It is now three days since a European journalist was visited at his door by an assassin. For three days I have waited for any response to this.
But where are all the free-speech defenders? Where are all those brave blogs, papers and journals who like to talk about press freedom, human rights, freedom of expression, anti-extremism and so on? Where are all the campaigners? I have been scouring the internet and apart from Mark Steyn at National Review and Bruce Bawer at Frontpage, and a few other US conservative blogs, hardly anybody seems willing even to report events in Copenhagen on Tuesday.
What explanation can there possibly be for this silence? Allow me some guesses:
Lars Hedegaard is a 70 year old white conservative male who is critical of Islamic fundamentalism. He enjoys none of the currently approved ‘minority’ statuses that might have allowed more people to leap to his defence.
Two years ago Lars was outrageously put on trial in Denmark for discussing honour killings in his own home. Nothing he said should ever have been the subject of such a trial. As it was (and as the BBC and others were forced to correct in their reports) the charges against him were dismissed on appeal. But I know that a certain type of otherwise ‘brave’ journalist gets the heebie-jeebies thinking they might be even within a million miles of defending anyone who was once near a courtroom on speech-crime charges.
I can see the ‘liberal’ blogosphere contorting themselves over this. Yes, he was let off. Perhaps it was all fine. But isn’t it all a bit close? All rather uncomfortable? "I’m happy to defend freedom of speech, but it must be speech I absolutely agree with, otherwise it’s all off."
Then there remains the unknown identity of the attacker. The man who appeared at Hedegaard’s door has been described as ‘foreign’ looking. It remains eminently possible (as in the case of Pim Fortuyn’s assassin) that the person trying to kill Lars was not Muslim but was somebody whipped up by the lies and misrepresentations of much of the media into thinking they were doing a good deed. I have written already about this phenomena.
But the possibility that the assassin was a Muslim would make this even harder. Surely, in the contortions which the left has got itself into over Islamic fundamentalism, even reporting the possibility that a young Muslim tried to kill a journalist for his views would risk being a hate-crime in itself. Might not even reporting such a fact (if it becomes fact), or mentioning it, let alone deprecating it, not risk causing further tensions?
But there is one other crucial part of this near-unanimous cowardice. Might it not be the case – as the media suggested through their headlines – that as an ‘Islam-critic’ Lars Hedegaard might actually have brought this on himself? Very regrettable and all that, but it has been reported that he has started a new newspaper – Dispatch International – which some reports have described as ‘anti-Islam'. From a cursory look I cannot see that it is. It looks like it is trying to do the job that any mainstream paper would do if they weren’t all so terrified. Leaving alone whether Dispatch International is ‘anti-Islam’ or not, would people be so silent if it looked like an evangelical Christian assassin had just attempted to kill a European journalist because the journalist had published disobliging words about Christianity? I cannot help thinking such a case would lead to a considerable outbreak of ‘brave’ reporting.
Well to hell with them all. We live in a culture of cowards and hypocrites. Our public squares are packed with grandstanders who talk of human rights and freedoms, but when an assassin comes to a journalist's door they can’t even lift their fingers to their keyboards.
I am now going to take out a subscription to Dispatch International and hope people will join me in doing so here. If that is indeed why the assassin called, then let’s spread the risk around a bit. Let's make it the most gloriously widely-read publication out there. Since the attempt on his life, Lars has invited me to write pieces for Dispatch International and I have already told him that it will be a pleasure and an honour to do so.
What has happened to Lars Hedegaard was an attempt at the ultimate form of censorship. Many people have already shown that they take these lessons to mean they should be silent.
I suggest we go the other way. Solidarity used to be a virtue of the left. In the left’s absence I suggest we simply make it a virtue of the remaining free.