Jim saw the trending topic on Twitter along with hundreds of thousands of others: ‘Salman Rushdie stabbed’. Five minutes earlier, Jim would have thought this was about a type of fish; a few Google searches and now Jim had informed opinions.
This is an attack on freedom of speech, he thought and tweeted. We must never let violence threaten freedom of speech, he thought and tweeted. If they can stab Salman Rushdie, he thought and tweeted, what’s to stop them from coming for the rest of us?
Jim knew exactly who they were. They were Muslims. Jim didn’t like to think of himself as a racist because Jim didn’t think of Muslims as a race. Jim was certain that Islam isn’t a race and therefore he was entitled to be as critical of Islam has he liked. Religious people need to accept that freedom of speech means that we need to be free to criticise religion, he thought and tweeted. Jim voted for the ALP and so definitely wasn’t racist, like Coalition voters; he just wondered why more Australian Muslims weren’t on Twitter condemning the violence towards Rushdie.
Salman Rushdie had criticised Islam and, in Jim’s view, that had made him courageous. Jim didn’t know what Rushdie’s claims were, but he could take an uneducated guess. Jim knew that Islam was a Medieval religion that was incompatible with liberal democracy. Jim knew that Islam was intolerant of women’s rights, and Jim identified as a feminist. Christianity was more tolerant, according to Jim, but it was still superstitious nonsense. Jim hadn’t read The Satanic Verses but thought it must be like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, which he also hadn’t read, or like Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great, which Jim had heard about.
As Jim drove to his nearest Westfield Shopping Centre, he sped angrily near a cyclist. He thought that there should be a law to make cyclists give way to cars that were coming up behind them; and he made a note to tweet this later.
‘We should condemn violence against Rushdie in the same way that we condemn violence against Muslims,’ Jim tweeted when he parked. ‘We should oppose Islam but not individual Muslims.’
Religious fundamentalism of any kind was a problem, according to Jim, and all religious people were inherently fundamentalists. How else to explain why people were religious in the face of scientific evidence? That’s why people get angry when you criticise religion. That’s why they like to appropriate the word ‘racist’ when you criticise religion. That’s why people needed the ability to speak truth to power and say things that make other people uncomfortable.
‘I’m sorry,’ tweeted Jim, who was not really sorry, ‘But some people need to accept that living in a free society means their views are going to be challenged. We should never cower in the face of violence. #JeSuisSalmon’
Jim didn’t know any trans people, but he knew that they were sort of like Muslims: always trying to censor speech that hurt their feelings. As Jim thought about what to get from the butcher, he thought and tweeted: ‘Back in the 1980s, Iran put a fatwah on Rushdie. Today, the Woke Left want to put a fatwah on the rest of us.’ Jim didn’t like to think of himself as a transphobe; he just knew that freedom of speech was sacred and needed to be protected.
Freedom of speech means the right to offend people. If people don’t like being offended, too bad! If Jim saw something he didn’t like on television, he didn’t try to get it cancelled or banned. He just changed the channel.
Satire was the best kind of speech because it offended people. If people weren’t offended, satirists weren’t doing his job. After the stabbing of Rushdie, it was more important than ever for people to be satirical.
Jim put his shopping in his car and remembered that he forgot to tweet that thing about the cyclists being in his way. He tweeted his thoughts, and added the fact that cyclists don’t pay for roads through rego. That would upset some Greenies, he thought
People were always trying to ban things and cancel things that hurt their feelings. People needed to realise that there was a right to freedom of speech but there was not a right to have your feelings wrapped in cotton wool. No matter what Rushdie had said, violence was never the answer. Violence is never the answer. That’s what Gandhi taught us. If somebody says something that we don’t like, we should use reason and debate to show the logical error. That’s what history teaches us: people with wrong views use violence while people with good views use reason and logic.
The important thing was courage. Jim didn’t especially want to say the N-word, but he felt that he should have the right to say it if he wanted to. Jim thought about the white nationalist parades that happened in the US and Australia. Again, he might not agree with what they were saying, but he would defend to the death their right to say it. Isn’t this the point of The Satanic Verses? Jim thought it probably was. He thought they should make a movie of it and that way he could go see it.
And if you start banning political parades, you might start banning satire and then where would our rights be? Jim laughed thinking about the satirical prank he was about to unleash.
Jim left a pig’s head at the door of the local mosque. Freedom of speech was safe under his watch.