08 February 2006

Muhammed Mouse: Cartoons spark Jihad

"Four killed in cartoon protests". If the reality wasn't so bad, it's a headline you might expect come April 1st. You can just imagine Sir Trevor, were he still reading the news, trying to inject some gravitas into reports of Wile E Coyote blowing up The Simpsons and throwing Porky Pig off a cliff. "Cartoons spark Religious War" is the improbable but accurate headline for what is going on.

They say that there is no such thing as a new idea; merely new combinations of old ideas. That's what this post feels like; sticking together elements of previous posts. We've got a soupcon of religious intolerance, a smattering of ignorance and a big fat dollop of media fuckwittery. But that's the world we live in. We lurch from one faux pas to the next, lifting our foot from one debacle only to put it down in a new one. We'd leave it in mid-air, if only the standing foot wasn't squashing someone's human rights.

There is no safe ground anymore. Society has become self-violating. "Free" is not the absolute it was perceived to be. The only place where you can exercise your freedom of speech is in your room with your pillow over your face. It's like that Gary Larsson cartoon; "If a tree falls in a forest, and it hits a mime, does anyone care?". Similarly, if you voice a contentious opinion, and no-one hears you, have you actually exercised Free Speech, or caused offense? Neither? Both?

Whether the publishing of a craven image was intentional or simply down to ignorance matters little at this stage. Republishing it after it has caused uproar and outrage is just stupid. It goes beyond stupid, but I lack the words to express just how stupid. Billy Connolly was right; there are times when only swear words can convey the complete and total nature of the point one is making. "It's broken" leaves us in doubt as to how broken it is. "It's fucked", while crude, achieves clarity.

So, the medias choice to reprint material they knew would cause offense was fucking stupid. It's like someone saying "It hurts when I do this", to which we inevitably shout WELL STOP DOING IT, YOU IRRETRIEVABLE BERK! Jyllands-Posten can claim ignorance, or pretend it was done to provoke a response to an issue swept under the rug, but every other paper who ran the offending image have fallen into the Jodie Marsh trap. Do something that offends someone (desecrate a religous image, wear nothing but some belts in public) and watch the media fall over itself in a salivating frenzy for the right to print it, full-spread and in colour, so they can point and go "Look at this!", like a prudish, middle-class housewife watching an entire episode of "Pornography: A Secret History" just so they can "tut" for an hour.

The ill deeds perpetrated by the First World in becoming the First World appear to be coming back to haunt us. Like a Catholic priest, whose multifarious progeny appear from the woodwork once word is out, our "right" to abuse those we believe to be beneath us is rightly being punished. The First World is fast becoming a tiny "majority", with the remaining 5 billion the put-upon, vocal "minority". Everytime we rollout a stereotype on TV, or patronise a non-First-World person on the News, our imperial war-mongering and post-war carve-ups are thrust, fizzing, in our face. All we can safely do is be apologetic and print stories about cats up trees and the state of public transport.

I'm not sure what it says about the major religions, but I'm convinced that if Al Jazeera were to run a series of animated cartoons with Jesus "doing" George Dubya, the western world would laugh its collective ass off, probably accompanied by whooping and shouts of "Go, Jesus! Go, Jesus!". That doesn't follow though; the depiction of God and Jesus is allowed, as long as it is tasteful and not profane. Chapel ceilings are a Vatican favourite. However, I don't recall hearing about rioting in the American Midwest the week after I received by email a picture of a fibreglass Jesus, grinning, winking, thumbs up and pointing, which bore the legend "Jesus loves you. Everyone else thinks you're a c**t!".

I think this inter-racial war, real or imaginary, comes down to people behaving how they are treated. If you treat a kid like a kid, they'll behave like a kid. Treat them with respect, like a grown-up, and they'll reciprocate. Similarly, if you treat an entire racial group like they're all potential suicide bombers, then chances are some of them will be, and some more will become them because they have been treated like one. I can see the thought process; "They assume I'm a suicide bomber, so I may as well strike a blow. I've nothing to lose."

Nothing I say here, or in any other post, provides answers. I don't know how to resolve these problems. The problem seems to be that we know what to do, it's just that we don't want to do it. It's like "Don't, under any circumstances, push The Big Red Button".

1 comment:

  1. Good post, I couldn't agree more with the point about the stupidity of republication. Doing it as if to prove that we have free speech is just stupid.