Thursday, February 16, 2006

Why I Approve of the Reprinting of the Cartoons

Two entries ago I asked the rhetorical question, what would be the worst that would happen as a result of the competition for Holocaust cartoons in Iran. My suggestions were, an op-ed piece and the filing of a complaint.

Happily, I grossly underestimated the intelligence and creativity of those moved to respond. This is pure genius:

Israeli Anti-Semitic Cartoons Contest

An Israeli publisher has started his own contest for Jewish artists, saying,

We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published! ...No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!

That says so much on so many levels. For one, it reminds us that words and images are not deeds and need not lead to deeds. Those behaving a certain way are responsible for their actions. A cartoon cannot make you burn down an embassy and hate propaganda cannot force you to commit genocide.

Yet, these things happen, and one follows the other.
Perhaps “follow” is the operative word. The Germans who went along with Nazi policy, and the Rwandans who killed their neighbours, did so out of some kind of mass hysteria driven by fear. That’s what the propaganda did – it was a tool used to propagate (same word root) fear and to influence judgment and behaviour. That’s the line between free speech and inciting hatred – the latter requires some willful promotion of actual criminal behaviour such as killing or, as the Canadian Criminal Code puts it, a “breach of the peace”.

Are the Anti-Semitic cartoons that will appear as a result of this contest intended to promote violence against Jews? Of course not – they will be the product of Jewish cartoonists and are intended as a statement, indeed many statements, individual to the specific artists.

Similarly, did the publisher of the Western Standard intend to incite violence against Muslims when he decided to reprint the Danish cartoons? I doubt it – and to my knowledge no violence has resulted, unless you count the outpouring of political correctness on our collective psyche.

I don’t know specifically why Ezra Levant, the Publisher of the Western Standard, made the decision to run the cartoons, and short of inciting hate, it doesn’t really matter. He had every right to do so under Canadian law.

Of course, having the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good idea. Whether printing those cartoons was a good idea is a little more difficult to work out.

There are pros and cons – the obvious pros being assertion of free speech and some self-serving reasons such as increased magazine circulation. The obvious cons are that it may offend and raise questions of consequences to that offense – to our safety and that of Canadian troops.

It’s easy to be nice. It’s easy to be safe. But easy and safe are not always the best strategy for ultimate survival, whether in personal relationships, business, or the world at large.

It’s easy to give in to another’s whims. Why not, it doesn’t really matter to me (whatever the issue is) and it seems to matter a lot to you, so why not humour you?

The trouble is, once humouring becomes a pattern, it leads to the slippery slope of appeasement. You find yourself humouring over bigger and bigger issues and when something comes up that you really can’t countenance (and it will because bullies always try to see how far they can go) - by then you have lost the ability and the will to push back.

Every voice in my head is now arguing, what about respect for other cultures? What about Canada’s multiculturalism?

Well, respect has to go both ways. There is ample evidence out there, which I am not going to cite (but could if anyone wants me to) that Western culture is not much respected by others. That in itself is not a reason for us to disrespect in return – but it is a reason for us to be wary of attempts on the part of others to control how we live and think and speak. And the reaction to these cartoons, so out of proportion according to our values, IS an attempt to control our culture. Taking the easy road of ignoring the furor, hoping it will go away, is appeasement, pure and simple.
This time it is a cartoon that we must not reprint. Next time, what are we going to be expected to accept?

That is why I’m glad that somebody in Canada has taken a stand – now, as opposed to later.

P.S. - Progressive Bloggers, boot me out if you must. Just let me know so I can remove the sidebar link.

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