Opinion: "The End of Freedom"

February 12, 2006

Source: The Observer


On February 12, 2006 The Observer ran an opinion piece by columnist Andrew Anthony on the cartoon controversy. Anthony writes, "[T]he press in Britain has chosen not to publish it [the cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban] or any of the 11 other cartoons that first appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten back in September.The overwhelming consensus of liberal Britain is that this was the right decision. Almost everywhere one looks there is a sense - half-anxious, half-smug - of satisfaction at the delicacy of our media... But as we slap ourselves on our broad, flexible backs, perhaps it's worth asking what freedom actually means. A good place to start is the recent passing of the religious hatred bill... the law is now restricted to threatening language. But who decides what constitutes a threat? The answer, first of all is, of course, ourselves. And there is little doubt that the mere existence of the law will serve to inhibit a great deal of legitimate and worthwhile debate, as many people will prefer to err on the side of caution... As things stand, the prevailing attitude seems to be, if a member of a religious community offends their own community then leave them to sort it out themselves - it's a tribal thing. So what if they're silenced? And if someone from outside that community offends that religion then they must, by definition, be racist. It does not leave much room for the irreverent, the contrarian or the provocative... [T]he default liberal position [is essentially that] the outsider is a racist and the insider a misguided sell-out. It's the constraining logic of multiculturalism taken to its inevitable conclusion."