Jonah Goldberg

The fame-hungry pastor prattles about how torching the Koran is an act of resistance to the "Islamification" of America. Come on. Yes, the left has an infuriating double standard by which devout Muslims are delicate flowers who must be defended from American "Islamophobia" and wildly overhyped "anti-Muslim backlash," while far less illiberal and bigoted (by liberal standards) devout American Christians are to be feared, mocked and opposed. But that's a product of the internal inanities of multiculturalism and political correctness, not the creeping Islamification of America.

Michael Graham is correct when he says that Jones isn't culpable for murder -- the guilt falls squarely on those with blood on their hands.

But he and others also say there's nothing wrong with burning the Koran. This represents an astonishing evolution in the right's attitude toward free speech that has been unfolding for the last decade or so. Traditionally, the conservative argument about free expression went like this: "Yes, you have the right to say (or do) X, but that doesn't mean you should say it, and it doesn't mean I can't criticize it."

Burning the Bible, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" or, yes, the Koran, is a shameful and brutish act. And failure to criticize it can sometimes be legitimately, or at least predictably, interpreted as an endorsement.

That said, conservatives have been admirably consistent in their new free-speech absolutism. In 2007, Dinesh D'Souza claimed in "The Enemy at Home" that liberals were to blame for 9/11 because their cultural licentiousness aroused Muslim hatreds. Conservatives rejected the thesis almost unanimously on the grounds that blaming our freedoms for Muslim terror is absurd and dangerous.

The analysis is still correct. But that doesn't mean there's "nothing wrong" with indefensible speech -- on the left or the right.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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