"A Culture of Cowards”
FrontPage Magazine 18 February 2013
By Bruce Bawer
This isn’t going to be about Iceland, or about online porn, but there’s a reason nonetheless to start with the news that Iceland’s government – apparently satisfied that it’s safely pulled out of its financial crisis – has turned its attention to a feminist proposal to block online porn using the same technology that China uses to limit its own subjects’ Internet access.
This is not good news – for a couple of reasons.
The first, and more frivolous, reason is as follows. I’ve been to Iceland. It’s an interesting place to visit – fascinating, actually – but you wouldn’t want to live there. No, honest – you really, really wouldn’t want to live there. I’m not saying it’s awful in the same way as, oh, Tanzania, where albinos are poached like animals because it’s believed that if you cut off one of their body parts it can bring you power and riches. Or Angola, where the police, if you can call them that, look away from the widespread violence against suspected witches (some of them mere children) because they’re scared of having a spell cast against them.
No, Iceland is tough going in a different way. The landscape looks like the surface of the moon. There are almost no trees or other vegetation. Even well-to-do residents of Reykjavik live in ugly, bunker-like concrete structures built to withstand the brutal winters. The population is so small and inbred that when you glimpse somebody on the street whom you find attractive, chances are pretty good that it’s your cousin. The grim, dull life of even the chilly capital’s cooler denizens was captured nicely in the novel 101 Reykjavik by Hallgrímur Helgason, who gave the distinct impression that the only thing more boring than living in Iceland is living in Iceland without online porn.
But my topic here, as I say, is neither Iceland nor online porn – for the blocking of which, I suppose, there are reasonable arguments. The problem is this. If Iceland did opt for such a ban, legislators in other countries would immediately want to get into the act. And for the kind of busybody politicians who consider it their job to sit around thinking up things to regulate, censor, and prohibit (all in the name, naturally, of the common good and their own concept of virtue), such a move would only be a first step. It would – and this is where the subject at hand shifts from frivolous to deadly serious – invigorate the already quite robust crusade to impose government or U.N. controls on the Internet, the principal goal of which, needless to say, is to scrub the Web clean of "Islamophobia” and any other Thoughtcrimes that impede global harmony. As any reader of this site well knows, there are those among us – and above us – who long for the ideological tidiness of the pre-Internet era, when the mainstream news media could have kept a story like, say, Benghazi from ever becoming a story at all, and, more broadly, deluded almost all of us about the basic facts of sharia, jihad, and other pillars of Islam.
It’s alarming how many Americans, more than a decade after 9/11, are still living in La-La Land where Islam is concerned. But imagine how much worse the situation would be if we didn’t have the Internet – if, in other words, pretty much all of our sources of information about Islam were MSM-approved whitewashers like Karen Armstrong and John Esposito. If the Internet has been a crucial asset for Americans in the years since 9/11, moreover, it’s been even more of a boon for Europeans – and a thorn in the side to many European public officials, who recognize, and despise, it for what it is: a First Amendment zone in countries that have no First Amendment and that are, in principle, despite their purported devotion to democracy, firmly opposed to unlimited freedom of expression.
Before the Internet came along, how many of us really grasped just how heavily and systematically the mainstream media filtered their reporting on current events – ignoring some developments entirely, giving others outrageously short shrift, and spinning others in order to ensure that their stories reflect a certain worldview? Now, in any event, we know. And for those of us who no longer rely exclusively on the traditional news media to find out what’s going on in the world, nearly every day brings yet another reminder of just how much important news those media deem unfit to print. I wrote here last month about the shameless effort by the Norwegian Broadcasting Company (NRK) to pass off a convicted accomplice in a multiple child-rape case as a sympathetic victim of anti-gypsy prejudice. NRK, which years ago would have gotten away with such a subterfuge, was caught red-handed not by other members of the cozy mainstream-media club but by an independent news and opinion website, document.no. Not that NRK has learned its lesson. Just the other day it presented a "documentary” whose manifest purpose, just as with the bogus gypsy tale, was to challenge what those in power plainly view as "prejudice,” this time against the niqab; as Hege Storhaug put it in a scathing critique, the show depicted the niqab as a "liberating” garment that makes the young women profiled on the program not just happy but "euphoric.” Whitewashed throughout the presentation was these young women’s unsavory jihadist connections.
So it goes. I live in Europe, but if not for a U.S. writer reporting last week here at all-American Front Page, I probably wouldn’t have heard a peep about Germany’s latest "hate speech” conviction.
The competition is stiff. But surely the most inexcusable recent attempt by the mainstream media to deep-six a development they preferred not to acknowledge was their reaction to what any objective reporter with half a brain would recognize as a sensational and deeply consequential story – namely, the foiled attempt, apparently by a Danish Muslim, to murder in cold blood Lars Hedegaard, Denmark’s most prominent critic of the Religion of Peace. To be sure, as I wrote on February 6, the silence was not universal. In Scandinavia, the media were all over the story. And why not? The shooting provided Lars’s ideological enemies in the journalism community with an excellent opportunity to get in a few kicks of their own, calling him a racist and misrepresenting his views. Not surprisingly, the abuse was worst of all in Sweden, which seems determined to become the first sharia-run nation in Western Europe. (In fact – not that it will make the slightest bit of difference – Lars has filed libel charges against Swedish TV and several Swedish newspapers.)
Still, at least in Scandinavia the news about Lars’s unexpected visitor got out – and those who know what’s what (which is, believe me, a lot of people) understand what it means when a newspaper like Denmark’s Politiken or Sweden’s Aftonbladet calls somebody like Lars a racist. No, what’s far worse than this fatuous Nordic name-calling is that only a tiny percentage of people beyond Scandinavia heard about this story at all. Yes, it was accorded perfunctory mentions by the BBC, the Washington Post, Le Monde, and a couple of other places on that scale.
But while Fox News reported on it, searches of the other U.S. broadcast networks’ news websites turned up nothing. Ditto MSNBC. The New York Times? Nada. (If Google can be trusted, Lars’s name has never appeared in the Times.) On CNN’s website, the only mention I could find of the crime was a four-line summary buried near the bottom of something called "Belief Blog’s Morning Speed Read for Wednesday, February 06, 2013.” As Douglas Murray noted in The Spectator, only a few "U.S. conservative blogs” seemed "willing even to report” on the story about Lars’s close call. "We live in a culture of cowards and hypocrites,” Murray raged. Indeed, by staying mum about an event that seemed instantly iconic of our times, the great majority of the mainstream Western media explicitly rejected their only calling – to strive to tell the world the vital truths about itself.
Which is why we so desperately need the Internet, and why we must recognize any threat to absolute Internet freedom as an insidious attempt by those cowards and hypocrites, as Murray rightly calls them, to stifle the telling of uncomfortable truths – an attempt, indeed, to turn the main historical narrative of our era upside-down, and thus put at risk the lives and liberties of every citizen of every free country on the globe.
How many Americans have heard so much as a word about what happened at Lars Hedegaard’s front door in Copenhagen late on the morning of February 5 – an occurrence that, frankly, has a major bearing on their own futures, and those of their children and grandchildren? Precious few. Now imagine if there were no Internet at all, or only a castrated version thereof – in other words, a media landscape in which virtually none of us would have heard of this unspeakable atrocity.
Are there very many scarier thoughts?