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How we gave up on Salman Rushdie Britain saw his fatwa and internalised it

Don't blame free speech (Frederic REGLAIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Don't blame free speech (Frederic REGLAIN/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)


August 15, 2022   7 mins

The year was 1989. It was only when Salman Rushdie took his seat at the memorial service that the lethality of his predicament sank in. The remembrance for the writer Bruce Chatwin on Valentine’s Day was held at a Greek Orthodox Church in Bayswater. The grand building filled with holy smoke, melodious clerical babble, and half of literary London. Rushdie sat next to Martin Amis.

“We’re worried about you,” said Amis. “I’m worried about me,” responded Rushdie. Sitting in the pew behind was Paul Theroux. “I suppose we’ll be here for you next week, Salman,” he chuckled.

Rushdie remembered the moment, funny in the queasy-hysterical way narrowly not being hit by a car is funny, in his 2012 memoir Joseph Anton. After Friday’s attack on the author, which may cost him an eye and possibly more, the book is charged with new meaning.

Paparazzi and journalists began to follow Rushdie into the church. Hours before, Ayatollah Khomeini had issued his fatwa: “I inform all zealous Muslims of the world that the author of the book entitled The Satanic Verses… and all those involved in its publication who were aware of its content are sentenced to death. I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly.” Fleeing the press, Rushdie was spirited away by Alan Yentob in a BBC car.

Aged 40, Rushdie’s life was split into an unwanted second act. “How easy it was to erase a man’s past and to construct a new version of him,” he recalled, “an overwhelming version, against which it was impossible to fight.” Several builders collaborated to construct the new Rushdie. There was the Ayatollah, a man who had used children as mine-sweepers in the Iran-Iraq war, and who marked the tenth anniversary of the Iranian Revolution with his fatwa. There were the Muslims who rallied and rioted against Rushdie in France, America, Norway, Bangladesh, Thailand, Sweden, Pakistan, Australia, Turkey, and the Netherlands. And there were the governments who banned The Satanic Verses in two dozen countries. As he watched all this in hiding, the author “imagined the Great Pyramid of Giza turned upside down with the apex resting on his neck”.

The British builders were generally more subtle, though no less insidious. One of the very first calls Rushdie received after the fatwa was from Keith Vaz, the MP for Leicester East. Vaz described what was happening as “appalling, absolutely appalling”. He promised to support Rushdie. A few weeks later, Vaz was one of the main speakers at a demonstration against The Satanic Verses, describing the event as “one of the great days in the history of Islam and Great Britain”.

But MPs need votes more than they need writers to have artistic freedom. Joseph Anton is full of moments when they let Rushdie down. Max Madden, the Labour MP for Bradford West — Bradford, the city where copies of The Satanic Verses were crucified and set alight — suggested that Rushdie add an insert into his book allowing Muslims to explain why they found it offensive.

Offensive. That was the main charge against Rushdie in Britain. The five years it took to make a novel sing could be reduced to one slander. On the political Right, Rushdie had already caused offence. In the Eighties he had denounced “the Augean filth of imperialism” and described the British police as representatives of “the colonising army”. And, yes, Rushdie had praised the Iranian revolution: “We may not approve of Khomeini’s Iran. But the revolution there was a genuine mass movement.”

Writers at the Telegraph and Spectator, as well as members of Margaret Thatcher’s government, were patriotically scandalised that a foreign power could order the death of a British citizen and try to get his book banned. Not in this blessed plot; not in our England, mate. But it was still a cause for tickily spite that Rushdie, as Charles Moore would later reflect, “used to attacking whitey with impunity” was “suddenly seeking whitey’s help”.

There was dark, malicious glee. Auberon Waugh wondered “just how much we should exert ourselves, as deeply stained white imperialists, to protect him from his own people”. Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper said he wouldn’t be bothered if British Muslims decided to “waylay” Rushdie in an alleyway and “improve” his manners. Sir Stephen Spender, whose youthful communism was a distant memory, wrote in the Spectator of Rushdie: “It is mass immigration that has got him into the trouble in which he now finds himself
” Wasn’t it ironic that an immigrant like Rushdie, born in the twilight of the Raj before coming to England for boarding school, had become the hate figure of immigrants himself? “The liberals made their multicultural bed,” crowed Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, editor of the Sunday Telegraph. “Now they must lie on it, along with the rest of us.” Norman Tebbit spoke for them all when he described the novelist as an “outstanding villain”.

In Joseph Anton, Rushdie recounts this without much bitterness. Being cast as the “uppity foreigner” was something he expected. Neither is he particularly saddened to find successive Archbishops of Canterbury, and Prince Charles, respond tepidly to the fatwa. The Prince of Wales reportedly said he would not support a writer who had insulted the “deepest convictions” of Muslims. He was the defender of more than one faith now.

More surprising, though, was the reaction on the Left. It was one thing for the Daily Mail to label Rushdie as “unattractive, small-minded, arrogant, and egocentric”. But what did it mean for George Steiner, the great Cambridge polymath, no roast beef of old England merchant, to launch sustained, remorseless attacks on The Satanic Verses, while suggesting that Rushdie was “looking for trouble”? Who could explain John Berger denouncing Rushdie in the Guardian? Or Germaine Greer describing him as a “megalomaniac”? Or for Yasmin Alibhai-Brown in the Independent, seeking the fatwa’s positives for Britain’s Muslim community on its fifth birthday and claiming: “Had it not been for that fateful 14 February 1989, the world would be hurrying, unchallenged, towards the inalienable right to wear blue jeans and eat McDonald’s hamburgers.” Or the postcolonial theorist Paul Gilroy accusing him of “misjudging the people”? These were supposed to be his people.

Then there was John le CarrĂ©. The great author could hardly bring himself to condemn the USSR, but he was happy to give countless drubbings to Rushdie — by this point lying low in the Welsh Marches somewhere, under constant threat of death, as his publishers filled their offices with sniffer dogs and bomb-detection machinery. “Again and again, it has been within his power to save the faces of his publishers,” wrote le CarrĂ©, “and with dignity, withdraw his book until a calmer time has come. It seems to me he has nothing to prove but his own insensitivity.” Rushdie, he thought, was “impertinent” to believe that those who wrote literature had special claims to free speech.

Unlike the Right, which preferred to giggle in the darkness, le CarrĂ© had located the actual terrain where the battle over The Satanic Verses was being contested. This was about writerly freedoms. To tell stories. Nothing was padlocked. Any material could be nicked; to be mocked, worshipped, shredded, then picked up again, whenever you wanted to. The writer had the special privilege, those on Rushdie’s side argued, to be a dogmatician or a doubter. The point was that nobody told them which one to be. “Man was a storytelling animal,” Rushdie writes in Joseph Anton. “The story was his birthright, and nobody could take it away.”

Well, actually they could. Before Friday, the fires around Rushdie appeared subdued. The year was 2022. He believed he was safe. His prophecies about the decline of free speech were indulged but ignored. He had become a designer handbag novelist, whose fiction critics could safely attack again. He was in the uneasy position of being an anti-fundamentalist who said there were fundamental intellectual values to uphold.

Once he was stabbed 15 times, a season of fine words began. There was Yasmin Alibhai-Brown on Twitter, hoping to see Rushdie pull through. There was Iranian Press Television’s own Jeremy Corbyn, offering solidarity. A contest was held: who would be the last politician to wish Rushdie well? (It was nearly Keir Starmer.) Fearing his death, and perhaps fearing that anyone with an internet connection could look up their behaviour during the initial rages of the fatwa, the Anglosphere jangled with weighty tributes to Rushdie.

But the finest words of all, demonstrating how morbid it all was, came from a man dead for 10 years. In the first rounds of the fatwa, Christopher Hitchens had tirelessly stumped for Rushdie. Now, in this latest, unexpected round, Hitchens was summoned from his grave. All weekend, videos of him defending Rushdie were shared, videos where Hitchens spoke with an unimaginable frankness, videos where he spoke with more force, more intelligence, and more authority than anybody alive today.

In Joseph Anton, Rushdie writes that even his own defences of free speech had started to sound “stale in his own ears”. Something curdled in the 2010s. While he has escaped with his life long enough to become truly, especially bored of the fatwa, he begins to realise that the cause he is fighting for, the principle he embodies, is in decay. “Something new was happening here: the growth of a new intolerance. It was spreading across the surface of the earth, but nobody wanted to know.” What was happening? A simple, popular idea: if the collective felt upset, it had the right to silence the individual. This is what countless controversies, from Charlie Hebdo to The Lady of Heaven, scratching away in the background, proved. Authors like Peter Carey, who defended Rushdie in the Nineties, would not defend Charlie Hebdo in 2015, not weeks after the cartoonists had been slaughtered in their offices.

The world had turned. The idea had been internalised. It had spread far and wide, beyond religion, beyond anything Khomeini could have imagined, freakishly stretching and reaching into every cultural nook. The principle had a language: “It isn’t worth the fuss; it’s not a good look; it won’t play well.” Easier to say, as the Associate Editor of the Independent did a few years ago, that Rushdie’s “silly, childish” book “should be banned under today’s anti-hate legislation”. Who wants a brick through the window, a death threat, a calumny, all that damage to your reputation? Write out of turn and you get what you deserve. People felt this was justice, not cowardice. This is what Gilroy, le CarrĂ©, and Berger were getting at. They realised first that poets were not “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”. Poets were fair game, like everyone else. They realised, in fact, that most people do not like freedom of speech very much. Most people — and that includes most writers — will not risk being banished to Siberia.

“Good men would give in to fear and call it respect,” Rushdie predicted in Joseph Anton. “Good men would commit intellectual suicide and call it peace.” He was right. Martin Amis had worried about Salman Rushdie. What wasn’t so clear that morning in 1989 was how much further than Rushdie the culture of his fatwa would extend.

***

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Brian Villanueva
Brian Villanueva
1 year ago

Rushdie won the battle (by not getting killed for 30+ years), but the Ayatollahs won the war. Consider how obsessed the modern West is with “Islamophobia”. To say nothing of the other phony phobias our elites concoct.
Rushdie was accused of blasphemy. Our modern blasphemy labels are different: racist; transphobe; bigot; hater; homophobe. The consequences of offending someone and getting one of these labels applied to us aren’t fatal, but they can certainly cost you your job, your professional license, your social position, not to mention real financial disruption.
Today, we all live in fear of being placed under a fatwa. Not by an Muslim cleric in Iran, but by our own coworkers and supposed friends.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

Yes, I’ve noticed this too. I’ve recently gone into business for myself because of such workfloor dynamics (and also because I’m getting too old to be someone else’s employee).

Margie Murphy
Margie Murphy
1 year ago

Well said.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

“How we gave up Salman Rushdie”I don’t wish to sound snarky with Will Lloyd, but what’s with the “we”? There are two Englands – there is my England, and there is the England of a degenerate establishment. Let us be clear where responsibility lies.

Allison Barrows
Allison Barrows
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

That collective “we” writers often employ is how everyone, regardless of their stance, gets dragged into an outrage. What this guy should have said was many of Rushdie’s fellow writers and public intellectuals, always so quick with their sneering, scolding opinions, are hypocritical cowards. The rest of us needn’t feel anything other than disgust at the horror and hope Salman Rushdie recovers fully.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

Harsh but fair

Rick Lawrence
Rick Lawrence
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Why harsh? I condemn what happened his week but resent the implication of our collective guilt.

Last edited 1 year ago by Rick Lawrence
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Rick Lawrence

My little joke. Tongue in cheek. Kick ’em in the knackers.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Shouldn’t that be b*llocks?

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

I use the term knackers when there are ladies present. In my experience girls like crudity, but not from men.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Case explained, thank you.

R S Foster
R S Foster
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

…absolutely true. In the immediate aftermath of the Bradford Book-Burning, I’d have experienced little difficulty in getting a few lads organised to burn the Qu’ran in the very same spot. Just for the devilment..!

Gandydancer x
Gandydancer x
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Not seeing the “joke” you claim below that this is. My question was the same: How can I have “given up” on Rushdie when he bever siunded like someone I needed to read? Yes, the response to Khomeni should have been a sequence of missiles long enough to get the job done and make the point that he’s not the only one who can issue death sentences against foreigners, but Rushdie’s uninteresting views or right to express them are beside the point.

Last edited 1 year ago by Gandydancer x
harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Gandydancer x

I would say his right to express them is precisely the point. I like the part about the sequence of missiles, though.

John Allman
John Allman
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

The blame for the attack falls first on the attacker, second on the late ayatollah, third on the organisers of the event and those they entrusted with security, and perhaps fourth with the regime once headed by the ayatollah for not distancing itself sufficiently from the fatwah. Maybe even Mr Rushdie is himself partly to be victim-blamed, like the anecdotal drunk teenager in a very short miniskirt and no proper knickers who accepts a lift home after midnight as the only passenger of a drooling, suspicious-looking stranger posing as a minicab driver and ends up being sexually assaulted. Neither of the two Englands you mention bear much responsibility for what happened to Mr Rusdie in America all these years after the fatwah, if you ask me.

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
1 year ago

The fatwa was the canary in the coal mine.
Every offence taking intolerant drew strength from our feeble response.

Melissa Martin
Melissa Martin
1 year ago

Am I wrong in seeing simple professional jealousy in the reaction of some writers to our threatened writers, running concurrently with all the other baser instincts; cowardice, witch-hunting, etc? The malice from Joanne Harris towards J K Rowling seems deeply personal.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago
Reply to  Melissa Martin

It’s hard to tell whether it began as something personal, perhaps due to professional jealousy, because once you set up certain people as ‘allowable to hate, personally’ a huge number of people will unload all the malice in their souls because this is the permission they have been waiting for all their despicable lives. Even if it didn’t start out ‘personal’, it immediately goes there because ‘personal’ is where the hate is allowed. This is hate catnip — I get to hate you individually, not because you are a member of group X, but because you are who you are, and call myself virtuous for doing so.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 year ago

‘Allowable to hate’.

I had to highlight your turn of phrase here because I’ve noticed the same happening in colleges. Hatred and bigotry has no home in academia – unless of course it is institutionally sanctioned such as negative discrimination against European or Asian people.
There is an active movement working toward the degeneration of the West in order to get its people groomed for serfdom. This is being done in academia under the guise of Queer, Feminist, and Race Theory.

Margie Murphy
Margie Murphy
1 year ago

Trump being a case in point. The elites, the media, academia every institution have set Trump up at a figure of not just hate but have given permission to allow a deranged, fanatical, insane derision to take hold without the inconvenience of having to rationalise it. We as a people have allowed out minds and world views to be taken over by a machine. We are told we must be kind. Be respectful, and doing so we must suspend our our own rational brains and allow out “feelings” and everybody else’s “feelings” especially those of preferred groups to be preeminent. The problem with Rushdie’s Fatwa was its response. Mealy mouthed, blame the victim and never criticise the insane fanatical, evil regime that spawned it. Why? Because Islam gets a respect from the mealy mouthed that it does not deserve.

james goater
james goater
1 year ago
Reply to  Margie Murphy

Your concluding sentence, especially, is masterful. No other religion is so demanding of respect while doing so little to earn it.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
1 year ago

The quisling phrase of the woke when they defend cancellation and loss of employment for voicing some “unacceptable” sentiment is “you have freedom of speech but must bear the consequences”. The woke, so far, are content to destroy a life but not yet to destroy life itself. The fatwa is the ultimate destination of any belief system that becomes a religion with fanatics to enforce its doctrines and prejudices.

Goodbye the Enlightenment welcome back the Inquisition and the wars of religion..

Ken Baker
Ken Baker
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

At least the wars of religion of hundreds of years ago were as bloody as they were in part because they were over something that was deemed SERIOUS – i.e. whether or not one’s soul would burn in Hell for all eternity. Now…it’s the transmogrification of the trivial into the consequential w/no real ethical or ultimate divine authority to have to answer to. There will be no St.Bartholemew’s Day Massacres perhaps – just ruined lives, ruined careers, ruined friendships and ruined families. And for what exactly?

Methadras Aszlosis
Methadras Aszlosis
1 year ago

Today’s Rushdie is an absolute piker compared to the radical Marxist Intersectional SJW ideological language puritans running amok today.

Lynne Teperman
Lynne Teperman
1 year ago

Bob Rae, currently Canada’s ambassador to the UN, was the first public figure to appear side by side with Rushdie in a public forum following the fatwah, in the early 1990s when Rae was the premier of Ontario and Rae’s wife was president of PEN Canada. Rae spoke on CBC Radio yesterday and offered a very interesting observation of The Satanic Verses, which he had read, and I have not: it doesn’t really mock Islam or Mohammed, but it did mock Khomeini (among a number of contemporary political figures including Margaret Thatcher).
If Rae’s take on the book is a fair assessment – and Rae is a very bright man – it would go a very long way as to explain why the Islamic Republic of Iran has never rescinded the bounty on Rushdie.

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Lynne Teperman

Bob Rae, the former NDP premier of Ontario, is and always has been a real mensch. He was treated abominably by his supposed leftist allies while premier for instituting what they mockingly called “Rae days,” i.e. days off without pay (I believe; it was a long time ago). The result of all that was getting ultra-conservative Mike Harris to succeed Rae as premier. The left strikes again!

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

This trend towards “not writing out of turn” for fear of kicking up an unwanted fuss goes hand in hand with writing for marketability and to make people feel good. Over the last week, I read “The Luminous Solution” by the Australian author Charlotte Wood, which addresses various facets of the creative process of writing.
One of the chapters railed against the idea that books should have likeable characters and make the reader feel good, or confirmed in his/her pre-existing beliefs. Readers do not want to be inside the head of someone who they don’t like or understand and don’t want to be challenged or made to feel uncomfortable.
Books that don’t have this effect will not sell very well – apart from perhaps among serious readers of literature. Unfortunately, people who write want to make a living and so they pander to what they think the market wants and will buy and like. I don’t often make bald statements about the ills of capitalism, but I do think this is an instance of capitalism and consumerism devouring the concept of literature.
The point of literature is not to flatter or to make the reader feel a certain way: it is to address every aspect of the human experience and to portray all kinds of different people, thinking and reacting differently. It helps the reader to understand the world without having to go anywhere. Roald Dahl’s Matilda taught me this at age 7 and I haven’t stopped reading since.
Rushdie has always performed exactly this role and should always have been defended for doing so. Those who thought that the fatwa was him getting his just desserts* got their priorities mixed up and allowed their hurt feelings to obscure the bigger picture.
* or deserts…which is correct, actually?

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
John Potts
John Potts
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

It’s the latter, deserts. It’s a noun derived from the verb deserve: your just deserts = you get what you deserve.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago
Reply to  John Potts

It’s one of those ones that looks wrong even when you know its right.

Mark Gourley
Mark Gourley
1 year ago
Reply to  John Potts

Exactly. “Desserts” – or puddings – are what you eat after the main course.

Bill Gilmour
Bill Gilmour
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark Gourley

Yes and many of Rushdie’s friends deserted him.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

A capitalism with breadth and competition would publish books that challenge the reader and books that pander to the reader. The problem today is that much of the competition in publishing has gone and a few big publishing houses produce what makes the greatest profit. You surely don’t pine for socialist publishing where the government dictates what is published?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
1 year ago

While the actions of publishing houses as the arbiters of what gets put out there and what not are a relevant factor, my comment was rather referring to the chilling effect of commercial considerations/the pressure to make a living on what the writer produces in the first place. A government can’t choose/choose not to have something published that hasn’t been created yet.

Last edited 1 year ago by Katharine Eyre
ormondotvos
ormondotvos
1 year ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

Yes, it can.

  1. It’s called “prior restraint.”
  2. LAW
  3. judicial suppression of material that would be published or broadcast, on the grounds that it is libelous or harmful. In US law, the First Amendment severely limits the ability of the government to do this.
  4. “And historically, prior restraint of publication has been viewed as presumptively unconstitutional.”
J Hop
J Hop
1 year ago

Amazon in the US is making prime members pay $5 shipping to get this book. Sneaky way to discourage sales without an outright ban.

Javier Bertossi
Javier Bertossi
1 year ago
Reply to  J Hop

Sneaky way to profit off what’s in the news, I’d say.

Maureen Finucane
Maureen Finucane
1 year ago
Reply to  J Hop

Just found my old copy which I’ve kept all these years.

M Harries
M Harries
1 year ago

Have you read it cover to cover?

Sam Brown
Sam Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  J Hop

However, if you use Audible, Amazon’s audio book service, it is included as part of the subscription.

Laura Creighton
Laura Creighton
1 year ago
Reply to  J Hop

Does their Kindle service count as publishing?

Maureen Finucane
Maureen Finucane
1 year ago

I for one found it profoundly shocking that we had our own version of Kristallnacht in a British city with public book burning. It was certainly an omen of what was to come and the eagerness with which books are being censored today.

N T
N T
1 year ago

1. I hope that Mr. Rushdie has a quick and complete recovery.
2. There were TWO NY state troopers there to provide security for Mr. Rushdie, but somehow this attack happened, anyway.

Ken Baker
Ken Baker
1 year ago
Reply to  N T

The troopers probably didn’t feel safe w/just the 2 of handling this since they couldn’t confirm if this was a lone attacker and had radioed for and were waiting for backup…

/s for the irony-challenged out there…

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ken Baker

Based on what happened at Uvalde the other day it is hardly surprising that the NY troopers did nothing.
Perhaps it is time for US police forces to start exclusively employing military veterans, preferably from the ‘ teeth arms’. One doesn’t want someone who has spent five years stacking Tampax boxes in an air conditioned Nissen Hut.

Last edited 1 year ago by CHARLES STANHOPE
Vijay Kant
Vijay Kant
1 year ago

Islam will remain intolerant as long as the world allows it to. It is the political strategy of Islam to take offence at everything. For it will later use that offence to justify violence and suppression of rights. Least you forget, Islam means total submission.

Last edited 1 year ago by Vijay Kant
james goater
james goater
1 year ago
Reply to  Vijay Kant

Somewhere within Islam’s holy texts, intolerance and savagery are permitted, even encouraged. Only when such tracts are thoroughly revised and the entire religion is reformed so as to be more compatible with the modern world will the intolerance, violence, and savagery cease.

John Turnbull
John Turnbull
1 year ago

The logic suggests that Moslems accept that they should all be assassinated for their views on Judeo-Christianity.

ormondotvos
ormondotvos
1 year ago

I wonder if the woke or the religious will be dominant after WWIII?

Tony Sandy
Tony Sandy
1 year ago

With regards to the attack on Salman Rushdie, yes he did bring this down on himself but but all censorship is murder of the mind. What we have is expression versus suppression. A psychological profile, in a newspaper a few years ago, disclosed the fact that suicide bombers were already depressed and suicidal before attempting to kill other people. Putin’s assassination of Russian dissidents in the UK is no different from this attack upon Mr Rushdie. Asad Shah, the Glasgow shopkeeper died because he displayed trust in others by staying true to his Ahmadiyya faith, showing love to others by wishing Merry Christmas to his Christian friends.

As Gandhi said, if you want peace you must be peace. Cowards need to justify their actions, by blaming others and claiming to be victims themselves. The courageous just get on with living their lives – proudly being an example to others by simply being themselves. Some hide behind religion or politics as criminals hide behind the law (and the just stand proudly in front of it).

Religion that preaches greed and hate, is not religion but politics: physical revolution, not spiritual evolution; division of bodies, not unity of souls.. True religion is spiritual and includes, not excludes. It is without the prejudice that drives the fear filled, insane with violent hate. It does not destroy but reaches out and creates bonds.

The pen may be stronger than the sword because it exposes the frightened and humourless as in Jason and the Bean Men, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Twice Told Tales,’ based on The Greek Myths, which disclosed how easy it is to get the unintelligent to fight each other. The Twilight Zone also covered this in the episode ‘The Monsters are expected on Maple Street.’

The American Paradigm Schools showed the complete opposite in The John Paul Jones Middle School that they took over, through their application of The Alternatives to Violence Project and taking down metal detectors and window bars, that violence could be reduced by 90%, simply through trust, student empowerment and anger management. Americas jails are full of prisoners because the government doesn’t trust its citizens and these citizens are armed because they don’t trust each other or themselves.

The Taliban are back to suppressing free expression and the isolationist policies that kept it stuck in the Middle Ages, claiming proudly that they defeated the Americans. They did not. They have simply gone back to shooting themselves in the foot and hiding in the past. Where is the courage to face the future and move forward into a world with decent health care and freedom to be yourself as a person? As Gene Roddenberry said ‘ Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate but take a special delight in differences, in ideas and different life forms.’ Progress occurs through openness and a sense of humour (not taking life seriously), just as regression comes from fear.
I finish with these few relevant quotes.
‘It seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with him as a person, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)’

‘We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)’

‘It is impossible to to make people understand their ignorance as it requires knowledge to perceive it and therefore he that can perceive it, it not ignorant (Jeremy Taylor) ‘

‘I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain (Frank Herbert)’

‘Without change something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens (Frank Herbert)’

“If you want to know who controls you, look at who you are not allowed to criticize.” (Voltaire).

“Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.” (Voltaire).

“I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it” (Voltaire).

harry storm
harry storm
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Sandy

Sorry but he did NOT bring this down upon himself. How does saying that he did square with the Voltaire quote at the end of your comment?

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago

This is a thoughtful article. We can argue until the cows come home about how absolute free speech should be, and whether those arguing for it should have spotless progressive (or indeed pro-British or whatever) views. It is pretty clear though that such a circumscribed notion of ‘free speech’ isn’t worth the candle. In my view, the overwhelming common element among those attacking Rushdie is utter cowardice combined with hypocrisy. Most of the authors would certainly not want to give up on their excoriating attacks on other, less dangerous, systems of thought and belief as Islam, such as the British Empire or the Catholic Church.

R Wright
R Wright
1 year ago

Why are we even granting so much to the British aspect of this, given that Rushdie despises this country and abandoned it (and citizenship) years ago? Free speech has other more important struggles to deal with. The institutional intolerance caused by the left is far more important than a handful of insane fanatics, themselves aided and abetted by the left and its backers in the Blob.

Last edited 1 year ago by robertdkwright
YaJ LlewollaH
YaJ LlewollaH
1 year ago

A charecter Mario Puzo’s “Godfather” pissed of Hollywood’s Frank Sinatra and a character in Salman Rushdie’s “Satanic Verses” pissed off Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini .

Last edited 1 year ago by YaJ LlewollaH
William Hickey
William Hickey
1 year ago
Reply to  YaJ LlewollaH

You must not have read Mario Puzo’s “The Godfather.”

Puzo adored Sinatra. The book — not the movie — has a whole chapter on the “Fontane” character and about what an incredible artist he had become as a mature man.

Last edited 1 year ago by William Hickey
Ken Baker
Ken Baker
1 year ago
Reply to  William Hickey

In “The Godfather Papers” Puzo writes of encountering Sinatra personally after the book had been out for a while and was a massive best-seller. It started amiably enough but soon turned nasty, though Puzo pointed out that he didn’t blame Sinatra entirely for feeling the way he did and that “…contrary to his reputation, he didn’t once use any foul language. The worst name he called me was a pimp…”

Tony Sandy
Tony Sandy
1 year ago

All censorship is murder of the mind and says more about our fears plus imprisoning thoughts that hold us all enslaved to the past and in hiding from what we see as a threatening future (But to what? Our reputation? Who we think we really are in relation to other people / society in general?). Is there any reality in all this or just ego?

William Shaw
William Shaw
1 year ago

This writer has things backward.
We didn’t give up on Rushdie, he gave up on us.
He’s been a US citizen since 2016.

Ray Rasmussen
Ray Rasmussen
1 year ago

While reading about the attack on Rushdie, I was also reading these kinds of headlines: “Violent threats against FBI soar as Trump lies about Mar-a-Lago search.” I don’t know how we can manage to protect our politicians and judges, right or left, from slander and the increasing levels of treats and violence, particularly after the ongoing onslaught against democratic freedoms by Trump and the MAGA politicians and faithful. The Ayatollah isn’t just over there in Iran, the Brown Shirts aren’t just an event of long ago and Rushdie isn’t singular in his plight. I even worry that even what I write here is just another signal to hate the MAGAs and could in these days serve an excuse for violence.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ray Rasmussen
Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  Ray Rasmussen

‘after the ongoing onslaught against democratic freedoms by Trump and the MAGA politicians and faithful.’

Nothing in that strikes you as slightly partisan, thereby increasing the chance of your worry coming true?

Perhaps a bit of a mention of politicians actively cheering on rioters through the BLM campaign. BLM itself being exposed as corrupt. Hunters laptop, critical theory foisted on schools, university cancellations, the blatant media misrepresentations Mary Harrington points out today.

Your politicians are actively destroying your democracy but it’s very much a two pronged assault.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Again with the “whataboutery”. If what Mr. Rasmussen says is true then it is appalling, if politicians cheered rioters it is appalling, one does not cancel out the other. Mr. Rasmussen was merely making the point that the same sort of violent fanaticism that features in Iran is on display in the US too, something that certainly should concern US citizens of all stripes.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

There is a conflict resolution technique whereby one is required to make a sincere attempt to understand the position of one’s opponent before responding. Usually there is a mediator to ensure the effort at paraphrasing the opposition view doesn’t become unhelpful straw manning.

The words of Mr Rasmussen’s post is all I have to go on but, from that, my genuine understanding of his position could summarised as:

1. American democracy is in danger because politicians are under increasing threat of slander and violence.
2. Those threats are a result of the actions of the Trumpian right.
3. Historical examples of totalitarian regimes are given to make the point “it could happen here.”
4. Even protesting the problem, as he is, could fan the flames of anger.

I agree with him (and you) on point 1.

I think both sides are contributing equally to the problem. Therefore I don’t share his analysis of the problem (but do share yours it appears.)

I agree that some of the horrors of history could be repeated even in a modern western democracy and that is something that should worry us. Including the Gulags, Hodomor, Great Leap Forward etc might have been a more balanced view of the historical horrors we have to fear.

Fearing the problem, while exclusively blaming one side, does appear to me to be fanning the flames in a rather passive aggressive way.

I’m not really sure why making those points should be labelled Whataboutery, which seems to becoming one of those catch all phrases to shut down debate.

For the record, I abhor Trump and am alarmed at the direction the GOP and, to some extent the Conservative party, are taking. However I fear the Social Justice left more at the moment because they have so visibly and effectively “marched through the institutions” and their historical record is so much worse.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Fearing the problem, while exclusively blaming one side, does appear to me to be fanning the flames in a rather passive aggressive way.

I absolutely agree with this point. My concern is that, particularly on this site, there is a broad tendency to see only the problems on one side (usually the left) whilst excusing, if they are even acknowledged, the same or similar behaviours on the other side. To answer a criticism with the comment that they did worse is not an argument.

Having said this, I do appreciate the time that you have taken to set out a position, I find this much more rewarding than merely a down-vote. Thank-you.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

I agree the commentariat on here skews right, though not exclusively, but find a lot of erudite non aligned comment.

The articles themselves come from a wide range. My impression is that the right wing (or at least anti woke) voices get much less of a platform in the MSM. That’s what makes it more interesting than what little I’ve seen of left wing sites, where the comments seem to be considerably more unforgiving of dissent.

Thanks for your reply. Always more fun to debate than slinging insults.

Last edited 1 year ago by Martin Bollis
Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The main reason that I’m on this site is its (generally) anti-woke tone, and I agree that the MSM (again, generally) with a few honourable exceptions are too non-critical of the woke position on most issues. My main concern is the colonisation of history by social justice warriors who mould the facts to fit their preconceived agenda, leaving out what can’t be fitted into said agenda and failing to even attempt to see the other side.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago

I agree with you entirely, particularly “failing to even attempt to see the other side.”

Is whataboutery a “take the mote out of thine own eye” statement? Not as strong or as useful as making a strong case for one’s own argument, but almost irresistible given the sanctimoniousness of the other side.

Linda Hutchinson
Linda Hutchinson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Actually I was thinking about motes and beams, but I don’t think one side should be given congratulations for only having a mote in its eye, I think, for the most part, they both have ginormous beams in their eyes.

Paul Nathanson
Paul Nathanson
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

There is an inherent danger in “what-about” rejoinders, because two wrongs don’t make a right. But there’s also an inherent need for them, because how else can we point out the hypocrisy of double standards?

Ray Rasmussen
Ray Rasmussen
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Thanks for the interesting discussion following below, Martin and Linda. I can understand that my comment could easily be read as partisan, and indeed, I am about as anti-Trump MAGA as a person can get. However, my intent was more to suggest that in being so, am I not engaged in the same sort of labelling, blaming and name calling that I think is increasingly the spark of violence, left and right? I very much fear that people with strong negative attitudes will soon lead to violence … not to say there hasn’t been any left-inspired violence. I considered the picketing and mega-phone haunting of Kavanaugh’s home as a horrific invasion of privacy and personal security. So while I feel that way, I’m also looking in the mirror at the extent of my dislike of the man and the damage done to the supreme court.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ray Rasmussen