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The Freedom To Offend

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

Imagine a world where you can be punished for simply offending someone. That world exists, and people are paying thousands of dollars a semester for the privilege of walking on eggshells for four years. But it’s not just colleges where these delicate flowers grow; the outrage brigade is everywhere.


Two major American universities, the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland, caved to pressure from a tiny minority of students who demanded their will be forced on everyone. The schools canceled, at least temporarily, public screenings of the movie “American Sniper” because these emotional Fabergé eggs deemed it offensive and racist.

It’s so stupid on its face as to cast doubt on these universities’ admission standards. But that these children would demand such action isn’t as disturbing as the fact anyone employed by these schools would do anything other than laugh them out of their office.

But this is the new normal, not only on campuses, but across the country. If it offends, it must go; it must be banned.

Not all things are subject to banning, and not all groups are deemed “more equal” so as to be above offending. But this progressive “protected class” is large and growing.

The progressive putsch to protect against hurt feelings extended this week to a crusade against the concept of freedom of speech. In the ultimate act of irony, this jihad was spearheaded by the media.

The very people who wrap themselves in the First Amendment spent a large portion of the week trashing it when it was applied to someone they don’t like.

When terrorists, either inspired or ordered by ISIS (it doesn’t really matter which), attempted to murder everyone at an event in Garland, Texas, where people were committing the unforgivable sin of putting pencil to paper in a way that offends them, the ire of the media was directed at…event organizers.


The Washington Post actually had a story about the attack under the headline, “Event organizer offers no apology after thwarted attack in Texas.” Written by the Post’s “social change reporter” (I’m not making that up), the “journalist” writes the event organizer “knew what she was doing when she staged the controversial event featuring irreverent depictions of the prophet Muhammad…”

The organizer, Pamela Geller, “knew what she was doing?” Well, she did hire extra security because when you draw Mohammad there is a good chance some radical Islamist terrorist will try to kill you. But should that mean you shouldn’t hold the event? Should you cower to terrorism?

The sad thing was there were two terrorists who tried and failed to kill people who attended the event (they’re dead now, which is good for humanity), but there were dozens of media outlets and personalities who attacked the event for simply existing.

Many media outlets, including the Post, cited “experts” from the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center to attack Geller. The SPLC’s Heidi Beirich was quoted as saying, “Pamela Geller has every right to hold this event. And she should be able to do that — as ugly as others, including me, think it is — without facing any type of violence.”

That would be fine if she stopped there, but she didn’t stop there. She continued, “I think decent people would say: ‘Why would you need to do that?’”


That’s the same attitude I have toward climbing Mt. Everest, but I’d never think to ban it.

The Southern Poverty Law Center lists Geller as an “extremist,” which is ironic since she’s only been on the receiving end of an attempted terrorist attack, and the SPLC has inspired a terrorist attack against the Family Research Council.

The SPLC and Washington Post weren’t alone in their hypocrisy. A New York Times foreign correspondent who, according to her Twitter bio, focuses on Islamic extremism, tweeted, “Free speech aside, why would anyone do something as provocative as hosting a "Muhammad drawing contest"?

Resident racist at CNN and Huffington Post Marc Lamont Hill similarly opined, “I understand and respect free speech. But to organize hate speech events, purely because you're legally allowed to, is disgusting.”

Neither of those people “understand” or “respect” free speech when it deviates from speech they find acceptable. Hill, also a college professor (which explains a lot when you think about it) offended me as a Baltimore resident when he not only refused to condemn the riot in the city, but also said “I think we should be strategic in how we riot.” But I’d never say he shouldn’t have said it because that’s what he thinks, or as close to thinking as he gets, nor would I call for him being fired (he’s on CNN and HuffPo, which is like whispering into the Grand Canyon already).


Our nation is stronger because a constitutional law professor at Harvard can write the sentence, “One goal of the provokers in Texas seems to have been sending a message to Muslims that their faith may be criticized with impunity,” as dumb as it is.

These arbiters of appropriate speech would never think to criticize the billboards that pop up every Christmas by atheist groups condemning Christians for their beliefs because they’re too busy nodding in agreement with the sentiments they convey. But it’s deeper than that; they’re cowards.

You can call Jesus pretty much anything you want and armed gunmen won’t show up to shoot you for it; you’ll probably even get on TV. But put pen to paper to draw a stick figure and call it Mohammad, and they’ll lead the chorus condemning you for your insensitivity. If you’re lucky you may even live long enough to hear it.

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