If a coalition of what some leftists call knuckle-draggers (including rednecks, bigoted white working stiffs, those who "cling to their guns and Bibles," in the derisive words of Obama) were to slaughter flag burners, the leftists would howl in protest, pointing out (rightly) that flag burning counts as protected speech in these United States. They would not 'blame the victims' for having provoked or incited the knuckle-draggers. They would insist that flag burning is protected speech and take the reasonable view that murdering people for their (benighted) views is far, far worse than the desecration perpetrated by the protesters.
Mirabile dictu, however, lefties pull a 180 when it comes to the celebration of free speech practiced by people like Pamela Geller. Suddenly people who are exercising free speech rights are castigated for doing so, and warned about inciting violence.
What we have here is a classic double standard. One standard of evaluation is applied to flag burners, who tend to be on the Left, and a very different one is applied to Muhammad mockers, who tend to be conservatives. This double standard is particularly offensive, even more offensive that the usual lefty double standard, because flag burning and cartooning are very different.
Ought flag burning come under the rubric of protected speech? Logically prior question: Is it speech at all? What if I make some such rude gesture in your face as 'giving you the finger.' Is that speech? If it is, I would like to know what proposition it expresses. 'Fuck you!' does not express a proposition. Likewise for the corresponding gesture with the middle finger. And if some punk burns a flag, I would like to know what proposition the punk is expressing. The Founders were interested in protecting reasoned dissent, but the typical act of flag burning by the typical leftist punk does not rise to that level. To have reasoned or unreasoned dissent there has to be some proposition that one is dissenting from and some counter-proposition that one is advancing, and one's performance has to make more or less clear what those propositions are. Without going any further into this issue, let me just express my skepticism at arguments that try to subsume gestures and physical actions under speech.
Cartooning is very different. Cartoons have propositional content. The above cartoon expresses various propositions. It expresses the proposition that Muhammad is a war-like individual who is willing to put to the sword someone who merely draws his image. It also expresses the cartoonist's opinion that such a vile and backward view ought to be opposed.
If you fart, do you express a proposition? No doubt you ex-press foul gases from your gastrointestinal tract. Could it be that the stupidity of contemporary liberals derives from an incapacity to distinguish these two types of expression? Speech worth protecting is not gassing-off.
Finally, there is the irony that we conservatives are the new liberals. It is we who defend toleration and free speech, classical concerns of old-time liberals, while the 'liberals' of the present day have degenerated to the level of fascists of the Left.
What would be left of the Left were they made bereft of their double standards? There are so many of them. We need a list.
Related: Cops, Muslims, and a Double Standard
Update and Correction (5/13):
Dennis Monokroussos comments:
The Obama quote is that they “cling to guns or [not “and”] religion [not “Bibles”]”. As for the cartoon, it doesn’t express the proposition you relate in the body of the post. It, or something very close to it, is clearly the idea that the cartoonist has in mind, but that isn’t in the cartoon itself. If, however, one is allowed to draw the inference we all do from the cartoon, then it’s not obvious to me that one is also allowed to fill in the obvious connotations of one giving the middle finger or saying “F*** you!” or from the burning of the flag.
Dennis is right to correct my faulty quotation of Obama. See this short video clip. But while I did not reproduce Obama's words verbatim, I did convey their sense. After all, with 'religion' he was certainly not referring to Islam! Besides, 'cling to guns' and 'cling to Bibles' makes clear sense; it is less clear how one could 'cling' to religion. So you could say I was charitably presenting Obama's idea in better linguistic dress than he himself presented it. But Dennis is right: I should have checked the quotation.
Can a cartoon, by itself, express a proposition? No. So Dennis is technically correct. I almost made that point myself but thought it ill-advised to muddy my point with a technicality. Cartoons, in this respect, are like sentences. No sentence, even if in the indicative mood, by itself expresses a proposition. 'Peter smokes,' for example, is a declarative sentence. But it does not express a proposition unless it is assertively uttered by someone in a definite context that makes clear who the referent of 'Peter' is.
It is interesting to note that a mere tokening of the sentence type is not enough. Suppose I am teaching English. I utter the sentence 'Peter smokes' merely as an example of a declarative sentence. I have produced a token of the type, but I have not expressed a proposition.