"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Caricatures 

Let me state unequivocally that I am very nearly a free speech absolutist, and as such I fully support the legal right of Jyllands-Posten, the Danish publication at the heart of the blasphemous cartoon story, to publish whatever hateful trash they choose. I also believe, however, that rights come with attendant responsibilities, and simply because a publication can print material that serves no purpose other than to offend and outrage does not mean that it should.

Furthermore, I have a longstanding aversion to religious fanatics of all stripes, and find violence done in the name of God to be especially repulsive. That said, only the stupid and the willfully blind honestly believe that Muslims are particularly given to such violence. No matter how much certain irresponsible commentators would like to make this a uniquely Muslim problem (remember Ann Coulter's infamous "invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity" outburst?), it simply is not.

So no, I don't think that Western publications have any special legal or moral obligation to refrain from offending fanatics who would riot and murder in the name of Islam. But still, there is some precedent in this regard (emphasis supplied):
Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that first published the cartoons of the prophet Mohammed that have caused fury throughout the Islamic world, refused to run drawings lampooning Jesus Christ, it emerged yesterday.

The Danish daily turned down the cartoons three years ago, on the grounds that they could be offensive and were not funny.

In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

He received an email from the paper’s Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: “I don’t think Jyllands-Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.”

Maybe, just maybe, if we in the Western world were as concerned about protecting the delicate sensibilities of other nations' religious fanatics as we are about our own, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in.

 

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