October 4, 2010
Good Golly, Miss Molly: You're on Your OwnBy J.R. Dunn
Recently, a sad little footnote to the War on Terror -- sorry, the "Transcontinental Contretemps of Misapprehension"...did I get that right? -- passed nearly unnoticed: the disappearance of Molly Norris.
Molly Norris was a staff cartoonist for the Seattle Weekly, one of those left-of-center "alternative" deals handed out for free, making their money off the sex ads in the back pages. This incident probably marks the greatest impact the paper will ever have.
Last spring, in response to Islamist threats against Trey Parker and Matt Stone's lampooning the prohibition against portraying Mohammed on "South Park," Molly Norris published a cartoon proposing an "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." The cartoon was harmless, unfunny, and didn't actually portray Mohammed. She apologized shortly afterward. None of this served to save her. Anwar al-Awlaki, currently the most active jihadi cleric (he triggered both the attempted Detroit airliner attack and the Fort Hood massacre), issued a fatwa calling for her assassination: "her proper abode is hellfire." Norris consulted with the FBI, who recommended that she go underground and change her name. Apparently the Feds failed to make any serious offer of protection.
Nobody else did, either. Nobody stood with Norris at all. Her editor, Mark D. Fefer, published a note so spineless as to seem satirical, kissing her off and wishing her "the best of luck." So much for left-wing solidarity.
(Compare this to the Danes, who reacted to the threats against the Jyllands-Posten cartoonists with their customary vim. The paper, the Danish government, and the Danish public continue their support to this day.)
A photo of Norris, kindly printed by another Seattle paper for the edification and guidance of jihadi gunmen, reveals her to be a child-woman of a type not at all rare on the left, all broad smile, prominent glasses, and eccentric grade-school haircut -- the type who addresses everything with a combination of whimsy and sweetness. Perhaps for the first time in her life, she encountered men who did not respond as she'd grown to expect, who instead viewed her whimsicality as another aspect of female evil, one that deserves only annihilation. In the wake of that encounter, she has taken the sole path open to her -- she has vanished.
This in its way marks the end of an era. In 1988, Salman Rushdie similarly offended the Islamic world with his novel (if that's the word I'm stretching for) The Satanic Verses, in which a character named Mahound -- an insulting version of "Mohammed" -- becomes involved in slipping heretical passages into the Koran. The Ayatollah Khomeini took umbrage, issuing a fatwa demanding that all good Muslims seek Rushdie's death.
Western response was immediate. Nations stood as one to defy the Iranians. Millions who had not bought a book for years purchased the novel to demonstrate solidarity with Rushdie. Not the least, Margaret Thatcher answered the Iranians like the lioness she was, ordering full protection for the author. (Rushdie did little to help himself, giving a thorough display of public cowardice marked by endless caviling and complaints about the level of protection he was receiving. He later made a much-publicized return to Islam, which officially changed nothing but evidently allowed him to resume something resembling normal life.)
Things can change a lot in twenty years. The current American administration contains not Iron Ladies, nor even iron men, but only various species of paper creatures.
Why is Norris not being protected? Protection of citizens by their government is one of the most important benefits of citizenship. During Rome's peak centuries, the words "Civis Romanus sum" acted as protection across most of the wide world. In 1868 the British fought a medium-sized war against Ethiopia's mad emperor Theodore after he imprisoned a handful of Britons. In 1904, Teddy Roosevelt threatened war against Morocco if the government failed to produce Ion Perdicaris, a businessman kidnapped by bandit chief Ahmed Raisuli (even though it turned out that Perdicaris was not exactly an American citizen).
Like much else, this privilege has eroded during the 20th century. In the 1930s, Soviet NKVD agents kidnapped Americans in New York City and elsewhere and shipped them to the USSR. The Roosevelt administration didn't even protest. In 1979, the Carter administration was humiliated when Khomeini's goons, lightly disguised as "students," seized the staff of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Rather than responding as a Teddy R. or Iron Lady, Carter cravenly negotiated before at last sending a rescue mission consisting of about as many helicopters as would be used to search for a lost hiker. The mission's failure effectively destroyed Carter's presidency.
The fact that both these examples involved leftists is no coincidence. The left has, of course, played the major role in undercutting the War on Terror, as amply demonstrated by such figures as Michael Moore, Michael Isikoff, Medea Benjamin, Cindy Sheehan, John Kerry, David Durbin, Barack Obama, and Molly Norris, and the staff of the Seattle Weekly.
Here's a list of representative Seattle Weekly titles dealing with the War on Terror and related matters: "Is Bush the AntiChrist?" "Local Officials Raise Civil Liberties Alarms," "'There Is No War on Terror' -- An interview with Noam Chomsky," "Bush's Holy War," "Whacking Iraq -- Is it the Bush White House or Tony Soprano's House?," "Iraq Nam - A New Kind of Quagmire."
This is where everybody rushes out and says, "Of course, they have every right to publish what they want under our system." Which is all well and good, but I'm going to take it a little farther. Just for once, we're going to go beyond "rights" talk and on to the question of "price."
Let's say you carry out certain actions and make certain comments concerning your country's efforts to combat a vicious and implacable enemy. You run down the president. You degrade the war effort. You reveal critical secrets. You encourage resistance to the authorities and even offer support to the jihadis themselves. Having done all this, or having associated yourself with people who did, you might not get everything you want. You might not see the Shrub impeached, or the evil Karl Rove frog-marched into prison. You might not see the troops brought home immediately. You might not witness a jihadi victory in Baghdad or Kabul that will give you the satisfaction of seeing your political enemies humiliated. (Anyone seeking to deny any of the above is invited to explain the ACLU-supported lawsuit on behalf of none other than Anwar al-Awlaki himself, seeking to halt government attempts to kill him on the grounds that he is, ironically, an American citizen.)
But all the same, the world will have been changed somewhat by your actions, often in ways not immediately apparent. The war effort will be a little more ragged, a little less dynamic. Certain techniques will be dropped, certain actions will not be taken. People will begin second-guessing and hesitating. Competent military and intelligence personnel who might have stuck it out for the duration may instead quit when confronted with the possibility of legal persecution. Operations will take longer, and cost more, and be nowhere as effective as they were before. The jihadis will be encouraged and heartened.
Throw in a national leader who thinks of a terrorist attack as something to "absorb" and a Homeland Defense chief who would be happier as a crossing guard, and the situation will deteriorate further. Certain actions will become impossible -- such as stopping the crazy kid with the bomb from boarding the airplane. Or getting rid of the unbalanced Muslim officer before he shoots several dozen people. Or offering the lady cartoonist the protection she deserves simply because she's an American.
Do what you wish -- but pay for it. It's as simple as that. March, wave signs, draw cartoons, publish trashy weeklies, make bogus documentaries, release secret documents over the net...just don't forget that somewhere down the line, the bill will come due, and you will pay it, one way or another, the same way that Molly Norris is paying it now. And there will be no one around to pick up the tab for you. The rules have changed. For decades, American leftists thought they could sandbag anybody they liked and let someone else pay the price. That may have been true at one time, but it is true no longer. Leftists like to say that there is no such thing as a bystander. They are now learning exactly how true that is.
I don't like any aspect of this story. I don't like the fact that somebody should fear for her life for the crime of being naïve. I don't like thinking of the look of horror that must have crossed that plain, little-girl face as she realized that she was truly alone. I don't like the way she was encouraged to dig her own grave by her colleagues and the culture at large. I don't like the fact that the jihadis can claim a victory even as small as this one.
But what I like least of all is how long it will take to effect any repairs. Molly Norris's timid colleagues have pranced off scot-free. The media and the left are studiously looking elsewhere. Obama, despite his habit of leaping to his feet every time a squirrel is run over, remains strangely silent. Molly Norris has become a non-person, no different from those American communists dragged off to the Gulag during the '30s. We are all less free, less secure, and less proud than we were. And it is going to stay that way for a long time to come.
J.R. Dunn is consulting editor of American Thinker and will edit the forthcoming Military Thinker.
His book, Death by Liberalism, will be published by Broadside Books this January.