THE ATTACK ON SALMAN RUSHDIE IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU EQUATE WORDS WITH PHYSICAL VIOLENCE. Too many Americans, especially younger ones, think it’s clever to equate offensive speech with physical violence as a way of shutting their opponents down, or justifying violent tactics to silence them. Yesterday we saw what that looks like in horrifying fashion: a 24-year-old man repeatedly stabbing a 75-year-old in the eye and the liver and severing the nerves in his arm, all for the non-crime of writing a book some people didn’t like. It’s way past time for the “speech is violence” people who infest every cultural institution in this country to grapple with the reality that what happened to Rushdie is exactly what they say they want for all of us.
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