I'm trying not to brood excessively because I don't think it's good for me in my present state of health. But the stories that break through the fog of medication are not encouraging, and make all that sappy talk in the GOP "debate" look even more ridiculous.
Many years ago, my compatriot Ezra Levant observed that one day the Danish Mohammed cartoons would come to be seen as a more consequential event than 9/11. Not in the overall death toll, obviously - although the corpse count of the Motoons continues to rise (Charlie Hebdo et al) - but in its lessons for a free society's enemies. 9/11 led to two decades of ineffectual warmongering in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and the goatherds with fertilizer soon had the measure of that. But the cartoons and the west's reaction to them told the world that we would not defend core liberties such as freedom of speech: You don't need to blow up our skyscrapers; we're happy to surrender to subtler pressures.
And here we are eighteen years later, with the Danish Government proposing to criminalize the burning of the Koran and make it an offense punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
~In 2005 Jyllands-Posten, one of the biggest-selling newspapers in Denmark, as part of an exploration of the state of free speech, was willing to publish a dozen cartoons of Mohammed by prominent cartoonists.
~In 2010, on the fifth anniversary, I was given an award by the Danish Free Press Society and appeared on stage with the society's founder Lars Hedegaard and fellow freespeechers from across the Continent: the Norwegian comedienne Shabana Rehman, the Dutch cartoonist Nekschot, the Swedish artist Lars Vilks and the Danish-Iranian actor Farshad Kholghi.
If those names don't ring a lot of bells for you, here's the scorecard so far:
*Shabana Rehman's family restaurant was firebombed, and she was forced to live under 24/7 police protection, which is not terribly conducive to a career in observational comedy. She died of cancer last year at the age of forty-six;
*Nekschot was already under so many death threats that he could only appear at public engagements with his face obscured and unidentifiable. So in Copenhagen that day he chose to wear a burqa. Funny, but not quite secure enough. He had already been arrested for "hate speech" - and with the Dutch authorities openly taunting him about the impending loss of his anonymity. The year after our appearance in Denmark, he gave up cartooning and went into hiding. I assume he is still alive;
*Lars Vilks was speaking at an event on art and blasphemy when a Muslim opened fire with a semi-automatic. A Danish film director was killed and three police officers. The jihad boy then went to a nearby synagogue and killed a second man. Lars retired from public life, and died in 2021 with two of his security detail when their unmarked police car crashed, somewhat mysteriously;
*oh, and our host Lars Hedegaard was shot at point blank range, but fortunately by an incompetent. So Lars survived, but his opponent managed to flee to Turkey.
Most of the above did not impinge on the media in a big way: There were no celebrities wearing #JeSuisLars buttons. Nevertheless, of the six who were on stage that day in 2010, there would be only two of us today: me and Farshad Kholghi, last men standing in an Agatha Christie for the jihad set - And Then There Were None. Come to think of it, that might make a blackly comic play, or novel, or film... But good luck finding a publisher or producer.
~In 2015, on the tenth anniversary, I was back in Copenhagen, this time with Douglas Murray:
Like Mark Steyn I've been doing these 'defend free speech' gigs for some years now and as Mark recently mordantly observed, I also sometimes wonder why I keep ascending up the running order only to realise that it's because everybody who used to be ahead of me is either in hiding or dead.
As Douglas also remarked:
The event will be in the Danish Parliament apparently because it's the only place in Denmark sufficiently secure enough that – we hope – the now traditional gunmen won't be able to get in and shoot everyone.
Here are my friends Katrine Winkel Holm of the Danish Free Press Society and Marie Krarup the Danish MP (and Katrine's sister) opening the proceedings. Marie's closing remarks - on the need to tell immigrants that in Denmark you are free to say what you want, even about Mohammed - ring slightly different in the wake of the proposed legislation:
As Marie said, the walls of Christiansborg are "thick and massive". However, I woke up on the morning of the event to find that both the US State Department and the British Foreign Office had issued travel advisories warning their nationals to steer clear of both Copenhagen in general and Christiansborg Palace in particular.
Indeed. You don't want to be caught in the shootout at a free-speech event, do you? I doubt either the US Congress or the British Parliament would have agreed (under any circumstances) to permit a conference to be held under a giant portrait of Mohammed [top right] at the heart of the Capitol or the Palace of Westminster. Katrine, Marie and a small but determined group fought hard against the remorseless, suffocating urge to appease. And to be sitting in the heart of the Danish establishment with the Big Mo scowling above me was itself a modestly encouraging sign.
But it was on a day without many others. As Katrine alludes to above, Jyllands-Posten marked the tenth anniversary by re-publishing a perfect facsmile of the newspaper page as it had appeared in 2005 - except with white space where the cartoons had been.
"So sad," said Katrine. "Violence works."
That day, I was protected, as I have been on all post-cartoon visits to Copenhagen, by men from the PET - the Danish Security and Intelligence Service. Marie had booked a post-conference dinner at a fashionable restaurant, but they figured out why we needed security and declined to honor our booking.
So by the tenth anniversary it was not just that once publishable cartoons are now unpublishable, but that figures even tangentially associated with them can't get a table in a restaurant.
We wound up in a pub called the Mouse and Elephant in what Douglas characterized as feeling like "a party at the end of the world". Indeed. Post-Christian Europe is a mouse that decided to get into bed with the elephant of Islam; eventually, the elephant will roll over - and crush the mouse.
~In 2020, on the fifteenth anniversary, there was no conference, not because Douglas and I were dead, but because it was Covid Year One and there was no nothing, anywhere. With hindsight, I think one can see that as a convergence of interests on the part of the jihad and progressive wisdom: You can come to your assault on free speech because you won't hear a word against Mohammed ...or because you won't permit "disinformation" on Covid, climate change, whatever. The men who shoot up Lars Vilks events and those who try to get doctors struck off for disagreeing with the official propaganda are merely at different points on the same continuum. "Free speech" is a fringe cause now, for the "alt-right" and such like. Which would surprise Lars Vilks and Nekschot and Charlie Hebdo, because, until they fell out with Mohammed, they were all more or less conventional Euro-lefties.
~And so in 2023 the Danish Government plans to re-introduce blasphemy laws - but for the incoming state religion. And it barely makes the papers.
Frustrated Danes burn Korans because what else can you do? The gradual but remorseless Islamization of European societies would seem unlikely to end well. But what options do you have if you're minded to disagree? You can't talk about it, honestly, on British or Continental TV or radio. You can vote for anti-immigration parties, but, even if they win, nothing significant ever seems to happen. So a couple of blokes burn Korans - and the establishment reacts by further insulating Islam from the rough-and-tumble of free societies.
I have profound admiration for all those who have resisted the grim retreat into darkness these last two decades: Flemming Rose, the commissioning editor at Jyllands-Posten; the late Kurt Westergaard and the other cartoonists; Lars and Katrine and Marie; and all the dead and vanished across the Continent. But it is a lonely business: as I said way back in 2005, when the cartoon controversy was front-page news but the cartoons themselves weren't, if Le Monde and The New York Times and Der Spiegel had simply reported this as they would any other story, that would have been an effective response: they can't kill us all. But, because the only other publications to re-print the Motoons were Charlie Hebdo and my own magazine in Canada The Western Standard, they were able instead to silence us one by one.
To the point where, less than two decades later, a European country introducing an Islamic blasphemy law isn't even a story at all.
Will that be the end of it? In the comments to Laura's Links this week, Denyse writes:
Laura, your 'This is awful stuff' link gives us London mayor Sadiq Khan informing the world that a white family pictured in a guide his office had put out 'doesn't represent real Londoners'.
Where do people think this stuff will end? Hint: Where does it usually end?
The Danish state is doing this in hopes of getting furious governments in the Middle East and restive Muslims at home off its back. After his cameo role in Out of Time, a little bit of Kipling is floating around in the back of my head - although in one of those historical jests this time it is the Danes paying the Danegeld:
It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: –
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: --
"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!"
Ah, but who reads Kipling?
~Notwithstanding Mark's one-step-forward-three-steps-back health, we had a very busy weekend at SteynOnline, starting with a rare appearance by him in the anchor seat of our Clubland Q&A. For his Saturday movie date Rick McGinnis decided to do a Marilyn Monroe and "help you at the automat" - or, at any rate, with the history thereof. Steyn's Sunday Song of the Week marked the sesquicentennial of a great lyricist with "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes". And, if you haven't yet heard this month's brand new Tale for Our Time - Mark's summer diversion on a theme of H G Wells - you can start with Episode One right here.
If you were too busy spending the weekend hiring some more consultants to poll-test your new stump speech about how it's morning again all over again in America, we hope you'll want to check out one or two of the foregoing as a new week begins.