It is a growing phenomenon, and it was on visible display last week. A group of terrorists was so offended by a publisher that the publisher had to be destroyed publicly as both an act of vengeance and an act of instruction.
The act of vengeance was directed against the publisher directly. He came under attack for his personal actions. He published something that offended the group. He published something that enraged them and, consequently, he needed to be punished.
The punishment could not be minor. It could not be something like heaping scorn on him. It could not be a public disagreement, a challenge or a debate. The subject, after all, is not debatable. The publisher had to be crushed, his livelihood taken, and he had to be ruined.
Ruining him, though, is not enough. There had to be instruction for others. The dictionary defines terrorism as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” One of those political aims is to let others know that if they speak out, they will be ruined, too. The terrorist must teach the public that if any of them causes offense, they too will be taken out. It is more than that, though. It is also instruction to self-regulate against offense.
Once a person has been visibly ruined with no grace and no mercy because, in this example, he dared publish something that offended the terrorists, the lesson is clear. Polite society does not want that violence and cannot abide the violence. So the public will step in, as agents of the terrorist under duress, to shut up any others who might stand in the town square and risk offending. The public shuts them up and shuts them down because the public does not want the intimidation, harassment and ruin.
The result is that the conversation ceases. Importantly, it is not because the conversation was out of bounds culturally, civically or politically. It is only out of bounds because of the repercussions from a minority group intent on silencing dissent. Before the conversation stops in the town square, however, it stops in the offices, in the schools and in the academy. Eventually, it stops except between the best and most trusted of friends.
While much of the world focused on terrorists killing cartoonists in France for offending their religion, last week in Atlanta, Georgia, the mayor of Atlanta fired the city’s fire chief, Kelvin …read more