Threats that hadn’t even been made yet

Sound familiar?

The capitulation of Yale University Press to threats that hadn’t even been made yet is the latest and perhaps the worst episode in the steady surrender to religious extremism—particularly Muslim religious extremism—that is spreading across our culture.

Oh yes the capitulation to threats that haven’t even been made yet – that’s what happened with The Jewel of Medina, and it’s what seemed to be about to happen (but, happily, and to the credit of our publisher, didn’t) with Does God Hate Women?.

A book called The Cartoons That Shook the World, by Danish-born Jytte Klausen, who is a professor of politics at Brandeis University, tells the story of the lurid and preplanned campaign of “protest” and boycott that was orchestrated in late 2005 after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten ran a competition for cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. (The competition was itself a response to the sudden refusal of a Danish publisher to release a book for children about the life of Mohammed, lest it, too, give offense.) By the time the hysteria had been called off by those who incited it, perhaps as many as 200 people around the world had been pointlessly killed.

And Yale UP has decided not to publish the cartoons in the book, or any other images of Mohammed either. I have a high opinion of Yale University Press, but this is unfortunate, as is the explanation Hitchens quotes – ‘[a]ll confirmed that the republication of the cartoons by the Yale University Press ran a serious risk of instigating violence.’ No – as he points out, ‘all’ have lost track of the meaning of ‘instigate.’

If you instigate something, it means that you wish and intend it to happen. If it’s a riot, then by instigating it, you have yourself fomented it. If it’s a murder, then by instigating it, you have yourself colluded in it…After all, there are people who argue that women who won’t wear the veil have “provoked” those who rape or disfigure them … and now Yale has adopted that “logic” as its own.

In a turnabout which in other contexts is robustly condemned as blaming the victim, but in this context – well it depends on who is talking.

This is all rather like the witch-hunt against the “New” atheists, and the meta-witch-hunt against people who resist the witch-hunt against the “New” atheists. First the “New” atheists are called all sorts of names merely for doing something that ought to be perfectly legitimate and unremarkable, then when the “New” atheists retort, they get accused of a whole new round of crimes for having the audacity to retort to an unprovoked (uninstigated) attack. Heads I win tails you lose. Ho hum.

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