Brendan O’Neill

Western liberals who banned Eagles of Death Metal are doing Isis’s dirty work

Western liberals who banned Eagles of Death Metal are doing Isis's dirty work
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If you want to know how lost Europe is, how thoroughly it has abandoned freedom of speech, get this: two French music festivals have banned Eagles of Death Metal, the American rock band whose gig at the Bataclan was turned into a bloodbath by Isis last November, after the lead singer said some dodgy things about Muslims.

Yes, six months after they watched and heard 89 of their fans being slaughtered by Isis for the crime of engaging in ‘perversity’, Eagles of Death Metal are now being shut down by festival organisers for saying allegedly perverted things about Islam. Isis must be delighted: Western liberals are doing their dirty work for them; they’re silencing the people Isis judged to be blasphemous; they’re completing Isis's act of terror.

The fuss kicked off last week when Jesse Hughes, the singer, said iffy stuff about Islam. In an interview with Taki’s Mag — founded by this magazine’s Taki — Hughes stated his belief that Muslim workers at the Bataclan knew about the attack and helped the killers get in the building. He also claims to have seen Muslims celebrating the massacre on the streets of Paris. ‘I saw it with my own eyes.’ And he reckons everyone should lay off conservative Christians — who are blamed for ‘everything in the world’ — and instead subject Muslims in the West to greater scrutiny.

For saying these things, his band have been expelled from two French festivals due to take place in August: the Rock en Seine and the Cabaret Vert. The organisers said, ‘As we are in total disagreement with Jesse Hughes’ recent allegations… [we] have decided to cancel the band’s performance’. So you can only play at these festivals if the organisers agree with your views on Islam, Muslims, terrorism and other hot issues? If you think and say the right thing as decreed by the festival overlords? That’s a bit stiff for a music festival, no?

Of course many will disagree with Hughes’ views. I do. I think he sounds rather paranoid. But here’s the thing: why wouldn’t he? Stop the press: man who fled for his life from Islamist gunmen, and heard the wails of his fanbase as they were mown down by those Islamist gunmen, is not a massive fan of Islam. Man who saw people killed in the name of Islam has hang-ups about Islam. That seems reasonable to me. He’s distressed, pissed off, and he’s saying it out loud, as is his right.

The fact that Hughes is wrong, and maybe shocking, is no justification for punishing him. And that’s exactly what the expulsion of his band from those festivals represents: a nasty punishment, a severe rapping on the knuckles for the crime of having been offensive, for having said scurrilous things about Islam and its adherents. Hughes and his band are being cast out as blasphemers. The censorious message is clear: cross the line, say outré things, ridicule Islam too much, and you’ll be sent packing from respectable cultural circles.

This all points to something quite terrifying: the similarity, the interplay, between lefty liberals’ moral cowardice and Islamic radicals’ violent urges. Western liberals are intellectually intolerant of anyone who disses the Islamic faith, branding them ‘Islamophobes’ and sometimes marshalling the law to deal with them; and Islamic radials are violently intolerant of anyone who disses the Islamic faith, shooting them at their desks, in the case of Charlie Hebdo, or blowing them up in the Bataclan in the case of the Eagles gig.

There’s a shared worldview here, between the decent liberal and the gun-toting Islamist: both agree that ridicule of Islam is intolerable and must be punished, whether by censure or violence. Isis justified its attack on the Bataclan by arguing that the band and its fans were anti-Islam: they were ‘idolaters’, it said, gathered for a ‘party of perversity’. And now that band is punished once again for being anti-Islam, for being outrageous about Islam, for being ‘perverse’, only this time by French cultural bigwigs rather than Islamist killers. These festival censors have done what Isis wanted to: they’ve prevented a perverse, un-Islamic rock group from gathering with its fans for a ‘party of perversity’.

Many people are appalled at the mindset of Islamists who think it’s legitimate to take up arms against cartoonists or writers who mock Islam or against everyday people who simply live in an un-Islamic way. But in a way, this is the Western mindset, this is the modern liberal mindset, which has created laws to punish Islamophobia and which shames and No Platforms and expels those who are stingingly critical of Islam. Their mindset is our mindset — that is the tragedy. We say ‘You can’t say that’; they take it one step further and say: ‘We’ll kill you for saying that.’