Column on Bin Laden is Still Wrong

Bin Laden is Still Wrong
Tibor R. Machan
Stubbornness is not a disease but mostly a moral problem. If in the face
of reason someone keeps holding on to irrational ideas, it isn’t that he
or she cannot change but that he or she will not change. It can, of
course, be very difficult to reexamine one’s ideas; their foundations can
be very deep seated and resistant to scrutiny. But for those who have
chosen to be specialists about the veracity of belief systems there is a
moral obligation to keep vigilant about getting it right.
Osama bin Laden seems unwilling to consider that his views on freedom of
speech just don’t cut it. Once again, in response to the republication of
insulting cartoons in some European newspapers, bin Laden seems to have
unleashed physical threats, refusing to understand that in a country with
any degree of justice in its legal system, it is not possible or desirable
to officially censor the press however much some think its content is
blasphemous or impolite.
Bin Laden is reported to have said that "The response [to the republished
cartoons] will be what you see and not what you hear and let our mothers
bereave us if we do not make victorious our messenger of God," amounting
to a somewhat vague but still ominous warning. He continued by saying that
"You went overboard in your unbelief and freed yourselves of the
etiquettes of dispute and fighting and went to the extent of publishing
these insulting drawings…." "This is the greatest misfortune and the
most dangerous and the judgment for it will be stronger."
Consider, for a start, that bin Laden appears to be addressing all
Europeans–specifically, governments and VIPs such as the Pope–when he
says “You went overboard.” But in a free society these people have no
authority to edit privately owned newspapers, no legitimate power to force
editors to expunge what bin Laden thinks are unwise features in their
papers. In such societies there are innumerable insulting drawings and
columns that target various icons that are, in the opinions of others,
sacred and holy. Comics routinely make fun of people’s most deeply held
convictions. Cartoonists relentlessly hammer away at people and events
that others insist must not be treated humorously.
In free societies the proper response to such offensive materials in the
press and elsewhere must be confined to words and other peaceful protests
and rebukes. No government official is permitted to shut down a newspaper
for publishing even the most inconsiderate and ridiculing materials about
what some people want to have left free of defilement.
Bin Laden seems to have no clue at all that any government that would be
legally permitted to become censorious would then have the authority to
expunge criticism of its own policies. Bin Laden doesn’t appear to
understand that people in relatively free countries have no legitimate
power over each other’s peaceful conduct and he fails to appreciate that
drawings, words, symbols and such are not knives, bullets, bayonets, or
swords. Bin Laden seems clueless about how free men and women have the
right to speak out on anything they choose while others are free to turn
away and not listen, look, or otherwise take notice.
No one can deny that many people in free countries can behave unwisely,
disrespectfully, even without etiquette, with impunity. That is just the
meaning of “free.” (Sadly, of course, even in most free societies this is
lost sight of when people get upset with what others give expression to,
as when they voice racist or sexist ideas, when they say what’s
politically incorrect! But that inconsistency is a matter to be lamented
at another time.)
Even in the parts of the globe that bin Laden criticizes and threatens
there are many who regard him with some measure of respect, probably
because of his posturing, his demeanor which mimics that of an educator
and hides from immediate perception his true nature as a thug. Yet bin
Laden does indeed appear–if the reports of his opinions are accurate–to
be a vicious thug, not a lofty guru, as he appears to wish to be
perceived. Only once he grasps that human beings must be free to say what
they think, good or bad, can he expect to reach the level of civility that
would earn him respectful attention.

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One Response to Column on Bin Laden is Still Wrong

  1. rev_jesse says:

    You have got to be shit\’in me! Bin Laden\’s been dead for years.  Where have you been? Wake up stupid!

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