Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cartoon Violence

Why even bother? Everyone else wrote about this earlier... and even last fall. Good folks too, like Mitch at Shot in the Dark (here, here, and here), the gang at the Anti-Strib (here and here), and Doug at Bogus Gold (here and here).

Well, the Souch wrote today's column with the cartoon controversy in mind. (If only Monty Python were still together and writing, maybe they'd thumb their collective noses at it... or considering Terry Jones these days, maybe not.)

Remembering the recent issue of Rolling Stone with the "annointed Kanye West" attempt at insta-controversy:

I suppose if Rolling Stone had a flag somebody might burn it, or if they had an embassy somebody might torch it, but I doubt it. The problem with demanding responsible free speech is who is going to do the determining.

We use laws to set the guidelines, but the protesters in Denmark have said, literally, that they have no interest in such laws. That places quite a burden on free people governed by laws, who, in order not to inflame Muslims, must be terribly careful not to, well, inflame Muslims. But without the law as a guide, that is like searching about in a dark room for the safe way out. In England, Burger King changed the packaging on its ice cream cones because a Muslim employee at Burger King was angry that the swirl of ice cream atop the cone resembled, so he claimed, the Arabic inscription for Allah. Uh, hallucinogenically, maybe.

If you can get upset at a picture of an ice cream cone, that would put cloud formations in play. But I don't know who you would rail against if you saw imagery in the sky.

Folks, we get the stick poked at us pretty often here. We as in conservatives, Christians, Catholics, Republicans, Libertarians, supporters of the war, what have you. Even our sacred cows get gored. (Wait, that's an ox... and I don't know if anyone has sacred oxen.) What do we do? We bitch about it on our blogs, we write snooty letters to the editor, we cancel our subscriptions to the paper, we tell our friends, we gripe to our wives (who hope we finish soon enough so we can continue watching the rest of "House" or "Celebrity Poker"). THAT'S what we do.

We don't take hostages, burn buildings, threaten offenders with death, or any such nonsense. When the neighbors do that we don't invite them to the really good parties.

We've seen so called art where someone creates the image of the Madonna with elephant dung, a jar of unrine holds Jesus on the Cross, and so on. This, for some time, has not been uncommon. (Just re-read that sentance again... to think that such displays are even predictable in some areas of the country.) Claudia Rosett in National Review mentions how reactions from the usual suspects are also not uncommon.

What’s noteworthy about the latest violence is not that it is unusual — but how very ordinary in so many ways it has become. Yes, of course, the grimly whimsical surprise is that this time the lightning rod has turned out to be not the famous London underground, or the grand train stations of Madrid, or the twin towers of New York, but a set of cartoons out of Copenhagen. The Danish drawings did not trigger some previously nonexistent fury. They have simply become the latest litmus test of how very much the worst thugs of the Islamic world believe they are entitled to get away with, whatever the pretext.

As for the cartoons, what ought to jump out here is that it is not, in fact, common for the Western press to caricature Mohammed, or even to run pointed cartoons about Islam. One has to wonder if the organizers of the gunmen, arsonists and death-threat-deliverers (and it takes a fair amount of organization to get hold of Danish flags in Gaza, or burn an embassy in the police-state of Syria) had to scour the ample outpourings of the Western press looking for something, anything, over which to take offense, and — faced with reams of material trying to understand their pain — had to fall back as a last resort on the cartoons of Denmark.

Taking a slightly different direction, Lee Harris (also at National Review) suggests that this latest outrage doesn't stem from a clash of civilizations.

In order for there to be a clash of civilizations, it is necessary for there to be two civilizations, both of which are prepared to defend their deepest cultural values. Those in the Islamic world who are violently protesting the Danish cartoons clearly represent a civilization that is keen on maintaining its own deeply held traditions and convictions, as the Muslim rioters are prepared to do, even to the point of bloodshed. The Danish cartoons are an affront to their own religion and culture, and it is pointless for those in the West to wish that Muslims could learn to be less fanatic in their approach to their faith: What we call fanaticism is an essential element of their faith, and it is one of the reasons that Islam is still a living religion in a world where so many others are moribund.

But, again, to have a clash of civilizations, it is not enough simply to have one civilization that is prepared to fight tooth and nail to defend its own ethos; there must, in addition, be another civilization that is also prepared to defend, with the same depth of conviction, its own ethical principles. The evidence, unfortunately, is that the West is not even remotely interested in mounting a defense of its values in the face of Muslim fanaticism. Worse, there are signs that the West is even prepared to sacrifice some of its core values in order to appease those who have always despised these values — values such as the freedom of individual expression and the right of every man to hold views that others find offensive and even downright blasphemous.

Can we be that timid?

I can't see that as the case, for what it is worth. However, don't we need to show a little more fire in the belly when defending our beliefs? I mean the true beliefs... the important beliefs. Certainly not by turning over the office desk when your co-worker gets snotty about where you go to church (much less by cutting his throat).

I'm getting into a new topic, so let me just say this and be done with it. Stand up and speak up... confidently and polite. Use humor, often. Chat over a drink (especially if you can convince the person his offense amounts to the cost of your usual libation).

Of course, if the person is a punk-ass let him hang himself with all the rope you can afford.


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