Crappy Cartoons and Burning Flames:
If, say, in the middle of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen, Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark unveiled a giant bronze statue of Mohammed on his knees getting teabagged by a smiling, standing Jesus Christ as throngs of gathered Danes, all hoisting sugary Danishes in the air, sang, "There Is a Lovely Land" before they pelted Mohammed and his scrotum-filled mouth with thousands of sticky buns, well, shit, okay, then we'd have something to talk about.
But the thuggery that's being done allegedly in the name of a few shitty sketches of Mohammed published in a Danish newspaper is smoke and mirrors, a bullshit blow-up over a few bullshit cartoons that a bunch of bullshit opportunists used to create bullshit advantage to their bullshit causes. Such utter nonsense, because not only are the cartoons themselves six months old, but Mohammed's kisser's been "depicted" since, you know, say, the start of Islam. So, hey, hush, don't let anyone know that Mohammed's one of the Super Best Friends on South Park or they might start burning Cartman in effigy.
The majority of the riots went something like this: Some idiot with a megaphone yells how everyone needs to show how much they love them some Mohammed. One guy tells another guy in the protest crowd that he loves Mohammed more. Guy 1 says, no; in fact, he loves Mohammed more. Guy 2 says oh, yeah, he'll show you how much he loves Mohammed, and Guy 2 breaks a window. Guy 1 says, fuck you, fucker, he'll show you how he loves Mohammed more, and launches a Molotov cocktail through the broken window. Guy 3 announces that there's shit to steal and all hell breaks loose, as man with megaphone looks on proudly. This is not to mention whoever sent megaphone man out there in the first place.
Oh, but Rude Pundit, you left out freedom of speech and the right of a free press to blah, blah, blah, some might say. Oh, but Rude Pundit, you left out cultural relativism and the respect of others and imperialism and oppression of the West and blah, blah, blah, others might chime in.
Here's the deal: in America, right now, the American Family Association, whose protests helped the NBC program Book of Daniel fail, got the network to drop its planned storyline in an episode of Will and Grace with Britney Spears as a conservative Christian TV host whose cooking segment is called "Cruci-fixins." The Family Research Council got the Department of Health and Human Services to delete any pages that asked for acceptance of homosexuals to help lower substance abuse and suicide rates among them. Some pencil-pusher in the Bush administration is tellin' NASA scientists that they have to call the Big Bang a theory so as to not offend the intelligent design lovers, who have so much science on their side. And let's not even get into the whole morning after pill controversy, or a thousand other scientific policy decisions that have been manipulated or forced by the fear of offending the religious right in America, the power of faith over reason.
Oh, but no riot, right? Maybe not yet, but ask yourself: how much of a nudge would the nutzoid zealot mob outside of Terri Schiavo's clinic have needed before shit started being torched like scared villagers outside of Frankenstein's castle? Hell, some crazed cunts were calling for armed intervention.
It's all about exploitation. Whether it's Donald Wildmon, James Dobson, Tony Perkins, or whoever, someone's gonna be there to manipulate people into believin' that their god is so much fuckin' bigger than everyone else's. Behind almost every action where someone's wielding a Bible or a Koran or Dianetics, there's someone who wants money and/or power, and he or she is gonna convince the least among them that their really big god needs him some lovin' and obedience by everyone goin' a little bugfuck insane.
There's always a spark - shitty cartoons, icky queers, whatever - but behind any kind of mass action are always the same things: poverty, isolation, opportunism. For what is a riot but an expression of complete and utter frustration and disempowerment, a cry out that larger issues of oppression have overwhelmed a population. In this case, that frustration is with the West (and, let's say, and why not, the patriarchal Middle Eastern policies of the White House), as well as within each nation.
At its base, cultural relativism says two things: "When in Rome, don't be a fuckin' idiot" and, when we're all in the same damn country, "Respect, man." But that's a two-way street. You wanna have a conversation? Let's have a conversation. How's this: the Rude Pundit doesn't give a rat's ass if you wanna wear a veil in America and not speak English, but he has the right to say that the treatment of women in many Middle Eastern countries is fucked up and wrong. There. Now we got us a conversation. As Nat Hentoff has said (among others), the only way to fight speech is with more speech. Of course, the European Union, in a mighty stand for freedom of the press, is looking into a "media code of conduct" to punish anyone who might offend.
What's more patronizing? To tell another culture to catch the fuck up to the 21st century? Or to say that another culture is incapable of dealing with the rhetoric of the big ol' West so we should watch what we say around the children? Don't have an answer, man, not today.
Well, shit, at least this time it ain't the Jews.
One final note: there's a world of difference between depicting Mohammed with a bomb-turban and drawing a limp-wristed gay guy or a googly-eyed African American. Islam is a faith. It's a belief. It is a pile of fictions, like every other faith, and as such is different from race or sexual orientation. No, that's not a practical stance in this era of internecine religious battles, as well as the clash of cultures. Standing for freedom ain't a pretty or, as the ACLU has learned, popular thing. But if you wanna draw Moses and Buddha roughly fucking Christ's crucifixion wounds, then so be it. There's plenty enough pictures of Jesus not getting his wounds fucked.
Blogger's goin' down fer about an hour at 10 p.m. Eastern. Can't wait fer the conspiracy theories about Atrios, etc. bein' gone fer a bit.