Monday, February 06, 2006

Lunatic Cartoons (reprise and newer material)

A question has come from a loyal reader of this blog as to the meaning of the last post regarding the forces of "self-righteous hypocrisy" with regard to the admittedly provocative cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. This dog confesses to finding the issue on several levels complex and difficult. Americans--some of them, anyway--are schooled in the ways of political correctness, which forbid certain types of "expression," and the dog himself looked askance when the University of Miami ran on the cover its alumni magazine last fall a headline, for a story about hurricane researchers, "Storm Troopers," observing that such a phrase was, at best, insensitive. This dog also has commented that the cartoons in question--link in the previous blog--while well drawn are not amusing or informative. They are provocative in a juvenile way, and the response they provoked was infantile--way over the top--manipulated.

There are several issues here. I don't like the fact that the University of Miami student newspaper ran a Holocaust deniers' ad in last week's issue--or that other student newspapers do the same. It's absurd. On the other hand, I believe that those ads should run so that people can respond to them. Many long years ago, a brother designed an insigna for an invented club that resembled that of the Waffen SS. He liked the lightning bolt but otherwise had not a clue until a WW II vet told him what his patch symbolized, and that was that. Cast the light of reason and skepticism on everything, this dog says.

What about the cartoons, which one could see as racist? Well, this dog holds no truck with religion of any sort, believing that "God" or "gods" or the "unmentionable one" has a lot of blood and suffering to answer for before it's worth so much as a nod. Anyone who wants to worship such a deity--go to it, but don't try to force your faith on me. Such a deity is fair game, however, as is any powerful figure, for satire, no matter how childish it is--and this dog is not fond of satire, finding it, except for Voltaire and Christopher Guest, a waste, and they are acceptable because they are so painfully on target. Our first obligation is to defend that right to speak and then to show why it is wrong.

Compounding the case of religion is that it is, as Marx said, "the opiate of the masses," meaning it is their guard against the atrocities, the poverty and suffering in which they find themselves. Yes, the paradox is self-evident. This dog was heartened to see that some Islamic clerics were trying to calm the crowds over the weekend, but it appears that in many cases the devotion of the masses was inflammed by "leaders"--"self-righteous hypocrites"--who use such events to distract people from their own failures, to duck responsibility for doing the hard work to improve society. These "leaders" appeal to fear and prejudice and ignorance; they preach hatred and intolerance. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Use the name "Dick Osama bin Bushblair" and add any number of variants--that's what you get.

There it is: The entire flap is beside the point, a smoke screen. These cartoons first ran last September in the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, and although they roused protests and cries for boycotts, the situation only got out of hand after Norwegian papers published them, followed by papers across Europe, wanting to take a stand. James Buchan has a good commentary in today's Guardian, although he is less forgiving of the insensitive cartoon publishers than I. The Brussels Journal has a good summary and the cartoons.

Are there serious, devoted revolutionaries? That's anther blog.


faculty for workplace justice said...

i think the dog says it well. this is a smoke screen: not about religion, but political manipulation and evasion and provocation. still, the west has no moral standing *of any kind* from which to take issue with muslim anything, at this point in time (intolerance? dogmatism? there is nothing we don't do just as badly, and with worse consequence). get our troops out of iraq, negotiate fairly with iran, support the palestinians' fight for dignity and independence: then, maybe, we can start thinking about satirizing the muslims. satire should be directed to power, not to those who are getting their asses brutally kicked. otherwise it's pure chickenshit.

Mark Derr said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mark Derr said...

I can't disagree with you on Iraq and Palestine, but Iran is more thorny for me because the mullahs running the place are thugs. I don't much care for satire, as I said, but I think it's fair to go after any religion, especially its imams, priests, popes, preachers, even its saints (except francis)and prophets--the politicians who exploit both religion and the masses. that's why I cited Marx--'religion is the opiate of the masses," the thing that enslaves them and holds them in thrall; thus, you can't be mean to it. The thing about the cartoons is that some are racist and all are offensive to many people--but it is an offense given by the emotional equivalent of an insensate schoolboy, and it should be treated as such. I won't repeat the rest of the riff.