When I first saw that Iranians were rioting because of the cartoons that ran in a Danish paper depicting the prophet Mohammed in an unflattering manner I was floored. My first reaction was “a bomb-shaped turban isn’t even funny.” My second reaction was “I can’t believe these Iranians are SETTING FIRE TO BUILDINGS because of a cartoon.” That’s an overreaction right up there with the FCC’s response to the “Wardrobe Malfunction” of 2003.
Then came Iran’s less violent response today: “A prominent Iranian newspaper said Tuesday it would hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.”
Wow. Again, my first reaction was “You have got to be fucking kidding me. A contest for HOLOCAUST cartoons? Why not just have a contest to see who can kick a puppy the farthest.” Then I read the following line, explaining the motivation behind the contest, and it gave me pause:
“Does the West extend freedom of expression to the crimes committed by the United States and Israel, or an event such as the Holocaust? Or is its freedom only for insulting religious sanctities?"
In other words, how seriously do we uphold our right to free speech?
In the U.S. there are some things we as Americans have come to understand as “untouchable” in terms of comedy, parody or antipathy, – e.g. slavery, the Holocaust, 9-11, etc. Yes, technically we have the right to say whatever we please concerning these subjects, and certainly there are people who publish their rogue ideas on a small scale. But no serious newspaper would ever consider doing so, and if any serious newspaper ever did, the backlash would drive them into the ground.
My prediction is the Jewish community will respond more civilly than by burning an Iranian flag. And the blame for it coming to this at all rests solely on the shoulders of the Danish newspaper who showed less good judgment than Britney Spears when they first ran the cartoons. I’m sure there are some other political and ethical ramifications involved here, but the fact of the matter here is that no one wins when newspapers run unfunny cartoons, which has pretty much been the case since The Far Side went out of circulation.
Plus my friend Brendan points out the most shocking angle of all:
“After looking at some of the news sites the past couple of days there is one thing I don't get about the Muslim protests around the world. I already knew that they were insane and violent but the one thing I can't figure out is where do they get all those Danish flags to burn? Think about it. We live in NYC, a city filled with people from all over the world, home of the UN and a city with thousands and thousands of stores. Yet if the Danes pissed me off right now, I would have no idea where to go get a flag. But in the Middle East there are people with Danish flags ready for sale at a moments notice, even in places where you can't get basic necessities.”
Now THAT’S funny.