Bokhari: Why the Taliban Can Lecture America on Free Speech

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid (L) gestures as he speaks during the first press conference in Kabul on August 17, 2021 following the Taliban stunning takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by Hoshang Hashimi / AFP) (Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images)
HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban believe they are in a position to lecture Silicon Valley, and by extension America, on free speech. Are they wrong?

As U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the corrupt trillion-dollar puppet government they left behind collapsed with dizzying speed. In a pointed, very public reminder that you don’t actually need nukes and F-15s to successfully fight the U.S. government, the medievally-minded Taliban are once again masters of the country.

Recognizing the inevitable, reporters are now asking the Taliban how they’re planning to run Afghanistan. Perhaps optimistically, one member of the press recently asked a Taliban spokesman whether the new government would allow free speech. Here’s how he responded:

“This question should be asked to those people who are claiming to be promoters of freedom of speech, who do not allow publication of all information and news,” the spokesman said. “I can ask Facebook. This question should be asked to them.”

Clearly, achieving military superiority wasn’t enough for the Taliban — they want moral superiority too. Not just by their 6th-century standards, but by ours too. The bearded barbarians might be smarter than they look.

Because after all, how can western onlookers disagree that Facebook ought to be asked about free speech? Facebook is obviously hostile to free speech. Facebook banned a U.S. President, a decision that was upheld by its supposedly independent oversight board. Facebook censors millions of its users. So does every other major Silicon Valley platform.

As Mike Cernovich noted, it was a half-decade of Democrat-led assaults on free speech that created the opportunity for that Taliban spokesman to muddy the waters on free speech. “This is what a loss of soft power / moral legitimacy looks like,” said Cernovich. “This is what Democrats have done.”

Now of course, the west still has some moral high ground over the Taliban. It does not mutilate prisoners for minor offenses or hang dissidents from lamp-posts.

But it does punish blasphemy.

Stephen Colbert and Michael Moore recently plumbed new depths of “comedy” (they aren’t really joking) by comparing conservative Americans to the Taliban. Most of the similarities they’ve identified are visual: the Taliban likes pickup trucks, Red America likes pickup trucks. The Taliban likes rifles, Red America likes rifles. The Taliban carry Qurans, Red America carries Bibles, etc, etc.

Here’s the thing, though. Conservative Americans, more than any other group in the world, fervently believe in free speech. In fact, they fervently believe in freedom of almost every kind.

That seems more important than whether both they and the Taliban drive pickup trucks. And frankly, a F150 isn’t the same as Toyota Hilux anyway.

If we’re comparing the Taliban to Americans, we should look for similarities on matters of substance, not style. For example, who in America is eager for blasphemers to be punished? Conservatives or progressives?

One can be punished quite severely for blasphemy in America. If you insult St. George Floyd or His church, Black Lives Matter, most corporations in America will fire you. In extreme cases, you’ll get the death penalty. Really. It happens more often than you’d like to believe.

“That’s not the same as punishment by the government,” you may retort. But the government picks who to punish, and how severely. Let’s look at just one crime, vandalism.

Even under Trump, mobs were allowed to tear down the symbols of America’s history with little to no repercussions, but a man who “purposefully damaged” an LGBT crosswalk by driving over it incorrectly was immediately arrested and charged. Likewise, the Taliban can destroy the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan, but try desecrating a Quran in front of them and see what happens.

In both America and Afghanistan vandalism is permitted — but only against objects of heresy.

So, next time a progressive makes a “joke” about Red Americans resembling the Taliban, remind them who actually wants heresy punished in America. Because they’re the reason the Taliban are now able to mock western concerns about “free speech.”

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election.

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