“Silence is a sanction”

Cline writing at The Rule of Reason

[The ”South Park” imbroglio] is not just about displaying images of Mohammed or offending Muslim religious sensibilities. It is about freedom of speech.

As evil as government-enforced censorship is, self-censorship is arguably a worse evil. It means that a government bureau needn’t threaten you with punishment if you refuse to wear its gag; you volunteer to fix the tape over your mouth (or your mind) yourself. The speech police are not meant for you, but rather for those incautious fools who insist on indulging in what former president Bill Clinton called “careless language” that hurts or offends. Self-muted, you are merely a neutral, blameless spectator, watching those efficient SWAT teams descend on the perpetrators and roust them from their beds, jobs, rights, and futures.


“[C]ensorship” is the wrong term to employ when judging Comedy Central‘s actions. Only a government can impose censorship on state matters (spy secrets, military matters, etc.) or on citizens to stop discussion or disclosure of the truth. Hugo Chavez shutting down private Venezuelan newspapers and radio and television stations is censorship. He employs force. Comedy Central’s executives did not employ force. They edited.


Comedy Central’s executives did not employ censorship. They exercised their right to edit. We can fault them for the reason — which may have been cowardice — but not for the action. If the cartoonists quoted in this story wish to accuse anyone of censorship, they should focus on Islam and Muslims. It is Islam that sanctions gagging, by lawsuits, by intimidation, or by direct force. And while most Muslims wouldn’t think of sticking machetes into Trey Parker or Matt Stone, they remain silent, for their creed forbids them, under pain of a similar fate, to object to that form of jihad, or because they agree with permanently silencing the blasphemers. Whether out of fear or agreement, silence is a sanction.

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