Opinion: America needs to support free speech. Period. | PostIndependent.com

Opinion: America needs to support free speech. Period.

Ken Johnson
Free Press Opinion Columnist

Have we learned anything from last Thursday’s slaughter in Paris at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper office?

Twelve people were killed by two “radical” Muslims for defaming the Prophet Mohammad by printing cartoons. A third partner claiming ISIS loyalty killed a policewoman and then took hostages in a Jewish grocery, killing four.

France had no trouble defining the murders. President Francois Hollande called it “an act of exceptional barbarity, without doubt a terrorist attack.” Then Sunday over three million people marched in Paris and other cities to rally against terrorism. Leaders of 44 countries showed up to march in the French rally. It was an international show of unity against terrorism and in favor of free speech.

No one represented the United States except our ambassador, however, who was back in the crowd — no President Obama, and no vice-president Joe Biden. There were just leaders from nations like France, Germany, Israel, the European Union, Mali, England and even Palestinian Mahmoud Abbas.

There were hundreds of thousands of signs, scarves and headbands focusing on the phrase “Je suis Charlie,” which means literally “I am Charlie.”

More broadly it means “I support free speech. Even if it offends me. Period.”

Apparently that is not “politically correct” in our own nation. Yes, our president did say France is our oldest ally and offered help. He also called the French president by phone and visited the French Embassy in Washington, D.C., to autograph the grief book. An assistant secretary of state attended a march in Washington.

And, yes, our president did condemn the slaughter as mindless violence. Unfortunately he didn’t call it terrorism.

Several newspapers, mostly European, ran copies of some Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

A paper in Hamburg, Germany did. It was fire-bombed the next day. Ineptly.

So how did we handle this in the U.S.? Timidly. A few papers ran copies of Charlie covers, mostly to illustrate what it was, none with Mohammad on them. And a few ran covers with Mohammad as a shadow, not an image.

The vaunted New York Times — bastion of being fearless, but always demanding everyone be politically correct — refused to run any covers. Their editor said the newspaper didn’t run things to gratuitously offend. He said he made his decision primarily because he did not want to insult the paper’s Muslim readers.

Times readers seem to disagree: “Weasel,” said one.


In the U.S. the Associated Press reported that “in a rare public admission of error, the White House said Monday the U.S. should have sent a high-level official to an anti-terror march in Paris that was attended by more than 40 world leaders.”

Major media, including the press, might look at their hole cards as well.

“If newspapers really wanted to show support for their murdered brothers in journalism,” said one respondent, “they would make a pact to stand together, demonstrate the right to free speech, and publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons on page 1 every day for a week. That would have been a tribute to Charlie, to freedom. But no, the collective media (and political) response to this barbaric slaughter, with pitifully few exceptions, has been tepid, vapid, meaningless, cowardly. The bottom line is de facto Sharia law.”

Overall, the evil done by “radical” Muslims is well past its “use-by” date; it appears we are starting to view Islam as a way of life, enforced by clerics, and they escape criticism by claiming “religion.”

It feels like it’s time for the U.S. to get on the new train heading for confronting “death to the infidels” head on.

Free Press columnist Ken Johnson is founder of the Grand Junction Free Press and former owner/publisher of The Daily Sentinel. He spends his time between the Grand Valley and California.

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