Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Of Cartoons and Cowardice

Of Cartoons and Cowardice
© 2006 Ross Williams

This just gets weirder and weirder. The war of words over hand-drawn pictures has escalated beyond the kindergartenish, and beyond the few recalled ambassadors and rock-throwing demonstrations.

Embassies have now been torched and people have died.

Random quotes from on-line news:

A Saudi cleric said Thursday, “This is great. The Muslim nation is fired up."

Um ... Mr Saudi Cleric ... there is no "Muslim nation". There are, as our hyper-discerning culture-centric weenies would say, "nations which happen to be predominately islamic".

Therefore, Mr Saudi Cleric, you are denying the identity of Jordanians, and Yemenis, and Afghanis, and Libyans by wrapping them up in your one-size-fits-all “Muslim nation”. What happens if the Iranians, or the Syrians, or the Indonesians don’t feel the same way about the Danish cartoons as you do? Huh? Dijja think of that?

Oh, but they do feel the same, don’t they? Hmmm. So … pan-islamists are, as the term implies, pan-islamists. They have a unity beyond borders that far surpasses anything we in the West could conjure up for ourselves. They really are united, aren’t they?

So it really is a “Muslim nation” isn’t it? And us worrying about Iraq when Osama is in Afghanistan really is pertinent. Isn’t it?

Golly, I hate being right all the time.

Speaking to Iranian air force personnel, Khamenei [said] the cartoons were a scandal, particularly as they came "from those who champion civilization and free expression."

The caricatures amounted to a "conspiracy by Zionists who were angry because of the victory of Hamas," he said, referring to the Palestinian militant group that won a surprise landslide victory in last month's elections.

For those who don’t remember, Khamenei – not to be confused with Khomeini – is Iran’s “supreme leader”. He is Iran’s Pat Robertson, if you will. Or Iran’s Al Sharpton if you also will. In either case, overbearingly self-righteous and deigns to speak for god. Just imagine if either Robertson or Sharpton assumed the non-diselectable leadership of the US … that’s Iran.

No wonder Iran needs nuclear power over and above what they can generate with oil. They’ve perfected time travel, and need to keep the machine powered up. Hamas was elected in January of 2006. And because “zionists” were pissed about it, they conspired to draw unflattering cartoons of Mohammed in September of 2005. Izzat how it works in your world, Ali? In your “muslim world”?

Once again, any old excuse will work. Just pull whatever comes to mind out of your ass, fling it around the “muslim nation”, and see how many pan-islamists you can get to dance around the flagpole. And see how many Americans you can get to join you.

Geez! I hate being right all the time.

But Iran’s on at least one right track, sad as it is to say.[1] One of Iran’s state-owned newspapers has put out a call to cartoonists to deny in caricature the existence of the Holocaust, to test the West’s commitment to free expression which is demeaning and insulting and sacrilegious.

Iranian president Ahmadinejad, who rules only at the pleasure of Grand Ayatollah Khamenei, has denied the Holocaust ever occurred, and threatened to remove Israel from the shores of the Mediterranean and blow Israel all the way to central Europe or the United States. …probably with a fan powered by the electricity generated by the nuclear plants Iran wants to build. Now, of course, the West has righteously insulted Greater Islamia by drawing pictures of that which muslims consider beyond mocking or criticism – the Prophet Mohammed. And in the name of freedom of expression.

Turnabout, being fair play – which, frankly, it is – a suitably beyond mocking or criticism parallel to test that idealistic commitment was proposed. What, in the West, is farther beyond criticism than the Holocaust? Certainly not Jesus. Art galleries in New York City have paintings of Jesus as Osama bin Laden. Jesus has been depicted as a homosexual in stage plays, and Robert Maplethorpe dunked a crucifix in urine, took a picture of it, hung it up in Cincinnati and called it art. Got paid by the government for doing it, too.

Mel Gibson didn’t need government funding to piss off not only a whole bunch of christians who didn’t like his movie about Jesus, but nearly every Jew on the planet for adding fuel to the “christ-killer” fire. But apart from the odd boycott and a few angry letters to the editor, Western christians don’t do much when they get righteously indignant. They certainly don’t go on firebombing sprees and torch a half or three-quarters of a dozen iconic edifices of their disgust.

Nope. In America, atheists do that.[2]

Jesus even died in a Christmas Eve shoot-out while saving Santa in Baghdad in a South Park episode.

So it’s fair to say that Jesus is fair game in America and the rest of the West. What isn’t fair game is denying the sacrosanct Holocaust. It severely pisses off the Jews, some of whom are still running around finding ex-Nazi guards to roust out of their wheelchairs and put on trial. It makes christians quake with the nervous trepidation of collective guilt. Even the atheists in America draw the line at Holocaust denial. Something about being sympathetic to others who’ve suffered from christian bullying.

As I say, I really hate to admit it, but the pan-islamist dopes have a point. We’re good at preaching “freedom of expression” here in the West, but when push comes to shove we prohibit expressions which contravene the secular or sociological orthodoxy every chance we get. Try getting a “nigger” in edgewise anywhere but on a rap CD. Try staying enrolled in a Pennsylvania college after you call a chubby chick a water buffalo. Try burning an American flag in front of the local VFW on Memorial Day.

Every one of those free expression offenses has a group which will proudly and publicly defend the offensive. But deny the Holocaust? Your defenders will be wearing white robes and hoods.

For that reason, mocking caricatures which deny the Holocaust would be a very good test of our faith in free expression. Hell, even mocking caricatures or jokes about the Holocaust which accept it as fact would work. Some of us took on the pan-islamist cultural untouchables, can we not take on our own?

Our Constitution, and the constitutions of the other Western nations, guarantees freedom of expression; that’s the justification for printing insulting caricatures of Mohammed. We can say and write what we want to, unless it violates someone else’s rights. Someone else’s legitimate rights, that is, not their desired rights. Most people desire a right to be free from insult or ridicule, but that “right” is not protected. Thus water buffalos are as fair a target as Jesus.

Having to hear religious or social blasphemies is also not protected. The great conspiracy theories – multiple gunmen in Dallas, or a lone gunman, depending on your conspiratorial perspective; the US Navy shot down TWA 880; Clinton murdered Vince Foster; Bush invaded Iraq to steal oil – are all living testament.

Yet when someone uses freedom of expression to offend persons or groups we’re hyper-sensitive to – American Indians and African Americans are two group which leap to mind – or groups that we’re overly solicitous of – Jews, for example – or groups who are ready to torch anything and everything they view as hostile – like pan-islamists are – we back off, and we tend to subordinate our legitimate rights to the infantile desires of the easily offended.

That’s what the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, sought to prove last September. They succeeded marvelously.

The US State Department, speaking on behalf of the nation which was the birthplace of free expression, and in a fit of mealy-mouthed mincing, has declared that even though the US supports freedom of expression, expressions “which incite religious or ethnic hatred” are unacceptable. In other words, you can insult others unless they really, really object.


The US defends our right to incite domestic political sectarian hatred, judging by the content of the nation’s op-ed pages during election cycles. Judging by NEA funding patterns, it’s acceptable to incite anti-christian hatred, as well. What’s the harm? Christians have long ago stopped marching onward as soldiers in any great numbers and become political lobbyists.

Jews? still on the Nazi hunt. Muslims? playing Queen of Hearts on the croquet pitch.

Is Ahmadinejad right about us? God help us if he is, because the Constitution seems to be useless.

[1] Yikes! I’ve commended France and I’m giving nodding assent to Iran, all in the same week. It really is the End Times, ainnit?
[2] If current events match the recent past, at any rate: http://www.cnn.com/2006/US/02/07/church.fires.ap/index.html


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