So who decides what is blasphemous or hateful?
Whoever has the power to do so.
But of course, this does not mean that all opinions are equal.
For, it is perfectly true to say that women should treated in light of an intrinsic value identical to men, that gay people are not twisted deviants, and that eugenics and eugenicists are an abomination. These ideas are non-negotiable.
However, moral panics about ‘blasphemy’ and ‘hatred’ in the context of satire serve the interests of reactionaries of every stripe.
Hence, curiously enough, freedom of speech is not the ‘idealist’ or ‘fundamentalist’ position.
Rather, it is precisely because idealistic, abstract and fundamentalist models of reality are unworkable in practice, that freedom of speech is required in the first place!
In other words, freedom of speech should be sustained and protected, not because of a naive and dismissive and often ethnocentric assumption that offense is a straightforward notion (how can you possibly think that is offensive?)…
But rather, precisely because such naive assumptions are untenable.
I will not belabor the latter point, but it is certainly worth reflecting upon.
Instead, I will proceed by remarking that the satirizing of religion in I Shouldn’t Do God is neither purely ‘constructive’ nor purely ‘destructive’ in character.
Destruction without construction is nihilism and aggression.
Construction without destruction is emotional blackmail and manipulation.
On the one hand, I do not accept the insincere and violent notion that ‘all critique must be constructive.’
The latter is a tyrant’s view…
It is the view of the terrorists who committed the massacres in Paris, and of their mainstream ‘semi-non-apologists’ in much of the English language media (if not elsewhere also).
For after all, who is to determine what is ‘constructive?’
History shows that when such a hateful and viciously disingenuous question is but once posed, it is only the gun, the guillotine and the hangman’s noose that decides.
Hence, those who make a show of half-heartedly ‘condemning’ the Charlie Hebdo massacres are not much better than the jihadists, and are not necessarily morally superior to the political Islamists. Instead, such conscience-seared semi-non-apologists are, by implication, the allies of the extremists. They are confederates in a common cause, regardless of what their religion may be (or none).
And such pernicious fellow-travelers of theocratic tyranny are not even in desperation, but rather, they moralize smugly and complacently from their bone-china towers. These tin-pot Benito-botherers and failing Francos foam forth their shame like swaggering squadrini, smirking that they, at least, are safe, because they appease fanatics…
Whether these fanatics be political Islamists or the self-styled ‘counter-jihadist’ intellectuals and bloggers who are the ever-loyal ‘best frenemies’ of the jackbooted sectarians they claim (in a most unconvincing manner!) to despise.
However, whatever bottom-up jihadist terrorists do to satirists in Paris, or whatever their not-so-opposite numbers do to similarly innocent people, they may also be willing to do to others, given the opportunity.
So let no-one think that by appeasing jihadists or by appeasing unaccountable figures in the countries that Orientalizing intellectuals opportunistically market as ‘the (sole and exclusively) Free World’ that they will avert their malice or their wrath.
For, none of the promises either of political Islamists and jihadists or of humanitarian interventionist intellectuals and counter-jihadists can be trusted or valued.