Sunday, February 05, 2006

Those cartoons: Freedom, offense, stupidity

Biodun asks why we haven't covered the cartoon fuss. Can't speak for Paul, but given my reaction is similar to Nosemonkey's, I'm guessing it's because, well, the whole thing is so overblown and stupid. A small, right-wing Danish newspaper published some badly drawn, unfunny cartoons. An extremist cleric reprinted them into a booklet, alongside 3 fake cartoons that really were offensive, and circulated them in the Islamic world. Fuss happens, some people apologise, people proclaim it a 'freedom of speech' issue, more fuss happens, and extremists stoke up reactions. Owen muses:
I am offended when the Pope argues against using condoms in Africa, even though they would help to prevent the spread of AIDS. I am offended by the treatment of women by Christian and Islamic religious traditions. I am offended by the way that Judaism treats homosexuals. But just because I am offended by these things does not give me the right to prevent others from believing them, or to try to stop them from acting in accordance with their beliefs.
He's right. You have the right to believe the moon is made of green cheese. I have the right to tell you you're a fool. However, I have to bear in mind that, by doing so, I'm insulting you, so I'll generally be careful how I say it, and the context. If sat in a seminar room, fine, if we're in a pub, you're drunk, and built like a brick shithouse, I'd be the fool for calling you out on your insane beliefs.

Just because you can publish something, doesn't mean you should. Those media outlets that keep printing them are, now, provoking more reactions and feeding extremists on both sides. If anyone wants to look at them, they're all over the place online. They're not being censored, they're not being repressed, they're just bloody stupid, unfunny and crap. A lot of the complaints and furore is being caused by the aggressive obstinacy of the need to publish them.

Extremists have taken control; embassies are under attack (and I wonder how many of the attackers have seen the cartoons, and if so, were the fake ones included?), lunatic fringe organisations are protesting in London. Lest we forget, Hizb ut Tahir is on the Govts "We'll ban them whent he legislation is passed" list of undesirable organisations, tis they organising the London marches.

Idiotic media types are stoking fires, dangerous extremists are stoking fires, and many of us are looking on and hoping the idiots will calm down.

I'd like to link to and quote from an article I wrote awhileback about the right to cause offense. I can't, blogger and blog-spot are playing up. I am absolutely free to condemn religion. But generally I find it best not to do so in the face of an angry crowd who feel insulted, many of whom probably have no real knowledge of the actual issue, only what they've been told. Muslim extremists shouting about cartoons, Christian "voice" complaining about a musical they'd never even watched, all adherents to a misguided delusion that there is some higher power to which they owe their allegiance.

People matter, life matters. The whole world is just being bloody stupid. Calm down FFS.


PaulJ said...

Mat said "I can't speak for Paul". Well, you have, because you've pretty much summed up what I'd have said anyway.

Should the newspapers have the right to publish whatever they want? YES

Should they have published the cartoons? NO

Is what is going in now i.e. embassy burnings, really related to the cartoons? NO

The reason why I haven't posted is because I'm not really interested in getting into any religious debate, and because the issue hasn't really spread to British shores as of yet. our newspapers seem to be taking the sensible route of standing up for free speech but not being inflamatory in printing the cartoons themselves. And unless that course of action changes, I will remain mostly unimpressed.

Biodun said...

I have to say I feel differently.

I think if the British press had printed the cartoons, Muslims who hadn't seen the cartoons, would have seen that they really weren't anything to get offended about, and those who had seen the circulated fake ones would have known that something foul was afoot.

I don't think its a co-incidence that the strongest protests have been in countries that did not print!

Apparently Jordan printed the cartoons too, and no one protested there, or tried to burn down their embassies.

I don't think it's a co-incidence that the strongest protests have been in places where the press did not print the cartoons.

PaulJ said...

But it's gone beyond that now. It doesn't matter whether the cartoons actually depicted something insulting or not - the story is that something insulting was printed, and people have reacted to that.

If you want to look at it that way, then surely the fact that the Danish newspaper has now apologised means that the issue is all over. The fact that it isn't shows that the issue has exceeded what it started out as, which is to be expected since it has been hijacked by extremists who are looking for any old excuse to attach the west anyway.

This is nothing new - The Zinoviev Letter bought down a Conservative Government in 1924, and that was a fake. What is real doesn't matter, what is perceived is key.

PaulJ said...

That's a Labour goverment, not a Tory one. Excuse the truly dumb typo. My brain was obvious taking a walk or something...

Anonymous said...

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Nonsense on both extreme sides of the cultural divide between Islamofacism and good old fashioned Facism.