Free Speech vs. Hate Speech?

I wrote in Blaming Pamela Geller that many liberals are more critical of Ms. Geller than of the Muslim extremists who tried to murder her at the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Texas. Of course, for over-the-top leftism, you can’t beat the New York Times editorial board. They weighed in on the relative merits of Pamela Geller and the Islamic terrorists yesterday in an editorial titled “Free Speech vs. Hate Speech.”

Which is an error right off the bat. Hate speech is free speech. That is, with narrow exceptions that do not apply to Geller’s art exhibit, hate speech is constitutionally protected. The editorialists start off on the right foot:

There is no question that images ridiculing religion, however offensive they may be to believers, qualify as protected free speech in the United States and most Western democracies. There is also no question that however offensive the images, they do not justify murder, and that it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.

If they had quit there, it would have been their shortest and best editorial in a long time. Unfortunately, they continued:

But it is equally clear that the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest in Garland, Tex., was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom.

Really? And why is that clear? Remarkably, the editorialists never get around to telling us. This is the drawing that won the contest. It is all about free speech. The artist, a former Muslim, is now at an undisclosed location, having received a number of death threats:


The Times continues:

That distinction is critical because the conflicts that have erupted over depictions of the Prophet Muhammad, most notably the massacre of staff members at the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in January by two Muslim brothers, have generated a furious and often confused debate about free speech versus hate speech.

Once again, hate speech is free. But does anyone seriously think that the cartoon above constitutes “hate speech”?

The Times contrasts Pamela Geller with Charlie Hebdo. The difference is that Charlie Hebdo was anti-Christian, too. So they had that going for them:

Charlie Hebdo is a publication whose stock in trade has always been graphic satires of politicians and religions, whether Catholic, Jewish or Muslim. By contrast, Pamela Geller, the anti-Islam campaigner behind the Texas event, has a long history of declarations and actions motivated purely by hatred for Muslims.

Since that history is so long, the Times can easily cite some examples, right? Wrong.

Whether fighting against a planned mosque near ground zero, posting to her venomous blog Atlas Shrugs…

For venom, you can’t touch the New York Times editorial board.

…or organizing the event in Garland, Ms. Geller revels in assailing Islam in terms reminiscent of virulent racism or anti-Semitism.

She does? Let’s see some quotes.

She achieved her provocative goal in Garland — the event was attacked by two Muslims who were shot to death by a traffic officer before they killed anyone.

So Pamela’s goal was to get someone killed. She’s just like the terrorists in that regard, apparently.

Those two men were would-be murderers. But their thwarted attack, or the murderous rampage of the Charlie Hebdo killers, or even the greater threat posed by the barbaric killers of the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, cannot justify blatantly Islamophobic provocations like the Garland event. These can serve only to exacerbate tensions and to give extremists more fuel.

But terrorist attacks do justify acts of resistance like the Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest. Freedoms that are not exercised are lost. And one thing Pamela Geller is not, is Islamophobic. Many people are afraid of Islam, including, I suspect, some members of the Times editorial board. But Pamela isn’t.


Some of those who draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad may earnestly believe that they are striking a blow for freedom of expression, though it is hard to see how that goal is advanced by inflicting deliberate anguish on millions of devout Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism.

Anguish? Good grief. There have been countless depictions of Mohammed, over thirteen centuries. This one shows Mohammed ascending into Heaven:


The Times concludes:

As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.

Great argument! We never did see an instance of the supposedly ubiquitous hate that Pamela Geller expresses toward Muslims (not terrorists, Muslims).

Actually, the Times editorial confirms Geller’s point: Islamic extremists want any criticism of Islam–really, any objective discussion of Islam–to be prohibited. In a diverse democratic society, one ideology cannot be favored over others in this manner, and yet there are many who are willing to accede to the extremists’ demands. Pamela Geller has stood up to them as much as she has to the terrorists.