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Friday, February 03, 2006

Good Thing The Army Doesn't "Rage" Over Offensive Cartoons As Muslims Do

This is how offense taken over an in-very-poor-taste political cartoon is handled in civilized societies. By issuing a press release denouncing it. Not by calling for the death of the cartoonist, his entire civilization and then setting fire to things. I heard Hugh Hewitt discuss his take on this yesterday and have linked to his post reiterating his position. In a nutshell, Hugh sees a contradiction in condemning, for example, the cartoon above or the Joel Stein piece, but at the same time criticizing the Muslim reaction. He also makes the point that offending Muslim sensibilities world-wide does little to advance our efforts in the Middle East. Although I agree with the second prong of his argument, I do not agree with the first. No one to my knowledge has said that Muslims have no right to have taken offense at the cartoons. However I disagree that they were designed with that purpose in mind since they appear to me to be very legitimate geopolitical commentary, and Islam is not just a religion but, to some, a political and societal structure as well. Nevertheless, whether they intended to offend or not I will admit is irrelevant. The point here is with respect to the mode and manner in which we display our ire over mere words or visual depictions we find offensive. Quite obviously many were offended by the Joel Stein piece, and are by the Toles cartoon above. They were, as were the depictions of Mohammed, "unnecessary affronts" as Hugh puts it, but are there ever any "necessary" affronts? More importantly, Hugh seems to be suggesting that we (i.e. the West with its traditions of free speech and personal liberty) put aside perhaps our most cherished core values and, in my view, supplicate ourselves for expediency's sake. [Let me add another, somewhat speculative, point. Islam prohibits as blasphemous any visual depiction of its prophet, on the basis that it will give rise to idolatry. That would include an otherwise objectively neutral depiction. So if there is rage and offense taken to the publishing of an objectively neutral pictorial representation of Mohammed, would Hugh still be arguing the same position? And how do we know that, from a cultural standpoint, the offensiveness isn't simply the mere fact of the depiction of Mohammed?] Again, I don't disagree that these sort of events may make important matters more difficult to manage. However, if we are willing to accommodate the rough and tumble that is endemic to freedom of speech, why should we expect very much less from others who purport to be part of the same world community.

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