Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Cartoon Wars

After being disconnected for a few days for a move, it was interesting to note that not much in the news world has changed. Iraq's bloody legacy continues, the US, Europe and Iran are all still threatening each other, Gonzales is saying all the same stuff about the NSA spy program that he was saying before the senate hearing. Bush's budget is, as usual, ridiculous. The Muhammad cartoon drama has only escalated into horrendous violence. [A note to some Muslims: if you are upset about Muhammad being portrayed as a terrorist bomb thrower, you probably aren't helping your case by throwing firebombs in protest.]

European intransigence regarding their right to publish the cartoons that depict Muhammad as a terrorist, among other things, has been fascinating and infuriating. A number of European countries have rallied around Danish news agencies in a show of solidarity for freedom of the press and speech. This would be the same region wherein some countries have laws against anyone making public statements in denial of the Holocaust. In Europe, denying the Holocaust appears to be far worse than depicting Jesus in a unflattering light, which, as far as I know, is still not a crime anywhere.

This is an hypocrisy that has not gone unnoticed by Iranian newspapers, which now have plans for a retaliatory cartoon strike aimed at just this very topic. Indeed, Hamshahri, one of the largest newspapers in Iran, is now planning a counter strike by launching a Holocaust cartoon salvo in response to the ill-advised European publications.

As Iranians have claimed, the Muhammad cartoons certainly appear to have been a needless and gratuitous swipe at Islam and specifically designed to insult. That the Danish publishers have catalysed a violent, world wide protest seems lost on them as they continue to state that they have the right to publish such tripe under a claim of press freedom and is, at best, irresponsible and thick headed. Instead of apologising for their mindless opportunism, the Danes and others have remained intransigent in their stance, despite the obvious and terrible reaction. This is not to say that Muslims are not behaving badly themselves, but once the reaction was clear, publishers should have recognised their mistake. Not only did they not, they continued to insist that it was their right to publish. While this is true, it does not make it right. We certainly see in this country that when the news media oversteps a certain boundary, they are quick to supplicate, though sometimes a little too quick and supplicating.

Given the heightened level of bitterness between western cultures and the Muslim world and the delicate situation regarding Iran, just why European publishers decided that now would be a fine time to decry Muhammad as a mad bomber remains a mystery. But now they will have to endure the freedoms they claim and wait for the inevitable Holocaust denial cartoon assault, not to mention some Jewish dominance conspiracy theories and who knows what else.


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