Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Freedom of expression
For an interesting debate between Asad Abu Khalil and Irshad Manji, visit today's Democracy Now or go to this link for audio and video.
Today, for the first time, I heard about a cartoon other than the turban/bomb. Apparently in one of the cartoons, a pig stands upon a copy of the Qur'an. I'm trying to figure out how that ranks as political insight. Imagine a cartoon depicting a pig walking upon a Star of David appearing in a Western paper. That would offend me, and rightly so. I removed a link I had on the Bro-Log because it led to a book whose title was, in my opinion, anti-Jewish. So I'm glad we don't have many examples of anti-Jewish content showing up in Western media. But slights or slurs against Muslims (and I'm not a Muslim) are so routine that most of them pass by without us even noticing them. Ditto the depiction of Afrikans.
This whole affair is upsetting for numerous reasons, from Western hypocrisy and incitement to hatred to the manipulation by Arab and Muslim governments of their own populations (away from existing civil and human rights outrages domestically) to foreign (and genuinely offensive) cartoon content. Obviously it's only a minority here in the West who would publish such material, and it's only a minority overseas who would make inexcusable death threats or commit violence.
To me, it boils down to the maxim of what responsible journalism should do: comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Governments and corporations and abusive religious authorities and any other destructive group deserve to be taken to task for their crimes. And populations under oppression deserve to be defended.
The problem, the crisis in comprehension, is that sometimes there is overlap between the two cases I just cited, which is why so few people seem to have a balanced or nuanced gut response to the Israel/Palestine conflict, or to any number of other seemingly intractible crises. Imagine a world in which we tried to help people... no more death penalty, no more child abuse, no more "honour killings", no more sweatshops or union-busting, no more slave labour, no more incitement to hatred, no more religious coercion... and instead, cooperation and respect....