February 4, 2006

Abbott and Costello Meet Radical Prophetism

Hatched by Dafydd

The arts columnist of my favorite blog posted a marvelous exposition of the issues involved in the Cartoon-Mohammed Affair. They quote columnist Paul Marshall, from which I extract the following:

Finally, amid current calls for "toleration" and "respect for belief," we need to be very clear about the distinction between religious toleration and religious freedom.

Religious toleration means not insulting somebody else's religion, and it is a good thing. But religious freedom means being free to reject somebody else's religion and even to insult it. Government should want and encourage its citizens to be tolerant of one another, but its primary responsibility is to protect its citizens' rights and freedoms. The fact that people are sometimes insulted is one cost of freedom. The Jyllands-Posten affair calls us to uphold that principle internationally as well as domestically.

This really puts it on a pistachio nutshell, and I agree completely with this. To break it down myself, herewith:

  1. This incident has nothing to do with the governments of any of the European countries, and they have no obligation -- indeed no right -- to "apologize" for what private newspapers chose to print; you cannot apologize for what somebody else has done, unless you control that person... and free nations do not control their presses.
  2. Nor does any of these governments have an obligation (or right) to force the newspapers to respect Moslem sensibilities.
  3. Notwithstanding the above, it was boorish, and therefore a bad thing, that the newspapers chose to print cartoons that insult Islam and offend Moslems... just as European (and American) newspapers are wrong to publish cartoons that ridicule Christianity or Judaism and offend Christians and Jews.
  4. One has a right to be boorish, but that does not make boorishness any less disrespectful to its target -- or degrading to the boor.

    And finally,
  5. When the victim of boorishness retaliates violently to the boor, or to third parties that have nothing to do with the churlish act, the governments and their citizens have a positive duty to defend against the attack.

Here is what has bothered me more than anything else about this whole, sordid affair: I want us to win this war against Islamist jihadism; that means we will have to win many battles.

The best way to ensure winning a battle is to be the one who picks its time and place. You want to pick a time when the enemy is not prepared and a place where he is at a discomfiting disadvantage.

But what has happened here is that the adolescent shenanigans of the newspaper staff has effectively thrown down the gauntlet, then allowed the jihadis to select the time and place of the battle. In fencing terms, the West sat back and allowed the militant Islamists to seize the right-of-way. The cartoons were published in September or October (people seem to differ)... and the agents provocateurs had more than three months to gather strength, whip the mobs into a frenzy, plan their strategy, and then to strike at a time and place of their own choosing, putting us immediately on the defensive.

Too, the insult partly undid more than eighteen months of careful, delicate, and strategic splitting of the ummah into one camp that supports freedom and democracy and another that preaches senseless violence. We have told the Moslem world that Zarqawi should be shunned because he does not distinguish between enemy soldiers and innocent civilians... and now the newspapers publish offensive cartoons that do not distinguish between jihadis and Moslems allied with the West.

Thanks, Danish MSM. Couldn't have done it without you.

We're cast willy-nilly into a defensive crouch again, right after the French riots finally subsided. Rather than advancing into enemy territory -- we're forced to defend our own. Again. ("Our" meaning the West's.)

Scott also quoted at length -- at great length -- from a press conference with Sean McCormack, spokesman for the U.S. State Department; McCormack made very clear the position of the administration (including the president) on this issue. I know you are all shocked to discover that the Antique Media misreported what McCormack said, but here it is:

Our response is to say that while we certainly don't agree with, support, or in some cases, we condemn the views that are aired in public that are published in media organizations around the world, we, at the same time, defend the right of those individuals to express their views. For us, freedom of expression is at the core of our democracy and it is something that we have shed blood and treasure around the world to defend and we will continue to do so. That said, there are other aspects to democracy, our democracy -- democracies around the world -- and that is to promote understanding, to promote respect for minority rights, to try to appreciate the differences that may exist among us.

We believe, for example in our country, that people from different religious backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, national backgrounds add to our strength as a country. And it is important to recognize and appreciate those differences. And it is also important to protect the rights of individuals and the media to express a point of view concerning various subjects. So while we share the offense that Muslims have taken at these images, we at the same time vigorously defend the right of individuals to express points of view. We may -- like I said, we may not agree with those points of view, we may condemn those points of view but we respect and emphasize the importance that those individuals have the right to express those points of view.

That's it. The European newspapers had the right to print the cartoons, but it was wrong of them to exercise that right the way they did, to belittle people based upon their religion. In exactly the same way, while the Arab and Iranian presses have the right to print antisemitic garbage, to do so is reprehensible, and it will kill their souls. Not to mention moving them yet closer to crawling on their hands and knees, looking for the head they used to wear.

It was offensive and stupid; but now that it's been done -- like when Gen. Jack D. Ripper sent the bomber wing to nuke Russia in Dr. Strangelove -- we may have no alternative but to fight the enemy -- on his terms and our soil.

Europe seems to have two responses to Islamist jihadism: they either retreat and cower in fear... or else they drop trou and moon the entire Moslem world! The two modes are equally childish; can't Europe find some adults to take charge?

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 4, 2006, at the time of 11:54 PM

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» To Print or Not to Print from Hold The Mayo
Mark Steyn has penned an excellent answer to those who are arguing that the cartoons should have never been published.Jyllands-Posten wasn't being offensive for the sake of it. They had a serious point -- or, at any rate, a more... [Read More]

Tracked on February 5, 2006 7:41 AM

» While You Were Planted... from Big Lizards
...Before the telly, swilling your adult beverage of choice and rooting for that team that begins with an S.... We at Big Lizards know how forgetful our readers can be; it's easy to forget trivia like war and peace, crime... [Read More]

Tracked on February 6, 2006 7:06 AM

» The Last Remake of Beau Prophetism from Big Lizards
I know, I know; I'd hoped that Abbot and Costello would have killed off this thread, like they tried to do with Frankenstein. But like that venerable construction of the good doctor, Radical Prophetism yet lives! This entry is mercifully... [Read More]

Tracked on February 8, 2006 6:09 PM


The following hissed in response by: Kathy K

I agree that reprinting the cartoons was essentially rude/boorish (and I'll note I am not joining the blogburst for just that reason).

However, the fact is that all this worldwide outrage erupted some time after the cartoons had been printed, after some of the Danish Islamist theocrats essentially went on tour with the cartoons (and added three that were not printed by Jyllands-Posten see here - those truly were offensive even to me, I've seen them, and I'm not easily offended). It seems to me that someone was looking to start something - and that if it hadn't been this, it would have been something else.

And if it had to be something, I think it is very good that it was this. Because it's waking up those who have been denying there's any danger from these extremists. Because, with their reaction, they are attacking something even the secular west essentially holds 'sacred' - freedom of speech. (Note, I'm not including all Muslims in with these guys - I can point to a lot of Muslim blogs that are just as disgusted with the extremist reaction as I am - if not more so.)

The above hissed in response by: Kathy K [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2006 7:56 AM

The following hissed in response by: Kathy K

Addendum - While I do think the reaction of reprinting the cartoons was rude/boorish, I also acknowledge that I was very tempted myself. Because even the mildest initial reaction of boycotting a whole country because of one newspaper indicates that they truly have no clue what free speech is - or if they do, they have no interest in allowing it for anyone but themselves.

I can also see the reprinting of the cartoons as a statement of solidarity, as well as a demonstration that we do have the RIGHT to be rude and boorish. (Even if I, personally, have chosen not to exercise it in this instance.)

The above hissed in response by: Kathy K [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2006 8:10 AM

The following hissed in response by: SDN


If this was "a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a weasel", then you would think they would have done this at some other time than when Iran was up for a vote on getting referred to the UNSC for nuke violations, stiffening the spines of the Euros on the IAEA.... or maybe not, if the ones promoting the cartoons were Sunnis as opposed to Shiites.

The above hissed in response by: SDN [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2006 6:16 PM

The following hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman

"Too, the insult partly undid more than eighteen months of careful, delicate, and strategic splitting of the ummah into one camp that supports freedom and democracy and another that preaches senseless violence."

Doesn't look to me like the above effort was that sucessful if this is all it took to completely reverse it.

Your thesis is either true to fact or an example of wishful thinking.

The above hissed in response by: Dan Kauffman [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 5, 2006 9:45 PM

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