Threats to Free Speech: A Tale of Two Terry Joneses
Within the span of several days, two news items concerning two Terry Joneses helped illuminate the different paths by which speech critical of Islam can be gradually extinguished.
The pastor. Lawyers for oneÂ Terry Jones, the Florida-based minister who oversaw aÂ Koran burningÂ in March and handed global jihadists anexcuse to rampage, were in a Detroit courtroom on October 6,Â trying to reverseÂ a half-year-old decisionÂ curbing his rightÂ to speak and protest.
Jones hadÂ planned a demonstrationÂ on public property outside a Dearborn mosque in April, but a prosecutor petitioned for it to be stopped due to the potential for violence â€” not by Jones, but by Muslims in earshot of him. The juryÂ foundÂ that Jones’ not-yet-uttered words would risk sparking disturbances. The judge then ordered him and a comrade to post a token “peace bond” and stay away from the mosque for three years; they initially refused and were jailed. Note that the conditions imposed in April are likelyÂ unconstitutional: the Supreme Court has ruled that authorities cannot suppress a speaker’s rights in an attempt to soothe opponents who respond violently to unpopular views (e.g.,Â Terminiello v. Chicago).
The appeal, with a decision expected in November, calls attention to the first path to freedom’s demise: official stifling of speech about Islam. In the U.S., the trend often is seen in the abuse of public order statutes toÂ muzzleÂ Christians; other Western legal systemsÂ prosecuteÂ criticalÂ remarksÂ viaÂ hate speech laws. Say what you will about Jones, but his determination to defend his rights is laudable. TheÂ Thomas More Law CenterÂ isÂ handling the caseÂ and can be thankedÂ here.
The comedian. The secondÂ Terry Jones, a Welsh actor famous for his roles in Monty Python films such asÂ Life of Brian, which spoofs the story of Jesus, underscored the other path â€” self-censorship â€” in aÂ recent interview. Jones stated that while “religion seemed to be on the back burner” in 1979, religious belief has “come back with a vengeance and we’d think twice about making” a similar movie these days. What about a film lampooning Islam in particular? “Probably not, looking at Salman Rushdie,” he said. “I suppose people would be frightened.”
Given not only theÂ targeting of Rushdie, but also theÂ murder of Theo van Gogh, theÂ manyÂ plotsÂ to killÂ thoseÂ involvedÂ with theÂ Danish Muhammad cartoons, and so forth, it is likely that Jones’ fear of reinvigorated religion has more to do with Islamists than, say, Church of England types. In any case, JonesÂ blames the WestÂ for tensions with radical Islam. “I think it’s whipped up by the arms industry,” he opined, citing the alleged need to manufacture enemies.
The comments of this Terry Jones reflect the cowardly, ignorant, and ultimately defeatist phenomenon of voluntary censorship regarding Islam, especially among artists and entertainers. TheÂ guilty are legion, fromÂ film directorsÂ andÂ cable networksÂ toÂ pottersÂ andÂ magicians.
This is the more ominous trend. As long as there are lovers of freedom, coerced censorship (e.g., Jones #1) is sure to inspire resistance and can be beaten back. But metastasizing self-censorship (e.g., Jones #2) indicates a loss of resolve to remain free, ensuring that we will not.
Â Cowardly Clowns:
“Whipped up by the arms industry….So in future we look for Islam to replace communism.” This Leftist tool never heard of jihad, but he understands that his throat could get slit nevertheless, and not by the arms industry. “A Muslim Life Of Brian? No Way, Says Python,” by Elisa Roche for theÂ Daily Express, October 11 (thanks to JW):