Strength in Numbers

In the most recent episode of The Simpsons, Bart had something topical to write on the blackboard: “South Park–We’d stand beside you if we weren’t so scared.”

Even for The Simpsons (a show that hasn’t contained a valid satirical thought in years) that gesture is unbelievably stupid, morally bankrupt, and utterly hypocritical in the truest sense of the word. The principle, which Bill O’Reilly shares, is basically this: Free speech is extremely important, except when someone makes a threat, in which case we should do whatever the terrorist says, regardless of our values.

As Matt Stone explains, this has become “the new normal” in the wake of the Danish cartoon controversy in 2005.

If everyone would have just–like normally they do in the news organizations–just printed the cartoons, everyone would have rallied together. Now that guy [the cartoonist] has to be in hiding and all this shit, because everyone just hung him out to dry.

The only reason that South Park’s creators have to be scared–the only reason that Theo Van Gogh was targeted, the only reason that Ayaan Hursi Ali needs protection–is that no one else is standing up. When a few people are singled out, there is the potential for violence. If everyone would show a little backbone, then no one could be targeted. Ali recently said as much to Anderson Cooper, and this same idea is at work in Dan Savage’s recently-announced “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”

In that same Anderson Cooper piece, Revolution Muslim’s Younus Abdullah Mohammed says that his group is “commanded to terrorize the disbelievers… I define terrorism as making them fearful, so that they think twice before they go rape your mother, or kill your brother, or go onto your land and try to steal your resources.” To the best of my knowledge, Mohammed’s mother is quite safe, so I assume that he is referring to the United States’ military presence in Muslim countries. Well, this business with depictions of Muhammad isn’t likely to end the American wars of occupation in the Middle East, so in that sense, Mohammed’s tactics have been a miserable failure.

But Revolution Muslim has apparently succeeded in making people fearful, and in that sense their terrorist threats have been a rousing success. There is one law of Sharia that American non-Muslims now follow, zealously, out of pure cowardice. Bill O’Reilly, and the team behind that moment on The Simpsons, and everyone else refusing to speak out, is making terrorism work. What an excellent use of their media presences.

If you don’t want to live in a world in which your values (whatever they might be) are only one threat away from being abandoned, then now is the time to take a stand.

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