“If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artist free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” —President John F. Kennedy
“We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth.” —President John F. Kennedy
A Guard against Tyranny
The First Amendment is the means by which Americans prevent their government from usurping their natural right to express themselves. Thomas Jefferson framed the matter thus: “In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” What Jefferson understood about human nature was that, someday, there would arrive upon the scene power-hungry advocates of despotism who would attempt to rob the people of their power, so they might wield it for themselves.
A Free Market of Ideas
In America, the state has no formal role in controlling the marketplace of ideas. Because of this, America has benefited. Sometimes, the only way to express a much-needed idea is in terms considered to be impolitic. And it is a good thing when somebody with the courage of his convictions expresses something that is not politically correct, to enlighten the public discourse. Banning disagreeable discourse would be tantamount to throwing away a valuable resource: ideas that may prove useful in illuminating significant problems that might otherwise go undetected. The worst decision-makers—from Pennsylvania Avenue to Wall Street to Main Street—have always been those who listen only to yes-men. Political correctness is, thereby, assured, but ineffective problem-solving is the predominant outcome.
In 1972, Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall sided with Earl Mosley, in Police Department of City of Chicago v. Mosley (1972). Mosley was charged with violating a law banning non-labor picketing near a school. Mosley had picketed because, according to him, the school had been practicing racial discrimination. Marshall held that Chicago could not legally differentiate between the speech it would permit and the speech it would restrict. Marshall opined as follows: “[T]he First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message, its ideas, its subject matter, or its content. To permit the continued building of our politics and culture, and to assure self-fulfillment for each individual, our people are guaranteed the right to express any thought, free from government censorship.”
Burning America’s National Symbol
During the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Gregory Lee Johnson, a member of the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade, desecrated the national emblem of the United States of America—the US flag! Johnson poured kerosene on the flag and set it aflame, as sycophants chanted offensive slogans. Although no onlookers were physically harmed, some witnesses claimed that they had been extremely insulted. One offended bystander, by the name of Daniel E. Walker, received international attention when he collected and buried the flag embers, according to military protocol, in his backyard.
Profane Desecration or Sacred Expression?
Johnson was charged with desecration of a venerated object and was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $2,000. The appeals process took the case to the US Supreme Court, which handed down its decision, in 1989, with a 5-4 ruling in favor of extending First-Amendment protection to the act of flag-burning. The Court ruled that Johnson’s flag-burning constituted expressive conduct. The Court reiterated its view that speech protection does not end at the spoken or written word, in light of such cases as Stromberg v. California (display of a red flag as speech) and Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District (wearing of a black armband as speech). The flag may be a venerated national emblem, but the Court rejected the idea that flag burning is punishable, due to the risk of inciting a breach of the peace. The Court cited the test case of Brandenburg v. Ohio that held that the state may only punish speech that is assured of inciting “imminent lawless action.” The Court found that flag-burning does not always pose such a threat. The God-given right of every American to liberally exercise freedom of expression was, ultimately, held to be almost sacrosanct in the eyes of the Supreme Court.
In the Hadith known as Sahih Bukhari, Al-Bara’ bin Azib remarks upon Muhammad’s white skin: “The Prophet was carrying earth with us on the day of the battle of Al-Ahzab and I saw that the dust was covering the whiteness of his abdomen. . . .” And there are other references to this historical fact from Islamic sources. So, it is easy to establish the fact that criticizing Muhammad is an act of criticizing a white man.
In the 1970s, there was a situation comedy called Good Times. The artistic member of the black family depicted on the show was Jay Jay. And on one episode Jay Jay chose to paint a “Black Jesus.” This episode was mildly controversial, especially in the Bible Belt. From school halls to water coolers, people were having energetic discussions. But one principle nobody disputed was that the makers of Good Times had had the right to air the episode. This was the First Amendment in action, with no totalitarian censors to answer to. How wonderful it has been to live in a country where citizens are free to express themselves without fear of arrest! (Watch a scene from “Black Jesus” or the full episode.)
In Bed with Evil: The Feckless Media Blame the Victims
Flash forward to today’s media-sponsored vilification of Pamela Geller’s “Let’s Draw Muhammad” event in Garland, Texas. Two doctrinaire jihadists were killed, when they decided to enact the authentic teachings of Islam to oppose any speech that criticizes their prophet. These thugs were absent from the invitation list, but they chose to drive 1,000 miles from Phoenix, Arizona, to Garland, Texas, to honor-kill people who posed no physical threat to them. And the irresponsible liberal media had a field-day blaming Geller and the other intended victims for the wicked behavior of would-be murderers. It was like watching an Islamic-apologist defense attorney accuse a rape victim of wearing provocative clothing and thus deserving what she got.
Salman Rushdie Was Right!
Provocative artwork has always been a staple of American culture. And Americans value freedom and the rough-and-tumble of airing controversial views among themselves. Americans do not try to kill people over artwork. Indeed, it was Salman Rushdie, the Muslim writer of The Satanic Verses, who once said, “What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
Is White Muhammad Off-Limits, While Black Jesus Is Not?
If Geller had been an African-American woman sponsoring a “Let’s Draw Black Jesus” party in Garland, Texas, would the media have attacked her so vehemently? And what if the Ku Klux Klan (a terrorist group founded, in 1865, by the Democrat Party: https://eaglerising.com/8314/true-stripes-racist-democrats-colorblind-republicans/) had attacked the group for disrespecting the Prophet Jesus? I suppose the reporters at NBC, NPR, and the New York Times would have had no problem demonizing the Black Jesus artists and hailing the KKK as heroes!
If anyone is to be held responsible for the jihadists’ attack—other than the jihadists themselves—the blame lies squarely at the feet of the mainstream media. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, one could count on one hand the media outlets that dared publish the offending Muhammad cartoons. But, if every Western media outlet had run the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, then no single news source could have been targeted for jihadist retribution! But the “free” press chose, instead, to honor the idea that offended Muslims are entitled to murder those who offend Islam.
Pamela Geller, Culture Hero
When it came time for Pamela Geller to hold her event, it should have been universally celebrated and the winning portrait of Muhammad put on display in every newspaper and on every media web site available. There is strength in numbers that will go far towards disempowering the violent jihadists who live among Westerners. Currently, liberal media policies encourage violence and entitle jihadists to try their hands at mass-murder. The media also continue cover up for Islam, calling it a peaceful religion, instead of the murderous totalitarian ideology that it really is. Anyone who doubts this fact must only read what Muslims read to learn the truth about Muhammad: The Life of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq.
A Peaceful Revolution?
By stoking the flames of hatred against Islam’s intended victims, thereby encouraging the violent acts of jihadists, an increasingly callow and gullible American press—especially with respect to Islam—puts any meaningful reform of Islam (if this is even doable) beyond the reach of possibility. As President John F. Kennedy once so wisely put it, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by EagleRising.com