Guest post: He was unapologetic, right?

Originally a comment by Dave Ricks on Religion should not be a political argument.

A few minutes before NBC aired Meet the Press yesterday, Chuck Todd talked with local NBC Washington DC co-anchors Angie Goff and Adam Tuss to introduce the broadcast of Meet the Press as a whole. I transcribed what they said about the interview with Gérard Biard:

ADAM TUSS: He was unapologetic, right?

CHUCK TODD: Unapologetic, but tried to offer the explanation of what he says is the editorial line that he draws when it comes to satirizing religion.

He says they only choose to satirize religion when people are trying to use the prophet Mohammed, Jesus, as ways to advance a political agenda. And he says they are not mocking believers, that he is trying to draw that line. Now a lot of people don’t view that there is a difference between doing that, but that was his explanation, that they’re not attacking people who believe, that have faith, they are only attacking those who are trying to use it for political purposes. But it’s a — you know — I understand the nuanced argument, but it is a tough one to sell to folks of faith, I think.

ANGIE GOFF: Since all this, we’ve seen more protests erupt, as well as more terror plots foiled in the last week. So when we’re talking strategy — what the US is doing to avoid these near-misses — are we at a point where we need to change strategy, as we see this global terrorism network continue to evolve and just get bigger? US officials have admitted that.

CHUCK TODD: Well there seems to be, the one piece of the strategy that has never really worked is an old phrase I’m going to borrow from Vietnam: Hearts and Minds. That’s the missing piece here, because we kill a lot of the enemy, but we haven’t defeated the enemy — right, the radicalization part of it — so the question is why. Why is it that they can cut off a snake head, and four other groups pop up. It’s been constantly a problem, and it moves around, so the name has changed, but the ideology is the same. And I think now we’re at 14 years of this. And so the Hearts and Minds aspect of this, that you hear the President talk about it, you hear others talk about it — but it is, I think there — there’s this feeling there isn’t a lot of good answers right now.

I don’t have good answers either, but part of the problem occurs to me: Even if political satirists are careful to maintain the distinction Biard explained — to satirize the use of religion for political purposes, not satirize individual belief — the religious individuals who want religious government are bent on conflating those things. As Pat Paulsen said when he ran for US President in 1968, “Freedom of speech in no way guarantees freedom of hearing.”

I still think the political satire should exist. The alternative would put totalitarianism off-limits from satire.


  1. Anne Fenwick says

    I think what Gerard Biard was trying to express is really the centerpiece of French secularism and something a lot of French people feel – that religion should have an exclusively private role, that it can never be put forward as a reason for any decision to be made collectively. They also have a sensibility to the misuse of religion which is quite peculiar to them and which goes way beyond the American separation of church and state. It’s little known, but they may well be among the most secularist, certainly the most collectivist people in Europe, and those two tendencies are linked together in French culture.

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    Laïcité” is the term. In the French Revolution, it wasn’t only nobles who lost their heads; that fate also awaited the clergy who had ensured the nobility’s power. It was a French priest, Jean Meslier, in the late 17th/early 18th Century who said something along the lines of “…and with the entrails of the last priest, let us strangle the last king.” Meslier also wrote the first known book condemning religion and promoting atheism, for what it’s worth. It was only found after his death, which is a good thing, because if it had been found while he was still alive, it would have caused his (no doubt extremely unpleasant) death AND been destroyed for the protection of the Church.

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