Imaginary Offense and Real Censorship
So it turns out that Sacranie isn’t all that gleeful after all. Or perhaps he is but thinks it politic to pretend not to be. Or perhaps he is but wants to throw his weight around some more anyway – yes that could be it, that seems to fit.
The Muslim Council of Britain told the BBC News website: “We have not received any complaints about this piece of artwork. We would have preferred to have been consulted by Tate Britain before the decision was taken to remove John Latham’s piece. Sometimes presumptions are incorrectly made about what is unacceptable to Muslims and this can be counter-productive.”
Ah – is that what you would have preferred. Is it really. Yes well I would have preferred to have been consulted by a great many people about a great many things before they did them. Gosh, that would be a long list. Crap books, ugly houses, crap movies, stupid policies, ugly clothes, silly names. But oddly enough people mostly don’t consult me before they do things. Maybe if I started a Council they would? I’d better get busy and do that then. Let’s all start Councils so that everyone will have to consult everyone before doing anything. Let’s just spend all our time asking various assorted groups and ‘communities’ for permission to write anything, say anything, think anything, sculpt anything, act anything, tease anything. Let’s devote every bit of our time and energy to pre-emptive consulation and judgment and permission-seeking and no-saying and offence-taking and sensitivity-respecting, and that way we’ll never have to actually do or produce anything and pretty soon we’ll all starve to death or die of boredom and everything will be fine.
But really. The self-importance of that statement is pretty remarkable. The assumption that the MCB knows ‘what is unacceptable to Muslims’ and is the bod to consult on the subject, when in fact lots of Muslims find the MCB itself ‘unacceptable.’ And the BBC’s continued ongoing fostering of that very assumption by itself ‘consulting’ the MCB. And of course even more, the calm, smug, authoritarian assumption that Muslims or any religious group should be able to tell a secular national museum what not to display.
It’s all meme-work, self-fulfilling prophesy, thought-shaping. The more the MCB is treated as coterminous with ‘Muslims’ the more the MCB gets to shape what all but consciously skeptical or rebellious Muslims do think. And the more institutions defer to predicted ‘offended’ ‘sensitivities’ the more sensitive people will think they ought to be offended by everything. And the more institutions like theatres and museums (and no doubt publishers) censor themselves in advance, as a precaution, just in case, because oh dear you know maybe – the more emptied-out everyone’s mental world will become.