Freedom of expression should not be undermined

Obviously. And that should extend to mocking religion, even cruelly. And violence is not an acceptable response, even to someone maligning your God. But unfettered freedom of speech is not an entrenched value everywhere in the world (although I wish it were). And when we’re talking about swaths of relatively powerless people who have spent the past few decades facing hostility and violence from the United States and from their own leaders, rioting as the only way of demonstrating widespread frustration and discontent becomes somewhat… not understandable in the way that means “acceptable,” but understandable in the “capable of being understood” way. Because even if the better option was a cool, collected conversation, no one is sitting at the other side of that table. Which again isn’t a justification — the rioting is wrongheaded and horrible and I would even say silly in response to such an asinine, juvenile video — it’s just an observation. As is this: When there are already fires blazing, maybe don’t throw gasoline on them just to prove that you can.

195 comments for “Freedom of expression should not be undermined

  1. A4
    September 19, 2012 at 10:55 am

    This situation brings up questions of ethics an journalism in our very Global Communications world of now. When you know publishing something will result in this kind of violence, how do you go about addressing that?

    The obvious two options are:
    1) You can “not give into fear” and publish whatever you want under the banner of Free Speech and claim that the rioters are responsible for their own actions.
    2) You can decide that you do not have the right to “freedoms” that you know will result in the deaths of those who have no stake in your personal fight.

    This is not the kind of question that we can answer for others, but I think it’s useful and good to think about them for ourselves.

    • Bagelsan
      September 19, 2012 at 11:06 am

      I lean towards option 1, personally; if people flip out and then die from it, even if they flipped out over something I said, I am not responsible for their actions or their deaths. People always have the option of staying home and not rioting over a film or cartoon.

      But I doubt that the rioting is purely over the film (or cartoon) so much as it’s over much longer-held simmering resentments and anger. So frankly it would be set off by something no matter how little Muhammed is mocked.

      • FashionablyEvil
        September 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

        I find this response to be pretty cold to the thousands of people put at risk (citizens, diplomats, and service members among them) by the actions of those sitting (mostly) safely at home in California or Paris. It’s cowardly to say the least.

      • matlun
        September 19, 2012 at 11:17 am

        What is the alternative?
        To allow the intolerant and violent to effectively censor anything they want?

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 11:18 am

        Like I said, if rioters choose to murder innocent people that’s on them. We can’t be held hostage to a few extremists, of any religion. (See: abortion clinics.) And I don’t believe for a minute that rational human beings are upset only because of the cartoons anyways; I think there’s more going on.

      • Drahill
        September 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

        But diplomats are not being put at risk by those who make the offensive speech. If one takes offense, they have the options of ignoring it, protesting peacefully, or protesting violently. Their agency in choosing casts the responsibility on them in full.

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm

        FashionableEvil, speaking as someone from one of the countries where this happens, yes. I’d rather know what’s going on than not. To take a simple example: refusal to cover (and government coercion not to cover) the full scope of the 1992 Babri Masjid Mumbai riots was directly causal to my parents taking me (four years old at the time) back to Mumbai to escape tensions in the little village near it where we were living at the time. Talk about frying pan to fire.

      • deadleaf
        September 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

        interestingly, option 1 sounds very much like some of the reasoning used to justify rape jokes when feminists proclaim that telling them “throws fuel on the rape culture fire”

    • September 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      2) You can decide that you do not have the right to “freedoms” that you know will result in the deaths of those who have no stake in your personal fight.

      I don’t even see it as not having the right to those freedoms. I think that in cases where freedom of speech is protected, you have the right to freedom of speech. But just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should. Regardless of the possible outcomes, Charlie Hebdo had the right to publish those illustrations. But the ethical thing would have been for them to ask themselves why they wanted to publish something so inflammatory. If there’s some message they were trying to convey, that’s one thing. But if the only message was “You’re not the boss of me,” they knowingly put a lot of lives at stake for the sake of getting their dig in. And while the responsibility for all those deaths still lies on the shoulders of the rioters, Charlie Hedbo still has to recognize that they were perfectly free to not throw gasoline on that fire, but they did it anyway because they could and they wanted to.

      • Ladeeda
        September 19, 2012 at 12:19 pm

        I don’t mean this to sound as rhetorical as it reads on first blush, but: OK, so what? Let’s say that Charlie Hedbo and his editors do in fact recognize that, and would do it again in a heartbeat. What should our society’s reaction to that decision be? Scorn and derision? Changes in policies and laws? I guess I’m just unsure what actually amounts from “recognizing” something.

      • Amelia the lurker
        September 19, 2012 at 12:49 pm

        Just FYI, “Charlie Hebdo” is the name of the newspaper, not the name of a person—it means “Charlie Weekly.”

      • Ladeeda
        September 19, 2012 at 12:56 pm

        Whoops, my mistake. Thanks.

    • September 19, 2012 at 12:45 pm

      I think in the case of journalism, the responsibility is to tell the truth or else it undermines the whole point of journalism.

      That’s presuming what you have is actually a story and not a manufactured controversy.

      I didn’t get the impression that Charlie Hedbo is a news outlet, and I think entertainment/satire is a different beast than straight news.

      • Amelia the lurker
        September 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm

        You are correct. Charlie Hebdo is hard to describe because we don’t have anything like it in the U.S. Imagine a polemical, scatological newspaper, except mainstream enough to be next to the New York Times in newsstands.

  2. Asia
    September 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I understand people wanting to protest Islam and disagreeing with Islam. But, i don’t understand when those desires outweigh the very real implications to other people actual dying. Even if your not personally killing someone you are inciting others and literally risking lives. And honestly why was the editor willing to publish this?

    • Bagelsan
      September 19, 2012 at 11:08 am

      Well, I would literally die to maintain religious freedom and freedom of speech. Risking your life (or the lives of others) to exercise those rights is absolutely in line with highly valuing them; at the very least it’s not hypocritical.

      • A4
        September 19, 2012 at 11:41 am

        Yes, but do you have the right to risk the lives of others? The creators of this are not risking their own lives. They’re not going to speak face to face with those who would silence them.

      • Ladeeda
        September 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

        That’s a giant can-o’-worms silencing tactic right there. Speak your mind only if you can bear the physical violence that could be associated with it?

      • matlun
        September 19, 2012 at 12:17 pm

        It should be pointed out: They do take some fairly serious risks themselves.

        In fact, that very paper has been fire bombed once before.

        One of the Danish cartoonist survived a murder attempt only because he managed to lock himself into a panic room.

        There are numerous other examples, but I assume everyone knows this already…

      • A4
        September 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm

        How can my question be a silencing tactic? You can just say “yes I have that right”, and then no one is silenced. Like I said above, this is not the kind of decision that it is worth trying to make for others, which is why no one here is actually saying that a state government should have used force to prevent the publishing of this comic, i.e. “it should be legal but…”

        But all these different stances or points of view, even ones you might call a “silencing tactic” are what I react to when trying to parse the issue out for themselves.

      • Ladeeda
        September 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        Your question is not the silencing tactic; it’s the implicit stance that you should only say what you’re willing to say directly to someone’s face and then deal with the potential violent backlash. That is a silencing tactic.

      • September 19, 2012 at 5:22 pm

        Are *they* really the ones “risking the lives of others”? Wouldn’t the ones committing acts of violence be the ones who are actually risking the lives of others?

  3. Gorb
    September 19, 2012 at 11:16 am

    The elephant in the room is still escaping public notice.

    The Arab spring has brought the worst, most misogynistic, gay/woman/non-Muslim hating ultra-hard-core religious extremists to the fore in almost every Arab country.

    Since the revolution, there’s been a horrific increase in sexual assault, harassment and intimidation of women in Egypt.

    Since the revolution, Coptic Christians have basically been put on notice – everything but actual plans for genocide is currently in the works.

    In Syria, the popular revolution is quickly being taken over by the most violent, most radical section of the population; Syrian Christians are being murdered at rates that would make an Arab dictator blush with pride.

    Women’s rights in a few years in almost all of these countries will be virtually nonexistent.

    In every Arab state, popular revolutions are bringing the cultural elements to the surface that are the least compatible with ideas of democracy, human rights, women’s rights, and religious tolerance.

    Gay people and apostates are already being murdered in the street. The state is doing nothing. When Christians protest against being murdered and the State doing nothing to help them, the police gun them down where they stand; they refused to shoot Muslims protesters, but women and Christians are fair game.

    Unless the West abandons democracy, consigns women to the home and strips them of equality, subordinates all Christians and Jews, and executes atheists, polytheists, animists and all homosexuals –

    then we can expect much, much more conflict.

    Jill isn’t trying to apologize for the Nazi-like regimes that are taking shape, and while it may not help to create (accurate) insulting material about Islam, this massive elephant in the room absolutely must be acknowledged or no cogent, sensible and clear response can ever be made:

    No amount of concessions, no amount of one-sided respect, no amount of “restraint” will protect human rights in the Arab world.

    We have forgotten our duties to our fellow human beings. Knee-jerk respect for oppressive and brutal belief systems – which is what political Islam is – will cripple and philosophically undermine the West.

    Either there are human rights or there aren’t. Either women are equally human or they’re not. There is no half-way.

    Either we are all free, or no one is truly free.

    Any defense of these “revolutionary” movements which do not acknowledge these things is doomed to collapse under the weight of its own self-delusional hypocrisy.

    Arab women have rights, and are equally human, just as human as a white, privileged Western woman ensconced in a place with independent courts and a secular state.

    Apostates do not deserve to executed.
    Gay men do not deserve the death penalty for being gay.
    Women are not chattel, to be bought and sold.
    Children as young as 9 are not fit for marriage.

    Western liberal values are under a clear and very calculated and extremely muscular assault. Sadly, there are far too many “liberal” voices willing to excuse this behavior out of some nod to respect for diversity.

    If Aztecs were engaging in raids to capture victims for sacrificial offerings, I would hope that modern Western nations would stand up aggressively to prevent this practice.

    I can’t bear the thought that anyone could ever, in any way, defend the values now being rammed down the throats of Arabs across the Arab world. For any reason. Whatsoever.

    Or even be seen to be defending them. Even in principle.

    Either we have principles, or we don’t. This is going to be a very powerful test.

    It’s times like these that demonstrates with ringing clarity who actually believes in human rights, and who only uses talk about human rights to further less altruistic agendas.

    • September 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm

      Do you think you could possibly put up fewer citations which back up your xenophobic claims?

      Oh no, you literally can’t.

      • matlun
        September 19, 2012 at 1:03 pm

        What xenophobic claims?

        That post was a long opinion piece that contained very few fact claims at all (which I assume you were referring to since you were asking for citations).

      • September 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm

        Since the revolution, there’s been a horrific increase in sexual assault, harassment and intimidation of women in Egypt.

        Gay people and apostates are already being murdered in the street. The state is doing nothing.

        Syrian Christians are being murdered at rates that would make an Arab dictator blush with pride.

        etc, etc

      • matlun
        September 19, 2012 at 1:22 pm

        @Fat Steve: Ok, I may have skimmed that post a bit fast.

        I would not classify them as xenophobic, but at least there were a number of claims.

      • Tony
        September 19, 2012 at 9:30 pm

        I had the exact same thought as Steve. I want to see the citations; I’m genuinely curious.

        To some extent, the empowerment of religious conservatives was an inevitable side-effect of these revolutions due to the nature of the regimes that were being rebelled against.

    • September 19, 2012 at 1:14 pm

      while it may not help to create (accurate) insulting material about Islam

      Which material were you referring to? I ask this, because while I assume you are talking about that donkeyshit passing itself as a youtube video trailer, I want to know for sure before I jump down your throat.

      • September 19, 2012 at 1:19 pm

        ETA: As well as that dancing troll Charlie Hebo.

  4. Sharon Weisberg
    September 19, 2012 at 11:19 am

    How about when those crazy, illiterate, bitter-clinging teabaggers are out murdering doctors who perform abortion? Would you withhold criticism and shut down your blog to appease them?

    • Datdamwuf
      September 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm

      Thank you Sharon. I think what the french magazine printed was fine. In fact doing so right after the violence over the movie makes perfect sense when you are making the point that you refuse to be censored.

      Publishing some cartoon, quote, movie does not “incite” violence. Violent people use that kind of rhetoric to shut down free speech they do not like.

      Sort of like my ex husband blaming me for his abuse of me, if I would just not do that thing he didn’t like, then he wouldn’t have to be violent now would he?

  5. Joze
    September 19, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Good points Jill. Can we also agree that when someone knows their signifigant other has a had a hard day, and is tired from a double shift that we can understand why they might get frustrated and hit someone smaller and weaker than them? I’m not saying it’s right. I’m just saying we can understand why that might happen. Especially when the economy has been so rough lately. Again not saying the violence is right but maybe after they’ve hit someone we should avoid making them more angry by pestering them with issues they don’t want to talk about.

    • Ladeeda
      September 19, 2012 at 11:30 am

      I don’t even necessarily disagree with your larger point, but I think it’s well worth factoring in the fact that in the Middle East situation, it’s exactly the reverse of the domestic incident you’re hinting at: It’s someone getting frustrated and hitting someone much larger and stronger than they. It doesn’t make it right, and like I said, I mostly agree with your broader point, but it’s worth keeping that perspective in your analogy.

      • A4
        September 19, 2012 at 11:40 am

        Except the two sides on this issue are made up of many people with relative amounts of strength and weakness in the situation. I’m sure some of the people injured by the rioter’s violence believed just as truly in Muhammad as the rioters did.

    • FashionablyEvil
      September 19, 2012 at 11:52 am

      I’m not convinced that domestic violence is an appropriate analogy for foreign affairs. I’m also finding the lack of empathy for the people caught up in the violence to be pretty staggering.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 2:15 pm

        You mean the lack of empathy for the ones perpetrating the violence? Yeah, I’m not super sympathetic to the rioters that have died. Their murder victims? Sure, definitely sympathetic. Still won’t let that silence me, though.

      • FashionablyEvil
        September 19, 2012 at 4:11 pm

        No, I’m talking about empathy for people who live in places where violence is flaring.

        What do you think is happening around the world?

      • R J K
        September 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

        You know, it might not be such a bad analogy. As far as I’m aware, if you know that someone is in an abusive relationship and want to help, you do best to start by taking steps to ensure the safety of the abused, and then move to confronting (antagonizing) the abuser.

  6. matlun
    September 19, 2012 at 11:31 am

    When there are already fires blazing, maybe don’t throw gasoline on them just to prove that you can.

    I do think it is a very important thing to prove, though. There is a great danger in accepting self censorship to try to appease the intolerant and violent.

    But perhaps they should have chosen a better timing for publication.

    • Drahill
      September 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm

      It seems like the French publication is doing this in some kind of protest against what it perceives as fanaticism. The same thing happened with the Dutch cartoons and the famous “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.” Personally, I think Jill’s last sentence sells the paper a bit short. I also am not going to judge whether the protest can actually be effective, but I support their right to do it on principle.

      • September 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm

        Yes, brilliant idea, insult hundreds of millions of people to protest a few fanatics.

        How is this a protest? It is a provocation to the most fanatic minority of a population which also insults legitimate non-fanatical members of that population.

      • Drahill
        September 19, 2012 at 2:02 pm

        But Steve, I must ask – when has unpopular speech ever NOT been termed a provocation? Also, I think you’re misusing the term. “Provacation” basically means an invitation to do violence based on anger. And frankly, this isn’t one. Religion is a favorite target of satire, as it probably should be (or at least religion’s followers).

        Provacation is often a fancy term for “look at what you made me do.” Frankly, there has been plenty of criticism of religion that can be termed provocation. And no religious group on Earth has a right to iniate violence to protest it. As I said before, the burden is not on the offensive speaker to gauge reaction (unless the speech is a direct incitement to violence, which falls into a different category). Your use of the term provacation makes you appear to be mounting a defense of religion (something you seem adverse to the other 99% of the time).

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:20 pm

        I’m not criticizing the provocation per se. I’m questioning why the provocation has to be equally insulting to fanatics and non-fanatics.

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm

        Also, I think you’re misusing the term. “Provacation” basically means an invitation to do violence based on anger. And frankly, this isn’t one.

        You said it was a protest against a small group of fanatics. How is this a protest against fanatics if it doesn’t provoke them to do violence? Otherwise it’s just an insult to all Muslims.

      • Drahill
        September 19, 2012 at 2:31 pm

        You said it was a protest against a small group of fanatics. How is this a protest against fanatics if it doesn’t provoke them to do violence?

        Uh, Steve, I think you may be suffering from temporal dissonance. The violence is ongoing. The violence started over the movie and a small group’s anger.

        And when does a protest need to provoke violence to be effective? Somehow, it seems like you’re objecting more to the form of the protest rather than its content. Also, why have you not responded to my question about why you feel this act is a “provocation” of a faith-based group whereas you likely would not feel that way otherwise?

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:35 pm

        Also, why have you not responded to my question about why you feel this act is a “provocation” of a faith-based group whereas you likely would not feel that way otherwise?

        Because I do not believe it’s the provocation of a faith-based group. I believe it’s posing as provocation towards fanatics, but all it is is really a crude way of telling Muslim people they are the ‘other.’

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm

        Um, hundreds of millions of people get insulted every day. Somehow they manage not to take to the streets lighting shit on fire. Sure, it’s mean to say anti-Islam stuff, but it’s no meaner than any of the crap people say about other groups on a daily basis. And Muslims in the Middle East aren’t exactly a minority group that needs its delicate fee-fees protected.

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm

        And Muslims in the Middle East aren’t exactly a minority group…

        Muslims in France are.

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm

        you appear to be mounting a defense of religion (something you seem adverse to the other 99% of the time).

        Go look at my comments on threads about circumcision, Palestine, etc. I never defend religion, I just know the difference between a critique of religion and the othering of people.

      • Drahill
        September 19, 2012 at 2:49 pm

        Steve, you are consistently critical of religious extremism. You are ALSO highly critical of when people of faith have what you deem exagerrated or excessive reactions to things they deem offense. So frankly, it suprises me that you are leaping to forefront to argue that publishing cartoons critical of an Abrahamic religion is the “othering” of people (especially people of faith, whom you routinely seem to hold in less than high regard). Provacation as term implies that one is at least partly responsible for the reactions they get and the acts of others. I can’t imagine you arguing that a paper that publishes something deeply offensive to another faith is provoking violent reactions. I think you’d be more inclined to argue that religion is the opium of the masses.

        I’m just trying to argue logical consistency here. No group has the right to respond to the exercise of free speech with violence. Nope, nada, never. This is not provocation. Is it protest? The paper is saying it is (feel free to disgaree with that). But provocation? Hell no. Using that word has no place here, to me.

      • September 19, 2012 at 3:00 pm

        . So frankly, it suprises me that you are leaping to forefront to argue that publishing cartoons critical of an Abrahamic religion is the “othering” of people (especially people of faith, whom you routinely seem to hold in less than high regard).

        What is the criticism of the religion made by these cartoons?

        I don’t see it. If there is a valid criticism of Islam contained within these cartoons, explain where it is.

        Provacation as term implies that one is at least partly responsible for the reactions they get and the acts of others. I can’t imagine you arguing that a paper that publishes something deeply offensive to another faith is provoking violent reactions.

        Look, you can’t just make up your own definition of words., the definition of provocation has nothing to do with violence. It merely means you are attempting to get a response from someone.

      • Drahill
        September 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm

        Ah, Steve, your argument about a “a valid criticism” is lacking. By arguing for validity, you’re effectively imposing a merit critique upon the images. To you, they say nothing, so therefore, you find them without merit and think they shouldn’t be published. But you should know as well as I do that merit never has been a prerequisite to freedom of expression. Your speech can be the most useless thing ever, and it is still entitled to expression. By imposing the valid critique criteria, you’ve effectively set up a merit standard by which you can make value judgements about speech. Note that I have never argued that these images have anything particularly useful to say. They are an attack on the Islamic religion, of course. However, that attack need not live up to your standards of critique.

        As to your definition of provocation, I am using the constitutional definition of the word. In order to be regulated or prohibited speech, “provacative” speech must effectively mean “fighting words.” These images are not “fighting words.” Those who are offended by them have options on how to react – namely, ignore them, peaceful protest or violence. The vast majority of those offended have chosen the first two. Thus, the images are not provocation in the free expression use of the term.

      • September 19, 2012 at 9:20 pm

        Ah, Steve, your argument about a “a valid criticism” is lacking. By arguing for validity, you’re effectively imposing a merit critique upon the images. To you, they say nothing, so therefore, you find them without merit and think they shouldn’t be published.

        Yeah, and I think Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours should have never been published for the same reason, but arguing that it’s somehow wrong for me to express either opinion is equally ludicrous.

        I will also say that i believe there is more to the motives of these people than defending freedom of speech. I think they have an irrational hatred of Islam. However, both points of view are irrelevant to whether the cartoons should or should not be published. They should be published because the cartoons themselves aren’t harming anyone. But don’t tell me that the disregard of the sensibilities of Muslims coming from this newspaper is about the few mass murderers and not about the large amount of brown people they see walking in ‘their country.’

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm

        What is the criticism of the religion made by these cartoons?

        I don’t see it. If there is a valid criticism of Islam contained within these cartoons, explain where it is.

        At least one of the cartoons in question spoofs a movie recently made in France about an elderly bourgeois and his Muslim caretaker, with the captioned admonition to not mock (either the scenario within the movie or the stereotypical notions behind it.) Which goes back to my point below that the CH writers and editors are taking issue with fear of criticizing Muslims or their sacred cows and the perceived potential that such criticism/mocking can result in being on the receiving end of Muslim terrorism.

  7. Sid
    September 19, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Unfettered freedom of speech is an entrenched value practically nowhere in the world. And it won’t certainly will never become one in many places if you try to beat people over the head with it like some superiority bashing stick. This becomes doubly true when the ones touting the values of freedom of speech evidently don’t extend that value to freedom of life or freedom to trials etc. etc.

  8. Amelia the lurker
    September 19, 2012 at 11:42 am

    As soon as I saw it was a French publication, I knew it was gonna be “Charlie Hebdo.” They’ve confused shock factor with insight for a while now.

  9. Amelia the lurker
    September 19, 2012 at 11:51 am

    P.S. Although I am surprised that they would stoop this low, given that they were against the burqa/niqab ban, and prior to the ban ran a piece sympathizing with women who wear such garments in public on account of the abuse they get from passers-by. (I’m pretty sure that was a Charlie Hebdo piece, and not a Siné-Hebdo [now defunct] piece, although I might be mistaken.)

  10. PeteyWheatStraw
    September 19, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    When there are already fires blazing, maybe don’t throw gasoline on them just to prove that you can.

    NO.

    It’s absolutely vital that we go on proving it, loudly and proudly, every chance we get. That we make sure that everyone in the world knows that the natural rights of free people will not be abridged or abrogated in the slightest by the wishes (or threats) of bloodthirsty religious fanatics.

    The fanatic does not care if we do so out of fear or a misplaced “go along, get along” mentality (like Jill is encouraging). All he/she knows is that the implicit or explicit threat of violence got him/her what they wanted. They quickly learn that they’ve acquired the power of the heckler’s veto, and use it with great alacrity.

    • Amelia the lurker
      September 19, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      I don’t think Jill is promoting appeasement. She’s asking that we put the fanaticism in its proper global context.

      • matlun
        September 19, 2012 at 1:12 pm

        I certainly read Jill as being in favor of appeasement and self censorship.

        As for the “proper global context”, I am not convinced. Religious fanaticism has been a problem where ever it has appeared and I am not sure how much these riots can be seen as connected to western imperialism. Local people producing the same type of film would not have been treated well either.

      • September 19, 2012 at 1:23 pm

        I am in favor of neither “appeasement” or “self-censorship.” I am in favor of not being a deliberately provocative asshole. It’s not like the creator of the French cartoon had the artistic inspiration to create this cartoon absent current events, and I’m suggesting that he censor his creative expressions. It’s that he decided to create and publish a cartoon which was solely and uniquely purposed to piss people off in an already-volatile environment that has led to the actual deaths of several human beings. Do I think he should have the legal right to do that? Yes. Do I think that the people doing the rioting and killing hold the responsibility for those things? Of course. Do I also think that sometimes grown-ups need to put on their big-kid pants and not act like assholes for the sake of acting like assholes? Yes.

      • matlun
        September 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm

        @Jill: I am pretty sure that they honestly believe that they have an important political point to make and are taking a principled stance.

        This is not just about being a troll for circulation figures.

        Lolagirl has posted some more info about the magazine below.

      • PeteyWheatStraw
        September 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

        But the outcome is the same. If we censor our artistic output based on “proper global context” as you and Jill desire, or to “not act like assholes”, or simply out of fear, the effect is identical. People who burn, loot and murder quickly learn that burning, looting and murdering is the path to their desired outcome. So they burn, loot and murder more. Incentives matter.

        And let’s not kid ourselves. Jill didn’t write this post to warn us not to be “assholes” toward Moonies or Mormons or Zoroastrians when we create deliberately provocative art. She’s talking about a very specific group of fanatics who have demonstrated their willingness to indulge in horrific violence over silly “provocations.” That’s telling.

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm

        No one is suggesting censorship. What we are saying is, “Hey, doing this particular thing makes you kind of an asshole.” Like, don’t go around calling women cunts — that makes you an asshole, and me saying you probably shouldn’t do it isn’t “censoring” you or undermining your right to creative verbal expression.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 2:24 pm

        But if your sole reason for not calling women “cunts” is that women will beat the shit out of you, that’s a terrible reason to stop. That would make it actually an important protest to insult women, because they retaliate to words with physical violence in an attempt to silence.

        So far the only reason I see to not publish the cartoon is to avoid violent responses to it, but in what world do we see that as a reasonable precaution to warn the victims of violence about? Next we’ll be agreeing that ladies should probably cover up a bit when they go out — hate to “provoke” some guy into raping them!

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:39 pm

        But if your sole reason for not calling women “cunts” is that women will beat the shit out of you, that’s a terrible reason to stop. That would make it actually an important protest to insult women, because they retaliate to words with physical violence in an attempt to silence.

        Sure. But if the motivating reason to call women “cunts” is because those women are beating the shit out of someone else somewhere? Also isn’t very sympathetic.

      • Datdamwuf
        September 19, 2012 at 4:35 pm

        Petey you said it very well: “The fanatic does not care if we do so out of fear or a misplaced “go along, get along” mentality (like Jill is encouraging). All he/she knows is that the implicit or explicit threat of violence got him/her what they wanted. They quickly learn that they’ve acquired the power of the heckler’s veto, and use it with great alacrity.”

        I totally disagree that the magazine threw gas on the fire. That fire has been burning strong since the Danish cartoons and it needs to be smothered in free speech before it completely burns it away via self censorship.

        You do realize that NO mainstream newspaper in the United States will print anything remotely derogatory toward Muslims since the cartoons? The violence after the Danish cartoons had its desired affect across most of the world. Every once in a while someone tries to buck that, to stand up and say NO, YOU MAY NOT DICTATE MY SPEECH. And every time they do so, instead of gaining support they get tagged as insensitive and blamed for the violence perpetrated by Muslims.

        There are people who DO incite violence over this stuff. In case anyone’s forgotten, the Danish cartoons made not a ripple until some fanatic clerics went on a road show and actually did incite people to violence over their publication.

        It is not the people who publish tasteless cartoons about the prophet that are to blame for the violence that is happening today. It is squarely on the shoulders of the perpetrators of the violence. The governments in which it takes place bear some responsibility because they do not stop it, they do not prosecute it. The media around the world also bears some responsibility for what’s happening again over this because they kowtowed to fanatics. They taught them that YES, violence works, we are afraid you will kill us or kill someone else so we won’t publish the things you don’t like anymore.

        Once we have all been trained never to draw Mohammad, what do you think our next lesson will be?

    • September 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

      I think Jill is saying “just because you have the right to be a troll, it doesn’t mean you should.”

    • September 20, 2012 at 6:12 am

      But that’s very easy to say if you’re living in a pretty safe place, in a pretty safe time.

      Fact is, some societies are simply more violent right now – with complex socio-economic reasons behind it, not just a mere “but they’re fanatics.” Certainly there are fanatics who are directly responsible for attacks – but there are reasons why they have such an *easy time* advancing their ruinous agenda. There are reasons why they are powerful.

      And there are vulnerable people who are caught up in these situations. It’s easy to disregard them from a safe distance, of course.

      Abortion clinics are vulnerable in the U.S. right now. And I would not deliberately *troll* people on the issue. Like, I won’t take out a full-page ad in the NYT with the headline “DEAD FETUSES R AWESOME.” Just in case someone decides that this will now be the perfect time to bomb a clinic, you know?

      It’s an imperfect analogy, obviously.

  11. Gorb
    September 19, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    PeteyWheatStraw has it exactly.

    It’s absolutely vital that we go on proving it, loudly and proudly, every chance we get. That we make sure that everyone in the world knows that the natural rights of free people will not be abridged or abrogated in the slightest by the wishes (or threats) of bloodthirsty religious fanatics.

    Exactly. This cannot be stated loudly enough. It needs to be shouted from rooftops and blared directly into the faces of people who would use violence to silence others.

    This is exactly the right time to fan the flames.

    If freedom of speech is to mean anything at all, then it must be exercised in these conditions.

    If justice is to mean anything at all, then even the most violent accused murderer must get a fair trial.

    It’s only in the teeth of anger and pain and fear that values are tested. It’s all well and good to believe in free speech and human rights when there’s no pressure being levied against them.

    Anyone who balks now is no defender of free speech; anyone who self-censors for even one second to appease mobs of angry homicidal political extremists betrays every value it took 2000 years for the West to cobble together.

    If there’s anything to be learned from Western history, it’s this: Tolerance of blind religious belief is nothing like a virtue.

    The fanatic does not care if we do so out of fear or a misplaced “go along, get along” mentality (like Jill is encouraging). All he/she knows is that the implicit or explicit threat of violence got him/her what they wanted. They quickly learn that they’ve acquired the power of the heckler’s veto, and use it with great alacrity.

    This is the “appeasement” strategy. It gets exactly what it deserves.

    Churchill was shouting into the wind, as Chamberlain came back with “peace in our time”.

    Anyone who has ever traveled in the Arab world, watched demonstrations, heard the endless and very loud calls for the extermination of Jews, gay men , Christians, the outright genocide of Hindus, and then who watches what’s going on, will find it impossible to believe the weak-kneed, almost spineless response that Jill here suggests.

    People just don’t get it. Weakness is considered contemptible in these quarters. Showing respect and tolerance when angry mobs are burning people alive and raging about this or that insignificant issue smells of weakness.

    The modern, liberal West has never faced a “muscular”, almost pathologically aggressive xenophobia that this political Islam represents.

    Not for one second should the west back down or water down its values for these hotheads. Every time we do that, we empower them and strip thinking Arabs of more and more power.

    We should not be propping up men who murder in the name of a brutal god, for reasons that would shame any progressive person anywhere. We should be empowering those who resist them at home, in our own countries and in the Arab world.

    It disgusts me how effectively this small minority of literally insane religious monsters has been able to hoodwink the Western media and the “progressive” press.

    Yes. When monsters attack you, retreat and apologize to them. If they tell you to stop talking and want to make speech criminal, … especially speech critical of them, … apologize and stop talking.

    That’ll show them. So what if this helps them build more effective prisons out of the ruins of the societies they destroy. That’s no bother. We saved a few lives by conceding ground to men who would murder to save souls.

    To paraphrase, those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither and will lose both.

    I don’t know about deserving, but if anyone thinks kowtowing to medieval brigands cloaked in a false cloth of religion has any virtue at all, even for one second, that person needs to cash in their Human Rights ticket – because when the going got tough, values got gone.

    Either you believe in free speech or not. Either you believe in the right to criticize a religion (regardless of what it is) or a philosophy or you don’t. Either you believe in not bending the knee to every guy with a sword or a gun, or you don’t.

    Such things should never, under any circumstances, be negotiable.

    Our ancestors had the courage of their convictions and many died to spread the idea that words are not crimes, and thought should be free.

    How much freedom are you willing to kill to guarantee a little temporary breathing room? How much are you willing to hand over to someone hell-bent on stripping you and all people of all of their rights?

    Think about that.

    I say now is the time to republish every insulting caricature as possible. It’s exactly the right time to drive home the point that nobody tells anyone else what is and is not acceptable to say: certainly not insane men hopped up on too much testosterone and too little brain juice.

    • September 19, 2012 at 10:09 pm

      Anyone who has ever traveled in the Arab world, watched demonstrations, heard the endless and very loud calls for the extermination of Jews, gay men , Christians, the outright genocide of Hindus, and then who watches what’s going on, will find it impossible to believe the weak-kneed, almost spineless response that Jill here suggests.

      She’s weak-kneed and spineless, yet, you stood there and listened to all this without a modicum of protest? You have the most disgustingly weak knees I could imagine attached to a lack of spine. Look into the mirror, for Christ’s sake.

    • September 20, 2012 at 6:26 am

      Um.

      If Jill is “spineless” – then surely you’re a mollusk. Seeing as you didn’t exactly take your own advice and, you know, confront people “through the teeth of anger and pain” or something like that while you were over there…?

      If there’s no chance you can be caught up in a violent protest then fanning the flames is all well and good, I guess.

      Anyhoo, I’ve lived in the Arab world, with an Arab man (ZOMG NO!!!), and saw a lot of good and bad. And find your comments on this issue ridiculous in the extreme.

  12. karak
    September 19, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    “Free Speech” is code for “I colonized your ass into the ground, gutted your nation, robbed your people, and now I’m going to slap my dick in your face for my FREEEEEEEEDDDDOOM!”

    So-called free speech is just a way for oppressors to scream so loud they drown out everything else. There was no honest need to do what they did other than to mock “The Other” and feel smug about kicking someone who either can’t fight back, or when they do, they’re savages.

    • September 19, 2012 at 1:04 pm

      Ok, to be fair, I really do not think that’s what free speech is “code” for.

      • karak
        September 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm

        I don’t think it’s what it’s code for in *every* case, but I do think that’s what it’s become for a lot of people–from MRAs to Holocaust deniers to the Western Colonial mindset.

        “I can do or say whatever I want, and you can’t stop me or criticize me” is what I hear over and over. And the fact is, “freedom to say whatever you want to whoever you want without consequence” that isn’t even the correct interpretation of the Amendment, it’s a completely constructed fabrication.

        The correct interpretation would be closer to, “You can whatever you want about the government, and they can’t stop you beforehand, but once you say it you can totally go to jail. And some things you can’t say, like outright lies or military secrets.”

      • Ladeeda
        September 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

        Who, besides those who are rightfully and regularly derided in these very pages, actually says or thinks that the right to free speech guarantees their speech protection from criticism or consequence? That’s a boogeyman, and it’s especially rare in circles like this one.

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

        Well, someone just tried to pull a similar sort of defense over in the breastfeeding in class discussion. But she appeared to be a troll, so there is that.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 2:26 pm

        No one here is saying anything even remotely like that, karak.

      • karak
        September 19, 2012 at 10:50 pm

        No one here is saying that, it’s not a huge problem in Social Justice Circles, but it is a large problem in activists circles.

        Throwing gas on a fire and then crying about your Freedom Of Speech is nonsense, pure and simple. You incited violence, enjoy your prison term.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 11:04 pm

        Dude, that’s not what “inciting violence” means; you don’t get imprisoned for inciting violence on yourself.

  13. msgd
    September 19, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Is anyone here arguing that the newspaper shouldn’t be allowed to print that material?

    Is anyone arguing that printing the material was a good thing?

    I’m assuming everyone is in the “should be allowed but probably not desirable” camp.

    • Ladeeda
      September 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm

      I’m with you. “You’re legally protected to be an asshole, but maybe try not being one?” seems to be universally good advice.

      But… so what? What is the point of this whole discussion? Calling out asshole behavior? Fine, but then why couch it in terms of a free speech discussion? The entire point is that we can condemn speech we find abhorrent, and we can do so loudly and vociferously. So let’s call the asshole an asshole, say he did a shitty thing, and leave out the First Amendment rights hand-wringing!

      • FashionablyEvil
        September 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm

        What First Amendment rights hand-wringing?

        Also, the first amendment does not apply here at all–we’re talking about French journalists/provocateurs irritating people in Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries.

      • Ladeeda
        September 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm

        You’re right, using “First Amendments rights” as shorthand for free speech was U.S.-ist of me. Apologies for that.

        But there is a tremendous amount of hand-wringing going on in this thread over the rights of free speech considering that, as far as I can tell, no one is actually calling for any censorship. Continually saying, “I know it’s your right to say that, buuuut…” seems to needlessly bring up the question of those rights. It feels like a distraction.

    • September 20, 2012 at 6:27 am

      They should be allowed to do whatever they want. And we should be allowed to call them out on it.

  14. September 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I’m all for creative expression and for ‘truth’ in media. However, I’m not sure where porny illustrations of Muhammad constitute truth-telling more than they constitute simply poking the bear that is Islamic unrest.

    Just because you have the right to be an asshole, doesn’t mean you should be an asshole, especially when your actions will, indirectly, results in innocent people dying. Because it has happened before and if it happens again, then the person who sets these things into motion, knowing the possible reaction, bears some responsibility for the blood shed.

    • yes
      September 19, 2012 at 7:25 pm

      No. That’s stupid.

      – Muslims aren’t bears.

      -Large groups of people holding something taboo makes exploring that taboo inherently political.

      – Saying things you believe, even provocative things, don’t mean you share responsibility for violence at the hands of the offended. Handing out fliers for a family planning service doesn’t make you complicit in clinic bombings, even if you do it in a provocative way. Even if you do it in an assholish way. Even if you do it in a really rude way to push back at people who you feel try to intimidate and silence discussion of abortion.

  15. emily
    September 19, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I’m going to have a hard time expressing my thoughts and I might go into circular logic or just ramble, but here goes:

    Publishing the cartoons, I don’t think that is the most effective way of loudly proclaiming the glory of freedom of speech. (Yes, freedom of speech doesn’t protect only the most effective or best means.) At the risk of sounding trite, it shows the terrorist have won. It shows that they can dominate the news either by making news or provoking asinine cartoons that distract us. (Yes, I know it’s not necessarily a magazine of journalistic acclaim, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more important issues they could have focused on or that comedy and satire don’t play important roles.)

    I’m not trying to say they shouldn’t have published the cartoons. Only that they could have preached about the value of freedom of speech in a way that doesn’t show that they are so influenced by those trying to take it away.

    I apologize if that made no sense.

  16. Lolagirl
    September 19, 2012 at 1:35 pm

    There is a fair amount of background information about Charlie Hebdo that is missing and germaine to a discussion of what they are doing with these cartoons. Amelia the Lurker described it well above:

    Charlie Hebdo is hard to describe because we don’t have anything like it in the U.S. Imagine a polemical, scatological newspaper, except mainstream enough to be next to the New York Times in newsstands.

    In addition, they were sued maybe four or five years ago for publishing similar cartoons criticizing Muslim extremists. The plaintiffs in the suit claimed that CH should not have published them because they were racist and based in religious discrimination. The lawsuit became a huge cause celebre in France, where secularism is taken very seriously. The plaintiffs eventually lost their lawsuit and CH’s editor was aqcuitted of all charges.

    The creators of these cartoons are not just poking the monster or throwing gasoline on the fire. They believe that they are standing up for freedom of speech and expression, and that they are refusing to be cowed by religious extremists. It’s horrible that a small group of Muslims take part in terrorism in the name of their religion and that many people are killed and injured in the process. It certainly presents a complicated question, do we give in, tiptoe around them and not call them out for the horrible people they are in fear of setting off a violent reaction? I don’t necessarily claim to have all the right answers, but my gut reaction is that we don’t refuse to stand up to bullies and oppressors because we are to scared to do so.

    • konkonsn
      September 19, 2012 at 3:01 pm

      Yes, but aren’t these depictions not attacking just the extremists, but many Muslims? And isn’t Islamaphobia alive and well in France?

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm

        I was specifically referring to the lawsuit related cartoons as being directed at Muslim extremists (one of them depicted Mohammed and stating “it’s hard being loved by jerks” meaning the non-mainstream Muslims waging terrorism in his name.) But otherwise, who cares if the cartoons are mocking more extremist Muslims or mainline Muslims. Mocking of religious and their religions shouldn’t be off limits regardless of what flavor it comes in or its degree of intensity.

        I will admit that xenophobia against Middle Eastern immigrants and Muslims is very real in France these days. Some of it is definitely garden variety racism. But the push among many Muslims to codify their religion into law in many places has also caused a great deal of the suspicion and concern among the French.

        France is a secular country, and secularism is taken very seriously there. It’s very different from here in the U.S. where politicians and citizens alike are unapologetic about wanting their particular flavor Christianity to influence our society as well as law and policy (and in insisting that we already are a Christian Nation in all things.) That just doesn’t fly in France, and a religious group being adamantly unapologetic about wanting to influence custom, law and policy in any way is going to meet a significant amount of pushback.

        (I am the daughter of a French national and have extended family still in France. That is to say that I’m not just pulling all of this out of my ass.)

      • Tony
        September 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm

        “But the push among many Muslims to codify their religion into law in many places has also caused a great deal of the suspicion and concern among the French. ”

        Can you provide citations?

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 9:52 pm

        In English? That’s going to be tricky. I can probably find you some cites in French publications, but I won’t have time to unearth them and post until tomorrow.

        More generally, I was reporting back what I’ve encountered both while in France and from (French) family and friends over the years. Political debates and discussion are far more commonplace in France to an extent they just aren’t here in the U.S. Again, anecdata, but the French generally consider having an active and informed interest in politics and current events to be an important part of the national identity.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 11:49 pm

        See my link at the bottom, where some Muslims are trying to make mocking Muhammed illegal globally.

      • Safiya Outlines
        September 20, 2012 at 8:21 pm

        but the French generally consider having an active and informed interest in politics and current events to be an important part of the national identity.

        Yes, and they also vote for the far-right racists, Front National in vast numbers. Hmm, funny you didn’t mention that.

        Especially when that’s got far more relevant to how things have gone down with regards to anti-Muslim legislation, then (paraphrasing) “some Muslims maybe trying to have their religion codified into law”, of which 1) I’d like to see evidence of and 2)Does not in any way excuse or justify Islamophobia.

  17. September 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    I’m all for freedom of speech but there’s something to be said for wisdom of knowing how to use that freedom effectively.

    I’m a stand-up comic and I believe no subject is off limits. But that doesn’t mean randomly spouting shit off. There has to be some sort of awareness of the people listening and bringing them along with me. Similarly, there’s also context. My hilarious Clown Attack joke might work on stage, but if the venue in question is one that has recently suffered a spate of clown-related violence, I might want to tread carefully.

    To me, freedom of speech is like freedom to own a hammer.

    I think everyone should be free to have or not have a hammer as they wish.

    But if you’re going to run around flailing hither and thither with your hammer with your eyes closed just to show that you have the freedom to do so, it’s not going to be long before you hurt yourself or someone around you.

    • Drahill
      September 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Eh, not quite. Your hammer analogy really doesn’t work, because they First Amendment protects plenty of harmful speech. The Phelps clan got SCOTUS’s approval to go around protesting at funerals in a super vile and very hurtful way, because that’s the legally correct decision. It’s incredibly harmful. But the issue is whether the harm you cause to others is sufficient to outweigh your right to free speech.

      Very little speech is banned in the US. You’ve got defamation, incitement to violence (which no, this wouldn’t count) and obscenity. That is largely it. Those were judged harmful enough to get banned (although one can make the argument that the obscenity category is largely toothless).

      What you’re talking about is the exercise of discretion. Which is plenty fine, and plenty of people do it. However, I think the question is whether discretion is necessary to appease a very small group of radicals who threaten violence anything something offends their sensibilities. There are over a Billion Muslims in the world; the vast majority of them may know about this film, may be very offended, but they are not doing violence. They choose to either ignore it or protest in more constructive ways.

      That is why, to me, this is not a cultural sensitivity issue. The vast majority of Muslims have shown they are reasonable and can deal with this in a constructive way. It’s a small group. And frankly, I don’t think we owe a group like that any consideration.

      • Dan_Brodribb
        September 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

        If I understand your point, you’re saying we shouldn’t stifle our expression because of a minority of violent radicals. If I that’s your point, I agree with you.

        My understanding of the cartoons was they weren’t just demeaning to the radical wing, they would be viewed as offensive by the majority of pracitioners of that tradition.

        If I want to challenge Phelps and his ilk with satire, for the satire to work it needs to specifically go after them or their behaviours, not Christianity as a whole. Otherwise I’m a) insulting a bunch of people who have nothing to do with what I’m talking about and anyone who might empathize with them and b) defanging my own joke by making it so broad it loses its point.

      • Drahill
        September 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm

        My understanding of the cartoons was they weren’t just demeaning to the radical wing, they would be viewed as offensive by the majority of pracitioners of that tradition.

        You are correct – images like these are offensive to most Muslims (the movie and cartoons both). That is not in dispute. However, like I said above – the vast majority of Muslims have taken their offense and chosen one of two things – they have either ignored the depictions, or they have protested peacefully. Simply because the images are deeply offensive is not a reason to try to prohibit them or argue against them.

        As to your point about the Phelps, I agree that I would not want to be lumped in with them since I am a Christian. However, if somebody were to lump all Christians in with them in a very offensive way, that would not be an argument for prohibiting or discouraging that offensive speech in any way. It would place the burden on me as a Christian to either ignore it or try to counter it peacefully.

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:54 pm

        As to your point about the Phelps, I agree that I would not want to be lumped in with them since I am a Christian. However, if somebody were to lump all Christians in with them in a very offensive way, that would not be an argument for prohibiting or discouraging that offensive speech in any way. It would place the burden on me as a Christian to either ignore it or try to counter it peacefully.

        No one here is arguing that this speech should be prohibited. I don’t think Holocaust denial should be prohibited. But if you deny the Holocaust I have the right to call you an Anti-Semite, and doing so is not suppressing your freedom of speech. If you deny the Holocaust I will call bullshit on your motives of ‘historical revisionism’ in the same way that I call bullshit on these cartoons being intended to promote freedom of speech and secularism.

      • Drahill
        September 19, 2012 at 3:19 pm

        Steve: I’m not sure where you’re imputing that these cartoons are designed to promote secularism. From my perspective, the cartoons were published to promote freedom of expression and the idea that religion should never be used as a justification for it. But that is neither here nor there. I think you missed the point again – Dan and I were disputing whether the fact that this speech is harmful should be grounds for regulating it. Dan argued that some form of discretion should be necessary when speech is harmful. I disagree – I think discretion can be nice, but should in no way be necessary.

      • Dan_Brodribb
        September 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm

        @ drahill

        Then I must have misspoken somewhere, because I’m not arguing in favor of regulation. I don’t dispute you on that point at all.

        If your issue is with the minority of people who responded violently, I also agree with you there.

        You said: “From my perspective, the cartoons were published to promote freedom of expression and the idea that religion should never be used as a justification for it”

        And my perspective, if that was their intent, it doesn’t seem like it worked since they are getting pushback from people who AGREE with the point they say they’re trying to make.

        The point I was hoping to make was about not being tone-deaf to the people and situation around you when making a statement.

        But I seem to remember you saying somewhere upthread that you weren’t sure how effective the cartoon was, so maybe we agree on that too.

        And while I’m in the midst of all this agreeing, I should say that I like what Li (downstream) and others had to say downthread about this not being so much of an incident in and of itself but part of a larger context.

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 5:30 pm

        And my perspective, if that was their intent, it doesn’t seem like it worked since they are getting pushback from people who AGREE with the point they say they’re trying to make.

        I think the discomfort at play here is because the cartoons are so unapologetically in your face in their refusal to treat the depiction of Mohammed as verboten. In no small part, the unapologeticalness (is that even a word?) is because so many Muslims have attempted to create a bright line rule where no depictions of Mohammed should ever be made by anyone.

        The staff and editor at Charlie Hebdo are on the record as refusing to respect that sacred cow, as they also are in their attempt to deconstruct what is supposedly so sacred about it in the first place. And why should any religion get to demand that everyone else tiptoe around them and comply with their religious dictates? Regardless of whether they even call themselves a member of that faith in the first place?

      • September 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm

        I think the discomfort at play here is because the cartoons are so unapologetically in your face in their refusal to treat the depiction of Mohammed as verboten. In no small part, the unapologeticalness (is that even a word?) is because so many Muslims have attempted to create a bright line rule where no depictions of Mohammed should ever be made by anyone.

        The staff and editor at Charlie Hebdo are on the record as refusing to respect that sacred cow, as they also are in their attempt to deconstruct what is supposedly so sacred about it in the first place. And why should any religion get to demand that everyone else tiptoe around them and comply with their religious dictates? Regardless of whether they even call themselves a member of that faith in the first place?

        What other ‘sacred cows’ do they refuse to respect? Do they refuse to tell Jewish employees whether or not the food in the canteen is kosher? Will they refuse to hire someone who wears a yarmulke or a Sikh Turban?

        No, they refuse to accept THAT sacred cow. Because, let’s face it, never mind austerity cuts, never mind high unemployment and de-funding of education, if there is one thing that is oppressing the average Frenchman, it’s the fact that they can’t draw a picture of Mohammed.

      • Dan_Brodribb
        September 19, 2012 at 6:18 pm

        Your comment really has me really thinking, Lolagirl.

        Because if I really think about it, a lot of my argument comes down to: If someone from an outside group wants me to not draw a picture of their Sacred Person, what harm does it do me to respect that? It seems like a little thing.

        Maybe what I want to understand is: Why is this thing so important to the folks at Charlie Hebdo?

        The weird thing is, as a comic, I should have no problem understanding it since so many comedians including myself have run into the same thing when a joke meets resistance: “you have a million jokes, and you can write a million more. Why is being able to tell this ONE joke so important to you?”

        And I’ve never been able to articulate why being able to tell that joke is important in a way that doesn’t make me sound and feel like a self-indulgent asshole.

        So as weird as it feels to be on the other side of the fence, and as embarrassed as I am at asking (because I feel I should know this already) I’m wondering what your take is: What makes telling this particular joke so important?

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 7:04 pm

        The bigger issue as I see it is the insistence that this one thing be off limits, and by extension that it can not even be questioned by outsiders who do not adhere to that faith. If the Muslim faith only took issue with the portrayal of Mohammed by Muslims, that would be one thing. But when they insist that everyone else everywhere else must adhere just as strongly to that rule, then such a thing can not be allowed to stand unchallenged. It’s no different from fundamentalist Christians here in the U.S. who try to insist that all the rest of us adhere to their embryo worshipping and eschewing of all things birth control regardless of where we stand religiously.

        But then again, I’m a lapsed, areligious (French, who are notorious for being of the cafeteria, only on Sunday variety) Catholic. Add in my inclination to interrogate anyone’s insistence that their religion be above questioning or parsing, and I will not just go along to get along.

        Keep in mind also that up until 100 years or so ago the RCC was still deeply involved in France’s government. (Although secularism as a matter of principle first took hold during the Revolution, it did not become a settled matter of law until 1905.) Because of this history, the French are still very suspicious of any sort of law or even social nonsense having to do with religion. Anybody’s religion. Charlie Hebdo’s resistance to and insistence upon refusing to bow to religion is no doubt rooted in that history and mindset.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm

        Lolagirl, your first paragraph puts it perfectly; it’s not the joke that’s important, it’s being able to tell the joke without violence that is important.

        Frankly, if no one were insisting that Muhammed never be portrayed (or, I dunno, mentioned even) he wouldn’t ever really come up in my conversation or art. Until he became a figurehead for oppression of free speech he wasn’t that important to me, and it wouldn’t have occurred to me to joke about him. But now I feel obliged to prove that I’m not scared, and thus to make an issue out of it. Now the existence of this weird little rule is being thrust into my life, and I’m gonna object to that using humor.

      • September 19, 2012 at 9:46 pm

        But now I feel obliged to prove that I’m not scared, and thus to make an issue out of it

        And you can sit here with hand on heart, (or whatever body part you choose,) and tell me this is a sensible and mature approach to someone revealing their sensitivities? How many Muslims have threatened to hurt you if you drew the prophet Mohammed? If the answer is none, then what exactly are you scared of? That you won’t be able to insult all Muslims without a few getting angry? And the bottom line is you wouldn’t be attempting to prove you ‘weren’t scared’ if you really had a reason to be scared. If your next door neighbor said ‘I’m going to hurt anyone who draws a picture of a spoon’ I can guarantee you wouldn’t present him with a picture of a spoon.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 9:56 pm

        How many Muslims have threatened to hurt you if you drew the prophet Mohammed?

        Um, a non-zero number? Obviously? Because they have said they’ll hurt anyone who does it.

      • September 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm

        How many Muslims have threatened to hurt you if you drew the prophet Mohammed?

        Um, a non-zero number? Obviously? Because they have said they’ll hurt anyone who does it.

        They have said it? Who exactly are they? Who exactly did you personally show your drawing of Mohammed, that had previously said they would hurt anyone who did so? You’re not standing up to someone who can hurt you, you’re bullying people who are being hurt by you.

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 10:06 pm

        If your next door neighbor said ‘I’m going to hurt anyone who draws a picture of a spoon’ I can guarantee you wouldn’t present him with a picture of a spoon.

        Nobody, neighbor, stranger, religious observer or whoever, has the right to threaten other people’s actions or expression of their opinions with violence, Steve. You’re coming at this premise entirely backwards. Saying don’t poke the person who is threatening you and you won’t get hurt is just wrong. Because the proper premise should be that nobody should be permitted to use the threat of violence or injury to stop others from doing what they are legally permitted to do.

        And being utterly unreasonable in those demands to the point of ridiculousness is no defense here, either. Bullies and brutes deserve to be stood up to and overthrown, not mollified and accomodated.

      • September 19, 2012 at 10:18 pm

        Nobody, neighbor, stranger, religious observer or whoever, has the right to threaten other people’s actions or expression of their opinions with violence, Steve. You’re coming at this premise entirely backwards. Saying don’t poke the person who is threatening you and you won’t get hurt is just wrong. Because the proper premise should be that nobody should be permitted to use the threat of violence or injury to stop others from doing what they are legally permitted to do.

        And being utterly unreasonable in those demands to the point of ridiculousness is no defense here, either. Bullies and brutes deserve to be stood up to and overthrown, not mollified and accomodated.

        Yes, the threat to hurt anyone who showed him a picture of a spoon is wrong! It’s WRONG to threaten violence! People who threaten violence should be punished. I suppose where we disagree is that I think the best way of punishing him is arresting him for threatening behavior, and you think the best way to stand up to him is by showing him picture a spoon and allowing him to kill you. Because after all, he shouldn’t do that, and you have proved your point about what a bad guy he is. You could even have it printed on your tombstone.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 10:31 pm

        Steve, you’re being a disingenuous asshole. I have stood up to violence face to face; I know what I do in that situation and yes, I fucking draw that spoon. I fucking draw that spoon and show it to whoever the hell cares about a stupid spoon. So you can fuck right off about how “cowardly” you think I am because you don’t actually know me.

      • September 19, 2012 at 10:48 pm

        Steve, you’re being a disingenuous asshole. I have stood up to violence face to face; I know what I do in that situation and yes, I fucking draw that spoon. I fucking draw that spoon and show it to whoever the hell cares about a stupid spoon. So you can fuck right off about how “cowardly” you think I am because you don’t actually know me.

        OK, I looked back (Ctrl-f and all) and I haven’t used the word ‘cowardly’ at all (I would have apologized if I had done.) FashionablyEvil used the term in a much much older comment which had nothing to do with you.

        The thing is, I wasn’t even describing you as being cowardly by not showing someone with an irrational fear of spoons a spoon. It’s true I don’t know you, but I would have thought most people with compassion would do that, and would think it was more important that being right. If anything I was viewing you through the admirable qualities I have gleaned from you and not assumptions I was making about your bravery. Sometimes it is more brave to avoid a confrontation.

      • Matt
        September 19, 2012 at 11:04 pm

        So one time I was talking to my friend and I said god wasn’t real. Some Christian douchebag came over and said say that again and I’ll beat the shit out of you. I told him god wasn’t real and I’m not going to be dictated to in a public space by someone who believes in magical sky men. His face turned purple and he tried to punch me so I kicked him in the nuts and we left. And no, I don’t feel bad.

        I don’t tell him what he can and can’t do in public and if he wants to enforce his will with violence he can have a taste of his own medicine.

        He could have killed me, the chance was small, but if you are involved with Atheism at all you know it happens. And getting the shit beat out of you is pretty fear inducing even if you aren’t gonna die.

        So Steve, please don’t tell other people what they would and wouldn’t do because you don’t fucking know them.

      • September 19, 2012 at 11:29 pm

        So one time I was talking to my friend and I said god wasn’t real. Some Christian douchebag came over and said say that again and I’ll beat the shit out of you. I told him god wasn’t real and I’m not going to be dictated to in a public space by someone who believes in magical sky men. His face turned purple and he tried to punch me so I kicked him in the nuts and we left. And no, I don’t feel bad.

        I don’t tell him what he can and can’t do in public and if he wants to enforce his will with violence he can have a taste of his own medicine.

        He could have killed me, the chance was small, but if you are involved with Atheism at all you know it happens. And getting the shit beat out of you is pretty fear inducing even if you aren’t gonna die.

        So Steve, please don’t tell other people what they would and wouldn’t do because you don’t fucking know them.

        I admit I don’t know even what someone I know would do on a given occasion.

        But don’t fucking kid yourself, punching that guy in the balls is not you giving him a ‘taste of his own medicine,’ that’s you being a violent jackass. I feel sorry for the Christian guy that his personal belief system (you can’t say ‘god isn’t real’,) is so pathetic that he has to rely on violence to defend it against to someone who challenges it. I feel sorry for you that your personal belief system (‘ I’m not going to be dictated to in a public space by someone who believes in magical sky men.’) is so pathetic that you have to rely on violence to in order to defend it against someone who challenges it.

      • September 20, 2012 at 2:07 am

        So you can fuck right off about how “cowardly” you think I am because you don’t actually know me.

        …and I wasn’t proclaiming to know you, everything I said was based on comments you’ve made here. Plus now that I read the comment back, I made the assumption you wouldn’t take the ‘cowardly’ option, and I pointed out that if it resulted in your death that wouldn’t be a good thing. So I am really failing to see why you are so angry with me.

        We agree, in fact up to a certain point. If someone tells me not to do something and I want to do it, I’m going to do it. However, If someone tells me not to do something I don’t want to do, I’m also not going to do it. Because whether it’s passively or aggressively I’m not going to let someone change my behavior. Doing something you don’t want to do just because someone tells you not to is silly. Personally I take it one step further, if I really enjoy doing something and it’s a behavior I think there is absolutely nothing wrong with, I still won’t do it in front of someone who will potentially repress me for it. That’s why I never smoke weed in front of cops.

      • Lolagirl
        September 20, 2012 at 7:00 am

        People who threaten violence should be punished. I suppose where we disagree is that I think the best way of punishing him is arresting him for threatening behavior, and you think the best way to stand up to him is by showing him picture a spoon and allowing him to kill you. Because after all, he shouldn’t do that, and you have proved your point about what a bad guy he is. You could even have it printed on your tombstone.

        Where’s a wtf emoticon when you need it?

        I have actually stood up to bullies over time, even when they were threatening me physical harm (shocking what with my nature to be such a deferential, shrinking violet, I know.) Because I do believe that it’s important to stand up for what’s right, and not let others push me or others around because they think if they yell loudest and act menacingly then they win. That’s not how the world is supposed to work, that isn’t what I want to raise my children to believe.

        Speaking truth to power is all about dragging stupidity out in to the light of day so that it can die the ugly (metaphorical) death it deserves. We have to stand up to those who want to drag us into a dark and terrible place by the use of intimidation and the threat of violence, even if they attempt to do so under the cover of religious faith. Telling me I must do what you say, because your magical mystery Man in the sky says so, or I will suffer and possibly die? Eff that noise, you bet you ass I’m not going to go along with that.

      • Bagelsan
        September 20, 2012 at 10:38 am

        Steve, reread this:

        And the bottom line is you wouldn’t be attempting to prove you ‘weren’t scared’ if you really had a reason to be scared. If your next door neighbor said ‘I’m going to hurt anyone who draws a picture of a spoon’ I can guarantee you wouldn’t present him with a picture of a spoon.

        This is calling me a coward who wouldn’t stand up for my convictions in person. This isn’t saying I’m kind enough to not scare someone with a spoonphobia, this is saying I’m not gutsy enough to stand up to someone threatening me with violence for expressing something.

        And that’s bullshit. That is provably bullshit; I’ve told a creepy landlord –larger than me, owns a gun, wandered into my room drunk– exactly what I thought of him to his face when I was scared he might rape or kill me. Frankly, the audacity of saying I only pick on people weaker than me, or only express myself to “bully”, the audacity to say that to a 5 foot 3 woman you don’t even know is a coward when it comes down to the line, is pissing me right off.

      • September 20, 2012 at 11:00 am

        This is calling me a coward who wouldn’t stand up for my convictions in person. This isn’t saying I’m kind enough to not scare someone with a spoonphobia, this is saying I’m not gutsy enough to stand up to someone threatening me with violence for expressing something.

        And that’s bullshit. That is provably bullshit; I’ve told a creepy landlord –larger than me, owns a gun, wandered into my room drunk– exactly what I thought of him to his face when I was scared he might rape or kill me. Frankly, the audacity of saying I only pick on people weaker than me, or only express myself to “bully”, the audacity to say that to a 5 foot 3 woman you don’t even know is a coward when it comes down to the line, is pissing me right off.

        If my comments gave the impression that I thought you would be cowardly in any given situation and not stand up for yourself, then I want you to know that was not my intention. This is merely how I believe any reasonable person with a modicum of compassion would behave in front of someone who was clearly delusional.

        I don’t think shattering someone else’s delusions/illusions is standing up for yourself or your principles. It’s not a matter of kindness, but yeah I feel that anyone with a sense of reason and compassion would see the futility of confronting someone who is delusional and violent as a confrontation that no logical positive consequences can arise from. If there is anything which I sort of feel I know about you is that you have a somewhat decent grasp of logic. Therefore, I don’t think you would find it hard to grasp that if a delusional person says something delusional, correcting them does nothing for your principles even if it results in them turning around a skulking off. Even if they say, ‘you know what you’re totally right,’ it was a fucking waste of time.

      • Bagelsan
        September 20, 2012 at 11:01 am

        Okay, Steve, honestly I think you’re being a little privileged here (smoking pot is like standing up to religious oppression? Really?) so I’m trying to think of a situation where you might react like I do. What if someone said “Don’t say anything Jew-y or I’ll punch you”? Perhaps you weren’t going to say anything to them, “Jew-y” or otherwise, but wouldn’t you then really want to at least throw out an “oy vey” or something to make the point that they can’t intimidate you with violence?

        This analogy is imperfect at best, but please think of something you feel strongly about when considering the situation of “do I or don’t I make a scene?” I feel strongly that I will not be told what to do by sexist, intolerant religious fanatics; presumably you would feel the same about an anti-Semite.

      • September 20, 2012 at 11:23 am

        Okay, Steve, honestly I think you’re being a little privileged here (smoking pot is like standing up to religious oppression? Really?) so I’m trying to think of a situation where you might react like I do. What if someone said “Don’t say anything Jew-y or I’ll punch you”? Perhaps you weren’t going to say anything to them, “Jew-y” or otherwise, but wouldn’t you then really want to at least throw out an “oy vey” or something to make the point that they can’t intimidate you with violence?

        This analogy is imperfect at best, but please think of something you feel strongly about when considering the situation of “do I or don’t I make a scene?” I feel strongly that I will not be told what to do by sexist, intolerant religious fanatics; presumably you would feel the same about an anti-Semite.

        Honestly, for me, and I know it’s not all about me, I’m just answering your question, the most important principle is ‘run away, live to fight another day.’ Maybe the reason why you think I’m implying you’re a coward is because what I view as sensible behavior is something you’d view as cowardly.

        When I lived in Atlanta, my friend Jen took me this antiques fair an hour out of town in a fairly rural Georgia area. Going from booth to booth, we ended up in one that sold Nazi memorabilia, and I actually wanted to have a look at all the stuff because the Holocaust is my family history and the kind of stuff at this booth was the kind of stuff you’d see in an exhibit at a Holocaust museum. However, the huge confederate flag on his sweatshirt didn’t make me think, oh he’s just a historian with an interest in WWII memorabilia. This guy was twice the size of me, had a large knife clipped to his belt and clearly viewed me as the wrong sort of person as he did not take his eyes off of me. I did exactly what I was going to, I didn’t let his glares bully me away from looking at his merchandise, but I didn’t say to him, “y’know my great grandparents died in the Holocaust and as someone of Jewish heritage I really don’t appreciate your racism.”

        That’s not to say there’s nothing I would confront this guy over. If he had tried to touch me or Jennifer I would have done my best to overpower him. But I didn’t think sharing my displeasure at the fact that he judged me based on my heritage was worth fighting about.

      • September 20, 2012 at 11:46 am

        What if someone said “Don’t say anything Jew-y or I’ll punch you”? Perhaps you weren’t going to say anything to them, “Jew-y” or otherwise, but wouldn’t you then really want to at least throw out an “oy vey” or something to make the point that they can’t intimidate you with violence?

        It’s funny that you said “you don’t know me earlier” because we obviously don’t know each other. If we did you’d know that I have no problem admitting I can be intimidated by violence. Violence is intimidating. It’s violent. It can be painful and result in death. I don’t like violence. I want to make THAT point. I have no interest in proving what a tough guy I am. That’s not a point I need to prove.

      • Lolagirl
        September 20, 2012 at 1:15 pm

        I have no interest in proving what a tough guy I am. That’s not a point I need to prove.

        Hmm, I think this is where some intersectionality comes into play, at least for some of us posters. Women are usually raised to be intimidated by and defer to others, by men moreso than other women, but still we are socialized to make nice and not argue and even to let others push us around and not make a scene about it.

        For me personally, embracing Feminism is also about embracing the idea that nobody is entitled to bully me or put me in my place, regardless of who they are or why they think they are entitled to be domineering towards me. Nobody gets to put me in the corner and tell me how it’s going to be, and they sure as hell don’t get to do it by threatening me with physical force or intimidation. So I feel it is actually crucially important to stand up for myself and for others who may not have the power to do so, and to not shrink away from doing the right thing because of fear of reprisal or stigma.

        I think this is something that men get to take for granted in a way that women don’t, because they don’t face that pressure to defer and be nice and not argue the way that women so often still do. You get in my face and try to push me around? I’ll push right back, metaphorically speaking or not.

      • September 20, 2012 at 1:28 pm

        I think this is something that men get to take for granted in a way that women don’t, because they don’t face that pressure to defer and be nice and not argue the way that women so often still do. You get in my face and try to push me around? I’ll push right back, metaphorically speaking or not.

        I totally get that. Whatever we may argue about, I’ll never argue that I’m not privileged. Not to say that my cod-pacifist non-tough guy attitude is particularly seen as the way ‘men should behave*,’ but I will agree that there is considerably more leeway given to men for being ‘unmanly*’ than there is to women for being ‘unladylike*.’

        *I use these terms in the way society-at-large uses them, not to express my opinion of how a man/woman should behave.

      • September 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm

        If I’m understanding you right, Lolagirl (and Bagelsan), to you, you’re saying your priority in this situation isn’t so much about the cartoon in and of itself. It is about standing up to bullies/people threatening violence.

        Is that close to where you’re coming from?

      • Lolagirl
        September 20, 2012 at 5:00 pm

        you’re saying your priority in this situation isn’t so much about the cartoon in and of itself. It is about standing up to bullies/people threatening violence.

        The primary issue as I see it is that Jill and others are positing that Charlie Hebdo should not have published these cartoons at this time because doing so will only stoke the flames of discord. I don’t necessarily disagree with the CH editors that these cartoons are standing up to what are, in effect, bullies who are threatening to and are actually committing violence in the name of their religious faith. I disagree that we should defer to people who try to gain the upper hand with fear and violence so that we don’t give them any additional reason to lash out and hurt people.

        Because ultimately the only people who are responsible for any resulting violence committed ostensibly as a result of these controversies are the people themselves who are engaging in the violence. Attempting to push that responsibility off onto the people who supposedly angered them in the first place is not acceptable, and we should not accept such excuses. Doing so only gives violent people cover and encouragement to continue on with what they are doing, as does any attempts at self censorship in the name of placating them..

    • September 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Also, thanks to Lolagirl, Amelia the lurker (and others, if I missed you, sorry) for clarifying about what Charlie Hebdo is and providing some background and history.

  18. September 19, 2012 at 1:52 pm

    The creators of these cartoons are not just poking the monster or throwing gasoline on the fire. They believe that they are standing up for freedom of speech and expression, and that they are refusing to be cowed by religious extremists. It’s horrible that a small group of Muslims take part in terrorism in the name of their religion and that many people are killed and injured in the process. It certainly presents a complicated question, do we give in, tiptoe around them and not call them out for the horrible people they are in fear of setting off a violent reaction?

    Who exactly is being called out here? Someone who’s planning a suicide attack? Someone who is plotting a bombing? Or the average Muslim?

    • Lolagirl
      September 19, 2012 at 2:09 pm

      Talk about poking, Steve.

      Charlie Hebdo and its staffers/writers are facing a huge backlash for publishing politically satirical cartoons by Muslim extremists protesting in the Middle East. Plenty of talking heads, politicians and others are in turn criticizing CH for publishing the cartoons in the first place and throwing around a lot of loaded language about blood being on their hands and on and on.

      Oce again, look around the internet a bit, Steve!

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:30 pm

        Huh?????

        I just read all three of those articles and i don’t see any mention of cartoons by Muslim extremists protesting in the Middle East.

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 3:28 pm

        Stating that Muslims are protesting the cartoons being published does not necessarily equate to staging physical protests. Would you prefer if I characterize it as vocally communicating their outrage to whoever will listen?

      • September 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm

        You said that Charlie Hebdo posted cartoons BY Muslim extremists:

        Charlie Hebdo and its staffers/writers are facing a huge backlash for publishing politically satirical cartoons by Muslim extremists protesting in the Middle East.

        Where is the evidence for that?

      • Donna L
        September 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm

        “by Muslim extremists” goes with “backlash,” not with “cartoons.” Awkwardly phrased indeed, but that’s the only reading that makes sense.

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm

        Thanks, Donna. You’re correct in your interpretation, and I did phrase it awkwardly (once again nursing at the keyboard, sorry!) I tried to clarify further and yet failed utterly.

    • matlun
      September 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      At over one billion people, the Muslims in the world are too many for the term “the average Muslim” to be very useful.

      I would not say that these cartoons are calling anyone out so much as they are trying to prove a point. They are basically saying “we will not be cowed”.

      And the religious extremists are not small isolated groups within Middle East societies. Islamists were voted to power in Egypt with a solid majority. Saudi Wahhabism is a strong influence on the global scene. These are not a couple of isolated nutjobs, but part of a larger cultural, religious, and political movement.

      Talking about “someone who’s planning a suicide attack” is just trying to minimize the issue.

      • September 19, 2012 at 2:44 pm

        I would not say that these cartoons are calling anyone out so much as they are trying to prove a point. They are basically saying “we will not be cowed”.

        We will not be cowed in to censoring these cartoons which we are printing in order to prove we won’t be cowed.

        That’s some catch, that Catch-22.

        It’s the best there is.

      • matlun
        September 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm

        We will not be cowed in to censoring these cartoons which we are printing in order to prove we won’t be cowed.

        You are being sarcastic, but that is it.

        You probably did not agree with “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” either, but quite a few people believed it made an important point.

    • September 19, 2012 at 2:32 pm

      unless you misunderstood my comment asking about who is being ‘called out,’ which was a direct response to this comment of yours:

      …call them out for the horrible people they are in fear of setting off a violent reaction?

      Who are these ‘horrible people’ you’re referring to and how do naked pictures of Muhammed ‘call them out’?

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 7:06 pm

        The “horrible” people who were “called out” are the stupid assholes who started rioting, apparently. That sounds like they got pretty well called out.

      • September 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm

        Again Bagelsan, your logic is impeccably atrocious. They were calling out a group of people who didn’t exist at the time…right…

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 10:26 pm

        Um, this is hardly the first riot over this crap. By now there is definitely an identifiable group of assholes who do flip their shit at the mention of Muhammed, and presumably the latest round of poking was directed at them.

  19. Brennan
    September 19, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    I’m not nearly as bothered by the publication of the cartoon as I am by France banning protests of the cartoon on French soil. If this was supposed to be some demonstration of free speech . . . way to fail, France, by banning legal protests you’ve made it abundantly clear whose speech you’re willing to protect. It seems to be just one more in a long string of “fuck you’s” directed at French Muslims by their own government.

    (Disclaimer: I know almost nothing about French law or how France interprets free speech. As a USian, I tend to lump freedom of the press in with freedom of assembly and call it all “freedom of expression,” but that may not be true everywhere.)

    • Lolagirl
      September 19, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      Brennan, you are absolutely incorrect about France banning protesters. There was a group who wanted to stage a manifestation outside Charlie Hebdo’s office, and they were denied a permit to do so for security reasons. But other manifestations in other locations were permitted to go forward without any government intervention.

      *Sorry the link is in French, I can’t find any English sources atm.

      • Lolagirl
        September 19, 2012 at 5:11 pm

        So, in conclusion, no fuck yous by France’s government or its people at anyone. But seeing as Real Umerukens love to hate on all things French, I suppose Brennan’s commentary should not be at all surprising.

        Also? France in many ways is far more free wheeling where speech is concerned than here in the U.S. Precisely because they don’t care one fuck about religious people getting themselves all butthurt that their religion isn’t being included or given the kid glove treatment. Things like leaving any mention of God out of your political party platform is considered the baseline. That is unless you are the minority Nationalist Party of far right wing, xenophobic bloviators in the same vein as the Tea Partiers and Neocons. Funny how that does translate across national and language barriers, isn’t it?

      • Amelia the lurker
        September 20, 2012 at 3:13 am

        Hey, I’m a francophile too—like you, I’ve lived in France, I speak French, and I detest American francophobia. But Brennan’s got a point about the “fuck you”s to French Muslims. Cf the burqa ban in public spaces.

      • Lolagirl
        September 20, 2012 at 7:09 am

        That’s fine, Amelia, but that isn’t what Brennan was talking about. He was insisting that the French were silencing those who were attempting to protest the CH cartoons by denying them the right to their manifestations anywhere. His words, verbatim:

        by France banning protests of the cartoon on French soil.

        That is a lie, flat out.

        I suppose he did refer to it an another in a string of eff yous to the Muslims. Technically, that might be true, but only if his initial premise was correct. But it wasn’t, it was a complete falsehood. I would be just as infuriated if someone was lying about the U.S. government denying people the right to protest. Lying = bad.

      • Rhoanna
        September 20, 2012 at 9:45 am

        That might be a lie, but it’s something that’s been reported in various media:

        “France’s interior ministry has already banned all protests over the controversial video following a violent demonstration last weekend near the US embassy.” (Al Jazeera)

        “France bans protests: French authorities said Wednesday that they will not authorize weekend demonstrations in Paris as protests over an anti-Muslim video started to fade worldwide.” (CNN)

        “France’s interior minister said he would not allow any protests over the film Innocence of Muslims after a violent demonstration last weekend near the US embassy in Paris.” (Sky News)

      • Lolagirl
        September 20, 2012 at 11:41 am

        This is starting to fall into hair splitting territory, but Brennan and I were specifically bickering over protests to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. There are two separate outrages at play that are getting conflated with one another. The first was over the anti-Muslim movie on Youtube, and the second was over the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

        The links you provided, Rhoanna, are about protests to the Youtube movie that initially sparked the recent violence in the Middle East. I provided a link upthread to a France 24 report that showed real, live people staging protests in Paris just yesterday, all protesting the CH cartoons at issue here in this thread.

  20. Li
    September 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm

    So, everyone gets that the global protests and riots currently happening aren’t just directly in response to “someone made a youtube video/cartoon and it hurt my feelings” right?

    Like, the actual context is Western imperialism and what is seen as disrespect for Islam by the West not just in the form of speech but in the form of military interventions, domestic Islamophobia (in some cases legislated), violence against Muslims etc. Combined with a number of internal political conflicts between conservative and moderate branches of Islam, because it’s also shallow to presume that these protests are exclusively being organised for a Western audience.

    A lot of the coverage I’ve read in the last week has characterised protests as an overreaction to a couple of discreet pieces of media. Jill, you may not be explicitly doing that, but you are centreing the question of offensive media and that’s really frustrating, because it’s exactly the fucking problem. We’re not just talking about a set of hypersensitive Muslims, and taking that tack is a failure to properly listen.

    • Datdamwuf
      September 19, 2012 at 5:31 pm

      I’m just going to leave this here and note that even the Onion was afraid to do this little piece of satire properly, Islam is not represented.

      http://www.theonion.com/articles/no-one-murdered-because-of-this-image,29553/

      • Dan_Brodribb
        September 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm

        I thought Islam not being represented was the point of that whole joke.

      • matlun
        September 19, 2012 at 5:44 pm

        Alternatively: They did do it properly, and the fact that Islam is not represented is the point they are making.

      • September 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm

        I love you.

      • Datdamwuf
        September 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm

        ya’ll are right, I guess I’m used to Toles with his cute little caricature at the bottom saying something, like here it would have been “anyone seen the big M?” or some such.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 7:08 pm

        The “big” M, eh? Bow chicka wow wow.

        …Yeah, I just made a Muhammed dick joke. :p

    • Donna L
      September 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm

      I get what you’re saying, but I also believe that a lot of people in the West are way too eager to dismiss genuine anger at the film as the actual trigger for the protests and violence, and to assume that it really has to be about a great deal more, that the deep underlying economic and political reasons are what predominates, etc. I don’t know why it’s so hard for some people to accept that anyone in the 21st Century could really care enough about offenses to their religion to react that way (given that people of many religions have reacted in exactly that way, for thousands of years, to similar events), or to believe that people could truly be that upset by private (rather than state-sponsored) speech. I’d rather take the word of just about every single person I’ve seen quoted who’s been actually involved in the protests. Remarkably, I haven’t heard any of them express concern about domestic Islamophobia in France or the United States. Of course there are other factors involved (as always), but I do think it’s a mistake to dismiss the importance to people of what they are, themselves, saying is important to them.

      • Datdamwuf
        September 19, 2012 at 5:51 pm

        I think what you say is relevant to another remark I had buried in a longer post. I’ve read quite a few interviews where the Muslims say that of course the US government knew about the movie and approved it and so it’s state-sponsored speech in their view. I think this goes to the point that in their world the government controls the media so well they cannot imagine such a thing was just some crazy guy in his basement.

      • Dan_Brodribb
        September 19, 2012 at 6:20 pm

        That never occurred to me. Thanks for that point.

      • Li
        September 19, 2012 at 6:09 pm

        Oh, I totally think people are pissed at the film, don’t get me wrong. But just as say, feminist rage at the Chris Brown tattoo is both explicitly about the actual tattoo and implicitly about the broader issue of domestic violence apologism (combined with the use of the event as an activist hook), so I think that a lot of rage at the film is contextualised by what people feel is ongoing disrespect of Islam. And I have heard people talking about domestic Islamophobia and imperialism as part of the protests, at least in Australia, even as mainstream media focussed in on a small proportion of the protesters.

      • miga
        September 19, 2012 at 8:46 pm

        Agreed. I heard someone talking about it on NPR. A US Muslima called in to say how hurt she was by this disrespect of her religion and culture, but how she felt she could not protest for fear of being lumped in with violent protesters elsewhere.

      • Bagelsan
        September 19, 2012 at 6:31 pm

        I guess I’m reluctant to attribute all the anger to the cartoon and film alone, because if that’s what people are rioting and murdering about then those people are incredibly stupid, worthless human beings. I hate to think that about people I don’t know…

  21. Cagey
    September 19, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    I think a problem I have with these conversations is that we want to protect speech because we realize it has the power to be transformative but we don’t really seem to want to acknowledge that speech used for negative purposes can be 100 times more damaging than any riot and that things like power dynamics, racism, etc. all play parts in whose speech is valued, which speech manages to circulate more quickly and which narratives are more readily accepted as factual and true regardless of whether they are, which speech is actually heard and understood.

    We’re rather quick to be (justifiably) grossed out by a Western body being censored, but we don’t really seem to care as much when said body is using its speech to attack a group that don’t really have the platform or power to speak back to it. Unless there’s a riot involved, then people pay attention but ignore the message because it was accompanied with violence. Who are the prominent Muslims who get face time on major news networks and news publications where they can respond and weed out the measured criticisms from the hate speech? What platform exists in the West where moderate Muslims are heard and honestly listened to?

    I mean, I think a conversation about how privilege and power dynamics can be used to give weight to speech which creates harmful narratives and the role entities like Fox News and CNN have in spreading and solidifying those narratives, how even though we all have speech, we don’t all have the power to make the same impact with our speech, how this makes counter-narratives nearly impossible to gain traction and how this problem feeds into violence (and whose violence is given attention, how it is understood and when, and for what purpose) is a bit more interesting and relevant than the 6000th iteration of the “does a douche bag have the right to poke a bear” conversation that these things tend to turn into.

    • Cagey
      September 19, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      Also (hate this lack of an edit button) but context is important to. As several people above mentioned, why are we pretending like these incidents are about the small feelings of Muslims hurt by some cartoons and videos and not part of the larger disrespect Muslims experiences from the West, how that manifests domestically and abroad, in ways that go well beyond speech and turn into violent action, occupation, islamaphobic legislation, and so on? I realize that’s the media narrative but I would hope this place isn’t that gullible.

    • kungfulola
      September 19, 2012 at 7:14 pm

      I think a problem I have with these conversations is that we want to protect speech because we realize it has the power to be transformative….

      Exactly. Tranformative for good, AND for ill. This is why I am glad I live in Canada, where we don’t give hate speech state protection and just hope for the best. The US is only becoming more polarized, which has the inevitable side effect of aggravating existing marginalization and inequality. The First Amendment as Great Equalizer is a utopian dream; the reality is that by appealing to the lowest common denominator Glenn Beck et al can accomplish tyranny of the majority.

    • miga
      September 19, 2012 at 8:48 pm

      THIS. THANK YOU. I would love to have a more nuanced discussion about this.

    • Partial Human
      September 20, 2012 at 8:33 am

      What platform exists in the West where moderate Muslims are heard and honestly listened to?

      Al Jazeera English is. the only one. I’m aware of. Actually, it’s one of the least biased, least sensational factual/news channels.

      Their documentaries are some of the best I’ve seen in recent years. I watched the entire run of ’21st Century Slavery’ back to back yesterday, it touched on issues I’ve never even been alerted to by the BBC.

      Same goes for ‘The 9/11 Decade’, which may be useful for commenters here, in order to understand where a lot of Muslim anger is coming from.

    • EG
      September 20, 2012 at 8:37 am

      I think a problem I have with these conversations is that we want to protect speech because we realize it has the power to be transformative but we don’t really seem to want to acknowledge that speech used for negative purposes can be 100 times more damaging than any riot and that things like power dynamics, racism, etc. all play parts in whose speech is valued, which speech manages to circulate more quickly and which narratives are more readily accepted as factual and true regardless of whether they are, which speech is actually heard and understood.

      I strongly disagree. If we don’t protect obnoxious, negative, and harmful speech, then what speech are we protecting? The kind that doesn’t upset anybody? That kind doesn’t usually need protecting.

      Further, I don’t agree that negative speech can be 100X more damaging than any riot. For speech to negatively affect people, it has to cause action. Speech on its own causes very little to happen. For instance, if anti-Islam cartoons are being run as part of a rising tide of anti-Islam action–stores being boycotted, people being jeered at and/or threatened and/or attacked, laws being drawn up and enforced with state power–then they’re contributing to a bunch of harmful actions, and that’s the conversation we should be having–except riots tend to seize the public’s attention, so now this is the conversation we’re having.

      why are we pretending like these incidents are about the small feelings of Muslims hurt by some cartoons and videos and not part of the larger disrespect Muslims experiences from the West, how that manifests domestically and abroad, in ways that go well beyond speech and turn into violent action, occupation, islamaphobic legislation, and so on?

      That’s the point. Without the context of those larger actions, this speech is not important. It’s not that negative speech is 100X worse than riots; it’s that this speech ends up symbolizing systematic exploitation and tyrannical action.

      • Li
        September 20, 2012 at 8:49 am

        Further, I don’t agree that negative speech can be 100X more damaging than any riot. For speech to negatively affect people, it has to cause action. Speech on its own causes very little to happen.

        This is demonstrably untrue. Hate speech, even microaggression, has a well documented impact on mental health.

      • EG
        September 20, 2012 at 9:06 am

        100X more than a riot? “Very little” does not mean “none.”

      • Cagey
        September 20, 2012 at 10:22 am

        And not even thinking of just microaggressions . How much damage did Reagan’s “welfare queen” narrative do to America’s understanding of what welfare is, who benefits from it, how it is used, exploited, etc? We’re still to this day dealing with the often stated myth about it being for mooching black women with a bunch of kids living high on the government dole. I’m also not really getting why EG is reading 100x as some scientifically derived figure meant to be true in all cases and not an exaggerated figure used for effect.

      • EG
        September 20, 2012 at 2:45 pm

        The welfare queen rhetoric was harmful because it was used to justify dismantling welfare, among other things. It was dismantling welfare, however, that took food out of people’s mouths and forced them onto the streets.

        I am disputing 100X not because I think it’s a scientific figure, but because I think the point being made by that exaggeration is incorrect. Over and over again I hear about how ideology and discourse and stories are important. But fundamentally, I don’t see how they’re more important than actions, and I think that in general we in the humanities far overstate their impact.

  22. Datdamwuf
    September 19, 2012 at 5:41 pm

    I’d agree to some extent, must also consider the role Arab media plays in this as they are much more relevant to Muslim reactions. As I stated above, until some clerics came across the Danish cartoons they did not cause any stir, it took a road tour to get the violence started.

    Try this guy for example: Sheikh Khalad Abdalla, a host on the Islamist satellite-TV station al-Nas. This guy is rabid, like the Arab Glenn Beck. He has urged Muslims to violence on more than one occasion. He may have something to do with this obscure movie clip getting so much traction in the Arab world. I lost my translation site for Arabic video stuff somehow and I don’t trust MSM saying he did it. Anyway, he is powerful right wing fundamentalist media figure.

  23. im
    September 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Not sure what is going on here.

    I am of the opinion that the descriptions of the cartoons describe something that probably should not have been made. However, I do think that in the long term, this sort of thing will convince people that they cannot control what outsiders say about their religion and pave the way for acceptance of differnece, just as was done of old for Christianity. It is absurd that we fear this; we are no part of Islam.

    The comparrison with holocaust denial is pretty awful considering that the former is a statement of truth or falsity and people would care no matter how entitled or not they were.

    • Bagelsan
      September 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm

      However, I do think that in the long term, this sort of thing will convince people that they cannot control what outsiders say about their religion and pave the way for acceptance of differnece, just as was done of old for Christianity.

      Yes, this. Surely this is like the temper tantrum of a religion used to getting its way, who suddenly is being exposed to a global platform where it doesn’t always get its way. These riots are like growing pains as the region matures (hopefully) into something healthier than the religious mess it is now, just like Christianity had to get some of the stupidity out of its system with crusades and colonization. Both religions are idiotic, but at least I can hope they will be peacefully idiotic someday.

  24. Bagelsan
    September 19, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    This is interesting:

    http://news.yahoo.com/islamic-states-reopen-quest-global-blasphemy-law-213231372.html

    “GENEVA (Reuters) – A leading Islamic organization signaled on Wednesday that it will revive long-standing attempts to make insults against religions an international criminal offence.

    The bid follows uproar across the Muslim world over a crude Internet video clip filmed in the United States and cartoons in a French satirical magazine that lampoon the Prophet Mohammad.

    But it appears unlikely to win acceptance from Western countries determined to resist restrictions on freedom of speech and already concerned about the repressive effect of blasphemy laws in Muslim countries such as Pakistan.”

  25. Alexandra
    September 20, 2012 at 12:41 am

    I just want to pop in here and say that there are still people TODAY, in 2012, being threatened with murder for having the temerity to read Salman Rushdie novels.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaipur_Literature_Festival#2012

    At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter whether you depict Mohammed respectfully or crudely in visual media; it doesn’t matter how nuanced your novel about early Islam may be; for a certain small but significant subset of religious Muslims, it is enough that your views are unorthodox, are “blasphemy”, for you to deserve death.

    I say small but significant because while the proportions of fundamentalists vary from country to country, people have been killed for the “crime” of blasphemy from Jakarta to Jaipur, from Amsterdam to Alexandria, from London to Lyons. In some countries, religious fundamentalism is the rule (Saudi Arabia, Iran), in other countries it may become the rule (Egypt, Libya, Syria?), in other countries it will likely remain a marginalized but ever present threat (Tunisia? Much of Europe).

    So I say that the most important thing that people can do is to speak loudly and freely, and honestly. I don’t think that bigoted cartoons are the way to go (a lot of the original Danish cartoons were, I thought, bigoted, as was the recent video) but I see nothing wrong with scatalogical humor about religious figures. The most important responsibility of a free press is to make sure that the public feels free to mock the powerful. Everything else is gravy.

    • Sid
      September 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm

      This comment is reflective of the large part of the ignorant discourse about Muslim countries that fluourishes today, 11 years post 9/11. Sure, a small number of Muslims view heterodoxy as capital punishment-worthy. But to say these are the same Muslims of all fundamentalists stripe in countries as far-ranging as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, India, and Indonesia is stupid. Fundamentalisms differ, and sure, there are probably some Muslims in each of those countries who view heterodoxy as punishable, but this no more informative than saying that countries in the West from the USA to Italy all have religious fundamentalists who want to ban such and such.

      • LPW
        September 21, 2012 at 9:09 am

        But countries from the USA to Italy DO all have religous fundamentalists who want to ban such and such (including, for example, contraception). And those religious fundamentalists may not wish to ban other things (such as parking lots). Identifying commonalities across otherwise separate categories is not necessarily misinformation or so generic as to be useless. Had Alexandra said that “all Muslims believe X”, I would generally agree with your statement (because, at least in theory, all Muslims do believe at least one thing–which is the purpose of the shahada). But she did not. I see nothing in her comments reflective of the “post 9/11” ignorant discourse. In fact, it seems relatively nuanced. In addition, are you calling India a Muslim country?

  26. Kara
    September 20, 2012 at 7:36 am

    I have often wondered if the people out there who think that it is totes awesome to express themselves by making movies mocking Islam or by publicly burning copies of the Koran would still feel the same way if the movies were mocking Mormonism or the holy books being tossed on the barbecue were King James Bibles.

    I rather suspect that they would not.

    • EG
      September 20, 2012 at 8:26 am

      I think it would be more awesome, personally. Except that book-burning is disgusting in general.

      • Lolagirl
        September 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm

        Meh, if I had a bible sitting around I would have no compunction with setting it on fire.

        Look, if you hold some tome or symbol sacred, that’s fine. But I insist that we draw the line at expecting others to hold them equally sacred. Or to even expecting others to go out of their way to appear “respectful” of them. Your personal beliefs and faith are yours, not mine, and not necessarily that of your neighbors or the guy in line behind you at the grocery store.

        That’s life, that’s what happens when you don’t hole yourself up in the middle of nowhere and choose to live where other humans also choose to live. Condemn me all you want for thinking what I think. We are all entitled to our opinions and the expression of them, and we should not fear speaking our minds because somebody else is going to hunt us down and punish us for doing so.

      • Lolagirl
        September 20, 2012 at 2:06 pm

        Woops, EG, I was directing that towards LPW. Curse you, threaded comments!

      • EG
        September 20, 2012 at 3:02 pm

        Threaded comments really are the worst.

      • LPW
        September 21, 2012 at 9:32 am

        Hopefully I am responding in the right place. I think it’s legitimate for me to be offended by people who denigrate things I hold dear and call them out on it, particularly if that denigration was intentional. It doesn’t mean that I can legitimately demand that they accede to my world view, but I have the right to say “not cool”. They can then tell me that my use of the phrase “not cool” is not cool and we can proceed from there. If I, as a condition of not being holed up in the middle of nowhere, must put up with people who denigrate Air Supply and refuse to recognize its supremacy as the greatest soft-rock band ever, those people must also put up with me calling them out for their insensitivity, ignorance and demonstrated lack of any functioning cortical neurons.

        Where I agree with you is that no one should be afraid of mocking Air Supply for fear that they will be subject to violence. I may rebut, ridicule, dismiss or ignore them, but I should never suggest that they do not have the right to voice that opinion. If I do engage in such violence, no one should use my context as a person whose horrible older sister who always put me down and was the clear family favorite and who got away with trashing my record collection as justification for my reaction and as a suggestion that the speaker should refrain from expressing his opinion on this matter.

        The Air Supply example is mostly facetious. Mostly.

      • Lolagirl
        September 21, 2012 at 10:35 am

        LPW, it sounds like we are more or less in agreement on the everybody is equally entitled to believe or not believe whatever they want. I’m not saying (general or specifically) you have no right necessarily to be offended by my denigrating some holy relic or item that you hold dear. But continuing to be offended when I refuse to apologize or change my mind about my denigrating conduct (or to demand that I never do it again in the future) is one step too far.

        There is a very delicate balance required of all of us to insure that everyone is given equal freedom in holding their own personal beliefs. I would absolutely oppose any efforts to stamp out your religion or anyone else’s. It sounds as though you would take the same position, so I think again we are in agreement.

        Also, I’m with you on the Air Supply example.

      • LPW
        September 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm

        Agreed Lolagirl. I have the right to be offended and you have the right to not care.

    • LPW
      September 20, 2012 at 8:33 am

      This is my first post. I can assure you that I would be deeply upset that someone burned my sacred symbols or national flag. I would roundly condemn such an action. I WOULD NOT, however, suggest that they have no right to do so, that by doing so, they have provoked me or others of my faith/nationality into violence or that they should refrain from doing so because it is poking a hornet’s nest and because some of my brethren might riot thousands of miles away and put lives there at risk. Because if I and my ilk are hornets, rather than sentient beings, then I think it is perfectly legitimate for someone to suggest that we be treated like hornets and bring out the DDT (but good news for all apologists-the hornets that do survive will be more genetically resistant). My hurt feelings are my own.

      P.S. As one aside I live in a country and come from a culture which has also borne its share of imperialism. As a further aside, it is not just the monolithic “West” that has engaged in imperialism, including within living memory. As the last aside, I always find it fascinating that so many of the same people that condemn others for treating Islam or Judaism (or whatever “othered” group they are championing) as a monolithic entity have no compunction about tarring the “West” with the same uniform brush. Nuance is not unidirectional.

    • matlun
      September 20, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Why do you think that?

      I would not say that attacks on Christianity are any less accepted in current western society than attacks on Islam. This may be because in general Christians are privileged enough not to feel threatened, but the fact remains that most people do not really care about blasphemy.

    • seisy
      September 20, 2012 at 2:48 pm

      There are movies/tv shows/books etc mocking mormonism. And catholicism. And evangelicals. And jehovah’s witnesses. (and islam and hinduism and judaism). And creating art that involves desecrating sacred symbols and venerated figures. A lot of people think it’s a totes awesome way of expressing themselves. Acting as offensive as possible to some group or another as comedy/art/entertainment is practically its own genre.

      And usually what happens in my experience- in the US- is that some advocate group starts sending out angry press releases and calling for boycotts or showing up on cable shows to denounce the creators as anti-x assholes who should feel ashamed of themselves. Sometimes they’ll arrange groups to picket the whatever. And the vast majority of the country basically just ignores it, because assholes are assholes everywhere, and they thrive on attention. And the people that don’t ignore it just make careful note of it as proof of persecution, and will write angry letters and facebook posts.

      It happens so frequently there’s practically a script for it. So I think it’s fair to say that it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture how I would feel or how others would feel if the shoe was on the other foot.

  27. seisy
    September 20, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    I’m really not sure what the right thing is here. On the one hand, I’m generally against people being assholes because they can, and against ridiculing dearly held beliefs of another religion or culture, just because it’s rude, and I believe that respect and tolerance are good things that we should be striving for.

    On the other? I’m really not comfortable with advocating the idea of walking on eggshells lest other people explode into violent rage. This whole episode has been very…confusing. Before, there was a lot of publicity for things like, oh, those idiots deciding to burn Korans or whatever, and they were very well publicized, and that I could understand in the context of political/social frustrations and injuries and every thing else, but this? Was over some extraordinarily obscure thing on youtube. And then oh, I was listening to NPR and they were interviewing a young Lebanese-American lady who lived in….mmm, I can’t remember, but one of the countries with the rioting and she was talking about twitter responses to some idiotic newsweek cover, about how it depicted Muslims as angry savages and how much of the response was awesomely satirical (and the examples WERE awesomely satirical). But eventually the conversation turned to the riots. I was listening with half an ear, and I kind of expected her response to be about all the other tensions and injustices and how things like the youtube video can become a flashpoint, because if anyone was going to make that argument, she’d be a good candidate, but no. She said something like, the violence is regrettable, but we were attacked first (by the video).

    And I’ve been thinking about that ever since. It’s obviously just her opinion, but the thing for me is- well, if a well educated, media-savvy young woman takes that view, maybe it isn’t an unusual one. And if that’s true, the whole episode and the strength of the reaction seems less arbitrary. (And that’s a lot of ifs). But if it is true, then it represents a gulf in cultural perspectives I’m not sure we can totally bridge, because it would require somebody to compromise on a principle held as inviolable .

    • Bagelsan
      September 21, 2012 at 11:39 am

      She said something like, the violence is regrettable, but we were attacked first (by the video).

      It’s really sad that an otherwise reasonable person would say something like this. :\

  28. September 21, 2012 at 8:22 pm

    I only got so far in this comment thread and then I had to stop. The bruises on my head and dents in my desk are now far too numerous.

    Given how Western nations have manipulated and abused predominantly Muslim nations for so long and the piles of dead Muslim bodies only continue to grow as the years pass, I find it interesting that people are so alarmed over the violent response to bigoted speech which originates from residents of the West.

    How much genius does it take to figure out that a long history of colonial/imperialistic violence fosters violence? Are you all really that out of touch?

    How about shifting violent, exploitative, barbaric foreign policy to something more humane? Then, perhaps, we can talk about the West’s wonderfully civilized values such as “freedom of speech”. Until then, we’ll continue to look like a bunch of hateful, violent hypocrites to those unruly, uncivil religious people in other nations… a perception which I suspect is far more accurate than most Westerners will admit.

    • EG
      September 22, 2012 at 11:11 am

      If you read the replies you skipped, you will find that many people invoke just those concerns.

Comments are closed.