Sunday, February 05, 2006

ixnay on the lasphemybay

My last post was primarily about freedom of speech - i.e. can newspapers, etc, blaspheme as a matter of right. And, as far as I am concerned they can (the crimes act, of course, begs to differ, but screw the law).

I was, however, silent on the subject of whether in this particular case it was a good idea, or even a laudable thing to do; and in this particular case I think it wasn't a good idea.

Not because of the potential reaction, although a good newspaper should have those things in mind. And most do, if only from the point of view of "will we lose/gain readers because of this?"; but beyond this base level, newspapers should as a matter of good sense not be publishing things like "the accused child molester lives in street X, at number Y, yes, that's right, the white house with the yellow fence - and by the way, 100m down the road is a shop you can buy pitchforks and flaming torches from". It's just not sensible. (There's a valid discussion in here about how much blood would be on the hands of a newspaper that did such a thing, but maybe that's for another day).

No, the primary reason why this isn't laudable or a good idea is that why the events overseas and the debate and conflagration that has ensued are important, the cartoons themselves are not. They're not even very good cartoons and sure as hell aren't all that funny. The primary reason 2 NZ newspapers have published the cartoons seems to be to prove that they can. Which is dumb, since they just as easily could have published an editorial saying: "We can print these, but we choose not to. There is no tangible value in this instance to printing them, except maybe to encourage the National Front, who have been looking very wan and pale lately, and may need a laugh or possibly jobs. Maybe when we get some funny or relevant cartoons we will".

Of course, we can contrast this the recent decision by C4 to continue with their plans to screen the South Park Episode featuring a statue of the Virgin Mary bleeding from it's ass. And here's a full plot synopsis for your blaspheming pleasure. Actually, to be honest, I can't see what the Catholic Church is at angry at. As far as I can see the Virgin Mary (God rest her soul) isn't being insulted - it's the morons who believe that statues bleeding is a miracle of god rather than a scam that are being insulted. But, by definition those folks ain't too smart so it's understandable that they might get a mite confused.

C4 has a right to play the episode. And it will be a good thing when they do. Why? Because it will be bloody funny. And if, in 12 months there's a South Park episode making fun of the Prophet Mohommed then that will be good too, because it will be freaking hilarious. And, what's even better, South Park won't be on a high-horse crowing about how they are defending press freedom against the muslim hordes: they will purely be indulging in the fine art of satire.

So, lesson for today: Muck-raking with pretensions of grandure? bad. Satire? good to the last drop.

Addendum: I should probably point out that I think that it is idiotic to cut trade with countries whose free press publishes the offending cartoons. Um, do you guys need a definition of freedom of press? oooh, here's one. If you want a meaningful and relevant protest, don't buy advertising in those papers. Right? Sorted.

Stupid things people say: This one's from the Pakistan Foreign Ministry:
"We reject the false pretext of freedom of press for publishing these caricatures since freedom of expression does not mean absence of any values, ethics or laws,"
Riiiiight. Someone really needs to go back to their political philosophy class on that one ...

Other People talking about this stuff:
Yellow Peril: Between Mohammed and Monsoon Poon (stolen from Span)
Jack Yan: The Mohammed cartoons—and what they say about western civilization


Jack Yan said...

Frank, thank you for the link. I also agree that if the intent is satire, yes, be free and publish. If the intent is to simply be a bastard to piss some people off, then that is not good.
   You’re right: they aren’t that good as cartoons anyway, and taking a more principled stance would earn a newspaper a lot more respect. It would also make that newspaper a lot more in line with public opinion, where most of us, I am sure, will say: ‘It would be nice to have peace and dialogue with other people.’ Not all of us go through life saying, ‘Man, today I want to piss off some Muslims.’

span said...

Unfortunately some people do seem to have pissing off Muslims at the top of their To Do List lately.

Jack you might want to check out Whale Oil's obsessive postings about the whole thing if you really want to choke on your breakfast:

Very sad indeed.

Jack Yan said...

I found his images of Mohammed interesting and I’ll have to research some more about it, but many of his other posts do seem to be in the “let’s piss off some Muslims today” department. Calling them ‘head-hackers’ is sad (understatement there).

span said...

Yes there has been rather a lot of reference to beheadings. It's a bit like some people only tuned into Farenheit 911 for those 30 seconds.

Jack Yan said...

It’s like that urban myth about beheadings being shown on Al-Jazeera—they never were.

muzzlehatch said...

there's a very interesting post over at

that discusses the conspiracy behind this cartoon fiasco. They were actually published last September, and it appears Saudi Arabia has put their weight behind making it an international incident (now) in order to serve their own agenda.

Jack Yan said...

I’ve finally heard that, too, and that the three extra cartoons were actually added by Muslims blaspheming their own prophet. Still, I stand by my original statements behind the re-publication.