USA Today reports:
A debate has erupted over the decision by PEN American Center to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
It was at the offices of Charlie Hebdo that an assault by Muslim extremists in January left 12 people dead, including the publication’s top editor and a number of prominent cartoonists.
How could anyone think that it shouldn’t be Charlie Hebdo? 12 people died because they stood up for free speech and satire.
PEN says on its website that for 90 years, its mission has been “to ensure that people everywhere have the freedom to create literature, to convey information and ideas, to express their views and to make it possible for everyone to access the views, ideas and literatures of others.”
Cartoonists gunned down for expressing their views sound like worthy recipients of the award.
Not according to six novelists, who announced they were stepping down as literary hosts of PEN’s gala dinner in New York City on May 5.
“A hideous crime was committed, but was it a freedom of speech issue for PEN America to be self-righteous about?” Peter Carey, one of the protesting writers, said in an email interview with The New York Times. He said, “All this is complicated by PEN’s seeming blindness to the cultural arrogance of the French nation, which does not recognize its moral obligation to a large and disempowered segment of their population.”
This makes me want to vomit. The six novelists basically blame the victims.
Another of the dissenting writers, Rachel Kushner, lambasted Charlie Hebdo for its “cultural intolerance” and its embrace of “a kind of forced secular view.”
A forced secular view? If only? Atheists are not gunning down people who mock secularism. It is the Muslim extremists who believe it is their holy duty to stamp out any non comforming view.
To its credit, PEN is hanging tough. This is a well-deserved award, and the critics are off the mark. Freedom of expression would hardly be a big deal if it were only the freedom to be politically correct, to express opinions that are weak tea, tepid sentiments that everyone can embrace.
Too often only politically correct speech is deemed worthy of defending.