The Death of Facts

Every week in America brings another spate of defeats for freedom of speech. This past week it was Ann Coulter’s turn (yet again) to be banned from speaking at Berkeley for what the university authorities purport to be “health and safety” reasons — meaning the health and safety of the speaker.

Each time this happens, there are similar responses. Those who broadly agree with the views of the speaker complain about the loss of one of the fundamental rights which the Founding Fathers bestowed on the American people. Those who may be on the same political side but find the speaker somewhat distasteful find a way to be slightly muted or silent. Those who disagree with the speaker’s views applaud the banning as an appropriate response to apparently imminent incitement.

The problem throughout all of this is that the reasons why people should be supporting freedom of speech (to correct themselves where they are in error, and strengthen their arguments where they are not) are actually becoming lost in America. No greater demonstration of this muddle exists than a letter put together by a group of students at Claremont McKenna College earlier this month to protest the appearance on their campus of a speaker with whom they disagreed.

Heather Mac Donald is a conservative author, journalist and fellow of the Manhattan Institute in New York. Her work has appeared in some of the world’s most prestigious journals. Of course, none of that was enough to deter students at Claremont from libelling her as much as possible in advance of her speech and then preventing her speech from taking place. At Claremont McKenna College, where Mac Donald was due to speak about her recent book, The War on Cops, angry students surrounded the building, screamed obscene words and banged on the windows. Mac Donald ended up giving the speech to a mainly empty room via live video-streaming and then fleeing the university under the protection of campus security. As recent events, such as the hospitalisation of a professor at Charles Murray’s recent speech at Middlebury College have shown, intimidation and violence are clearly regarded by today’s North American students as legitimate means to stop people from speaking.

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Europe: Making Itself into the New Afghanistan?

Maastricht, in the Netherlands, is the picturesque city that gave its name to the famous treaty signed in 1992 by the twelve nations of the European Community at the time, and which paved the way for the foundation of today’s European Union and the single currency, the euro.

Maastricht, however, is also the home of “Tefaf”, the most important art and antiques fair in the world. The art work “Persepolis” by the Italian artist Luca Pignatelli was already scheduled when the commission ordered it removed. The work, built in 2016, combined a Persian Islamic rug and a female head. “We are all humbled and speechless”, Pignatelli declared, pointing out that his work had initially aroused the enthusiasm of the commission. The fair’s explanation was that Pignatelli’s work was “provocative“.

The officials of fair presumably did not want to offend Islam and possible Muslim buyers with Pignatelli’s combination of the mat (used by Muslims for prayer) with the woman’s face. “We are shocked, this is the first time this has happened and I think it is legitimate to talk about it”, Pignatelli said. “If in Rome it can happen that you decide to veil art works to avoid offending foreign visitors, well, I do not agree”. The reference is at the Italian government decision to veil the antique Roman statues to avoid offending Iran’s visiting President Hassan Rouhani.

If Europe wants a future, it should be less ideological about Maastricht’s treaty and more against Maastricht’s capitulation to fear. The brave Algerian writer Kamel Daoud said:

“Those (migrants) who come to seek freedom in France must participate in freedom. Migrants did not come to seek asylum in Saudi Arabia, but in Germany. Why? For security, freedom and prosperity. So they must not come to create a new Afghanistan”.

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Why Does the West Keep Colluding with Terrorists?

Only a fortnight after a vehicular terrorist attack in Westminster, London, another similar attack took place in Stockholm, Sweden. On one of the city’s main shopping streets, a vehicle was once again used as a battering-ram against the bodies of members of the public. As in Nice, France. As in Berlin. As so many times in Israel.

Amid this regular news there is an air of defeatism — a terrible lack of policy and lack of solutions. How can governments stop people driving trucks into pedestrians? Is it something we must simply get used to, as France’s former Prime Minister Manuel Valls and London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan have both suggested? Must we come to recognise acts of terror as something like the weather? Or is there anything we can do to limit, if not stop, them? If so, where would we start? One place would be to have a frank public discussion about these matters. Yet, even that is easier said than done.

There is a terrible symmetry to this past week in the West. The week began with the news that the Somali-born author and human-rights activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali had been forced to cancel a speaking tour in Australia. “Security concerns” were among the given reasons. A notable aspect of this issue, which has been made public, is that one of the venues at which Hirsi Ali was due to speak was contacted last month by something calling itself “‘The Council for the Prevention of Islamophobia Incorporated”. Nobody appears to know where this “incorporated” organisation comes from, but its purported founder — Syed Murtaza Hussain — claimed that the group would bring 5000 protestors to the hall at which Hirsi Ali was scheduled to talk. This threat is reminiscent of the occasion in 2009 when the British peer, Lord Ahmed, threatened to mobilise 10,000 British Muslims to protest at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster if the Dutch politician Geert Wilders were allowed to speak. On that occasion — as on this one — the event was cancelled. Promises to mobilise thousands of angry Muslims can have such an effect. But the long-term implications often get lost in the short-term outrage.

Other attacks on Hirsi Ali began, in fact, weeks before her now-cancelled tour had been due to start. On the web, for instance, a widely-watched video was disseminated showing a group of headscarf-covered Australian Muslim women. All were attacking Hirsi Ali and protesting her appearance in the country. Addressing her directly, they complained that, “Your narrative doesn’t support our struggles. It erases them.”

Like other criticisms of Hirsi Ali, the effort was to portray her as the problem itself rather than the response to a problem. Once again, mixing up (deliberately or otherwise) the arsonist and the firefighter, such groups present a homogenous, agreed-upon opinion — or “narrative” — as the only necessary answer to any problems that may or may not exist. Hirsi Ali, according to them, thinks the “wrong” things and says the wrong things. Therefore she must be stopped.

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Belgium DROPS terror charges against Muslim ‘who drove a car loaded with an assault rifle and knives into a crowd’ in Antwerp

Belgium has dropped terrorism charges against Mohamed R., 39, the driver who sped into a crowded shopping area in Antwerp last month (file photo)

‘The court considers that there is insufficient evidence of violations of the legislation on terrorism,’ the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.

‘The extension of the detention of the person concerned is only based on violations of the arms legislation,’ it added.

The man was arrested March 23 for driving at high speed into the crowded Meir shopping area in Antwerp, forcing people to jump out of the way but causing no injuries.

The authorities said they found a rifle and bladed weapons in the car following his arrest.

The incident came a day after a similar attack in London that killed five people plus the attacker. It also came a day after the first anniversary of the Brussels suicide bombings in which 32 people died.

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European Parliament Censors Its Own Free Speech

The European Parliament has introduced a new procedural rule, which allows for the chair of a debate to interrupt the live broadcasting of a speaking MEP “in the case of defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior by a Member”. Furthermore, the President of the European Parliament may even “decide to delete from the audiovisual record of the proceedings those parts of a speech by a Member that contain defamatory, racist or xenophobic language”.

No one, however, has bothered to define what constitutes “defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior”. This omission means that the chair of any debate in the European Parliament is free to decide, without any guidelines or objective criteria, whether the statements of MEPs are “defamatory, racist or xenophobic”. The penalty for offenders can apparently reach up to around 9,000 euros.

“There have been a growing number of cases of politicians saying things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate,” said British EU parliamentarian Richard Corbett, who has defended the new rule. Mr. Corbett, however, does not specify what he considers “beyond the pale”.

In June 2016, Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, addressed the European Parliament in a speech, which drew on old anti-Semitic blood libels, such as falsely accusing Israeli rabbis of calling on the Israeli government to poison the water used by Palestinian Arabs. Such a clearly incendiary and anti-Semitic speech was not only allowed in parliament by the sensitive and “anti-racist” parliamentarians; it received a standing ovation. Evidently, wild anti-Semitic blood libels pronounced by Arabs do not constitute “things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate”.

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A Month of Islam and Multiculturalism in Britain

February 1. Jim Walker, a 71-year-old volunteer at Carnforth Station, was banned from the premises after someone complained about an alleged racist comment. Walker, who, for more than a decade, has been winding a famous clock at the station, was overheard discussing a newspaper article about young migrants entering Britain from the French port of Calais. Walker said:

“Carnforth Station Trust received a complaint from a visitor who was not happy about me speaking to somebody about the issue…. What they are doing is outrageous. It is absolutely unbelievable, it is a violation of free speech….

“I must be the only man in Carnforth who has a document saying where he can and can’t walk and all for expressing a point of view and quoting an editorial from a newspaper. Now [winding the clock] is no longer possible.”

February 1. Prime Minister Theresa May told the House of Commons that women should feel free to wear the hijab, a traditional Islamic headscarf. Several European countries have imposed bans on parts of Muslim religious dress. “What a woman wears is a woman’s choice,” May said after she was asked — on world hijab day — if she supported the right of women to wear the garment

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