19 October, 2010

Molly Norris & Freedom Of Speech

Regular followers of this blog know that the First Amendment is a big deal to me. There was a huge First Amendment story in the United States earlier this year, and I didn’t comment on it at the time. I’m rectifying that now.

This story is about a woman named Molly Norris. I assume you’ve heard of her, but if you get all your news from NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, CNN and the New York Times, then you haven’t. Sadly, she doesn’t even have a page in Wikipedia. On the other hand, maybe that’s appropriate.

Molly Norris is a political cartoonist. You know, one of those folks that draws George W. Bush and makes him look like Alfred E. Neuman, or makes Barack Obama’s ears look like Dumbo’s. Anyway, earlier this year, she drew what she thought would be a humorous political cartoon. It was called “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”.

This was a response to what many people claimed was censorship of a South Park episode depicting Mohammed. As you know, the Muslim faith forbids creation of any likeness of the Prophet. The South Park episode was altered after completion to have Mohammed’s face blurred and several sections were “bleeped” out.

So, Molly was trying to a) have some fun, b) respond satirically to this perceived censorship, and c) poke some fun at Muslims. This type of thing is expected behavior for a political satirist.

According to her, the entire point of the cartoon was satire. She says that she never really meant for May 20, 2010 to be “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”. It was a joke. She points out that in the cartoon all the images claim to be the likeness of Mohammed, but they’re quite clearly not. She found herself and the cartoon to be at the center of a media and grass roots political firestorm. She even tried to stop the movement and stop the event from occurring.

Then, of course, came the death threats. This is what happens when you mock the peaceful religion of Islam. As others have discovered previously.

On July 11, 2010 it was reported that Yemeni-American cleric Anwar al-Awlaki had put Molly Norris on a hitlist. In an English-language Al Qaeda magazine named "Inspire," Al-Awlaki wrote "The medicine prescribed by the Messenger of Allah is the execution of those involved." and was quoted as saying "The large number of participants makes it easier for us because there are more targets to choose from in addition to the difficulty of the government offering all of them special protection [...] But even then our campaign should not be limited to only those who are active participants." FBI officials have reportedly notified Norris warning her they consider it a "very serious threat."

Okay, so that was back in May. What has Molly been up to since?

No one knows. You see, there is no more Molly.

The gifted artist is alive and well, thankfully. But on the insistence of top security specialists at the FBI, she is, as they put it, "going ghost": moving, changing her name, and essentially wiping away her identity. She will no longer be publishing cartoons in our paper or in City Arts magazine, where she has been a regular contributor. She is, in effect, being put into a witness-protection program—except, as she notes, without the government picking up the tab. It's all because of the appalling fatwa issued against her this summer, following her infamous "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" cartoon.

This woman has been sent into hiding by our federal government, and the feds aren’t even picking up the tab. If you use your favorite search engine and look up “obama ‘molly norris’” you’ll find that President Barack Obama (D-USA) has had nothing to say on the issue.

He has time to criticize Republicans for “sipping Slurpees” and time to attack the Chamber of Commerce but no time to defend Molly Norris or to defend her free speech.

This is appalling and disgusting. In fact, it may be the most reprehensible thing yet from this administration. And you have to leap pretty high to clear that bar.

If Molly Norris’ right to free speech has been lost, then we have all lost it. If our President won’t stand up against radical Islam to protect an innocent U.S. citizen, then the war on terror is lost. Every time we acquiesce to the demands of radical Islam it emboldens them. Every time we cower in fear over their potential response to an action, we lose.

Mr. President, you have failed your country. You have failed the entire world.

I hope the GOP makes the next two years of your life a living Hell.

14 days. I can see November from my house.

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