"You're a funny man, Sully ...

that's why I'm going to kill you last."


Friday, February 03, 2006


Sullivan continues his reckless misunderstanding of the root of the cartoons controversy with his link to the talk page poll on Wikipedia.

Most of the 21 or so votes for deletion of the image have come from non-English speaking Muslim readers. The overwhelming consensus has been keep, which shouldn’t come as a surprise given this infamous image, and that the article about last year’s trial of Michael Jackson names his accuser, something the U.S. press has never done. Wikipedians are generally not in favor of any self-censorship.

But the delete votes do make the same point about European cultural double standards on this, as well as an issue Sullivan clearly doesn’t understand: the neutral point of view. It is, we think, a legitimate point that the use of the pictures in the article could itself be seen as violating that, although we think it rather foolish not to include them in the article as it’s precisely what the article’s about (It should have been pointed out to the delete-votes that the cartoons are not used in the article on the controversy in the Arabic Wikipedia. And although it would just compound the offense, if the chickenbloggers and LGFers really want to do something that looks like bravery, at least from a distance, they’d go and try to put the images into that article. They’d get blocked from editing pretty quickly, but if you say this is about bringing freedom and democracy to the Arab world it would put your actions (and ass) where your words are ). Such are the things free speech makes you have to live with.

Once again, the Danes, French and Germans have the right to create and publish these cartoons. European Muslims have the right to complain about them. But as Gilliard noted, to have done so in such a provocative way and then simply assert your freedom of speech as a defense is grossly insensitive. This was clearly done to bait the European Muslim community. If you take the right, take the responsibility.

posted by Sully 2/03/2006 02:26:00 PM

Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Once we get an obligatory link to the Muhammad Drawings out of the way, there’s plenty of blame to go around on all sides of this one.

First, to some of the outraged Muslims for not helping their cause any with profoundly anti-democratic statements and sentiments (As an aside, we have always been somewhat amused by the tendency of some Muslims to sneer at the Christian belief in Jesus’s partially divine parentage, while deifying their own prophet (about whom no claims of divinity have ever been asserted) to a far greater extent than Christians ever have. There is an extent to which Muslims have failed to delineate Islam the religion from Islam the personality cult). To act as if the Danish government is supposed to do something about this is almost as culturally insensitive as the cartoons themselves.

And let’s not forget, either, the grotesque antisemitic imagery that circulates in some of the Middle Eastern media.

Second, to the Danish newspaper that published the story originally. They cannot pretend to be totally shocked that this sort of thing would happen. The drawings were not incidental to the story; they were the story. To feign surprise over such a reaction is disingenuous to say the least.

Third, the conservatives exulting over this in the blogosphere. Some of these people are the last ones who should be tut-tutting over such a public temper tantrum to the insult to someone else’s faith. We seem to recall a television show they recently ran off the American airwaves.

We also seem to recall how some of them reacted, many years ago, to Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses and the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fatwaa calling for the author’s head. Consider that none other than then-Religious Right Golden Boy Dan Quayle opined:“ [The book] is obviously not only offensive but, I would think most of us would say, in bad taste” (And he was so perceptive, he knew this without even having to read it). In fact, we seem to remember, a lot of conservatives expressed regret that the Christian world didn’t take such insults to its faith as seriously as the Islamic one did. Pat Buchanan wrote a column saying as much, we think (back when he was still safely on the plantation).

We recall a certain well-regarded, pro-gay, pro-choice mayor of New York having a shit-fit over this painting, far less offensive (if you don’t know what those floating things are supposed to be) than some of the Danish paper’s cartoons.

And that brings us to Andrew, who as usual rises like a bad-tempered cocker spaniel over any attempt to link these European cultural controversies to the second-class status of most Islamic immigrants in those countries. This is the context which can’t help but be considered here.

Remember that in most of Europe, the majority of Muslims are in a sort of political limbo they would never be in over here. Their children, even if born there and being native speakers of the local language, often cannot gain full citizenship rights. Even when they do, they remain ghettoized, with few of them attaining positions of prestige and importance within their adopted societies. The majority are warehoused in public housing projects on the outskirts of larger cities, their menial labor of increasing importance to societies that nonetheless look down upon them as outsiders. We saw some of the worst consequences of this in France a couple of months ago.

Is it not unlikely that they might cling to their religion, or some idealized bastardization of it, as one of the few hallmarks of a unique sense of identity? And consider what you can’t quite discern from some of the cartoons in the pictures of the newspaper page. Here’s some written descriptions, with translations:

  • An Arabic looking boy in front of a blackboard, pointing to the Arabic chalkings, which translate into “the editorial team of Jyllands-Posten is a bunch of reactionary provocateurs.” The boy is labelled “Mohammed, Valby school, 7.A,” alluding a Danish second generation immigrant.
  • The most controversial drawing shows Muhammad with a bomb in his turban, with a lit fuse.
  • Another drawing shows Muhammad with a knife and a black beam in front of his eyes. He is flanked by two women in burkas.
  • Muhammad standing on a cloud, greeting dead suicide bombers with "Stop, stop, we ran out of virgins!", an allusion to the promised reward to martyrs.
  • Two angry Muslims charge forward with sabres and bombs, while Muhammad adresses them with "Calm now, friends, all being said, it is just a picture drawn by an infidel Southjute", Jutland being the provincial part of Denmark.
From the perspective of one who might take Islam seriously, it’s not so much the irreverence here as the insouciance that would give offense. Even though the butt of the jokes is not always Muhammad (one, in fact, skewers the original instigator of this controversy, childrens’ book author Kåre Bluitgen as a publicity hound), it’s the offhanded way it’s used that strikes one as understandably rubbing the wrong way. Hah hah, it seems to say, everything’s material. Coming up next, a sitcom about the zany workplace antics of the two guys whose job it was to drop the Zyklon B crystals into the gas chamber.

Throw that out in a society where very few Muslim immigrants have a way of making their voices heard, where one political party has made their continued presence in Denmark a campaign issue, where younger Muslims see a media mirror of their world from which they are conspicuously absent, and it’s hard not to see the whole affair as culturally insensitive, if not willfully so then recklessly.

And we’d like to bet the same thing wouldn’t happen over here. It would generate protests, yes, but it wouldn’t be seen as a way of reminding the underclass who’s boss.

This Sullivan does not get.

UPDATE: Steve Gilliard, of course, does: here and here.

posted by Sully 1/31/2006 11:57:00 AM

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