Another False Charlie Hebdo Analogy

It’s not remotely as messed up as Erick Erickson’s comparison of the victims of the Paris massacre to an Atlanta Fire Chief dismissed for public displays of homophobia. But still, David Brooks is far off-base in a column suggesting that “speech codes” at American colleges that prohibit or limit appearances by controversial speakers are a distant cousin to the violent suppression of Charlie Hebdo‘s cartoonists.

Aside from the moral obtuseness involved when you start identifying brutal murders with the denial of honorary degrees and stipended speaking opportunities, there’s a distinct difference between state censorship (much less suppression via violence) and the policies of individual institutions that choose not to sponsor this or that form of speech. In this country the former practice is typically unconstitutional while the latter is given a wide berth. And Brooks himself seems to acknowledge the difference by suggesting that some controversial speakers are informally discredited by disrepute.

But please, folks, try to restrain your temptation to exploit these murders to grind axes.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.