In “The Cartoons and the Camel in the Room,” I declared prematurely that one of the media’s central stupidities was to debate how offensive the 12 Jyllands-Posten cartoons really were and whether the barbarians had a case for going berserk.
To debate the contents of the disputed speech, I argued, would be to compromise the bedrock principles of private property rights and freedom of speech. We’d be conceding that the right to ridicule ought to be restricted. Or so I believed.
I was wrong.
It’s imperative to address the substance of the speech being debated because, while clucking about the sanctity of free speech, countless commentators climbed into the Danes. The illustrators were called juvenile, obnoxious, Islamophobic, even immoral. They were accosted for doing nothing to advance enlightened argument; of acting in “terrifically bad taste”; and indulging in “gratuitous provocation, not worthy of publication,” to quote some of the politicians and pundits who trashed them.
It’s odd isn’t it that when some in the West finally find their proverbial male appendages, and stand their ground, other neutered Occidentals condemn them. Patrick J. Buchanan, for example, also found the cartoons immoral and turned on the Danes. It seems that the only Western protest the author of the “The Death of the West” will countenance is conversion to Christianity coupled with an accelerated breeding program.
What was the premise for dubbing mild satire immoral and unenlightened, and inadvertently maligning the innocent illustrators? Other than that the stuff offends Muslims, I see none. And to give offence is not always immoral. It is certainly not immoral to lampoon the connection between Muhammad, author of Islam, and the savagery and atavism that grip the Muslim world today.
More material, satire is a highly civilized and refined way of exposing “folly, vice, or stupidity,” to follow the dictionary. It defines satire as “a literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.”
Pictorially positing a connection between Muhammad and the violence that disfigures the Muslim world is not improper or untoward. I, and many other writers, have instantiated in writing the questions the cartoons posed in pictures. Does that make us immoral and improper?
In a cartoon, a subset of satire, “the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect,” so as to highlight the illustrator’s perspective. It so happens that the cartoons produced only a mildly comic effect, but did not in the least exaggerate the ties between the prophet’s teachings, including the exhortation to Jihad, the example he set, and the unremitting violence that convulses a critical mass of Muslims the world over.
No doubt, some so-called satirical depictions are immoral. Take a caricature posted by a Muslim group of Dutch Holocaust victim Anne Frank in bed with Adolf Hitler. To most decent human beings, a depiction of a victim copulating with her killer qualifies as immoral. If you find it hard to sympathize with a Jewess, think of a parody of Janice Ott in bed with her killer, Ted Bundy. More to the point, how does spoofing the genocide of Jews (or Armenians, Kurds, or Kulaks, for that matter) serve to attack “human vice or folly through irony, derision, or wit,” as the definition goes?
Underpinning Muslim Holocaust humor is the idea that the Jewish genocide is a hoax, perpetrated on the world by a camarilla of scheming shakedown artists. What the creeps in the Holocaust-denying dens of Iran or California are satirizing is the Jew who has used the Holocaust to hold the world hostage.
The swindler of Swindler’s List!
If anything, such cartoons are immoral and improper—and not because they offend Jews, but because they offend a thoroughly documented, easily accessible, objective truth. Still, such speech should be perfectly legal; those who indulge in it free of legal sanctions.
Naturally Jews aren’t going to retaliate. If we were in the habit of running amok every time we were offended—or massacred—the world would be without the pacemaker, streptomycin, the mobile gasoline combustion engine, LASER, incubators, to say nothing of Levi jeans, Barbie, and the shopping cart.
We ought to be grateful as well to the Vikings of the Jyllands Posten. By publishing these caricatures, they helped expose one of the defining issues of our times: speaking and publishing under the threat of death.
Unlike Iranian Holocaust humor, there is no objective reason to label the Danes and their drawings immoral—they have violated Islamic, not Western, strictures. This slur is based on the demands of cultural relativism and cowardice.
©2006 By Ilana Mercer