FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Daniel Pipes and the Danish Editor

by JOHN SUGG

Let me tell you a few things about blasphemy. Been there, done it. Got expelled from high school for it.

That was a few decades ago, and for those seeking titillation, I’ll give you the details at the end of this screed. First I have to tell you about a massive propaganda coup. You’ve been had by some of the most bigoted people in the world — and I’m not talking about Muslim fundamentalists.

The big news about blasphemy today is in the Muslim world. A Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September published 12 cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. It took four months for that fuse to reach the powder keg of religious sensibilities — the flame was relentlessly pushed along by the right-wing, neo-conservative press until it exploded. The dumbed-down media depiction was free speech versus intolerant Muslim fanatics. That’s not entirely wrong, just very incomplete. Ultimately, crowds erupted in protests in Muslim cities. The picture of the burning Danish consulate in Beirut is the icon of the day.

I have to admit a severe conflict of principles here. On the one hand, I want to shout: “I am Danish! Cartoons don’t kill, bombs do!” I don’t countenance any prior restraint on freedom of expression, and when I first read of the Muslim outrage over cartoons — such as one depicting Mohammed’s turban as a bomb — I sighed a deep sigh of regret. There’s no dialogue in burning embassies.

Should free speech have constraints? Official censorship is anathema to a free society. Self-censorship and spinning for a regime — a la Fox News — is just as corrosive. On the other hand, I think the media should be very judicious about gratuitous offense. I’m repulsed at such things as artist Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.” And, I feel no need to antagonize Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans or any other religious groups by intentionally creating an affront to their faith. I even have respect for the misbegotten gospel of the (un)Christian Coalition.

That the Muslim world reacted with violence to the cartoons is abhorrent. That Christians have done the same thing — lighting up town centers and hilltops across Europe with flaming heretics and blasphemers — is just as abhorrent. Indeed, the theocratic movement in America, which would enshrine one narrow view of Christ’s teachings as the law of the land, is simply a variation on the Muslim fundamentalists bellowing hatred at Scandinavian businesses and government offices.

There are other caveats that need to be stated: The Muslim world has been under assault from western, Christian crusaders for a thousand years. We’ve colonized and despoiled their lands. Many in America regard their oil as rightfully ours — an underlying if not complete explanation for George Bush’s war of conquest. We’ve carved up the Middle East, overthrown democracies (pre-Shah Iran, for example), and fostered despots to suit the West’s imperial whims. And we wonder why THEY don’t like us, and why THEY take insults from us so seriously.

So, let’s look at the guy who started this whole cartoon escapade. He’s Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper. In all of the Lexis-Nexis database of stories from the American media on the Mohammed cartoons, there is absolutely no mention of the fact that Rose is a close confederate of arch-Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. Indeed, there is almost no context at all about Rose’s newspaper. On a brief mention in the Washington Post gave a hint at a fact desperately needed to understand the situation. The Post described the affair as “a calculated insult … by a right-wing newspaper in a country where bigotry toward the minority Muslim population is a major, if frequently unacknowledged, problem.”

How bad is Pipes? He wants the utter military obliteration of the Palestinians; indeed, from the Muslim world, his racism is about as blatant as that of the Holocaust denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pipes’ frequent outbursts of racism — designed to toss gasoline on the neo-cons’ lust for a wholesale conflict of cultures — earned him a Bush nomination to the U.S. Institute of Peace, a congressionally funded think tank. Rose came to America to commune with Pipes in 2004, and it was after that meeting the cartoon gambit materialized.

It’s also worth noting that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrapped himself in protestations about freedom of speech, and that’s commendable. But he is one of Bush’s few fans in Europe, steeped in the we-versus-them rhetoric, and having sent troops to the Iraqi Crusade.

Is Rose an equal opportunity offender? No way. As the British press reported last week, his newspaper refused in 2003 to run cartoons that ridiculed Jesus. And, of course, free expression in Europe is very relative. Many of the democracies have laws banning certain speech.

Rose gave a rather misanthropic rejoinder to AP when asked about whether he would have published the cartoons in light of the subsequent protests. Rose said: “I do not regret having commissioned those cartoons and I think asking me that question is like asking a rape victim if she regrets wearing a short skirt Friday night at the discotheque.”

That, of course, makes the assumption that women are responsible for being raped. It’s just as fallacious as assuming the Muslim world should passively accept an intentional provocation, one that gratuitously attacked one of the religion’s strictest prohibitions.

Was the reaction overwrought? Absolutely. Was it predictable? Absolutely. Was it an intentional scheme to provoke Arab anger, and thereby engender Western disgust with the Muslim world? The involvement of Pipes and Rose argues that that is exactly what happened.

Now, my confession of blasphemy. In 1963, as an art student in Miami, I was assigned to a safety poster, “Cross at the corner.” I (humorously) depicted a crucified Christ at a Miami street corner looking down very sadly at people doing all sorts of horrible things to each other. My principal wasn’t amused, called me sacrilegious and a blasphemer, and tossed me from school. I got back in — the First Amendment was still alive an well. And, fortunately, none of my supporters (there were quite a few) burned any consulates.

JOHN SUGG is editor of Creative Loafing.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail