(In keeping with Daniel Pipes’ suggestion of a Muhammad Cartoon a Day, I’m both publishing Muhammad Cartoons and republishing the series of posts I put up at the time of the scandal, when I first started blogging.)
For over a decade now a growing chorus of voices has pleaded with the MSM to expose the larger public to the demonization of Jews and Israel in the Arab world. This seemed particularly important in helping people understand the vital role this hate-mongering played in the production of violence in the Middle East (e.g., it’s role in suicide bombing), especially since 2000 and the outbreak of what the MSM (mistakenly?) call the al-Aqsa intifada. (It was really the opening round of a new phase of global Jihad.)
The effort ran up against the wall of a PCP commitment to the “cycle of violence” framework of tit-for-tat with which the MSM preferred to present the conflict. Shoe-string organizations people should consult at least every week, like PMW and MEMRI, try to give just a taste of the avalanche of hatred that permeates the media of the Muslim world, alongside which, the Danish cartoons pale in their “disrespect” for the “other.”
But little has made it through to the public, and now, apparently, we have convincing evidence that little of it has made it through to the political and media elites in this country (we’ll leave Europe out for the moment). How else to explain their current behavior, faced with the Danish cartoon scandal. The obvious response here is:
“Are you kidding? You demonize everyone in sight, including us all the time. Indeed much in the violent demonstrations in your streets comes precisely from this kind of demonization. These cartoons you object to so violently, are mild not only in comparison with your own “political cartoons” about us, but even by our standards. This is part and parcel of a free and reliable press: you make public claims… expect to get criticized. (And oh, do you make claims!) Clean up your own deeply disrespectful act and then come talk to us about our showing respect for the religious “other.”
(Thanks to Filibuster cartoons, hat tip Josh Katzen)
But alas, we haven’t heard much like that from our newspapers who have almost unanimously refused to publish the cartoons.
Update: One cheer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, two for the New York Sun.
Instead as one spokesman opined:
“Readers were well served by a short story without publishing the cartoon,” said Robert Christie, a spokesman for Dow Jones & Company, which owns The Wall Street Journal. “We didn’t want to publish anything that can be perceived as inflammatory to our readers’ culture when it didn’t add anything to the story.”
(If that’s our MSM’s idea of serving us well on this issue, then we are in trouble.)
Nor have we heard anything like that from our State Department which issued the following remark: “the publication of cartoons that incite religious or ethnic hatred is unacceptable.” Now were this an opening to denouncing the incitement to ethnic hatred that permeates the Arab press, it would be a courageous statement. But it apparently targeted the mild Danish cartoons, with no reference to the avalanche of this kind of unacceptable material in the Arab and Muslim world.
PCPers will applaud this as a sign of “the peace of the strong”: we will benevolently respect your religious sensibilities without asking for a reciprocal respect and benevolence from you. We who are strong can make unreciprocated concessions. Maybe that will calm your roiling waters and begin the healing. After all, we have injured you, and you feel understandably marginalized and frustrated.
HSJPers see this kind of logic as patronizing and look at our behavior through the eyes of those who fan the flames of these explosions of the “Arab street.” For them, this is about spreading Sharia into the realm of the as-yet unconquered and un-subdued peoples. If Muhammad should not be depicted by Muslims, that is an internal matter. But if we outsiders can’t do that, then we submit to a Muslim law, we voluntarily accept upon ourselves the yoke of dhimmitude. Our “peace of the brave” registers on their screens as the submission of the weak.
We are weak — or at least act weak. As Ibn Warraq puts it, we don’t even know how to defend ourselves intellectually.
Here we have a dispute over a very important modern principle — freedom of the press, separation of Church and State, the right to criticize. We are faced with an effort on the part of an ever-more aggressive global Islam, hyper-sensitive to any criticism however deserved, to claim more territory, to intimidate, to demand at the threat of unleashing violence, the kinds of rights that they do not grant to others. In the history of the battle between decency and fascism, between demopaths and civil society, in the annals of 21st century civic heroism, this seems like a no-brainer. All we have to do to win a decisive victory for freedom, to show courage in the face of threats, and develop real mutual respect, is open their own demonizing book to the gaze of the world and say, “withdraw the beam before you scream about my mote.” What a precious teaching moment!
Instead, this looks like it will serve as yet another key moment in a growing sense of global Islam, an identity, media created and mediated, that links Muslims the world over together in their sense of aggressive grievance and easy resort to violence at the intrusions of modernity. And that identity — full of rage, completely absent of self-criticism, entitled to violence — is not a pretty face. Why on earth would we want to encourage it? Why are we blowing this fantastic opportunity to quietly but firmly administer a lesson in the rules and regulations of free peoples.
Thank God for blogs and Honest Reporting.