Thursday, February 09, 2006

You Mean Those Hornets Sting?

I don't have much to say about the Muhammad cartoon controversy. I will, however, point you to one of the better pieces I read on the whole thing by local alt-weekly and would-be NPR host Jack Lessenberry.
[link] ...Fundamentalist Muslims went ballistic. Fundamentalist imams demanded a meeting with Denmark's prime minister. (He rightly refused.) The fundamentalists then began whipping up outrage by showing the cartoons around the Middle East. And get this. These "holy men of God" included phony cartoons that were much worse than the real ones.

They included images showing Muhammed as a pig, a pedophile and a sodomizer of animals. (I'd love to know who did those.) The cartoons in the Danish newspaper were far milder. Some were pro-Muslim, some didn't depict the prophet at all, and one attacked the editor as a "reactionary provocateur."

Naturally, inflamed Muslims began behaving badly. Danish flags were burned; people have been killed in demonstrations; diplomatic installations have been set on fire; and they called for an international boycott of Danish products, which must be bad if you're addicted to small buttery cookies.

Accordingly, last week a number of European papers did something that should put the press here to shame. They courageously reprinted the cartoons.

One of those, the German newspaper Die Welt, added this: "Democracy is the institutionalized form of freedom of expression. There is no right to protection from satire in the West; there is a right to blasphemy."

Amen, amen, selah and salaam. Thomas Jefferson couldn't have said it better. Lovers of freedom all over the world ought to be very, very proud of every editor who published them. Naturally, various so-called liberals howled that this was racism, and whined that it would help an anti-immigration party in Denmark.

That's a load of bullshit. Denmark is a postage-stamp country with barely half Michigan's population. And all you need to know about it is that when the Nazis occupied them and came to round up and murder their Jews, the Danes said no. No way. The entire nation then collaborated to smuggle nearly the entire Jewish population to Sweden. Nobody else did anything like that.

They are people of courage, tolerance and a sense of humor, three qualities that America — especially the American press — is sorely lacking.

I will say this much—the editor who commissioned the illustrations knew this would be provocative, and printing these pictures was akin to poking around the ashes for some hot embers. They surely had the right to print 'em, as Danish Muslims had the right to be offended. Should Muslims halfway around the world be rioting and killing people over it, of course not. But does this come as a surprise? At this point how does every embassy in Tehran not have an escape rocket?

Lessenberry goes on to lambaste American media (including his own paper) for not taking up arms with their Danish and European brethren and publishing the pictures. I disagree. I think it would be gratuitous to do so. These pictures are readily available online for anyone to find if they are curious, or alternatively, need a reason to get pissed off and burn Danish flags. The U.S. has enough problems with the Middle East, and 150,000 targets walking around over there. I agree with a little discretion here.

Particularly in the case of his paper, the "Metro Times Detroit", a free weekly distributed throughout the geographic area containing the largest Arab population outside of the Middle East. We're not talking about a subscription-only venue or anything like it. This is one of those papers that stares you in the face when you walk into Subway. there's freedom of the press and there's rubbing people's faces in something. Freedom to is also freedom not to and nobody should be too annoyed that a newspaper editor is not willing to play Larry Flynt for a day.


S.W. Anderson said...

Tragically and foolishly, there's a common cause of the:

--Violent thuggery and corruption of the Palestinians, who've spent more than a half century proving to the world that they are their own worst enemies. (They'll not know peace and prosperity until they face up to that fact.)

--Sullen, spiteful recalcitrance of the Iranians.

--Psychopathic butchery and aggressiveness of al Qaeda and many of the insurgents in Iraq.

--Resentful, violent acting out of Muslim Arabs in France last year.

--Resentful, violent acting out across the Arab Muslim world about those silly cartoons.

The very same thing prompts American gang bangers to shoot, stab or beat to a pulp someone perceived as having dissed one of them in some way.

The common cause of all of this barbarism is cultural. Too many Arab Muslim parents raise their kids to be what we see rioting, destroying and threatening murder and mayhem over a perceived affront to their religion.

Cooler heads are prompted to ask, how flimsy is your faith, if it can be sullied by a silly drawing in a newspaper in a land far away? But that's rational adult thinking.

The rioters are operating on a different level: rebellious adolescent giving full vent to rage.

By all means, publications should be free to print those cartoons. But they should do so when and where there is a reason sufficiently important to justify the likely ugly response by a large number of badly raised people who are not in good control of themselves.

Mr Furious said...

I'm not going to defend the over-reaction to these cartoons. It is beyond the pale. People are dying over this, and likely, more will. I sure wouldn't want to be a blonde European anywhere in the Middle East right now.

I won't defend the Danish imams who fanned the flames and spread the cartoons far and wide, including some new, more offensive ones that never were published. they are using this situation and capitalizing on it.

But I won't defend the paper that printed 'em either. Common sense should come into play at dsome point. The Middle East is a powder keg, and European Muslims are not exactly in a position of either comfort or full acceptance into society. this was swatting at a hornet's nest, and then bitching when you get stung.

Just because you have the right to print something, doesn't make it right.