YouTube’s Thought Policing
It stretches only as far as thought-policing lets it.
In Defense of Michelle Malkin
Pierre Tristam/Candide’s Notebooks, October 6, 2006
I never thought I’d see the day (or the nightmare) when I’d be siding with Michelle Malkin—Ann Coulter without wit, and lethal injector to what remains of ethical journalism. But ideology never ought to trump principle; the fact that it so often does is what has us now in the no-exit mires of politics for self-destruction’s sake. And as a matter of principle, anyone willing to defend the right of that Danish newspaper to publish the Mohammed cartoons in September 2005 has to take Malkin’s side in her little spat with YouTube.
Malkin produced a two-minute video montage called “first they came” and inspired, as she wrote, “by the Mohammed Cartoon riots.” She’s right: “It’s a simple slideshow highlighting the victims of Islamic violence over the years.” By Malkin’s usually amoebal standards of truth or accuracy, this is actually an innocuous piece of work that superimposes scenes of variously hysterical Muslim protests over one offense or another with scenes of victims of terrorist bombings. It’s an old emotional and effective technique, and in this case it works pretty well. The images speak for themselves. It’s not news that Muslims these days make it a specialty to be as offended as the usual crop of guests on Jerry Springer, and for reasons not vastly divergent from Springer’s deviants. Not just Muslims in Pakistan’s madrassas and Osama’s caves and Hezbollah’s delusions, but run-of-the-mill Muslims milling about their middle-class lives in Paris and London and, on occasion, in American cities as well. The war on the Enlightenment is a two-party front, with America’s reactionary-religious conservatives on one side and its Muslim equivalent on the other. Nor is it news that terrorism has been, in its new-millennium variety, an exclusively Muslim-bred compulsion.
So Malkin’s bit is neither original nor even controversial. If anything, it bears repeating once in a while: Muslim regression, not Western liberalism, is the problem, and a very big problem when it seeks to leach the West to its regressions. And terrorist bombings have been perpetrated in Islam’s name. We can split hair all day and claim that Islam is a religion of peace. But if Christianity was a terror-inducing, genocidal and regressive religion for almost two millennia, and it was (when Islam for most of that time was a stroll in the valley of the lilies in comparison), it appears that it’s Islam’s turn now to assume Christianity’s mantle of barbarism in God’s name. Pointing that out isn’t being insensitive; it’s being necessarily factual, if liberalism (which finally defeated Christianity’s stranglehold on western mind and society through the Enlightenment) is to mean anything at all, or survive.
The irony, of course, is that Michelle Malkin devotes her existence to the destruction of all things liberal. But that’s another story, even if it proves the point here: Liberalism doesn’t choose sides based on ideology. It defends all ideas, even the despicable ones, so long as ideas aren’t translated into despicable actions. (Hear John Stuart Mill’s drum roll.) In this case, Malkin’s two-minute video isn’t anywhere near despicable. It’s even worth a look. Some people will inevitably find its use of the Muhammad cartoons, or rather its slightly approving way of the cartoons (especially with its repeated use of the Mohammed’s head as a bomb), offensive. So what? By now those cartoons are like 1970s scenes of violence in Charles Bronson films: faintly shocking then, hum-drum now, if not symbolic of a defense of free thought that shouldn’t fade out.
Malkin produced her little video and had it uploaded on YouTube. Sometime later, she received a note from YouTube: “Your video, ‘First They Came,’ has been rejected due to its inappropriate nature.” No further explanations. Malkin wrote back, asking for an explanation. Nothing. She produced a video-letter to YouTube. Nothing yet. What’s YouTube up to, if not rank and indefensible censorship? What’s YouTube up to if not imbecilic and tendentious thought-policing? And how is YouTube up to what it’s up to, if not by way of immediately reacting to a few probably calculated complaints to protect its rear and shareholders’ accounts from the mildest controversy’s fallout?
You can despise Malkin’s politics and style all you want. The more reason to stand by her when she’s being silenced, and from a video forum where the outrageous, the crass, the idiotic and the meaningless is full-frontal fare every byte of the day. Maybe someone is organizing a little cabal against Malkin or against material that displays Islamic distempers. More reason still to stand up and defend those who speak their minds regardless of their politics. The nature of the ideas expressed is irrelevant. Incidentally, even if Malkin’s video had been offensive would have been no reason to shut it down, so long as it doesn’t outrageously advocate violence. It so happens that “First They Came” v doesn’t advocate anything more (or less) than a bit of reflection—admittedly an offensive notion in some circles, where thought is equated with subversion, or threat to the bottom line. But never a reason to censor.
This is one more reminder that the true threat to our liberties isn’t from Osama’s caves. It’s from within, and it isn’t by any means limited to wayward Republican administrations taking on the methods of juntas and dictatorships. Thought policing is legitimized by what the mass of people will allow, what they’ll tolerate in the name of ideology, convenience, opportunism, and that catch-all of cancerous police states, “security.” If only the likes of Michelle Malkin realized it: She’s a victim of the very sort of mentality she projects and stands for.