Yet there lingers some delusion in segments of the press that the jihadist campaign is just another civil rights movement. A questioner at an international gathering of editors I attended in Edinburgh in May suggested that blame for the murders of journalists in Iraq — most of them Iraqi — rested with President Bush’s refusal to acknowledge the Geneva Conventions. Jonathan Swift said it well. You cannot reason someone out of a position he has not been reasoned into. Perhaps my beloved Britain has endured some of the worst excesses. When I spoke at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival a couple of years back and criticized newspapers that headlined suicide bombers as martyrs, I was told by two angry leading intellectuals that I had lived too long in America. Something similar happened at this year’s Hay-on-Wye festival, sponsored by the Guardian, where a five-person panel discussed “Are there are any limits to free speech?” One of the Muslim panelists said if anyone offended his religion, he would strike him. A lawyer, Anthony Julius, responded that Jews had lived as minorities under two powerful hegemonies, Christian and Muslim, and had been obliged to learn how to deal nonviolently with offense caused to them by the sacred scriptures of both. He started by referring to an anti-Semitic passage in the New Testament — which passed without comment. But when he began to list the passages in the Koran that denigrate Jews, describing them as monkeys and pigs, the panelists went ballistic. One of them, Madeline Bunting of the Guardian, put her hand over the microphone and said words to the effect, “I am not going to sit here and listen to any criticisms of Muslims.” She was cheered, and not one of the journalists in the audience from right or left uttered a word about free speech — not hate speech, mind you, but free speech of a moderate nature.
At least lemmings have the dignity to hurl only *themselves* over the cliff: they don’t expect the rest of us to join in.