Liberals are hypocrites and cowards, some conservatives (and Bill Maher) are saying, for (among other things) claiming to be defenders of the freedom to engage in offensive speech in light of the Islamic extremist attack on Charlie Hebdo while continually seeking to censor speech they consider offensive.
Liberals have exalted Charlie Hebdo, a satirical French newspaper, after the attack at the paper's headquarters that left 12 dead. "Je Suis Charlie," (French for "I am Charlie") was a common refrain and hashtag from many quarters.
Even as liberal news outlets argued for the freedom of speech, they ironically continued to self-censor Charlie Hebdo. Many decided not to show audiences the images that led radical Muslims to kill those who offended them. When some of those outlets claimed the decision was done out of respect for religion, conservatives were quick to point out the double standard.
After Associated Press said it did not want to publish "deliberately provocative images," Washington Examiner's Timothy Carney pointed out that the AP website showed and sold copies of "Piss Christ," an artwork that was deliberately designed to provoke Christians. (It has since been removed.)
After the executive editor of The New York Times said his paper did not run the cartoons due to its policy of not publishing images that "gratuitously offend," several conservatives pointed out that the policy did not seem to apply to Christians or Jews.
When the New York Daily news published a Charlie Hebdo cartoon, it pixilated out the offensive image of Mohammed, but left the offensive image of a Jewish rabbi in place.
So, it must not be out of a deference to religious sensibilities in general that the media is not publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. The only explanation for this hypocrisy, Mollie Hemingway argued for The Federalist, is that the media is comprised of cowards.
"The story in the self-censorship is that global news organizations won't publish these cartoons out of fear," she wrote. "We should not be told the self-censoring is a matter of principle when it's a matter of abject and degrading fear."
Hemingway also pointed out the irony (and further hypocrisy) in the liberal press accusing those who express concerns about radical Islam of being "Islamophobic."
Others pointed out the tendency among liberals to suggest that an equivalence among the main religions should accompany any criticism of Islam or Islam's adherents.
"Modern Western secularists feel no anxiety whatsoever when they encounter harsh criticism and satire of Christianity. But if you offer a particularly barbed remark about Islam among the enlightened, someone will ask you to politely agree that Christianity is just as bad," Michael Brendan Dougherty wrote for The Week.
This tendency was on display at MSNBC when guests to Alex Wagner's show claimed that the murderous rampage was equivalent to Evangelical preacher Jerry Falwell suing Hustler for a cartoon showing him in an incestuous relationship with his mother. In response, Wagner said the media focuses more on anti-Islamic blasphemy than other types of blasphemy because it is more "controversial" and "incendiary," which appeared to avoid pointing out that anti-Islamic blasphemy is what gets people murdered.
The exchange was dubbed, "The Dumbest 57 Seconds Ever on TV?" by National Review's Jonah Goldberg.
"To compare Falwell's lawsuit to these murderers isn't just astoundingly, jaw-droppingly, stupid. Doing so misses just about every important moral, legal and factual distinction that one can miss. But Wagner doesn't think that's good enough. She had to take it a half-step farther and really emphasize how unfair it is that people make it seem like only Muslims are thin-skinned about such things," Goldberg wrote.
Comedian Bill Maher, a liberal and an atheist, has previously criticized the Left's desire to proclaim a moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam. He made a similar point again after the Paris attacks.
"There have been studies. We have facts on this. Treatment of women. They studied 130 different countries. Seventeen of the bottom 20 were Muslim countries. In 10 Muslim countries, you can get the death penalty just for being gay. They chop heads off in the square in Mecca. Well, Mecca is their Vatican City. If they were chopping the heads off of Catholic gay people, wouldn't there be a bigger outcry among liberals? I'd ask you," Maher said on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
The defense of the right to speech, and offensive speech in particular, also came across as hollow to many conservatives who have long complained about the Left's trend of censorship.
"Public reaction to the attack in Paris has revealed that there are a lot of people who are quick to lionize those who offend the views of Islamist terrorists in France but who are a lot less tolerant toward those who offend their own views at home," David Brooks, a conservative columnist for The New York Times, wrote Thursday.
Brooks then pointed out professors fired, speakers disinvited and Christian groups de-recognized from college campuses.
"As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris," he continued, "it's a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists."