Infamous Danish cartoons: free expression vs. being an asshole
February 20, 2008
Its been a pretty big news month. The democratic nomination race in the US, Fidel Castro has officially resigning as the president of Cuba, the mundane details of war, natural disasters, and famine, not to mention today – a solid chunk of Toronto being on fire. Perhaps then it’s out of a sort of middle-child-like attention starvation that Danish Newspapers reprinted the infamous cartoon depicting the Prophet Mohamed sporting a bomb shaped turban.
Predictably, not only has this derailed the past two years of work the Danish Government has invested in trying to get Danish cheeses unboycotted around the world, but has put good old Denmarkia back on the newsertainment map.
Shortly after the reprinting, coincidently about when Pakistan’s ‘little election’ has been eating up valuable front page space, the Danish authorities foiled a plot to kill the comic’s original creator.
So now, somewhat painfully, we are back at the beginning. Danish newspapers crying that they have a right to freedom of expression, and waving wildly and pointing at Muslims as crazy extremists hell bent on stopping them.
While personally I do not support the decapitation of individuals for the production of any illustration, no matter how offensive, I would not go as far as to say that I wouldn’t condone the act under any circumstances. Indeed just today I met a person on the subway who I, at least momentarily, considered beheading.
However, my point is that, not being particularly religious, its not really fair to compare my response to such a cartoon to those who believe such depictions require violent retribution (and here let me be clear that I fully understand that a huge majority of the Muslim communities around the world do not condone such violent reprisals).
But lets think this through fairly.
What, for example, would likely be the result of printing an inflammatory cartoon of this nature about other religions? What, for the sake of argument, would the average devout catholic Italian have to say about an image of the Virgin mother masterbating while her son, Jesus Christ, sodomized a prepubescent alter boy? How would that one go over in the Vatican?
How about a cartoon depicting Old Testament God, mowing down on a bacon sandwich, sitting on a thrown of broken Palestian children, while giving Moses the ten commandments? Anybody be angry then? Think that would be a good T-shirt to wear to Synagogue?
The image that the infamous Danish cartoon depicts is offensive, period. Its offensive not only because it goes against a tenant of Islam, but because its meant to be offensive.
People who jump up and down suggesting that printing this cartoon is a matter of free speech, are right. But free speech doesn’t mean free from consequences.
Sure you can run through Russian Martial Arts festival wearing a Stalin T-shirt and spitting ethnic slurs, sure you can dress yourself in a British Army Uniform and piss on an Irish Flag in a pub on St. Patrick’s day. But you’re still an asshole for doing it, and you sure as shit shouldn’t be surprised if you get the crap kicked out of you, much less have trouble selling your national cheese abroad.