The Free Marketplace of Ideas

9 Jan

There is no one to blame for the attacks in Paris, but the terrorists themselves. Nothing said or done by the cartoonists justifies murderous attacks. Nothing. But it behoves us to try to understand just why the terrorists went so far to silence their critics.


One of the West’s greatest advantages is its ability to assimilate ideas and concepts from other nations, then use and improve on them. Thus, Latin numerals, which were rather hand to handle, were replaced by the far superior Arabic numerals. This is not cultural appropriation, a concept that is badly flawed, but a willingness to take ideas and make use of them. This is part of the free marketplace of ideas.

In an even world, everyone – and every group – has the right to share their ideas and concepts with everyone else. The sound concepts will take root, grow and flourish, while the unsound concepts will die out and be consigned to the waste basket of human history. Indeed, some political concepts only exist in their present-day form because they have grown and evolved in the free marketplace of ideas. Others faded when exposed to the test of history and are now long forgotten.

How is this proven, one might ask?

Throughout the history of the Soviet Union, there was a vast number of people who risked life and limb to get the hell out of communist-ruled territory. They didn’t build the Berlin Wall just to be assholes, you know. The communists built it because they knew that their populations were voting with their feet and leaving communism behind, hoping to grow and flourish under the bright lights of capitalism. They knew they dared not risk free elections or they would lose power.

The Soviet Union was not part of the free marketplace of ideas. When communism met resistance, be it from Russian farmers, workers or occupied populations, the communists ruthlessly crushed all opposition. They did this because they knew they could not win in the free marketplace of ideas. Anything that opposed communism (and that included religion as well as political concepts like democracy) had to go. Indeed, the Soviet Union was so bullish about imposing communism on the rest of the world purely because it knew that capitalism was far superior.

This is, in many ways, true of most Islamic nations today. Mullahs from Algeria to Pakistan worry about what would happen to Islam, if it was forced to compete on even terms in the free marketplace of ideas. Like the communists, they are unwilling to tolerate the concept of open competition, largely because they know their subjects will be tempted. The West offers freedoms – including the freedom to convert to Islam – that no Islamic nation dares match. So we are treated to the spectacle of religious policemen beating women for daring to show their ankles, attacks on non-Muslim communities and murderous attacks on people who dare convert away from Islam, all carried out because they fear, in their deepest darkest hearts, that Islam is fading away.

But it’s worse than that. They also fear what the free marketplace of ideas will make of Islam, given time. There are people who embrace Islam willingly, but are they inclined to accept the dominance of moral and spiritually bankrupt mullahs? Or, if questions are asked openly, what will it do to the Muslim mindset? If someone prays five times a day, because they fear a beating if they do not pray, what are their prayers worth? And what does it do to the value of prayers offered willingly, without any form of coercion? What is the value of Islam if it is imposed, by force, on an entire population?

The mullahs will probably claim they are carrying out their duty to God. The communists said pretty much the same thing. But both of them would be lying. It isn’t about doing one’s duty to an all-powerful being who could convert the entire world’s population tomorrow, if He felt like it. It’s about fear – the fear of becoming irrelevant, the fear of losing control.

As a writer, I’ve had many bad reviews. Some of them are nothing more than trolling, written by people who just want to annoy me … and some of them have come uncomfortably close to the truth. So too are Muslims reacting reflexively against critical remarks by non-Muslims, partly out of a sense of insulted dignity – and partly out of an unspoken fear that the critics might be right. There is no need to hammer one’s opponents, to use force to silence them, unless one fears being unable to compete in the free marketplace of ideas.

What we saw in Paris, what we see when charges of Islamophobia are hurled around like pieces of faecal matter hitting the fan, is fear. Fear that the critics might be right, fear that the age-old debate cannot be won fairly, fear that the only way to win is to crush all opposition until no one dares debate openly.

To suggest that Islam is somehow immune to criticism is to allow their fear to drive us into abandoning one of the strongest and most important precepts of our society. Free speech, the freedom to criticise, allows us to test each and every idea, then take the good into our society and expel the bad. To cripple free speech is to cripple the West.

And that is what the terrorists want.

16 Responses to “The Free Marketplace of Ideas”

  1. Dennis The Menace January 10, 2015 at 12:18 am #

    What we saw in Paris was a predictable result of appeasing the ‘Religion of Peace’ in the name of political correctness — which has now become nothing but the vehicle of elitist self-loathing of the greatest civilization in history (Western Civilization) that birthed them.

    The harsh truth is that Islam is Islam and this is it. There are no ‘moderates’ or ‘radicals’ practitioners of that ‘faith’, despite whatever claims are made otherwise. If you think otherwise, where do you see the millions of ‘peaceful Muslims’ taking to the streets all over the Muslim world in protest of what is being done in their name and Allah’s? Why is it that the jihadis can ALWAYS find a local mosque to hide their weapons? ALWAYS.

    Sorry, but the observed evidence as per the above proves beyond a doubt my aforementioned contention. And until people finally pull their heads out of their cheese-eating surrender monkey posteriors and acknowledge this ugly reality, the Islamists will keep this up. What will it finally take? Lose a city to smuggled nuke or a biowarfare attack? Until the West gets real and grows a pair, that day is coming as sure as another book will be released by Chris or the sun will rise tomorrow.

    For those of you who respond to this with bogus and irrational charges of hate speech and ‘intolerance’ on my part for simply observing indisputable reality, don’t bother making a fool out of yourself. Or, rather, go ahead but realize that you’ve already been pre-outed ahead of time.

  2. Tim January 10, 2015 at 3:02 am #

    I knew that Islam was “bad”, but learned the real truth when I lost a good number of my friends (and comrades) in Beirut in 1983. I’ve been on a personal crusade against Islam ever since.

  3. jim January 10, 2015 at 3:30 am #

    One viewpoint that I have not yet seen addressed, is that the stated reason for the attack is almost meaningless. If it hadn’t been about cartoons it could have been about almost anything that the terrorists could use as an excuse. Chris is right about the fear that the intolerant extemists feel, and one way to stop the majority of moderate muslims from integrating into western society is to turn the non muslims agaist them. Create distrust and fear on both sides, and it will be easier to radicalise young men,terrorise young women and intimidate anyone in the muslim community who stands up to the extremists. In this scenario the terrorists win unless all areas of society reject prejudice, and that is unlikely to happen when right wing groups use tragedies like this to stir up their own extremist propaganda.

  4. R Godfrey January 10, 2015 at 9:40 am #

    Their has been one challenge I can not find a good answer to, (it does not justify terror, or violence, just poses a question) Why is writing an insulting comic about Jews or Israel anti-Semitism, when drawing one about Islam is free speech? I could not find an answer for that, and it troubles me.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 10, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

      IMO you’re missing the point.

      Insulting Jews, Christians, Muslims, etc are covered by “Freedom of Speech”.

      It is also “Free Speech” for the insulted person to speak out against the insulting speech.

      The problem comes when the insulted person decides to kill the person who is insulting them and their religion.

      There’s been plenty of garbage said about Christians but the insulters of Christians & Christianity aren’t being threatened with death.

      • chrishanger January 11, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

        Exactly. Disagreeing is fine, killing people is a definite no-no.


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      • utabintarbo January 12, 2015 at 2:58 pm #


        If your ideology is so weak that it can’t stand up to criticism, and you feel your only recourse is to silence the critics, then perhaps you should examine your ideology. Countering anti-Israel sentiments with knee-jerk charges of antisemitism may be logically decrepit, but one is still within the confines of the marketplace of ideas. Killing those who speak out against you just makes you a criminal.

  5. Les Barrie January 11, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    Excellent comment Chris,kinna hit the nail on the head.

  6. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 15, 2015 at 3:55 am #

    An idiot on “Free Speech”. [Frown]

    • chrishanger January 17, 2015 at 1:43 am #

      And then the laws she demands will be used against her.


      Sent from my iPad


      • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard January 17, 2015 at 2:05 am #

        Which is what she would deserve.

  7. Qui Creva July 11, 2016 at 10:34 pm #

    I think Chris’s most cogent point is that the Muslim terrorists fear that Islam may simply become irrelevant. This is quite a reasonable concern, given the evidence. The Islamic world has been in a downward spiral for at least five centuries. Today the Muslim regions of the globe are the poorest, least educated, most repressive and most corrupt. Muslim countries contribute virtually nothing to science, technological advances or intellectual discourse of any kind. In short, Islam is hopelessly out of step with the modern world. The rest of humanity has demonstrated that it can get along quite well without pointless Islamic rituals and repugnant Islamic doctrines. Were it not for the oil fields in the Middle East and the endless warfare in regions where Islam has a large presence, I doubt most of us would even give the religion a second thought.

    How painful this realization must be for the adherents of an ideology that proclaims itself to be perfect, divine and complete! Perhaps it is not surprising that devout Muslims seem to live in a permanent state of rage against the rest of the world! Their faith has become marginal to human life and is in real danger of extinction. No that won’t happen in this generation or even the next, but the handwriting is on the wall: Islam must modernize or die. And since Muslims claim that their religion is perfect and thus need not and must not change, it may well go extinct.

    • chrishanger July 15, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

      Not to mention what democracy could do to islam, if left unfettered.



  1. The Ineffable Importance of Free Speech | The Chrishanger - April 16, 2015

    […] I blogged about the free marketplace of ideas. Free speech is a key part of that market place, if only because it allows each and every idea to […]

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