In Garland, Texas, two men with assault weapons tried to replicate last January’s Je suis Charlie attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris. About 200 people were attending an event satirizing Muhammad with cartoons, but a single police officer was able to shoot and kill the gunmen before they could get into the building. One of the gunmen has been under surveillance for years due to his interest in joining jihadist groups overseas.
As the WSJ points out, much of what Charlie Hebdo published was insulting as well as obscene, but in the United States, insults are protected by the First Amendment.
Against this backdrop we have the extraordinary—almost comical—irony of some of America’s bien pensant intellectuals boycotting a ceremony Tuesday by the PEN American Center to confer its annual courage award for freedom of expression on Charlie Hebdo. PEN is an association of writers, and six prominent novelists— Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi—have been trying to repeal the award for Charlie Hebdo.
All this PEN award does is underscore that in a civilized—indeed “tolerant”—society, you don’t get to murder people who insult or offend you. It is a principle that should be easy for everyone—especially acclaimed writers—to understand.
Read more here on what the WSJ calls an “attack on the foundations of liberal democracy.”
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