A ‘Rhineland moment’?
From David Jones Owen
Sir: You claim you will not publish the Danish cartoons because they are ‘juvenile’ and offensive (Leading article, 11 February). Does that mean that The Spectator will no longer publish silly cartoons with religious content, as it has done so often in the past? Or could it be that it is really the reaction to the offence that is causing you concern? You seem to allude to that when you refer to the risks not only to editorial staff but also to others who would be in the firing line in such circumstances. So there we have it: liberty is precious and must be defended, but not at the cost of life. It’s a good job the generation of 1939 — or indeed Rushdie’s brave publishers — did not deploy the same shaky logic. If free speech is not to be exercised for fear of giving offence, what next? Many Islamists find democracy itself offensive and against the laws of Allah. Perhaps you would suggest we give up on our right to a free vote as well as to free speech?
It would be far better if the press followed Charles Moore’s sensible suggestion and arranged for multiple and simultaneous publication. I would go even further and propose a liberty emblem, incorporating a small and respectful depiction of leading figures from history including Mohammed. This could be incorporated in the masthead of all newspapers and magazines which wish to show solidarity with those who take a risk for free speech and would therefore be published on a daily or weekly basis. If we don’t publish we will be damned — eventually. This was our ‘Rhineland moment’ and unfortunately you seem to have flunked it, just like the appeasers of the 1930s.
David Jones Owen
From Eric Lightfoot
Sir: Thank you for a well-written, balanced and thought-provoking leading article. May I suggest copies are sent to all members of the Cabinet, to all the leaders of British Muslims — and more especially to all Church of England bishops?
Islam and the Cross
From David Eddyshaw
Sir: Charles Moore (The Spectator’s Notes, 11 February) says in passing that Muslims ‘oddly’ deny the crucifixion of Jesus. This is true but by no means odd; as I understand it, the power and justice of Allah make it inconceivable that he could permit one of his messengers to be killed. This reflects a profound difference between the Muslim and Christian concepts of God, and indeed of power and justice.
The limits of liberty
From Dennis Morris
Sir: Apropos Daniel Wolf’s article (‘Censorship wasn’t all bad’, 4 February) and the question of freedom becoming licence, there are two other quotations of Edmund Burke’s which are not only relevant to Mr Wolf’s arresting piece but also easy to remember. And though both date from 1777, bearing them in mind would probably stop many a political commentator appearing shallow. The first is, ‘Liberty too must be limited in order to be possessed’; and the second, ‘There is, however, a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.’
From Rodney Garrood
Sir: Rod Liddle’s confirmation that the Rolling Stones are less than bolshevik will come as a complete surprise to nobody, least of all, one suspects, the grand old men themselves (‘Blue-collar blues’, 11 February). There have been clues, among them a knighthood, an injury to Keith caused by falling off his library steps and, of course, a very early censorship of ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’ on The Ed Sullivan Show.
What drives Boris
From Alex Moulton
Sir: I was surprised to read that Boris Johnson, as a cyclist and historian, had not pondered on what had allowed the reduction of wheel size from the ordinary ‘penny-farthing’ with the crank drive to that of the conventional bicycle which he no doubt rides (Diary, 11 February). It is, of course, the chain drive with the larger chainwheel at the crank and a smaller sprocket at the hub which enables the revolution of the cranks to be independent of wheel size. The Starley ‘Safety’ incorporated this. Lord Hailsham was probably the first parliamentarian to enjoy the benefits of the yet further reduction of wheel size with the Moulton bicycle. He acquired this in 1964.
Moulton Bicycles, Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire
A Franco–Russian war
From David J. Kidd
Sir: I hope Jane Kelly is as unimpressed by the replies to her letter as I am (Letters, 11 February). Britain’s Liberal administration entered the 1914 war not to defend the country but to assist French revanchists and the Tsar’s imperialist pan-Slav expansion. In his 1920 book How the War Came Lord Loreburn, Lord Chancellor in the 1906 Campbell-Bannerman cabinet, summed it up thus: ‘We went to war in a Russian quarrel because we were tied to France in the dark.’ Foreign policy made in Petrograd and Paris sealed the fate of Englishmen and women.
David J. Kidd