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February 04, 2006

Food for thought

Past its sell-by date, I'm afraid — Sarah Joseph in the Guardian:

Some countries that have reprinted the images — Spain, France, Italy and Germany — have a nasty history of fascism. Just last week we had Holocaust memorial day. The Holocaust did not occur overnight. It took time to establish a people as subhuman, and cartoons played their part. Does Europe not remember its past and the Nazi propaganda of Der Stürmer?

Now the great shape-shifter of fascism seems to have taken on the clothes of "freedom of speech". If these cartoons were designed to provoke Muslim fundamentalists, maybe they have done more to reveal the prejudices of Europe. Europe has a history of turning on its minorities. Will that be its future too?

I always love seeing "freedom of speech" in quotation marks. The implication is that the Danish cartoons were some sort of unintended consequence of that freedom, something wholly unimagined by those who wove it into the fabric of western societies (and the Vatican agrees, naturally), rather than simply the freedom at work.

As I said before, the cartoons are deliberately insulting and have very little to say. I'd say the field of editorial cartooning was demeaned every bit as much by them as was Islam. (I mean, I think I get it: it's Muhammad, and he's got a bomb in his turban… and…?) So protests are fine, as are boycotts. They don't make any damn sense, of course, since there's nothing the Danish government can do about it, but hey — go ahead and burn a Danish flag if you want. Nobody drowns and nobody dies. Burning down embassies is not fine, to state the obvious, is equally nonsensical to boot, and proves the point the ham-fisted Danish cartoonists were trying to make far more eloquently than their doodling ever could.

Posted by Chris Selley at February 4, 2006 09:17 PM

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