I don’t usually agree with Christopher Hitchens, but I appreciate his article today on the Muslim cartoon hysteria.
The article, like most Hitchens articles, has some pretty glaring flaws. His declaration that “I refuse to be spoken to in that tone of voice” sounds petulant and ridiculous coming from someone who is nowhere near the burning embassies and deadly protests sparked by the cartoons, and so does his pronouncement that “there can be no negotiation under duress or under the threat of blackmail and assassination.” And I don’t share his extreme vitriol toward religion in general.
But I do think Hitchens is right to condemn the mealy-mouthed (and illiterate) State Department statement, which proclaims that “anti-Muslim images are as unacceptable as anti-Semitic images, as anti-Christian images, or any other religious belief.” I assume the Bush administration did not intend to categorize “any other religious belief” as equivalently unacceptable to anti-Semitic or anti-Christian images.
Beyond that, however, is the reality that anti-Semitic and anti-Christian images are protected under American law, while our foreign policy has consistently overlooked anti-Semitic libels and caricatures in the Muslim press. If the State Department statement is to be taken literally, then the US government is giving tacit support to the publishers of the offending cartoons.
Of course, that’s not what the statement was actually intended to mean. Rather, Hitchens is right to call the State Department to task for taking a cowardly and unnecessary stance in favor of fear, sensorship and religious hysteria.