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February 10, 2006

Cartoons

Last week there was controversy over a cartoon which was NOT of the Prophet Mohammad.  The cartoon shows a US soldier in a hospital who is a quadruple amputee.  Its point is that Donald Rumsfeld is glossing over the damage done to the US armed forces by the continued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff felt that the cartoon was in bad taste (so do I) and wrote an unusual joint letter of objection to the Washington Post which had published the cartoon.

CNN ran a story on the Joint Chief’s letter.  During the entire story, the cartoon was on the screen.  It should have been; that’s what the controversy was about.

If you want to scrutinize the cartoon, click the thumbnail below.

amputee

But CNN feels differently about the pictures of the Prophet Mohammed: “CNN is not showing the negative caricatures of the likeness of the Prophet Mohammed because the network believes its role is to cover the events surrounding the publication of the cartoons while not unnecessarily adding fuel to the controversy itself.”

This is a slight change from CNN’s earlier statement that they didn’t want to offend Muslims by showing any picture of Mohammed.  They have discovered in the interim that you can buy postcards of the Prophet in Tehran and that his likeness is in bas relief in the US Supreme Court.

Either way, this is nonsense,  The pictures are nothing if not relevant to the story.  They are, allegedly, what people are rioting about all over the world.  If you haven’t seen the pictures and want to, click on the thumbnail below.

Prophet

If you want bigger pictures, click here.  Incidentally, these pictures come from wikipedia which has had to restrict modification of its pages on this subject due to vandalism.

Last night I watched a segment on CNN about anti-Semitic cartoons in the Arab press.  Of course, they showed all the cartoons; that’s what the story was about.  Do I object to these warmed over Nazi caricatures? Of course. Do I object to CNN showing them? No; they were the story.  Unlike the pictures of Mohammad, of course, these are from government-controlled newspapers.  But CNN was still right to show them just as they should be showing the cartoons of Mohammad in order to tell that story properly.

But what about the riots?

Well, we could take the word of Muslim moderates that these are just the work of extremists.  If we throw a few governments like those of Syria and Iran in the mix, I can buy that.  But these extremists should not be influencing the way our free press works.  Period.

We could also note that we don’t see the same kind of outrage in the streets of these cities when someone tosses a bomb in a mosque let alone a church or a synagogue. Seems to me that bombing a mosque or a religious procession might be taken as an affront to the Prophet. If not, I’m sorry but I can’t get worked up over a cartoon.

Also notice that the American and Israeli flags are being burned along with the Danish flag. Why’s that?  Because the people who are rioting (or those who are running the riots) hate us whether we show their cartoons or not.  They do have the right to burn our secular (or even religious) symbols, of course.  They don’t have a right to burn embassies or kill people.

Are we being hypocritical?

Maybe.  I understand there is a law in Germany against denying the holocaust.  There shouldn’t be.  It’s a stupid or a hateful thing to do but free speech is free speech.  Once we start banning some opinions, it’s impossible to know where to stop.

Although I don’t agree with it, a peaceful protest against the cartoons is a perfectly appropriate way to express an opinion – and there have been many of those.  Cancelling your subscription to a paper with content you find objectionable is fine too; trying to cancel everybody else’s right to subscribe is not OK.

I’m proud of my home town weekly The Stowe Reporter.  They did show the “running out of virgins” cartoon as part of an editorial which ends:

We can condemn what is said, but we defend anyone’s right to say it. When will the West realize that the Islamists don’t allow their critics the same right?  The American media, by not printing the cartoons, bow to radical Islamists, who don’t recognize our freedoms anyway. Modern civilization is at stake, and just because the distinctions between church and state, and between the press and the state, are not clear in the Arab world does not mean that we must abandon them.” 

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