glenn Beck suggested that Keith Ellison should be deemed of suspect allegiance because he is Muslim. Congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia proudly declared that the Koran would never be displayed in his office, warned of the grave threat posed to the country from Muslim immigration, and demanded that Ellison be barred from using the Koran to be sworn into office. Dennis Prager argued the same thing.
Berkeley Breathed recently distributed multiple "Opus" cartoons mocking Islam and Muslims. Though several newspapers refused to publish them, Joan Walsh published all of the cartoons in Salon and explained why she did so. I'm pretty sure they're still alive and walking around without an army of bodyguards which Kirchick fantasizes is necessary for anyone who Dares Speaks Out.
Obviously, there is an extremist sect of Islam that is prone to violence, and there have been acts of violence or threats of violence directed against those perceived to have offended Islam, with some truly outrageous and tragic results. The same is true for Christianity, Judiaism and many other religions. And while one can, if one is so inclined, engage in the rather adolescent exercise of claiming that "one side does it more," the very notion peddled by Kirchick and his anti-Islamic warmongering bosses -- that one cannot speak out against Muslims or make a joke about Islam without endangering one's life, and that Americans live in fear of uttering any comments against Muslims -- is fear-mongering and/or paranoia of the highest order.
People like Kirchick and the pro-war right-wing movement of which he is a part are so desperate to believe they are threatened by a Grave Enemy -- and thus to perceive themselves as courageous Civilization warriors standing down mortal dangers (from their living rooms), and as exuding what Kirchick recently described, self-glorifyingly, as "grit" for fighting this Grave Threat to Civilization -- that they literally invent fantasy worlds of scary, existential, domestic Islamic armies and widespread intimidation campaigns.
Their need to victimize themselves and demonize some Enemy is impossible to overstate. American Muslims live in isolated enclaves, with their communities far and away the most common targets of all the new surveillance powers Kirchick and his comrades have vested in the federal government. There is a grand total of 1 Muslim member of Congress out of 535.
By contrast, entire television networks and talk radio shows and huge political blogs and our country's dominant political party are devoted to a platform of opposing Islam. Yet in Kirchick's mind, it is Muslims who are the all-powerful, oppressing faction, while he and his friends live in tragic oppression under the tyrannical rule of the "liberal PC police" and violent Islamic armies who punish any anti-Islamic commentary, with stigma if not with beheadings. As his comments yesterday demonstrate, that really is the world he inhabits.
They freely traffic on a daily basis in the most strident anti-Muslim commentary with no consequences of any kind, yet simultaneously insist, with operatic melodrama, that anyone who does so is subject to fatwas and must live in seclusion, fearing for their lives. And, of course, whole new wars -- as well as endless expansions of government power -- are justified, actually compelled, by these imaginary threats.
UPDATE: Both Kirchick's post, along with a comment from Paul Rosenberg, bring to mind what might have been the single most tragically hilarious post ever written -- from Ann Althouse, who justified the Bush administration's sadistic use of sensory-deprivation goggles on Jose Padilla by claiming: "Perhaps there is a fear that he will communicate in code by blinking."
As Berkeley Professor Brad DeLong said at the time: "Yes, our stupid-o-meter has been blown out by a gigantic stupidomagnetic pulse. And Ann Althouse is now the winner-for-life of the Stupidest Woman Alive contest." But as Kirchick's post demonstrates, there is, in general, no limit on the paranoia and raving fantasies that can be expressed when it comes to the Muslim Threat Within.
UPDATE II: Here is actor and comedian B.J. Novak (of "The Office") engaging in behavior which, in Jamie Kirchick's world, means that he has fatwas on his head and has to live in seclusion or face beheading at the hands of Muslim warriors and the "liberal PC police":
I wonder if the armies of bodyguards he is forced to hire impedes the show's filming schedule. And I hope that David Remnick understands the Mortal Islamic Danger he has brought upon himself. If not, Jamie Kirchick would undoubtedly be eager to tell him about all of the frightening things certain to befall him any day now.