“The West is Choked by Fear”



Will writes from Washington, D.C. (well, Arlington, Virginia). You can reach him at willblogcorrespondence at gmail dot com.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar Freddie says:

    Of course, the right to offend is more important than the right to not offend. Few people have said that the Danish cartoonists shouldn’t have the right to publish the cartoons. What many said– what I say– is that the cartoons weren’t funny, weren’t socially valuable, didn’t make an intelligent political point, and were altogether a poor example of political rabble-rousing. This is the position that civil libertarians like myself constantly find ourselves in; we have to defend the right of people to say stupid things, or to produce offensive and lousy art. What is disappointing about so much of the commentary on this issue is that it elides two things, the right of the cartoonist to make these drawings with an appreciation of what those drawings actually are. In this you can see, well, the entire oevure of Ms. Hirsi-Ali, who writes comically poor takedowns of Islam that would be ignored if they came from a white conservative but are lionized because they come from a dark-skinned, former Muslim woman.Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      I think this is basically correct. I read the op-ed as a criticism of Europe’s half-hearted commitment to free speech rather than a full-throated defense of the cartoons’ artistic or political merit.Report

      • Avatar Kyle says:

        Fair enough but this isn’t exactly news. Europe’s long prioritized clamping down on holocaust denial and Neo-Nazism at the expense of free speech. Islamic (though notably not religious) sensitivities just seem to be the manifest protected class of the era.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong Freddie but aren’t the European civil libertarians specifically ~not~ defending the right of the artists and publishers to publish these cartoons? The quotes and much of the brouhaha seems to have been to the effect that they should never have been published and that great effort should be made to insure that the religious (specifically the Islamic, the Taoists and Christians and certainly Hebrews don’t seem to merit the same deference) are not offended.
      I’m vaguely familiar with Ms. Hirsi-Ali as well, I’ve not thought much of her bromides about Islam, but I think even less of the murder attempts on her person or the successful murder of some of her associates. Why is it a problem that these people are publishing these (admittedly not very impressive) cartoons or criticisms of Islam but it’s not a problem that Islamists are rioting and threatening (and trying and sometimes succeeding!) to kill these people?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The Satanic Verses is where the West failed most spectacularly.

      This *WAS* art. Good art, even. I’d call it a comic novel were I in one mood, call it the Muslim Last Temptation of Christ if I were in another. A brilliant examination of faith, doubt, sin, and blasphemy.

      And people screamed for blood. People were killed.

      And people had the exact same conversation then.

      The political cartoons being good, bad, or whatever isn’t relevant to the conversation that ensued. It wasn’t relevant last time (when the art was good), it wasn’t relevant this time (when the political commentary was mediocre), and it won’t be relevant next time (when the insights will be all, like, you know, whatever).

      We’ll still see crowds of screaming people angrily demanding blood in exchange for the offense done… and, once again, we’ll have a serious debate over whether, free speech aside, it’s smart to poke your thumb in the eye of a guy with a knife over something as silly as “art”.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    I would savor it if the subject of the op-ed didn’t leave the taste of sand and ashes in my mouth.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    {evil Jaybird}

    While I appreciate the concerns of some women that they ought to have more control over their own reproductive cycles, I have to question whether the murders of doctors like George Tiller aren’t on their heads to some degree. How many doctors are we willing to put through the meat grinder on behalf of some distasteful procedure that most women will never experience and could be avoided with even moderate planning? Do we, as a society, really want the blood of doctors on our hands?

    {/evil Jaybird}Report

  4. Avatar Doctor Slack says:

    Jyllands-Posten were race-baiting, pure and simple. They set out to provoke a reaction from a Muslim community that’s living largely in ghettoes throughout Europe, and being treated on the whole to the latest and best in xenophobic panic rhetoric that’s thinly disguised as critique of religion but is basically about foreign ethnicity, about Africanness or Turkishness, about race. Well, they got their reaction, and they got to beat their breasts and portray themselves as courageous champions of free speech. It was a well-played gambit in the ongoing effort to further alienate Muslim minorities from European society, so… good for them, if you like that sort of thing.

    That said: beyond the basic baseline agreement that they have the right to publish what they want, and that people who attempt to harass or attack them or the cartoonists for doing so should be arrested, the rest of Europe and the Western world doesn’t owe Jyllands-Posten a shred of solidarity whatever, much less the reprinting of their puerile xenophobic humor*. I’m glad to see that so much of European society declined — for whatever reasons (and I suspect “choked by fear” is oversimplifying a tad, to put it politely) — to get on that bandwagon.

    (*The op-ed’s attempt to dismiss Fritz Kuhn’s comparison of the cartoons to Der Stürmer-esque propaganda falls flat. The cartoons were more varied than the Stürmer aesthetic, mind you, but their function was not particularly different. )Report

    • Avatar Will says:

      Again, I think there’s a clear distinction between criticizing the artistic or political merits of the cartoons (which were, admittedly, not very good) and expressing solidarity in the context of free speech. Many European leaders were a little too eager to let aesthetic judgments influence their commitment to free speech after the cartoons were published, which strikes me as a pretty dangerous precedent.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Slack says:

        Well, I don’t think many European leaders outright banned the cartoons or visual representations of the Prophet, did they? Unless I missed something, Chirac did not actually “decree” anything at the time, despite the attempt in the article to imply he did. All he did was inveigh against them as being inflammatory and divisive, which they were, and to condemn the agenda behind them as open provocation, which it was. It seems to me that dialogue and criticism is the whole point of free speech; I don’t see how its existence constitutes a “dangerous precedent” or calls into question “commitments to free speech.”Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Two Words: Piss ChristReport

      • Avatar Doctor Slack says:

        Not that anyone is particularly compelled to “solidarity” with Serrano either, right? Except insofar as I expect we’re all agreed his work shouldn’t be banned or defaced, we in fact have no obligation to otherwise defend it or refrain from criticizing it. (On aesthetic level, it’s really rather an insult to Piss Christ — which actually has a thoughtful theological point behind it — to compare it with those Jyllands-Posten cartoons.)Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          “You just don’t understand the nuances of the exceptionally thoughtful sociological point behind the Jyllands-Posten cartoons. Indeed, one of the cartoons mocked the idea behind the creation of the cartoons in the first place! As performance art, it was one of the most brilliant theological pieces since Chris Ofili painting of the Virgin Mary!”Report