Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Cartoon Bruhaha Followup

In an earlier post I made the following statement:
There seems not to be a clear consensus about the propriety of publishing the Mohammed cartoons. Hugh Hewitt feels that it was indifferent to the sensitivities of the Islamic world, and points to a political cartoon in the US that offend conservative sensibilities. His point: "...don't cheer the vulgar and the stupid."
I differed with Mr. Hewitt and compared the publishing of the cartoons to the US Navy's "Freedom of the Seas" exercises.

Over at National Review Online, Jonah Goldberg writes about the issue of giving offense:
Personally, I didn't think the cartoons were particularly good. They also seemed to be published out of a desire to offend Muslims. The editors, and many defenders of the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, claim otherwise, saying that they needed to prove there was a climate of fear in Denmark generated by Muslims. So they offended Muslims, and effectively proved, at the least, that there were Muslims eager to generate a climate of fear.

But the issue of "offense" is a distraction too. Let's assume that the publication of the cartoons was motivated entirely by a desire to offend Muslims — or at least some Muslims. How does that change the way we should view events now? If I needlessly offend my neighbor, shame on me. If, in response, he burns down my house and threatens to murder my entire family, who cares what I said in the first place?...

Overreactions are usually about something bigger. The whole point of the "last straw" metaphor is that small things can set off disproportionate reactions. One Muslim protestor in Britain held up a sign saying "Freedom Go To Hell!" Do we really think that a handful of cartoons in Denmark transformed him from a Jeffersonian democrat into a jihadi? Was the holder of the sign "Behead Those Who Insult Islam" a pacifist until recently?

Maybe, just maybe, these guys brought some issues to the table long before they ever heard of these cartoons.

He closes his article with the question of why the U.S. Government has tut-tutted the publication of the cartoons, even though we have a long history of press freedom:

Denouncing the State Department for criticizing these cartoons only makes sense if you look at this situation through a very narrow prism. The U.S. government is fighting a conventional war in two Muslim countries and a clandestine and diplomatic "global war on terror" that involves the entire global Muslim community. I don't like the U.S. picking on little Denmark either, but we should at least recognize that the Bush administration has in mind a bigger picture than those who think this is just about some cartoons.

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