Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Muhammad Cartoons

My requisite political cartoonist's P.O.V. on this? It is not a simple issue. I would not have drawn those cartoons, or anything like them.

It seems that commentators on all sides are trying desperately to boil this entire dispute down to one black and white issue. Some people say it's about FREE SPEECH, a value that should be immutable in a civilized society and cannot be brushed aside by violent thugs. Some say it's about POLITICAL ISLAMISM, which in its present-day form often demonstrates a hostility towards "democratic values." Some say it's about CULTURE CLASH, and the insensitivity towards "the Other" that pervades Western society (which remains eternally unaware of historical context and its imperialist tendencies).

I think that there may be some truth to all of these statements. It is not an un-nuanced situation.

I don't know what the ultimate answer is. Free speech is a vital principle, of course, but as suggested by the American legal doctrine that shares the name of my cartoon (although this is not why I picked it), words that can be expected to incite an immediate breach of the peace may not be protected speech. As for the religious and cultural differences, these are obviously not easy topics either... or someone would've found a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a long time ago. At any rate, it is a subject for honest debate by scholars and the great minds of our time.

What makes this a particularly urgent and contentious issue right now, and is keeping this from being a level-headed debate by scholars, are the extremists... on both sides.

As has been well documented, Islamic extremism rises as a result of complex historical and political situations that are unique in different parts of the world. In general, the relationship of "Islamic fundamentalists" to Islam is roughly analogous to the relationship of "Christian fundamentalists" to Christianity (which makes al-Qaeda akin to the KKK). This means that the nuts who are currently burning down embassies and sending death-threats to cartoonists are just that -- NUTS... and they should be treated as such.

On "our" side, the debate over the Danish Muhammad cartoons within the American media simply demonstrates to me just how far our MSM has wandered from the values it claims to covet. Ted Rall makes an excellent point in his recent column (via Matt Bors):

"We always weigh the value of the journalistic impact against the impact that publication might have as far as insulting or hurting certain groups," said an editor at The San Francisco Chronicle.

"The cartoons didn't meet our long-held standards for not moving offensive content," said the Associated Press.


If these cowards were worried about offending the faithful, they wouldn't cover or quote such Muslim-bashers as Ann Coulter, Christopher Hitchens or George W. Bush.

Until we get to the point where we never again see Ann Coulter on the cover of Time Magazine, when we never again see Bill O'Reilly on the Today Show, when CNN stops hiring nuts like Bill Bennett and Glenn Beck, and when Fox News ceases to exist... the American mainstream media will not have a whole lot of credibility in determining what is "offensive content."

As a cartoonist, at this point I can't do much about Islamic extremism. However, I can make my voice heard about creeping extremism within my own society, and hopefully help to effect some change there.


Matt Bors said...

Good post!

No Mind said...

thanks, man. Y'know... we political cartoonists are expected to have an opinion on this thing.