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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Sense and Sensitivity

Kinsella directs us to this statement by the Canadian Jewish Congress re: the "cartoon controversy" as reflective of his views.

Fair enough. But honestly, what is freedom of expression in a free society if it doesn't inherently protect the right to publish material (cartoons!) that are "inexcusably provocative, insensitive and disrespectful of Muslim believers." Who defines what is inexcusable exactly? Where is that bright line between tastlessness, humour, and indignant offence? Who is to draw it? Does it mean forsaking Dante?

Look. I too "commend Canada’s Muslim community for the civility with which it has protested". The right to protest, peacefully, is equally enshrined in our society. Expected, even, against portrayals of your identity you find offensive and prejudicial.

But why does it follow that mere drawings can be used as an excuse to go off the deep end? Consider this contrast of Bruce Bawer's:
When artists bait Christians, the Christians (at most) wave signs and send out
press releases. When Danish Muslims saw the Muhammad cartoons, they went
ballistic.
In Kinsella's original post on this issue (scroll to Feb. 5th), he mentions a band named "Tit Fuck Me Jesus". He concedes some may find this offensive. Is he calling for the censoring of the name? It's unclear - but it strikes me that his answer is probably no. And the double standard of calling for "sensitivity" instead of "sense" in that case is revealing.

Freedom of expression means nothing unless it involves the tough cases - the provocative, the disrespectful. The wonder of an open society is that we can make it work.

6 Comments:

Blogger Jason Cherniak said...

I felt the same way when I first read MacKay's statement yesterday. I think there is a distinction that we all need to make, though.

I support the right of papers to print what they want. As a result, I oppose any "apology" from anybody other than the paper. However, I also support the right of people to feel offended and demand an apology. I think the papers, although they had the right to print the cartoons, shoud not have done so and should now apologize for causing offence.

9:07 PM  
Blogger The Tiger said...

A coerced apology?

I think people apologize too darned much in North America.

Here's mine: I apologize on behalf of my two countries, neither of which had a single person in their official governmental capacity who was willing to make a statement of unqualified support for the principle of freedom of expression.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Clearcut Blogging said...

Is this issue about the right to free speech, or is it about violence?

If I don't like what your newspaper prints, I can protest, put up a sign on my front lawn, picket your office, write naughty poems about you, or arrange a boycott of your advertisers. But I can't spray-paint your office windows, slash car tires in your parking lot, smash your newspaper boxes, and threaten you.

That's a rational distinction. But I think people in "hot head" countries have lost their grip on rationality.

Whereas Europe has lost some of its grip on wisdom. I may have the right to dress in a G string when I go to a bar. But how wise is it? There is a time and a season for exercising your rights. This wasn't it.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Simon Pole said...

Ahab, your goal is an "open society":

The wonder of an open society is that we can make it work.

How can a society be open if the cultures of its minorities are vulnerable to ridicule in the spirit of put-downs, not dialogue?

Though, perhaps I misunderstand what you mean by "open society."

5:04 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Bruce Bawer clearly missed that the Danish Mulsim community did protest peacfully last September when the cartoons first ran. Sicne a peaceful protest wasn't what they wanted, the paper chose to run them again, and this time encourage other Eurpopean papers to join in.

Now if that isn't a provocative slap in the face to Muslims in Europe, I don't know what is. does it excuse violence? No, but it sure makes it understandable.

That Danish paper has the reaction it wanted. What is it going to do now? I'm guessing beyond selling a few more papers they did not consider (or care to consider) that far ahead.

And really this is not about cartoons, its about 4 1/2 years of persecution of Islam in the West - renditions to foriegn countries, Gitmo, Iraq, hassles on the streets etc. I suspect that if Christians were subjected to this kind of intense, focused harassment for years, they might react to a cartoon of Jesus in a not so friendly position.

The cartoon was the trigger, the straw that broke the camel's back. The idiots throwing petrol bombs and demanding jihad are not doing so because of cartoons in an obscure Christian newpaper in Denmark, but because of bobmed villages and wedding parties, because of harrasment by the police in their own counties, because of people held inncommunicado without charge or trial, being tortured and force fed on a modern gulag by they supposed defenders of freedom and Liberty.

This is not about a stupid cartoon.

10:43 AM  
Blogger The Tiger said...

The trouble here, James, is that there are an awful lot of people who seem to be convinced that you can limit free speech without, well, limiting free speech.

There's a desire for an "open" society in which certain matters are simply not open for discussion. An apparent endorsement of the principle of freedom of expression invariably followed by everyone's favourite three-letter conjunction.

***

So I'm especially glad to see you on the side of the angels.

1:49 PM  

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