No, You Are Certainly Not Charlie Hebdo

I only read David Brooks when his word salad op-eds go viral.  This is a good choice for both my health and my sanity.  David Brooks is the Kim Kardashian of the journalism world.  That he has a following at all is proof to me that kids these days are no more stupid than the adults that accuse them of such.  In his latest, he complains about the hurt fee fees of the left when people express vile opinions.  What follows is my first FJM treatment.  Brooks’ words are in bold, my responses are not.

I Am Not Charlie Hebdo

Are you sure?  Your writing is every bit as offensive as their cartoons.  Or at least it should be considered such.  Wait, no, you’re right.  They occasionally make a valid point, you do not.

The journalists at Charlie Hebdo are now rightly being celebrated as martyrs on behalf of freedom of expression

Uh oh, I smell a false equivalence coming.

but let’s face it:

Can we not?  Please, please, just shut up now and save us all from your mindless drivel.

If they had tried to publish their satirical newspaper on any American university campus over the last two decades it wouldn’t have lasted 30 seconds. Student and faculty groups would have accused them of hate speech. The administration would have cut financing and shut them down.

Wow, with the very first sentence he’s already comparing the massacre of civilians whose only crime was publishing offensive material to student protests and with the very next two he proves he has absolutely no idea what Freedom of Speech means.  I got news for you, Davey, Freedom of Speech does not mean Freedom From Consequences.  The groups that you are about to spend 800 words whining about are tackling offensive speech the way it should be tackled.

Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home.

Because they’re dead, you moron!  No one would give a crap otherwise.  Hell, Charlie Hebdo was firebombed and no one gave a crap.  But yeah, when a couple of whack-a-loons decide to introduce the insides of peoples’ bodies to a few ounces of lead just because they are offensive, we’re going to take notice.

Just look at all the people who have overreacted to campus micro-aggressions.

Oh, crap, here it comes.

The University of Illinois fired a professor who taught the Roman Catholic view on homosexuality.

Yep, this is certainly as bad as 12 dead people.

The University of Kansas suspended a professor for writing a harsh tweet against the N.R.A.

You centrist you!

Vanderbilt University derecognized a Christian group that insisted that it be led by Christians.

I love the smell of Christian persecution in the morning time.  Oh, wait, no, the first was teaching something that has no place in a classroom, the second, I have no idea what you are talking about, but again, Speech has Consequences, and the third is a fairly common sense policy about inclusion.

Americans may laud Charlie Hebdo for being brave enough to publish cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, but, if Ayaan Hirsi Ali is invited to campus, there are often calls to deny her a podium.

Shoot me.  More lack of understanding about  Freedom of Speech.  Listen up, Bobo, the Charlie Hebdo people are dead.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali is alive.  Charlie Hebdo created its own platform for its speech, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is not entitled to be given a platform wherever she shows up.  That’s not how it works.

 So this might be a teachable moment.

Hey something I agree with!  David Brooks is a hack who doesn’t understand a single thing about Freedom of Speech or anything else, for that matter.  Lesson learned.  The End.

As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.

Dammit, he thinks there’s another lesson to be learned!  And that lesson is, apparently, to give our controversial figures carte blanche to say what they want where they want whenever they want.  Or something.

The first thing to say, I suppose, is that whatever you might have put on your Facebook page yesterday, it is inaccurate for most of us to claim, Je Suis Charlie Hebdo, or I Am Charlie Hebdo.

In which Brooks shows his complete ignorance of how the the English language works.  If I say “David Brooks is a douche”, I am not saying that he is the actual feminine product, I am saying that they are both items which, despite the incontrovertible proof that they do no actual good, continue to exist because of a combination of snappy packaging and shaming.

Most of us don’t actually engage in the sort of deliberately offensive humor that that newspaper specializes in.

Yes we do.  Every single one of us.  Without exception.  For instance, I’m about to tell a joke that even makes the infamous The Aristocrats joke to shame.  David Brooks.

 We might have started out that way.

Insert picture of David Brooks in a three-way with Jesus and Muhammad here.

When you are 13, it seems daring and provocative to “épater la bourgeoisie,” to stick a finger in the eye of authority, to ridicule other people’s religious beliefs.

Hurray for Google Translate!

But after a while that seems puerile.

And this is why you (and most of your profession) fail as a journalist.  It’s your freakin’ job to stick a finger in the eye of authority!

Most of us move toward more complicated views of reality and more forgiving views of others.

In which David Brooks proves he has never talked to another human being.  Ever.

(Ridicule becomes less fun as you become more aware of your own frequent ridiculousness.)

If Brooks were at all aware of his own constant ridiculousness, we wouldn’t have to read this article.

Most of us do try to show a modicum of respect for people of different creeds and faiths.

Um, what?  Don’t you cover politics?

We do try to open conversations with listening rather than insult.

In which David Brooks proves he doesn’t know how a conversation works.

Yet, at the same time, most of us know that provocateurs and other outlandish figures serve useful public roles. Satirists and ridiculers expose our weakness and vanity when we are feeling proud. They puncture the self-puffery of the successful. They level social inequality by bringing the mighty low. When they are effective they help us address our foibles communally, since laughter is one of the ultimate bonding experiences.

Moreover, provocateurs and ridiculers expose the stupidity of the fundamentalists. Fundamentalists are people who take everything literally. They are incapable of multiple viewpoints. They are incapable of seeing that while their religion may be worthy of the deepest reverence, it is also true that most religions are kind of weird. Satirists expose those who are incapable of laughing at themselves and teach the rest of us that we probably should.

This is how you fill column space, folks!  A few definitions, a few innocuous generalities and we’re good to print!

In short, in thinking about provocateurs and insulters, we want to maintain standards of civility and respect while at the same time allowing room for those creative and challenging folks who are uninhibited by good manners and taste.

Now he’s just repeating himself.

If you try to pull off this delicate balance with law, speech codes and banned speakers, you’ll end up with crude censorship and a strangled conversation. It’s almost always wrong to try to suppress speech, erect speech codes and disinvite speakers.

Come see the violence inherent in the system!  Help, help, I’m being repressed!  Oh, wait, no, no one is.  If you can carve a space for your speech, you are welcome to that space.  I am not required to provide that space for you.

Fortunately, social manners are more malleable and supple than laws and codes.

David Brooks should never, ever use the word “supple”.  Please, Anonymous, hack his computer and remove it from his dictionary.

Most societies have successfully maintained standards of civility and respect while keeping open avenues for those who are funny, uncivil and offensive.

Except for pretty much every society that has come before us, but who’s counting?

In most societies, there’s the adults’ table and there’s the kids’ table.

Guess which one Brooks thinks he sits at!

The people who read Le Monde or the establishment organs are at the adults’ table.

Pompous much?  You know damn well it took every fiber of his being not to use the New York Times as an example.  Establishment organs?

The jesters, the holy fools and people like Ann Coulter and Bill Maher are at the kids’ table. They’re not granted complete respectability, but they are heard because in their unguided missile manner, they sometimes say necessary things that no one else is saying.

Ah, the “both sides do it” argument rears its ugly head along with some great false equivalence.  Ann Coulter and Bill Maher are not at all the same.  One is a joke and the other is a comedian.  Also, the world is surprised to know that David Brooks thinks Ann Coulter has ever said a “necessary thing”.  Says a lot about you Dave.

Healthy societies, in other words, don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people.

In which David Brooks makes the arguments for “separate but equal”.

Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect.

Tell that to climate scientists, Barack Obama, or anyone trying to make even the most reasoned response to the realities of our justice system.

Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect.

Way to throw pretty much the only group of journalists worth listening to a bone.

Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect.

Explain the Republican party.

People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct.

Again, explain the Republican party.

The massacre at Charlie Hebdo should be an occasion to end speech codes.

Nothing up my sleeve!  Presto!  I saw a bird get into an argument with a squirrel the other day.  This should be used as an occasion to end speech codes.  Plus, who is enforcing speech codes?  Oh, right, nobody.

And it should remind us to be legally tolerant toward offensive voices, even as we are socially discriminating.

Do you know who is legally tolerant toward offensive voices?  The entire freakin’ country!  Do you know who would benefit from reading this David Brooks article?  No one.

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