Saturday, February 04, 2006

Still More on Cartoons

No surprise, but Andrew Sullivan has had strong posts about this, too.

In this one, he tries to link to some blatantly anti-Semitic cartoons in the Muslim press, but this link (which Anonymous Smart Dude below also sent along) hasn't been working for the past day or two. I imagine the site's been overwhelmed with traffic.

In any case, Sullivan says strongly what I tried to say strongly the other day before I stepped back a bit, mainly because I didn't want to let my more general philosophical issues with religious fervor cloud this specific case and its core issue of free speech vs. respect.

But it's impossible not to conflate the issues when you see something like the photos linked to in this post. OK, maybe it's a tiny minority (though that seems increasingly doubtful and pig-headedly optimistic to me), and OK, maybe it's not right to publish inflammatory cartoons about people's deeply held faith. But really -- the tone of the reaction is insane, plain and simple. To try to approach it differently out of some misguided political sensitivity seems increasingly dangerous to me.

Anonymous Smart Dude (which I may have to start calling him in everyday life, just for fun) also pointed me to this Onion piece, which ran nearly nine years ago. It's as funny as it was then, and even more sadly appropriate.


Anonymous nick said...

At the risk of reducing an entertaining discussion to a boring old concensus, I think the scorecard thus far goes something like this:
Should the papers have run the cartoons? Probably not, for the same reason the NYT wouldn't run a cartoon of Jesus torching an abortion clinic.
Should Muslims be offended? Sure. That's their rule, and they ought to hold to it, if they believe genuinely in their religion.
Shold they express that offense through violence, or even threats? Absolutely not. I feel that the Syrians should be free to ask that those embassies be closed (though I fear that this sort of isolationism will only increase the chance of greater conflict). But torching them is against the seond-oldest rule in the book: Don't mess with my stuff, which follows just behind Don't mess with me. This isn't a matter of philosophy; it's one of property.
Should Muslims in non-Muslim countries be able to impose their dicta on the general populace? No. They may reasonably expect that others stop swinging their fists wheir their noses begin, but that's about it. (Though I quibble with the characterization of this as a free-speech issue; since no one is surpressing a legal right to speak freely, it's an ideological issue but not a free-speech one. Maybe I'm splitting hairs.)

4:42 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

I agree with your scorecard, but I'm happy to take on the quibble. It's only a free speech issue in the sense that some Muslims inside some countries that allow free speech are asking -- kind of seriously, it seems -- for the slaying of editorialists. I know those countries aren't on the verge of ending free speech because of this (if anything, they'll likely defend it more), but nonetheless, the protests seem to be against "free speech" as much as they can be. The strongest argument I can think of for not belaboring this issue (the way I'm threatening to do) is that I'm preaching to the choir, but I think the choir needs to be properly energized in this case.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

I saw today in the news that one of the leading Iranian newspapers called for a Holocaust cartoon contest, and they will publish the winners. They said they wanted to test the "free speech" argument to see if the West and Israel will react with the same "oh well, it's free speech" shrugs that that they have so far given in reaction to the offensive cartoons regarding the prophet Mohammed. Interesting argument. Fair is fair.

3:16 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

I imagine we'll reply with some condemnation, which is a fair response to such a contest. Unfair responses include, but are not limited to: rioting, burning other people's property, death threats, and actually killing people.

I think the thing is, there are plenty of people who don't want to dismiss it with just a shrug, but aren't won over by the rock-throwing, death threats, etc.

But really, this is apples and oranges. Drawing a historical figure like Mohammed in a satirical way is hardly the same as mocking the systematic genocide that many people still alive witnessed. It's like comparing a cartoon of Benjamin Franklin that mocks America and a cartoon making fun of slavery.)

3:37 PM  

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