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Editorial Cartoons not allowed to editorialize?

Okay, this is the second news article I've seen today about outrage over a cartoon! (Here's the first)

Am I missing something? Why are these comics causing so many heated reactions right now? Are comics becoming more powerful? Are they touching more of a nerve then normal? Or is this just a sign of the heated opinions of people over current issues? Could this mean that more censorship may be heading our way?

Editorial Cartoons not allowed to editorialize?

Mark Mekkes's picture

Okay, this is the second news article I've seen today about outrage over a cartoon! (Here's the first)

Am I missing something? Why are these comics causing so many heated reactions right now? Are comics becoming more powerful? Are they touching more of a nerve then normal? Or is this just a sign of the heated opinions of people over current issues? Could this mean that more censorship may be heading our way?

Bryant Paul Johnson's picture

I doubt there's more controversy over political cartoons now than there has been in the past; I just think it's making it past the ordinary filter of check and balances in the governement.

What I think is happening is that given the current political climate in the United States, groups with the ear of the ruling party feel emboldened to use their position of power to push their particular agenda. Ten, twelve years ago, I doubt we'd have devoted the same amount of ink to a protest (over a cartoon) by the far-right of the political spectrum; without a majority of power, they had nothing to gain by potentially alienating voters, and could only look bad.

Now that the ruling party has made it clear that they're not above stifling debate ("you're giving comfort to the enemy") fringe groups have nothing to lose. In the case of the Toles cartoon, what is obviously a metaphor becomes a literal attack on our troops. And as every Democrat knows, you can't afford to even appear like you don't support the troops.

The Danish cartoon thing is a little more unusual. I think this is more a case of western ideals (free press; relative secularism) clashing with a culture that is more defined by religion than anything else. (That the US seems to be backing censorship of the cartoon in question is pretty galling. I guess our mission to spread democracy is an "a la carte" type deal.)

-bryant.

Can't people find more meaningful things to be offended over?

This is quite a bad time to offend the whole 1.3 billion muslims in the world, what with their reputation tarnished because of last year's series of incidences done vainly in their name. Why kick an already humiliated & sick horse? Also, I read that Muslims aren't well treated there, and politicians & celebrities there have been bad-mouthing them.

And the Danes claimed they're doing it in the name of Free Speech. Wrong, they're abusing those rights. What is Free Speech for, anyway? Free Speech should be used to sift the intelligent and ethical ones from idiots and hypocrites; to open people's mind; to turn our attention to the problems of the world, poverty, war, corruption etc. and challenge us to solve; to sort out the right from wrong; to allow us to speak the Truth. What is their point of their cartoon for? Do they solve world hunger? Do they stop war? Do they help root out corrupt politicians?

Remember what happen before WW2? Before the Holocaust? This is what's happening to Muslims right, stereotyped and mocked until they become justifiable targets for the West to pick, just like the Jews during the first half of the last century.

What makes this affair sadder is that the majority of the Danes agreed to keep the cartoons. What'll make it worse is that some joker would come in and say "It's just a cartoon, you don't have to take it seriously LOL!" Well, now my wise friend, can you calm the offended 1.3 billions of Muslims by telling them that?

I'm sorry, I have vent myself.

Bryant Paul Johnson's picture

Undoubtedly the comic may have been in bad taste (I haven't seen it myself), but people need to take the good (an open forum for the discussion of ideas) with the bad (jerks acting like... well... jerks) when living in a culture that values the protection of free speech.

Once we start codifying conduct when it comes to matter of speech (for example, making laws that mandate cultural sensitivity) we restrict our means of social critique and satire.

The role of free speech is not to be kind to those around us (though that is certainly a good thing to do as a person) but to keep government (and culture) honest; to challenge our sacred cows.

There's a lot about American and Western European society that sucks (for example the treatment of Muslims). I would hope that writers/cartoonists/artists use the forum that free speech provides to make that well known to the masses.

-bryant.

The sterotype? Oh please....I don't believe that Muslims are all evil and TERRRORISTS!

Free speech should be allowed... Even for the idiots. What may seem idiots to us are actually intelligent...so that is a slippy slope.

Protect free speech. I don't agree with you or hate your hyposical speech, but you should have the right to say it.

To me, knowledge is power. If we can collect all the sum of human knowledge and distrubute it to everyone ranging from encyclopedia to textbooks, and teacher....than we done a great deal just by educating them.

I think hordes of people storming embassies and burning flags over a cartoon is in itself worthy of an editorial cartoon.

Aleph's picture

I think the issue here ought not to be the editor not having the right to editorialize as the editor lacking taste and discretion when choosing what to run at what time. Given the recent tensions and the fear people are living in over those tensions, it was a wound they didn't need opened right then.

Right after the Towers I wouldn't, as an editor, run a cartoon mocking them or painting a target on them, out of respect for the people who were still raw and hurting. It doesn't mean people don't have a right to draw, read, and run the cartoons. It means editors are hired to make decisions about what they should be running that's best for the paper and that will most please the readers.

They have the right to run the cartoons, the people angry have the right to be angry and talk about that, the paper has the right to fire the editor for making people angry at the paper. Freedom reigns in all aspects of the situation.

Mark Mekkes's picture

[quote:7cecf476ce="Altercator"]What is Free Speech for, anyway? Free Speech should be used to sift the intelligent and ethical ones from idiots and hypocrites; to open people's mind; to turn our attention to the problems of the world, poverty, war, corruption etc. and challenge us to solve; to sort out the right from wrong; to allow us to speak the Truth.

But isn't that what the cartoon does? By illustrating a idiotic and hypocritical point of view we can certainly see where the artist should be sifted, as well as those that agree with that point of view. Isn't part of Freedom of Speech giving idiots the room to display their stupidity? Isn't this what gives us the opportunity to see exactly where the different points of view are coming from and understand them?

I'm against hurting anyone. However, I don't think that the problem is the cartoon that expresses the bigotry, it's the bigotry.

Brad Hawkins's picture

This is not about comics. At all. What it is about is that religious leaders in the Muslim world are trying just as hard as Christian leaders here are to keep the scales tipped in their favor... just as Pat Robertson is jumping at every chance to declare how pissed God is at everyone for everything, so too do the mullahs of the Middle East take every opportunity to fan the flames of outrage at anything they can find to be outraged about... even if it's just some lame-ass cartoon in a Danish newspaper. No, comics have not become powerful. The mullahs are powerful, and want to stay that way, and they think they can do so by expending their political capital attacking any target that enters their radar.

Bryant Paul Johnson's picture

By the way, burning down the Danish embasy in Syria: not free speech.

LineItemVito's picture

Free speech has limits. You can't yell FIRE! in a crowded theater just because you felt like expressing yourself —— that's "reckless endangerment". Verbal abuse is harassment and is subject to penalty in most (American) states. Most countries have slander and libel laws. In America "HATE SPEECH" is legally not "FREE SPEECH". So the notion that somebody can say whatever s/he wants without legal consequences is not absolute. (EDIT: This is not correct. See This followup post. Hate Speech IS protected unless it is accompanied by "iimminent lawless action")

Was the cartoon bigoted? YES
Should the cartoonist be ashamed of himself? YES
Should his newspaper editors/publishers be ashamed of themselves? YES
Should the Muslim community be outraged? YES
Should the Muslim community expect a sincere apology? YES
Should the cartoonist and newspaper offer a sincere apology? YES
Should the Muslim community accept it? YES

Should we treat this cartoon like a shout of FIRE! in a crowded theater? NO -- It wasn't a "reckless endangerment" kind of situation.
Was it "HATE SPEECH"? YES
Should the Muslim community accept/praise/encourage the violent reactions? NO. A sincere apology should be sufficient. And if not, then peaceful demonstrations and official complaints are the more appropriate response. Honorable people on all sides of this debate should use this as a jumping off point to teach tolerance. (Lots o' luck, though).

BTW #1: Note that the cartoon was published about 5 months ago but it is only NOW that the protests have begun because it is politically expedient now.

BTW #2: The newspapers that reprinted the comic AFTER the Muslim community reacted so strongly are loathsome. It might be argued that the cartoonist never anticipated the reaction he got. But the re-printers surely did. Shame, Shame, Shame.

Eddie

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Vote Vito: Line Item Vito

The William G's picture

The Muslim community has had a very bad habit of turning a blind eye to their radical elements, much in the same way the Christian community does for their own groups of loonies.

Neither of these sets of believers can seem to catch on to the idea that the world does not belong to them. The cartoon was legal under Danish law, and I'm afraid these religious psychopaths are going to have to learn to accept that it's 2006. If they continue to push their radicalism, the nations of the world will become more radical in response. And that's just going to get them stepped on.

As well as screwing it up for the rest of us. *AHEMPatriotActHEM*


Ah....let laugh at those radicals!

Let See:

People who don't believe in god radicals....(tm)

Bible thumpers who take everything in the bible literally and intercept them wrongly for their own policticals

People who fear the bible thumpers and thinks all christans are radical.

Racists: the worst kind of radicals. They are evil and mean and............the evil of extremists.

The anti-racists who will snap at someone as racists with irrational and ignorant agurement

Conspriacy theorist who believe that the 1969 moon landing was a hoax and the Kenndey assassination conspriacy exits. My favorite kind of radicals.

People who say the goverment is pure and good(tm) and goverment regulation of the internet is a good thing.

Free Softwares and linux fanatics who say free softwares and linux owned everything!

MS fanboys who think MS is god and think linux are only for highly technical programmers geeks.

Googler who believe google is king of software and alway create great products.

Well...the list go on and on...

Ah....let laugh at those radicals!

Let See:

People who don't believe in god saying religion is EVIL!...(tm)

Bible thumpers who take everything in the bible literally and intercept them wrongly for their own policticals gains.

People who fear the bible thumpers and thinks all christans are radical.

Racists: the worst kind of radicals. They are evil and mean and............the evil of extremists.

The anti-racists who will snap at anyone. as racists with irrational and ignorant agurement. Not as evil as the racists.

Conspriacy theorist who believe that the 1969 moon landing was a hoax and the Kenndey assassination conspriacy exits. My favorite kind of radicals.

People who say the goverment is pure and good(tm) and goverment regulation of the internet is a good thing.

Free Softwares and linux fanatics who say free softwares and linux is good and kick ass at everything!

MS fanboys who think MS is god and think linux are only for highly technical programmers geeks like me (sorta).

Googler who believe google is king of software abd search and alway create great products.

Well...the list go on and on...

[quote:06e5b013cb="TWG"]The Muslim community has had a very bad habit of turning a blind eye to their radical elements, much in the same way the Christian community does for their own groups of loonies.

That's not true. Malaysians, Indonesians and moderate Muslims living in the West have been addressing this problem; there has been arrests and crackdowns on radical fundamentalists made in Malaysia & Indonesia. Haven't you been reading the news on Jemaah Islamiyah?

Muslims already have recognise these elements for a long time. It's just that no listens to them. And everytime they actually did something about, it get's worse. No one trusts them anymore.

It's really a tough act for Muslims. On one hand they've been trying to salvage their tarnished reputation. On the other hand, some bloke on both sides decides to makes things worse for them. You think it's easy? It's a long hard road for the Muslims, like a Trail of Tears.

In the end, it's always been that the men, those clerics & priests, are flawed, not religion nor ideas. Ideas are well-meaning and are meant as examples to follow and it's these flawed men leading the followers of ideas that could lead them to self-annihilation.

Even then, you've got to understand that you're dealing with different cultures who don't abide by how the West works. You can't force them to swallow what you preach.

Here's a little artilce worth reading.

Oh, and remember Malcolm X is Muslim too.

Uncle Ghastly's picture

Man, I wonder what is going to happen to the internet's embassy when I do my comic with Drunk and Bitter Mohemmed and Drunk and Bitter Jesus sharing beer and pork rinds.

The William G's picture

[quote:199f921de5="Altercator"]Muslims already have recognise these elements for a long time. It's just that no listens to them. And everytime they actually did something about, it get's worse. No one trusts them anymore.
Not being listened to would suggest that they're holding the minority view. Which is a damned shame. Why is everyone else sitting on their hands?

Quote:
In the end, it's always been that the men, those clerics & priests, are flawed, not religion nor ideas.

I'd say both are pretty flawed. Religion runs counter to human nature, and human nature just makes this worse.

Quote:
Even then, you've got to understand that you're dealing with different cultures who don't abide by how the West works. You can't force them to swallow what you preach.

That's fine in a Muslim nation. "When in Rome..." after all. But when living away from that, you need to learn to accept the authorty of the culture you live in. AND you need to learn how to deal with other societies if you're to be part of the global society. That means you don't call for the death of your fellow Britons/ Danes, and it also means that you dont burn down the embassies of your trading partners. As well as not electing groups who call for the genocide of your nearest neighbors

This isn't just a Muslim problem. The simple fact is that religion is fine until it becomes dogma. Once it gets backed up with militarism and poverty, it becomes a threat to everyone. Radicalism causes radical responses. That's why the Bush administration hasn't been ousted like it should have been. That's why the French have been slowly removing freedom religious expression. That's why the world is taking a very noticable conservative turn.

Stuff like Iraq and 9/11 is just the begining. Religious wackos want to play armageddeon, and they're going to keep pushing until we all have to pick a side.


Mark Mekkes's picture

What I find ironic is that the subject of the cartoon (and I have to admit that I haven't seen it, I'm only going off of a discription from a news story) was that Muslim's were temperamental hot heads... Is burning down an embassy really the best way to debate that topic?

And yes, I realize that these are extremists and do not represent "true" muslims (which the comic seemed to do).

I stumbled across a few Arab newspaper cartoons ages ago... wish I could pick the best ones to post, but they don't allow viewing of directories for me to scan the archives.

LineItemVito's picture

[quote:1c5a3a3971="Altercator"]Here's a little artilce worth reading
This link is broken.

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Vote Vito: Line Item Vito

Look, it's not just people who are radicals who are upset and protesting. I think for one to totally grasp this situation, you have to realize, especially in the Middle East, that Islam and the belief in their god and religion is their ENTIRE LIFE. They are really dedicated to their beliefs, and one of the golden rules they follow is not to draw the prophet muhammed--- plenty of people have done so in the past, and they weren't outraged, but this time, not only was the prophet drawn by non-muslims, but totally slandered by having a Bomb as his turbin hat. -- Pretty much all of the cartoons published related that Islam and "Muslims" were terrorists, and that's just ignorant. So yeah, that's why the majority of these people are mad, outraged.

Muslims have it VERY hard these days, with literally an invisible WORLD WAR going on against them. And the good Muslims, which are the majority of Muslims who believe in peace, have been trying very hard to distance themselves from radical elements. I mean, they must feel greatly disrespected by having their beliefs mocked and ridiculed everyday by the Western world. They have every right to be upset and boycott or do whatever they want in their country within their own laws.

Will G, religion and dogmatism aside, what we're dealing with is bigotry, arrogance and ignorance on the side of the Danes, as well as the rest of Europe. For the West to tell off the Muslim world, "It's just a cartoon, don't take it seriously" is really nothing more than mere cultural self-righteousness that won't advance the debate. It's like someone making a joke to a grieving mother about her recently passed children, and expects her to laugh it off. Is it idiocy to tell that mother not to take the "joke" seriously? It's not a rhetorical question.

The controversy here also opens up another set of questions: What exactly IS free speech? How should we express ourselves with this given right? Is it free speech if we cross the boundaries and limits of human decency? Is it censorship if we are told to take on a certain subject with care, tact and sensitivity towards that subject?

Another set of questions: What really makes us laugh? Have we reached the peak of humor? Have we actually ran out of ideas on to make people laugh? Is resorting to flatulence & blasphemy, no matter how well-written or timed they are, really advance the evolution of the funny or set it further back?

And, DeeJ, for a guy who did a rather flawed Mr Rasheed's Neighbourhood, you sure make convincing arguement.

[quote:f1aab6ef53="LineItemVito"][quote:f1aab6ef53="Altercator"]Here's a little artilce worth reading
This link is broken.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-2025511,00.html

Go to above

Uncle Ghastly's picture

I did think this one was rather clever. There's an awful lot of pot and kettle flying around this world.

[quote:d31618203c="Altercator"]Will G, religion and dogmatism aside, what we're dealing with is bigotry, arrogance and ignorance on the side of the Danes, as well as the rest of Europe. For the West to tell off the Muslim world, "It's just a cartoon, don't take it seriously" is really nothing more than mere cultural self-righteousness that won't advance the debate. It's like someone making a joke to a grieving mother about her recently passed children, and expects her to laugh it off. Is it idiocy to tell that mother not to take the "joke" seriously? It's not a rhetorical question.

The controversy here also opens up another set of questions: What exactly IS free speech? How should we express ourselves with this given right? Is it free speech if we cross the boundaries and limits of human decency? Is it censorship if we are told to take on a certain subject with care, tact and sensitivity towards that subject?

Another set of questions: What really makes us laugh? Have we reached the peak of humor? Have we actually ran out of ideas on to make people laugh? Is resorting to flatulence & blasphemy, no matter how well-written or timed they are, really advance the evolution of the funny or set it further back?

And, DeeJ, for a guy who did a rather flawed Mr Rasheed's Neighbourhood, you sure make convincing arguement.

[quote:d31618203c="LineItemVito"][quote:d31618203c="Altercator"]Here's a little artilce worth reading
This link is broken.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2088-2025511,00.html

Go to above

Well, Mr. Rasheed's Neighborhood was making fun of terrorists, not islam. FYI. i did get death threats over it, but hey, those are feeble minded people who can't draw the distinction that it was about a terror cell hiding in a neighborhood looking for martyrs.

Now, our Gods gone Wild strip did feature Allah with bacon, booze and women though: http://yirmumah.net/archives.php?date=20050225 -- a good example of equally offending all religions at once.

The William G's picture

Let's keep a couple of things in perspective. First of all, Islam is hardly a minority religion that's being persecuted. No more than Christianity is. Second, the cartoons that set this off were produced in, and for, a culture where they have the freedom to blaspheme all they want. It's the same where we're allowed to make fun of Buddy Jesus. There was nothing incorrect about those cartoons.

When it comes right down to it, the demands being fired out of the Islamic world over this can be summed up as, "Do as our religion tells you to do." And they simply do not have the right to demand this any more than a Christian can tell you to burn every copy of The DaVinci Code because it's also blasphemous (Which it is)

All other arguments are simply red herrings. Their intent is to force their religious beliefs on another group of people, that's it. I don't see this as allowable, and it's certainly not respectable.


[quote:a4e1593db1="TWG"]Let's keep a couple of things in perspective. First of all, Islam is hardly a minority religion that's being persecuted. No more than Christianity is. Second, the cartoons that set this off were produced in, and for, a culture where they have the freedom to blaspheme all they want. It's the same where we're allowed to make fun of Buddy Jesus. There was nothing incorrect about those cartoons.

When it comes right down to it, the demands being fired out of the Islamic world over this can be summed up as, "Do as our religion tells you to do." And they simply do not have the right to demand this any more than a Christian can tell you to burn every copy of The DaVinci Code because it's also blasphemous (Which it is)

All other arguments are simply red herrings. Their intent is to force their religious beliefs on another group of people, that's it. I don't see this as allowable, and it's certainly not respectable.

ARG! I actually agree 100% with WillaimG. Clearly this can only mean one thing...

ARMAGEDDON!!!

spargs's picture

I think Voltaire said it best (praytell Stifler, who was Voltaire?):

"I may not agree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."

[url=http://www.digi-comic.com][img]http://www.digi-comic.com/images/dcLilLink.gif[/img][/url]

The William G's picture

I find the last two posts very funny for wildly different reasons


Uncle Ghastly's picture

Found this one today. Looks like someone beat me to the Drunk and Bitter Mohammed.

Am I the only one who think the Muslim's reputation aren't ruined at all? I bet those cartoonists are just the minority and most europeans don't hate muslim.

'Twas ever thus.

Stories about political cartooning sparking outrage are as old as political cartooning.

It's supposed to make people upset.

Religion is the strawman in this debate. Yes, we've witness acts done vainly in the name of God. But it's a mere distraction to what's going on.

What we should focus on is the issue of free press & speech, what & how should humour be conveyed, and whether the West & East could've understand each other better.

I feel it's arrogance to think that another culture "won't get a joke"; it's arrogance & hypocrisy even when someone comments that one group must contain the "radical" elements among them; it's arrogance to expound more on the flaws of the other team and not admit fully the flaws of your side. There's a chance that your side might be just as capable of dogmatisms as the other side you've accuse of. No matter how liberal you claim you are, you're still forcing your Western values on another culture's throats. Just as these reactionary Muslims are on yours on their part of the world, as you have claimed. Say what you say, but you're only scratching the surface of what's truly going on and not digging deeper enough.

I also feel that Jyllands-Posten, the Danish paper, are using free speech to protect itself just as a school bully would behind his Mummy. They're just trying to provoke a reaction, and they've got it, albeit beyond what they've expected.

Also, newspapers are dying. They're losing bit by bit to the 21st century medium of information delivery. Blogs popping up giving a more accurate description & analysis of news events than an experienced journalist ever would. Mobile phones spreading latest events on their SMS services faster than even CNN can get a hold of. Maybe what those newspapers in Europe did are desperate ploys to get their hold back on the readers.

Comics scribes, be they be illustrators, writers, or even inkers, aren't just entertainers. Unwittingly or not, they affect history and society. What you say, what you've conveyed in your comics can do a lot on the mind of your readers. As these readers would on society. A certain wise man of comics once said "With great powers comes great responsibility."

Dude, did you guys hear about Iran holding a Holocaust cartoon contest now? For real! http://today.reuters.com/news/newsarticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyid=2006-02-07T141832Z_01_L07723729_RTRUKOC_0_US-RELIGION-CARTOONS-IRAN-HOLOCAUST.xml&rpc=22

We should all totally enter that.

:lol:

The William G's picture

[quote:c0112ed149="Altercator"]I feel it's arrogance to think that another culture "won't get a joke"; it's arrogance & hypocrisy even when someone comments that one group must contain the "radical" elements among them; it's arrogance to expound more on the flaws of the other team and not admit fully the flaws of your side.
Great. Not relevent, but great.

Quote:
No matter how liberal you claim you are, you're still forcing your Western values on another culture's throats.

Last I checked... nope. That isnt happening in this case. The simple fact remains that the Islamo fascists are the ones perpetuating the problem.


The cartoons, and there were a number of them, were originally published along with an article on how the threat of Islamic fundamentalist reprisal was effecting freedom of expression in Denmark. It was prompted by the fact that several publishers had stated they were having difficulty finding artists willing to deal with Islamic issues. The cartoons themselves, for the most part, were pretty poor but besides being blasphemous to muslims they weren't hugely offensive. The fact is that western cultures don't consider blasphemy to be against the law and, realistically, until Islamic nations are willing to enshrine our values into their justice system then I can't see why we should be looking to enshrine theirs into ours.

http://www.bifsniff.com
A Weirdism That Works

Aleph's picture

Let's be utterly fair here. The paper didn't incite any violence by the actions it took. These cartoons ran last september, and it had already been addressed as far as balancing free speech with sensitivity to others by the government. The article was not intended to shock anybody but to address the way fear of Muslim retaliation was making people fearful of speaking/addressing/lampooning them. The cartoons were presented as a matter of discussion, I read a translation of the article and I didn't see any attempt there to disrespect anyone. They SHOULD have done enough research to know NOT to run anything depicting an image of Mohammed, they could have kept from hurting the feelings of reasonable people that way and making them feel disrespected because that 'no depiction' rule is something they take seriously and feel strongly about-- but they didn't HAVE to.

Considering this 'hate crime' occurred in September, and the Muslim world-- well let's be serious here, one Falwell-like cleric-- didn't even seem to get ANGRY about it until after the New Year's address called attention to it, this seems more political in nature and less an honest reaction to the material.Timeline is described here by Reuters.

It wasn't until mid January that anybody decided this was an ugly crime, and it wasn't until recently that anybody decided this was an incitement to violence. The paper apologized over a week ago.

The response by the fringe nuts claiming to defend the Muslim community was to burn an embassy down. And the true Muslim community was /ashamed/ and /angered/ by the actions of those who did turn to violence.

This wave of 'Muslim defense' is being pushed by a small faction of people with a specific agenda, and I don't think it really belongs in a discussion of the cartoons themselves. This is like the people bombing abortion clinics or the eco-freaks that spike trees and kill lumberjacks, it's not a true reflection on anything in the world but the way freaks and fringe nuts behave.

The William G's picture

[quote:6b2589d3c1="Aleph"] This is like the people bombing abortion clinics or the eco-freaks that spike trees and kill lumberjacks, it's not a true reflection on anything in the world but the way freaks and fringe nuts behave.
Yup.


LineItemVito's picture

I see this kind of "debate" going on all the time. As soon as somebody over-reacts, the argument is all about the over-reaction instead of about the original issue. Maybe this is why politicians are usually so careful to not say anything specific. Otherwise their opponents will use the least little flaw as a weapon: "S/He can and should be ignored because s/he's a Liberal and/or Right-Wing Nut Job and/or Terrorist and/or FlipFlopper and/or Draft Dodger and/or 'Angry' and/or whatever-sounds-like-a-mocking-insult."

This "debating technique" may score some kind of points with somebody, but it just interferes with any possibility of generating true understanding. So, IMHO, just because people are burning buildings doesn't mean they don't have a point that shouldn't be listened to. The original cartoons represent an ongoing disrespect for Islam by the Western world. Burning buildings isn't helping them gain any respect, of course, and issuing calls for anti-Semetic cartoons (to argue against non-Jewish Danes?) is counterproductive.

But that doesn't mean the cartoons weren't insulting.

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Vote Vito: Line Item Vito

LineItemVito's picture

I often find it useful, instructive, and enlightening to reduce these political / social / religious questions to more intimate terms: try to imagine that you must live in close proximity with the people on the other side of the debate.

Suppose for a moment that instead of living on a planet with 7 billion people (nearly) you were living in an apartment with 7 people. Suppose a couple of your apartment-mates have been telling you for a long time now that they find your way of life at odds with their beliefs. And you have been telling them the same. At times you insult them. At times they insult you. At times you do things that hurt them. At times they do things that hurt you. This goes on for a while. Time passes and one of the 7 apartment mates decides to make a cartoon that uses one of these beliefs as thepunchline.

* What do you expect to happen next?
* How could you have avoided what happened next?
* How can you change your future behavior (and influence your mates' behavior) to create a happy livable apartment?

Remember: you can't move away. There's nowhere else to go.

Eddie

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Vote Vito: Line Item Vito

The William G's picture

I guess it would depend if some people claiming to represent them flew a couple of hijacked jets into my coat rack/ invaded my closet looking for non-existent WMDs.


Aleph's picture

I think once you start burning buildings you lose the claim to valid expression. But that wasn't a debate technique on my part, it was an honest call for a reality check on the facts of this, because I kept reading stuff that acted like the whole Muslim world saw a toon in the paper and started riots, not to mention stuff claiming the paper was looking to cause a stir to boost its circulation.

I think the original thrust of this discussion-- freedom of speech vs. feelings of others-- is not helped by including the violent behaviour of radicals as if it represented anything applicable to the situation, is all. The radicals have their own agenda and they will always find a reason-- be it cartoons or Teletubbies or euthanized pets-- to be radical.

The burnings and the rock-throwing were things that made people who spoke for the majority of Muslims deeply unhappy-- that was not the response they wanted to make to the cartoon. The response they made were quiet protests, sadness, and prayer. They feel strongly about the importance of not depicting the prophet, and it hurts their feelings that others would do that to mock them, just as it would upset Catholics for somebody to set up a brothel full of women dressed as the Holy Mother. Would they really have a right to say 'you can't do that?' Not a legal one, a moral one? I don't think so. They still have a right to let us know it upsets them, and to ask us to respect that, and it's up to us to be assholes or to be kind.

The William G's picture

[quote:6e942cfce8="Aleph"]just as it would upset Catholics for somebody to set up a brothel full of women dressed as the Holy Mother.
I think that'd be kinda hot.


Few articles I came across while surfing:

Democratic arguments on Danish cartoons.

The Danish cartoons: a neo-colonial slap

The protests, how violent they are, and the boycott ultimately expose the bigotry found in Europe towards not just Muslims, but a majority of immigrants. You have to understand it is not (just) a religious strife, rather most of Europe aren't quite comfortable with having immigrants in their countries.

Here's one of the arguments put out in the first link:

Quote:
It is said that Muslims are trying to force non-Muslims to live by Islamic taboos. Not so.

Muslims in the West are only asking that democracies live up to their rules — exercise freedom of speech with the concomitant responsibility of self-restraint, and also respect people of all faiths or no faith at all.

This is not a new proposition. It has always been a balancing act between competing rights.

That's why Jyllands-Posten's publication of the offensive drawings was "juvenile," in the apt phrase of a New York Times editorial. That's why most dailies in Canada and the U.S. have refused to reprint the cartoons (not because they are "afraid," as some polemicists say).

And on the second link:

Quote:
This is no mere clash of cultures. It is a new form of the colonial struggle that defined European-Arab and Asian relations in the 19th century. The difference this time is that the natives in the South are not helpless and quiescent in the face of the West's large guns, disdainful rhetoric, or insulting cartoons. Muslims, Arabs, Asians and others today are much more aware of the policies of Western states, concerned about their goals, angry about Western double standards, able to resist through mass media, political and other channels, and willing to stand up, fight back, and assert their right to live in freedom and dignity. The message from the Arab-Islamic heartland is that the 19th century has officially ended.
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Aleph's picture

Fantastic links. And I agree-- all but the violence statement. I think the violence-- which has embarassed the legitimate protestors-- is a situation of people trying to capitalize on the way things have ignited. The Imams stirring all this up remind me very much of Falwell and the 700 club groups, and I think they're doing what they can to stir up a 'revival' of extremist hate.

This is what I mean, though, about the tensions that have been trod upon by a careless editor running these rather awkward and stupid cartoons. It's like running Blackface toons in the LA times during the King trials. Not even funny ones. Is it criminal? No. Should it be banned? No. Was it worth it, though?

Everybody feels threatened right now, everybody's scared, especially the Muslims who see more and more of the world pushing them into the 'terrorist' category and declaring war. This is the first time war has been declared on an -ism the people targetted can't control. Nobody elects terrorists, nobody gets to decide whether or not terrorists hide among them. This isn't even like when we started declaring war on communism, at least when there's a regime change you actually know when things have gone bad and you need to get out. When the rest of the world starts declaring 'terrorists are people who look and dress like you' and you know their followup statement comes stamped on bunkerbusters, that's not easy to laugh off.

And you know what? This was also pretty damned insensitive to the subscribers who were NOT Muslims, because they're scared to death of foreigners who can come off as bomb-headed bogeymen in their neighborhoods waiting to explode. The last thing they needed was a reinforcement of the fearmongering image of the Muslims they need to live with. They don't WANT to see their neighbors as threats. They have a hard time laughing that idea off as well.

It's not a matter of editorializing at that point, or not being able to, it's a matter of deciding the level of taste and discretion to use in publishing. The actions of others aren't the editor's fault. The lack of consideration for others is. And if we shouldn't consider others, let's see you freedom fighters bust out those Satanist Nazi and Gay Klan cartoons, and for good measure, let's see you really brave a violent faction and do some anti-American pro-terrorist toons. You're free to do any of those things. I just think life would be nicer for all of us if we just rose above all that, and acted like we were capable of caring about anything beyond ourselves.

[[edit: Damnit, why do my offensive ideas keep coming out interesting. Now I really want to see a Satanist Nazis vs. Gay Klansmen at the Holy Mother Cathouse cartoon. That just sounds hilarious.]]

Well actually I live in a European country, Ireland, which also happens to be coming to terms with a rise in immigration and asylum seekers, including a rising muslim population. Yes, there's bigotry but it really isn't the issue here. For decades, and within my own lifetime, we allowed the Catholic church to have a massive influence over political policy - to devastating results. Censorship was rife with much of it done in the name of respect for religious beliefs. When we broke the back of the churchs hold, the amount of horrific revelations that came out still have a huge resonance. People suffered because the church were able to inhibit freedom of expression. That's why we value our freedom of expression.

I have also lived through the troubles, where often British newspapers would run cartoons using our national flag alonside images of IRA bombers and gunmen. It was a big 'tarring with the same brush' thing but it was justified in a sense. The IRA were commiting atrocities in the name of Irish unity. So is true of radicals who use Islam as a justification for atrocities. They open that up to satire and/or examination. If moderate Muslims have a problem with that, they should take it up with the extremists - as many in Ireland took exception with the IRA and it's declarations that it represented the Irish people.

And in the end, these particular cartoons were published in response to rumours that publishers were having diffculty getting cartoonists to do work related to Islam out of fear of reprisals. A fear justified by the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, which surprisingly no one apologised for even though it is clearly an offense to our western european sensibilites, and the murder of Theo Van Gogh for his involvement in a film that was critical of Islam.

They were also originally published back in September without any backlash and moderate muslims within Denmark have been quick to distance themselves from the outrage. They just don't get the same airtime as the fanatics.

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LineItemVito's picture

[quote:238c466f00="TWG"]I guess it would depend if some people claiming to represent them flew a couple of hijacked jets into my coat rack/ invaded my closet looking for non-existent WMDs.
Given my hypothetical scenario, your response shouldn't "depend". Assume they did these things. Now what do you do to create an "apartment" where everybody can live happy and fulfilled lives in peace? When you know the answer to that question you'll be on the path of knowing the answer to the same problem in a world of 7 billion people.

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LineItemVito's picture

[quote:27a214d7e8="Aleph"]It's not a matter of editorializing at that point, or not being able to, it's a matter of deciding the level of taste and discretion to use in publishing.
I strongly agree with this point.

There are many ways to say, "I don't agree with you." Some are loving, supportive, constructive, and illuminating. Others are hateful, destructive, violent, and create darkness and fear. So, if you want to have "freedom of speech", fine. Just speak wisely.

There is an ancient saying in Hindi, from "Manu Smrti" which says:

satyaM brUyAt.h priyaM brUyAt.h na brUyAtsatyamapriyam.h |
priyaM cha nAnR^itaM brUyAt eshha dharmaH sanAtanaH ||

Speak the truth; speak the pleasant; do not speak an unpleasant truth;
Also, do not speak a pleasant falsehood -- this is the ancient law.

That's what's missing from both the original cartoons and the violent response. It's not IF they can speak, it's HOW they speak.

Eddie

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spargs's picture

[quote:8093b239f8="TWG"]I guess it would depend if some people claiming to represent them flew a couple of hijacked jets into my coat rack/ invaded my closet looking for non-existent WMDs.

[quote:8093b239f8="LineItemVito"]Given my hypothetical scenario, your response shouldn't "depend". Assume they did these things. Now what do you do to create an "apartment" where everybody can live happy and fulfilled lives in peace? When you know the answer to that question you'll be on the path of knowing the answer to the same problem in a world of 7 billion people.

There will be peace on Earth when every last person is dead. A slightly more realistic approach to achieving peace is to not start wars.

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Aleph's picture

[[ RANT ]]

Or to make the people who start them contribute their own children rather than using the desperate and poor to fight for them. If the Bush twins were in the trenches, you can be damned sure there'd be a withdrawal plan in place.

... yeah, go ahead and innuendo the hell out of that. ;)

Seriously, if congressmen and Presidents were required to put themselves or their own family in harm's way any time they started a war, and they weren't allowed to treat those as any different from any other soldier (no ransoms!) they'd be a lot less casual about shortfalls in armor, testing of equipment, funding of units, and timetables. It would be much harder to treat anybody as 'acceptable losses'.

[[ /RANT ]]