It’s “Nobody Draw Mohammed Century”!

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Today, Mark Steyn posts a letter he recieved from cowardly lioness Molly Norris, along with his absolutely devastating response. Not to be missed if you’ve been following the bru-ha-ha over Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.

Steyn does leave one thing out of his response, though. Asked to explain why he and others are so contemptous toward Norris, he offers a number of unassailable demonstrations that it’s because her behavior is contemptible. But Norris’s betrayal of her own professed principles was not only a missed opportunity, as Steyn stresses. It was a unique kind of missed opportunity.

For one person or one partnership or one organization – like, say, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, or Kurt Westergaard and Jyllands-Posten, or Ezra Levant and his team at the Western Standard – deliberately says something calculated to push back against a violent threat to freedom of speech, that is nothing short of heroic. They take all the risk, and all the rest of us reap the reward of their bravery as parasitic free riders.

But you can’t build a civilization on heroic virtue. Civilization has to be livable for the ordinary person. If a civilization is going to be characterized by freedom, it has to be built in such a way that the ordinary person can enjoy freedom without having to demonstrate heroic virtue.

Kurt Westergaard (Photo by Daily Mail)

Don’t get me wrong – heroic virtue such as has been demonstrated by Parker, Stone, Westergaard, and Levant – and Mark Steyn – will always be necessary. But that’s just another way of saying heroes will always be necessary. And you can’t have a whole civilization populated by nothing but heroes. In other words, heroes are a necessary but not sufficient condition for a free civilization. By all means, let’s affirm that the ordinary person can’t be free unless heroes make his freedom possible – but he also can’t be free if freedom for heroes is the only kind of freedom we have.

So what else, besides heroes, is necessary for the freedom of the ordinary person? A mutual defense pact.

We need a culture in which it is expected that when one person’s freedom is threatened, others will rally to his defense. If it’s everybody for himself, the enemies of freedom can pick us off one by one. Or if nobody but the government is responsible to defend those whose freedom is threatened – well, how well does anything work out if it’s a government monopoly? But if we come to each others’ defense, then defending freedom doesn’t require heroic virtue. It’s hard to be the first person to stand up for freedom – that’s why we need heroes, or nobody can be free. But it’s not so hard to be the tenth, or hundredth, person to stand up for freedom – that’s why those who aren’t heroes can be free, too.

It’s not necessary for everybody in the whole world to come to everybody else’s defense. But it is necessary that those who are morally and culturally proximate to the threatened person come to his defense. By “morally proximate” I mean those who have a special duty toward the threatened, whether by natural relationship (such as being a friend or family member) or for some other reason (such as by professional responsibility – doctors have more responsibility to care for the sick than others, because they are more able to do so and have voluntarily accepted the professional responsibility). By “culturally proximate” I mean those who best understand the social situation of the threatned person because they themselves inhabit a similar social situation.

And that’s what makes Norris’s abdication especially galling. The idea of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day was a fantastic way for all of us who are – as professional producers of social commentary – morally and culturally proximate to those whose freedom is threatened here to exercise a mutual defense pact. Steyn himself has articualted on numerous occasions the imperative for professional producers of news and culture to rally to fight off the threat to free speech from political Islamism. Well, this seemed to be, for a few brief shining moments, a way for some of us to do that.

But not now. Nobody else can make EDMD happen the way Norris could have. Yet it appears that being hip – i.e. not being even remotely associated with anything her elite-lefty social circle finds declasse – was more important to her than striking what could have been one of the most powerful blows for freedom in our generation.

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6 Responses to It’s “Nobody Draw Mohammed Century”!

  1. Randy says:

    Don’t forget the infamous pic that started this all up again: http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/south-park-apr-21.jpg

  2. Randy says:

    I hope John Stewart rips on her.

  3. mollydolly5 says:

    Okay, so all of my balls went into drawing the cartoon. Still — where are more high profile people when our human rights need to be protected? I just don’t have the stomach to head a movement. Literally — I have not been able to eat much for nearly two weeks and have waves of anxiety etc. I’m not cut out for it. I am cut out to draw. And I did. And I used my REAL NAME (this aimed at everyone who clobbers me on blogs, etc. but uses a pseudonym).

    It takes a village or whatever. It takes a president who isn’t all PC. Also: I am actually not a liberal. I am sort of a weird mix of political qualities. I have lost friends here in Liberal Land because I really adore Ann Coulter and Rush et al. My favorite radio personality here is Michael Medved — he is so frickin’ bright (he’s also very handsome, I’ve seen him around town a couple times)!

    I hope everyone absorbs EDMD and lives it in their own way. As for me, I went to a Muslim Association of Puget Sound annual conference last weekend. I was invited by them to attend after emailing them my situation. The folks there could not have been more gracious. They bought me lunch and didn’t allow me to pay for the tee-shirt!

    One of the board members told me that the biggest problem he hears about in his Muslim community is that women who wear head scarves here stand out and feel self-conscious, etc. I have posed a project to MAPS, to make a short video about the subject that can be fun and reverent, plus educational to non-Muslims. I want to do something positive for the non-rads. For which I am much better suited.

    Molly

  4. Greg Forster says:

    You may hope that everyone absorbs EDMD in their own way, but in fact no one will absorb it in any way if you don’t champion it. What makes EDMD different and special is that it’s an opportunity for not just the “high profile” people but for everybody to get involved and stand up for freedom. And you can’t get everybody to do something together unless there’s a leader they’re willing to follow. People were willing to do EDMD because they were willing to follow the lead that you gave them in your cartoon. And they’re not going to do EDMD unless you lead them to it. I’m sorry, I know it’s frightening and hard to accept, but that’s the reality.

    You were shocked at the extraordinary momentum that developed so rapidly behind EDMD. Well, all that momentum is now dissipated. And the only thing that would bring it back is if you reverse course and take the lead.

    It’s not too late. You can still do the right thing and make this extraordinary thing happen.

    You say you feel like you can’t do it. Well, I know that in my case, when I’m facing a tough challenge and I think that taking it on is optional, it always feels like it’s impossible – because I want it to be impossible so that I won’t have to do it. But when I face a tough challenge that I have no choice but to attempt because it’s my duty to attempt it, I’m usually surprised by the “impossible” things I’m able to accomplish.

    Right now there is nothing in the world that you are “better suited” to do than lead EDMD, because EDMD would be a critical victory for free speech and you are the only person in the world who can make it happen. Are you the only person who can make a video about tolerance for people who dress differently?

    You can do it. And I promise you won’t regret it if you do.

  5. […] It’s “Nobody Draw Mohammed Century”! | Greg Forster, guest post on Jay P. Greene’s blog […]

  6. […] It’s “Nobody Draw Mohammed Century”! | Greg Forster, guest post on Jay P. Greene’s blog […]

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