"Comment is Free" publishes a commendably extensive range of opinions, including occasional comments from me. But sometimes you read something there that you can immediately recognise as an orthodoxy of the medium, or at least of the forum.
Such a moment came to me a few minutes ago when I read this piece by a Danish journalist, Jakob Illeborg, entitled "Denmark loses tolerance". In order to demonstrate Denmark's increasing intolerance, Illeborg cites - so help me - the murderous attack this week on the Danish embassy in Islamabad:
Monday's attack, is of course, indefensible, but it raises questions about the wisdom of the much-debated cartoons and Danish reactions to Muslim wrath. Not because anything about any cartoon - no matter how provocative - justifies such acts of violence, but because the cartoons ended up playing into the hands of extremists who could utilise it to "prove" how badly the west behaves towards Muslims.
Illeborg is, in short, an "indefensible butter". To coin his own cliché: he plays into the hands of those of us who deplore a certain type of progressive's abnegation of liberal principle, by completely confirming the point we're making.
I once - just once - criticised Richard Dawkins in print for being soft on religion. I thought he was in error to attack the notion that religions are uniquely deserving of respect. I don't believe any principle is intrinsically worthy of respect, and cited the Danish cartoons as an example:
Referring to the controversy about the Danish cartoons of the Prophet, Dawkins rejects the notion that religious sensibilities are uniquely entitled to respect. He thereby uncharacteristically understates. In a recent Channel 4 debate about Muslims and free speech, one of the Danish imams who had sparked the protests stated that he was entitled to respect. In a free society he is entitled to no such thing, but only to religious and political liberty. Whether he enjoys respect as well is up to him.
Illeborg's excited conclusion that "we [Danes] ought to have known better" illustrates a fundamental divide in liberal societies. There are those who believe that people's deepest feelings and beliefs should be accorded respect, and those who consider that people's deepest beliefs are fair game for hostile and derisive criticism. I am of the second camp.
Denmark, incidentally, is one of two continental European countries (the other being Germany) where I feel almost more at home than I am in the UK, and whose political culture I admire as much as any nation's. Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, is incidentally the closest thing to a Blairite political leader anywhere (including his unwavering support for the intervention in Iraq). His party is called Venstre (literally "Left"), and it is - bizarrely enough - the sister party of our own Liberal Democrats. Well done to the Lib Dems for involuntarily allying with such a sound influence on international affairs.