Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Equal Opportunity Offender

Surprising how little coverage the Danish cartoon crisis is getting in the US media. Part of it, I'm sure, is that US media people are clueless fools who can't find Denmark on a map, don't know anything about the place, and assume their readers don't want to read about the rest of the world anyway. But they all have AP news feeds, so they can't pretend to be completely unaware of what's going on. I imagine they're just deathly afraid of ever offending anyone. Call it political correctness if you like, although that's become an ideologically loaded term. I gather part of the original motivation for the cartoons was to comment on self-censorship in the Western media. I guess we really shouldn't be that surprised that our domestic media is timid and spineless, or that lots of other Western countries have a freer press than we do these days. I'm not saying they need to reprint the cartoons, just that it would be a good opportunity to editorialize in favor of freedom of expression, assuming they're still in favor of that. Or if even that is just too controversial, they could at least give it a couple of column inches on an inside page.

In an more unfortunate development, the story is getting a bit of buzz in the conservative blogosphere. Another example. And another. Yet another. I don't think it's exactly helpful to be pro-cartoon solely because you don't like Muslims. I've never found conservatives to be reliable defenders of free expression. Sure, they're in favor of it when they're the ones doing the offending, but say anything unflattering about their infallible King George, or their holy crusade in Iraq, or make fun of their religion, and they're all for having you hauled off to Abu Ghraib and hooked up to the electrodes. An additional ugly bit is that they're all acting shocked and amazed that anyone in Europe believes in free speech. They've all got to get in vicious little digs at France, even though a French newspaper had the guts to print something that no US paper (that I'm aware of) would touch. I guess the thinking is that anyone who failed to jump on the crazy train for war in Iraq must be against freedom of any kind. And then they're copping the same smug "I told you so" attitude as they did during the recent rioting in Paris. Like somehow they were proved right about something. About what, exactly? It's not entirely clear. Probably something about how this proves that our Glorious Leader is right to wage holy war against the unbelievers, or something.

For the sake of being "fair and balanced", here's an angry rant by someone who was offended by the cartoons. And here's an archive of many additional blasphemous images. And another blog about the controversy, this one taking more of a free speech angle, which is refreshing.

It's very simple, really. The right to free expression must include the right to "offensive" expression, with no exemptions made for anyone's personal sacred cow. There's no such thing as a right to never be offended by anything. And we certainly shouldn't start carving out exceptions to our basic rights in the name of religion, anybody's religion. All religions are irrational, stupid, and false, and buying into one of them shouldn't grant someone more legal rights than someone who chooses not to partake. Our own fundies claim they're being oppressed whenever they're legally prevented from imposing their beliefs on the public at large, whether it's creationism, mandatory school prayer, government-sponsored nativity scenes, or what have you. They want absolute "freedom of religion" for themselves, and none for anyone else, and certainly no freedom from religion for anybody at all. How this is appreciably different from what those nasty evildoers want is something they've never adequately explained. Perhaps it's because our country's fundies have got the One True Religion, while the fundies beyond our borders all believe in satanic false idols. But then, those fundies say the same thing about us. So who are we to believe? Maybe they're both right about each other, and wrong about themselves.

No comments :