Monday, September 17, 2012

The Staggering Idiocy of Self-Censorship

The Alan Roberts film, The Innocence of Muslims, is blamed for numerous violent outbreaks throughout the world.  Many in the media have said that he pushed the boundaries of freedom of speech and should have been censored (by whom is unclear).  While we can debate the merits of the film, the fact that people are seriously discussing censorship only shows that the terrorists have won.  Recently, Channel 4 in Britain aired a historical documentary on the origins of Islam, Islam: The Untold Story – the same sort of documentary that has been done of pretty much every other major religion.  The response of some in the Muslim community was to threaten the life of the producer, Tom Holland.  Channel 4 decided against re-airing the documentary as previously planned.

The documentary is available on Youtube, but not in the US:  However, it is available at LiveLeak:

As a historian, I quite enjoyed how the documentary shows the process of historical research, especially the emphasis on primary sources (written documents, but also including coins).  It is a typical British documentary with a hodgepodge of images and a slightly pretentious narrative.  The documentary raises issues about the origins of Islam in a secular, historical manner rather than religious.  There are a few places where I, a historian, but not an expert, have some questions about Holland’s conclusions but not about his methodologies.  Reasonable individuals discuss and even debate these questions of interpretation.  We do not threaten to kill each.

Western society, in some misguided attempt to be polite, is letting the unreasonable ruin our lives.  As I’ve noted before (, Europe is appeasing itself out of existence, and I have to believe that the US is only slightly behind.  I am appalled when I read that some persons, even those in the media (the persons most likely to value freedom of expression) and government, want to censor what we say (and, for that matter, believe) out of fear of offending a few psychopaths.  We’re giving up one of our most cherished freedoms in order not to offend a fringe group of nuts.  Who are the real idiots?