Friday, February 03, 2006

There's A Lesson In Those Cartoons

I have avoided commenting on the Danish Cartoons that have caused an uproarious reaction in the blogosphere, mainly because it seemed like most of the responses from either side of the issue were being based solely on emotion, without much consideration for any given facts. But after reading much of what is being said from all sides of the issue, I feel the need to throw my hat in to the mix of commentary.

You may ask, how can you respond to this kind of an issue with "facts?" And this is a perfectly valid question. For the answer I turn to an ideal that is central to the concept of democracy, and one that makes the American system the beautiful thing that it is: Freedom of speech. This is one distinguishing characteristic that separates a democracy from any other form of government, and it is a cornerstone for a free society. Without it, there could be no truly democratic system.

This matters. It should especially matter to those in the blogosphere who are advocating publication of the cartoons yet seemingly without any acknowledgement of the vulgarity of the cartoons. Although some don't see the cartoons as being very harsh, the truth is that they deeply offend those who they were directed towards. The cartoons were created with the specific intention of attaining a visceral reaction from the Muslims they were aimed at, in an effort to offer some sort of commentary about the religion.

The publication of these cartoons is, of course, perfectly permissible. The views expressed by the cartoons are perfectly allowed by the guarantees of freedom of speech. But that does not mean that we should in any way advocate the publication of these cartoons, approve of them or their message, or view them as anything less than completely distasteful. It also does not mean that we have any right to condemn papers who do not publish these cartoons, as many bloggers have done.

The truth is, the cartoons were very offensive towards Muslisms, and publishing them could provoke unnecessary reactions. At the end of the day, a newpaper is still a business, no matter how you look at it, and if publishing cartoons offensive to Muslims is bad for business, then it is perfectly permissible for a paper to choose not to run the cartoons. However, if a paper does choose to run the cartoons, it must be ready to answer for its choice to do so, and it must be prepared to deal with any anger that could potentially ensue.

Furthermore, if a paper publishes somethign that is offensive, there are proper ways to display the anger it may cause some to feel. Reactions like this and statements like these are completely unwarranted. A free society allows for dissent and disagreement, that is one of its beauties. Responding to the opinions of others with pure hatred and calling for them to be beheaded is not what marks a free society.

Again, we do not have to accept these opinions, or even condone them, but we must allow them to exist in our democratic society. So when many bloggers were rightly outraged by Joel Stein's attack on the military and by Tom Toles' utterly distasteful jab at wounded soldiers, they should be eqaully upset about cartoons created with the specific intent of provoking Muslims.

We are not at war with the Muslim world, but with the Islamofascists who place no value on innocent life. Deliberately offending Muslisms must be viewed as reprehensible, and it is detrimental to our relationship with our Muslim allies in the Middle East.

So while those who hold to radical beliefs that drive them to create distasteful cartoons intended to offend must have their right to do so protected, they do not deserve support or recognition of any kind.