There’s a lot of gibbering out there nowadays about pens, swords, and the harmlessness of art and speech.
This is part of the modern dilemma: the denial that manifested thoughts exist in the real world, and are connected with everything else, rather than existing in a magic realm that is separate from reality.
The cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo are finding that freedom of speech is not actually an absolute right guaranteed by some mystical force of the universe, but a right promised by two easily murdered policemen. After those men protecting their rights died, two jihadis invaded their office and slaughtered everyone attending their weekly editorial meeting.
Further, the common reaction to this, at least in elite circles, has been to condemn the offense that publishers have given to Islamic populations. That different groups of citizens can be easily provoked to firebombing and slaughter is embarrassing to the pretenses of the French republic.
Any rights that anyone claims to have are ultimately put into place by infantry (you know, men carrying rifles, sidearms, and knives). You enforce your rights by putting little holes into the people who would contest those rights. If you are unable to put those little holes into your contestants, they are able to over-ride whatever pretenses to your laws and way of life that you may claim to have.
The approach that most contemporary writers have to speech is that language is a game with limited or no moral content. Freedom of speech is considered worthwhile insomuch as that speech is largely meaningless gibberish, or otherwise politically inoffensive.
Part of the defense of speech is that it is ‘just speech,’ with no moral content. Speech is dangerous, like bullets are dangerous, because speech is the precedent to all actions. While speech may not itself have much moral content, speech can lead to enormous mass-convulsions of society which lead to enormous amounts of violence, more than any solitary action can have.
The way that the notion of Lockean free-speech has been worked-around is to keep the calls to illegal violence below the legal limit — and right at the legal limit. By staying below that line, it has been possible to push the most violent sorts of revolution, to make possible violent acts, through persuasion which appears to be peaceful on the surface of it.
The free-speech-mewling also ignores the natural law context around it, which has been largely discarded by every modern state.
It is possible to argue for the forcible dispossession of an entire population in boring, convoluted, legalistic language. Because in democracy, public opinion has force, persuasive speech is laden with potential violence. The spaces for peaceful discourse must then shrink, because there is no ‘safe’ discussion — all discussion has the potential to lead to physical conflict without limits.
It is less Al Qaeda’s magazine publishers that make terror attacks easy to execute so much as it is the ‘moderates’ who create safe places for Muslims to extend their territory without overt aggression. They remain below the limits of forbidden speech, but change the legal climate by putting pressure on the wall of their chamber.
Further, particularly in Europe, where there is a weaker free-speech tradition, it is really more of a pretense to free-speech, because that freedom is not observed for political opponents, who are jailed, have property seized, or are otherwise suppressed for arguing their point of view.
In this case, the Muslims slaughtered the cartoonists, curbing an annoyance for the French state, without that state having to lift a finger itself. Perhaps the influential men behind that state would have preferred a less dramatic assault, because this will certainly cause more disorder for that country than might have occurred otherwise.
The fighters today merely re-affirmed their existing victory. It is already arguably ‘hate speech’ to depict the Prophet. They were simply enforcing the existing edict by eliminating the artists who violated Islamic law. Because the republican police died in the skirmish, the foreigners were able to impose their vision of the law upon the French. To the extent that the French are unwilling and unable to resist the foreigners, they will be subordinated to the competing vision for civilization represented by Islam.
It is really that simple: the pretenses to liberalism can be disrupted by small metal objects measuring 7.62 mm in diameter hurled forth at 715 m/s. Goodbye pretenses. Goodbye debating-hall rights. Goodbye constitution. Bonjour, soumission.