So I'm back
from another sensational Sex Week at Yale, about which I will
commit bloggamy shortly. In the meantime, I just have to bloggamize
a bit on the monumental, murderous "offense" being taken by both
the Right and the Left, the Mob and the Elite, over those dorky
have much time to follow the news as I traveled back and forth
between students at UCLA and Yale, smart energetic young people
from a variety of cultures, ethnicities and religions, all of
them eager to learn the Facts of Life in as uncensored a manner
as possible. But in airports, lecture halls and bars, I kept hearing
about fatwas, condemnations and protests turning into deadly riots
from Lebanon to Libya, Pakistan to Afghanistan, Nigeria to Indonesia,
all apparently over a bunch of comics.
Danish cartoons, first published in Jyllands-Posten, then further
disseminated in various other right-wing publications and on one
crazy Italian politician's T-shirt, are not what I would call
fine art or good political commentary. They're not even very funny.
Well, except the one where Mohammed stands on a cloud with his
hands up to a fresh crop of suicide bombers as he says "Stop!
We ran out of virgins!" That one made me laugh. And the one with
Mohammed wearing a bomb in his turban is powerfully drawn. The
others are rather ham-fisted renderings of guys with turbans and
beards that could as likely be Mohammed-Next-Door as Mohammed
bad drawings. So what? We all have a right to think and fantasize
and express those thoughts and fantasies through art or attempts
at art, literature, journalism, propaganda, advertising, erotica,
education, communication, conversation. The cartoonists have a
right to publish their bad drawings, just as I have a right to
blog, and you have a right to send me hate
mail, and Tom Cruise has a right to babble on about intergalactic
travel, and neo-Nazis have a right to publish books that say the
Holocaust is a figment of Elie Weisel's imagination.
last right is a rather vital one to uphold these days, and all
those guilt-ridden Holocaust Denial Laws must be repealed to uphold
it. Those of us who are "offended" by Holocaust deniers (and I
am one of them) must not mortgage our beliefs in Free Speech to
try to assuage our hurt feelings that some ahistorically-minded
loon says the concentration camps were summer resorts.
my opinion, offending underdogs
like Muslims is a lot less honorable
than offending elites like the Bushites.
But Freedom of Speech
must be extended to everybody
if it's extended to anybody.
It is a travesty
of justice and a blow against Free Speech that crackpot British
historian David Irving should be sentenced to three years in prison
by an Austrian court for the Speech Crime of "Holocaust Denial."
We must remember that these are only words Mr. Irving is spouting.
We shouldn't make a Free Speech Martyr out of a guy like this,
but should just let him spout away, along with the Creationists,
believers in Martian abductions and people who say Cheese Whiz
to the cartoons, a few lines, a few brush strokes, some words
and pictures. It's true that sometimes people riot, rape and kill
because they are inspired or upset by words or pictures. That
does not make the wordsmith or artist guilty, as long as he or
she did not specifically instruct those people to riot, rape and
kill. If we as a society adhere to any different standard, we
might as well throw the Internet and all of modern art, literature
and science right through the hole in the ozone layer and return
to the serfdom and silence of the Dark Ages.
Being a sex
educator, artist, bloggamist and staunch defender of Freedom of
Speech, this is a no-brainer for me. If anything is *sacred* on
this unholy, heavenly Earth, it is my right and the right of my
fellow humans to think, feel, speak, draw and publish what we
want without being harmed or arrested. This is one of my most
precious rights as an American, enshrined in our First Amendment.
And, though I do not support invading other sovereign nations
to make them "free," it is a right that I wish for people around
Thus I defend
the right of the Danes to publish their crude political-religious
cartoons, along with the rights of all the other magazines and
T-shirt manufacturers that reprinted them. I don't agree with
the right-wing politics of these publications and fashionistas.
But that doesn't matter because I'm not defending their point
of view. I'm simply defending their Freedom of Speech.
the cartoons offensive? Of course, they're offensive. A political
cartoon isn't worth the paper it's scribbled on if it doesn't
offend someone. In my opinion, offending underdogs like Muslims
is a lot less honorable than offending elites like the Bushites.
But Freedom of Speech must be extended to everybody if it's extended
to anybody. One of the rather selfish but vital reasons that I
support YOUR Freedom of Speech is so that I may speak next and
counter whatever load of horsepucky you just delivered. By the
way, I fully support the rights of Muslims and cartoonophiles
around the world to boycott yogurt and other Danish goods; that's
part of Freedom of Expression. It's the killing-over-cartoons
that I'm against.
that I'm against.
I can't believe
I'm on the same side of this issue as Ann Coulter and Christopher
Hitchens. Actually, I'm embarrassed about that. But Free Speech
is an ideal to which I adhere without regard for my bedfellows.
And it is interesting and disheartening to see how many of those
I thought were my fellows have left the bed of Free Speech, as
well as lost their marbles, over these cartoons. Many so-called
"liberals" and "leftists" have turned themselves into ideological
pretzels in their attempts to condemn the cartoonists and the
publishers (for the moment, they're letting the T-shirt manufacturers
slide). Even more disturbing, many try to defend the rioters and
their virulent "morality."
Pethic presents an impossibly convoluted argument that seems
to be saying that the artists and publishers of the drawings do
not really have "freedom of expression" because they don't publish
everything under the sun. Moreover, this freedom shouldn't include
publishing anything that might "antagonize Muslims." He goes on
to complain that Jyllands-Posten turned down some cartoons about
Jesus, which somehow negates their right to publish the caricatures
of Mohammed. But Freedom of Speech doesn't and can't require that
each speaker be fair.
If I were the publisher, I might try to lampoon the sacred cows
of all the major religions, attempting to skewer all religious
myths as equally as possible. But equality is not always possible,
not when it comes to art, opinion and cartooning. The political
cartoonist focuses his or her pen on one or two objects of ridicule.
It is not about fairness. It is about expressing a controversial
there's "left-leaning" law professor Stanley Fish who wrote in
is itself a morality--the morality of a withdrawal from morality
in any strong, insistent form. It is certainly different from
the morality of those for whom the Danish cartoons are blasphemy
and monstrously evil. And the difference, I think, is to the credit
of the Muslim protesters and to the discredit of the liberal editors."
person's blasphemy is
another person's bloggamy.
Call me a "liberal," but this truth
I will not disavow.
is a morality all right, but it's not "the morality of a withdrawal
from morality." Not at all. Liberalism is the morality of secular
humanism, tolerance, understanding, respect for independent thought,
freedom of expression and peaceful discussion as a solution to
disagreements as opposed to the mob or state use of force and
war. Apparently, Mr. Fish prefers the morality of those who riot,
bomb, burn and kill over those who express their feelings with
pictures and words.
what Mr. Fish would say to someone who finds his words offensive?
What if Mr. Fish's commentary were found to be "blasphemy and
monstrously evil" and worthy of execution? Will he give his own
lynch mob "credit" for their impassioned "morality" as they stone
him with real stones for crimes of his imagination? Will he praise
the State that kills him for his commentary? Mr. Fish speaks of
"blasphemy" as though it is something we can all agree on. But
blasphemy, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. One person's
blasphemy is another person's bloggamy. Call me a "liberal," but
this truth I will not disavow.
Pethic and Mr. Fish are in bed and under the covers with Mr. Bush
on this one, and it's one pathetically Fishy Bush, when philosopher-pretzels
and pretzel-swallowing presidents join forces. The Bush administration,
which normally engages with Muslim populations like Dick Cheney
goes quail-hunting, had this to say about the cartoons:
them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would
find these images offensive."
Brother Bush. Bring it on.
me reiterate Pope Rat's main point:
Freedom of Speech "can not include
the right to offend religious feelings
of the faithful of any religion."
Might as well throw all of art and
literature, philosophy, science and any
form of satire, out that big black hole.
is clear: The President supports the fanatical, murderous, mob
reaction of those Muslims who are "offended" by a collection of
mediocre drawings. I'm not surprised. This is a guy who bukkake-bombed
the bejesus out of a country
that hadn't attacked us just because Saddam
looked at him funny. This is a guy who empathizes with reacting
violently and irrationally to abstract insults. This is the guy
who raised the bar for torture.
Of course, the Bushites have since condemned the rioting, but
their original solidarity with faith-based killing and fear-based
censorship has been firmly established.
impassioned defense of the violent Muslim reaction to the cartoons
also serves as a clarion call for "offended" American Christians
and Orthodox Jews to riot against Hollywood, homosexuals, sex
education and the ACLU. Perhaps this is the Bush Apocalypse: Mobs
of easily offended, oil-hungry, trigger-happy, irrational, monotheistic,
monomaniacal hotheads storming the barricades of Freedom of Expression,
all streaming out of their own respective Houses of Worship.
of which, the Vatican issued this statement: "The freedom of thought
and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights,
can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the
faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion. Any
form of excessive criticism or derision of others denotes a lack
of human sensitivity and can in some cases constitute an unacceptable
provocation." This from the folks who locked up Galileo for spouting
science (very "offensive") and initiated almost genocidal Crusades
against people in Southern France who said that Jesus might have
been their great-great-great granddaddy (molto offensivo).
Let me reiterate
Pope Rat's main point: Freedom of Speech "can not include the
right to offend religious feelings of the faithful of any religion."
Might as well throw all of art and literature, philosophy, science
and any form of satire, out that big black hole.
of genius about these damn cartoons is that, in their ham-fisted,
badly-timed appearance on the world stage, they have revealed
the true colors of many *freedom-fighters* on the Left and Right.
Yet most of the news outlets opining about these cartoons do not
actually print them. Clearly, they are afraid of becoming the
objects of a fatwa. This fear is reasonable, but demoralizing.
I, too, do not wish to have my studio firebombed. But it's silly
to try to discuss these cartoons without actually seeing them.
So I am exercising my Freedom of Linkage by linking to them here.
[Editor: This link is not offered here. Have you ever lived on
THIS island? Have you?]
the rioting over the scribblings
are the very real, extremely devastating,
invasions of Arab lands which have
murdered their loved ones,
destroyed their cities, stolen their
resources and wounded their pride.
pretty lame. I personally prefer the one published in the Strand,
a Victoria University student publication, because it's very bonobo.
It pokes fun at both Mohammed and Jesus, at the same time sending
a message of peace through sexual love. Predictably, both Christians
and Muslims are offended. Let's hope they don't burn down Victoria
U. Just to be *even* among the monotheistic majors, I'll link
to an anti-Semitic
cartoon, as well as to the Israeli anti-Semitic cartoon contest
(ya gotta love us self-loathing jews).
remembering that at the bottom of the fury that is Cartoon-gate,
there is an even deeper issue than Freedom of Speech at stake,
and that is Life and Death. Behind the rioting over the scribblings
are the very real, extremely devastating, ultra-provocative Anglo-American
invasions of Arab lands which have murdered their loved ones,
destroyed their cities, stolen their resources and wounded their
pride. I'd like to be able to bet that if the cartoons had been
published without the bloody reality of Bush and Company and their
multiple war crimes, there would have been little uproar. But
I can never prove that, as the bloody reality just gets bloodier.
And that is far beyond offensive.
make us want to censor the cartoons. It should make us want to
stop the killing.
Susan Block is a sex educator, cultural commentator, host
of The Dr. Susan Block Show and author of The 10 Commandments
of Pleasure. Visit her website at http://www.drsusanblock.com
or visit her brand new bloggamy and post comments at
Send all comments, love letters, hate mail, questions, confessions,
endorsements, enticements and testimonials to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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