the World from Parody
it’s come to this: the two main stories of the week sound like
satire: Dick Cheney shot a guy in the face, and there’s widespread
international rioting over Danish editorial cartoons. If things
keep going this way, pretty soon all the joke writers will have
to find real jobs.
afraid this cartoon thing would be over by the time this issue came
out, rendering our material stale. Luckily, riots in Pakistan yesterday
killed three, including an eight-year-old boy, shot in the face
by a protester. Way to go, holy man.
addition to killing people, the demonstrators also expressed their
reverence for Allah by burning down a KFC, a couple of movie theatres,
and a bus station run by a South Korean company, and trashing a
couple of cell phone companies’ offices. An excellent rebuttal to
the message implied by the now-famous but largely unseen Mohammed-bomb
drawing, that Muslims are violent.
course, the common perception that these raging throngs and their
poorly translated banners represent most Muslims is false. It looks
like a lot of people on TV, but 99 times as many Muslims are at
home scratching their heads. Despite the drumbeat rhetoric of nearly
every conservative this week, the large majority of Muslims are
just trying to get along like anyone else. They observe their religion,
like a lot of Christians, in a somewhat half-assed manner. They
don’t want to kill anyone, and think, like the rest of us, that
these guys running around burning effigies of Danish politicians
are just nuts.
some conservatives are now questioning what they call the "myth"
of the moderate Muslim. If there are so many, they ask, why don’t
they speak out? The answer is simple: they’re scared. After all,
if the editors of American newspapers are too scared to print the
damn cartoons, imagine what it’s like to actually live among people
who will kill you for disagreeing with them. Talk about a chilling
remarkable to me is not that cooler Islamic heads might be hesitant
to open their mouths, but the near total capitulation of the "free"
press here in the West to the intimidation of fringe lunatics. The
disingenuous excuse offered by both print and TV outlets is that
they’re refraining from displaying the cartoons out of "respect
for the religion."
admit it: I have no respect for religion. I think they’re all fundamentally
insane. I respect any person’s right to think insane thoughts, but
not to commit insane acts. Fantasize about shooting up your workplace
all you want, but if you bring a Glock to work, here’s hoping the
security guard takes you down first. The people burning embassies,
and those offering money for the murder of cartoonists, deserve
no respect at all.
does the editorial reaction to all of this in the American press.
Conservatives are taking a break from vilifying anybody to the left
of Joe Lieberman as Maoist traitors, and are suddenly free speech
advocates, railing against religious intolerance (on the other hand,
I haven’t seen any turban-bombs lately in the Wall Street Journal
or the Weekly Standard). But that’s to be expected. Serve
Ann Coulter an excuse to stir up hatred for foreigners, and she’ll
ace it every time.
disappointing, however, is the stereotypically weak reaction of
the left. Many of the same people who condemn domestic Christian
intolerance in no uncertain terms are having trouble recognizing
it abroad. On February 8th, righteous lefty crusader Amy Goodman
did a segment on "Hardball with Chris Matthews," and she
even managed to make Tony Blankley seem reasonable:
first of all, I don‘t think that this has to do with west versus
east. The question is, does a paper have a right? Yes. Is it
is about people who are feeling maligned, people who are feeling
marginalized, and this has very much to do with the global situation,
specifically the war in Iraq.
has to do with the occupation. This has to do with hundreds of
Muslims who are held at Guantanamo without charge, with the Koran
being desecrated. This is just one more issue. The cartoon cannot
be seen in isolation."
imagine this situation: Southern evangelicals are outraged by the
unabated teaching of Darwinism in public schools. A few radical
preachers whip them into a frenzy, and turn them loose upon various
universities, which they burn down, killing a few people in the
process. Jerry Falwell offers 20 grand to the first guy who can
kill Stephen Jay Gould. What would Amy say that night on "Hardball?"
the thing is, this isn’t really about just faith vs. reason. These
people are poor, they’re undereducated, and they’re feeling maligned
and marginalized by the press.
has to do with millions of Christians who feel that their values
have been disrespected, and who are forced to tolerate homosexuals
and rap music by a society that they feel doesn’t appreciate them.
The university burnings cannot be seen in isolation."
that sounds about right, huh?
true answer to the rhetorical question Goodman poses, whether it
was or is "right" to publish these cartoons, is not "no;"
it is "who cares?" A free press isn’t free only to be
right. Killing people for drawing cartoons is not only categorically
wrong, it is downright silly. Offering any kind of apology for the
monstrous idiots who encourage or even approve of such acts puts
Goodman in the moral neighborhood of someone who excuses a rape-homicide
by saying "she was bitch." The war is wrong, Abu Ghraib
was wrong, Gitmo’s wrong, and killing cartoonists is wrong. None
of these things are excusable in the slightest.
Goodman’s not alone. Lots of progressives, or liberals, or whatever
we’re called these days, are struggling with the cartoon issue,
their ideals about freedom from religious oppression banging up
against their desire to disagree with the Right. Take the Nation’s
editorial response to the debacle, titled "the Cartoon Bomb,"
as if these doodling Danes had lobbed them into Iran, killing hundreds:
cartoon scandal is about much more than freedom of speech. At
its heart the controversy is about power--the power of images;
the power that divides Muslim and non-Muslim Europeans, the West
and the Middle East; the power of radical Islamists to silence
more moderate voices--and the responsibility that comes with power.
In today's volatile political climate--charged by the wars in
Afghanistan and Iraq, by Israel's construction of the 'separation
wall' in Palestine, by the controversy over the hijab and the
revolt in the French banlieues, by the growth of anti-immigration
politics and radical Islam in 'liberal' Europe and by the velocity
with which news and rumor travel on the Internet--the point is
not Jyllands-Posten's right to publish but its editorial wisdom,
its sense of civic responsibility."
bullshit. This is not about civic responsibility, or Israel, or
the war, or the moral lessons of Spiderman. This is about
the most fundamental principles of our society: say what you think,
don’t kill anybody, and don’t burn down my shit. I don’t care if
the staff at the Jyllands-Posten are goose-stepping Nazis.
The cartoon "scandal" is not about "much more than
freedom of speech"—in fact it is about nothing but freedom
of speech is not a guideline or a suggestion. It is not the freedom
to say things that don’t upset people—there’s no need for
a constitutional amendment ensuring that. It is nothing less than
the freedom to be arrogant, disrespectful assholes, or it isn’t
anything at all. Suggesting that the press shares blame in this
is self-castrating cowardice, or at best a reflexive reaction to
the Right’s sudden embrace of the first amendment. To make the obvious
comparison yet again, if Pat Robertson’s followers were destroying
property and advocating the assassination of cartoonists over some
similar disparagement of Jesus, I doubt that the Nation’s
editors would be so understanding.
don’t need to be more sensitive to their culture, not this time.
Freedom of expression is so clearly a better value than faith-based
murder that there’s no debate to be had about it. There are legitimate
responses to the offense—peaceful demonstrations, for instance,
or boycotts. When Tom Toles ran a great cartoon a couple of weeks
ago involving a limbless vet in a hospital being attended by "Dr.
Rumsfeld," he offended the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They wrote
a letter. And yes, even the holocaust cartoon contest the Iranian
paper Hamshahri is running is an acceptable form of protest.
But for crying out loud, you can’t excuse encouraging murder. Asinine
religious crap is asinine religious crap, no matter which culture
excretes it. Murderous fanatics are to be ridiculed, shamed and
one’s opinion, no matter how annoying, is a right, not a privilege.
Fuck these maniacs, who have intimidated their own neighbors into
silence and the American press into a transparent pretense of respect.
Admit it, people—you’re not offended; you’re terrified. Anybody
would be. But, unlike with the spurious Iraq war justifications,
which were presented as a choice of bravery vs. cowardice, there
really are just two choices when someone threatens to kill
you for printing a line drawing. The brave thing would have been
for every major daily in the free world to have printed the cartoons
simultaneously. The cowardly thing to do would have been… nothing,
which is exactly what happened.
by Matt Bors