First of all there’s the guy in the pig snout. Just fancy – that’s not a cartoon of the prophet, it’s not a cartoon of anyone, it’s not a cartoon at all, and it’s also nothing whatever to do with the prophet, or a different prophet, or any prophet, or Islam, or Muslims, or religion, or satire, or secularism, or free speech, or hate mail, or anything like that. Just fancy – it’s a guy taking part in a pig-squealing contest in France in August last year. My oh my, isn’t that amusing. Apparently what happened is, when the Danish imams were putting together their ‘brochure’ to take to the Middle East to show to the nice officials of the region and get their sympathy and indignation – their hand slipped, and this photo of the guy in costume was blurred and faked up so that it could be taken for a cartoon. In a bad light, by people who didn’t look too closely or think too rigorously, and were being told by some unhappy imams that it had arrived as hate-mail to – um – someone or other in Denmark, at least so they were told, or thought they were told, sort of, maybe, they forget.
Well that’s impressive. Very good. Brilliant. We know most of this indignation and rage has been deliberately worked up by people who wanted it to be worked up, and we know that the putative pig cartoon was by far the most offensive item, and we know that a lot of the indignant enraged people thought the putative pig cartoon was one of the Jyllands-Posten cartoons, and we know that a lot of people have been killed over this. How impressive to know that they died over a picture of a guy in a pig-squealing contest, a farm contest, that is and was not by any stretch of the most paranoid imagination anything to do with them or any of their business. That is and was not in fact what they thought it was, at all. How very impressive. How clever humans can be when they really put their minds to it.
And then there’s Franco Frattini’s revolting capitulation. I’ve been meaning to revile it for days (but there’s been so much reviling to do, you know – it’s a full-time job these days), and the time has come. Who is Frattini – a mole for the Vatican, or what?
Europe’s justice commissioner Franco Frattini has confirmed that voluntary rules are to be drawn up after talks with media bosses, journalists and religious leaders. He told the UK’s Telegraph newspaper that there was a “very real problem” in the EU of balancing “two fundamental freedoms, the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion”.
Horseshit. That’s a very unreal problem, there is no problem, because there is no tension between the freedom of expression and the freedom of religion. None. That’s a completely bogus, sneaking, moleish idea that’s just a subterfuge for forbidding people to say things that (some) believers don’t want to hear. Hey, guess what! Our saying things about your religion does not, repeat does not, interfere with your freedom of religion. Why would it? How could it? Freedom to do or pursue or be involved in something doesn’t entail being free from any possibility of ever encountering any criticism or mockery or skepticism about the something you are involved in, you know. I’m free to eat butter pecan ice cream; it doesn’t follow that someone across town is forbidden to say butter pecan ice cream tastes like stale sardines. Freedom of religion does not entail immunity from criticism! God, it’s so basic, and there are so many fools around who seem convinced of the exact opposite. It’s maddening.
Frattini is appealing for the European media to agree to “self-regulate”. “The press will give the Muslim world the message: we are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression, we can and we are ready to self-regulate that right,” he said.
How’s that for craven and disgusting and contemptible? The press will give the Muslim world the message: we are aware that the loonies among you will pitch violent fits and kill people over certain exercises of the right of free expression, and we’re pissing ourselves with fright, so we’ll do whatever you say, please don’t hit us, we’ll lock up all the women if you like, please don’t hit us, except the women, you can hit them, but please don’t hit us.
Fortunately, the International Federation of Journalists is having none of it – not surprisingly.
“We have already made it clear to Brussels officials that this will be unacceptable to everyone in media and they have agreed to encourage a professional dialogue but not to start drawing up codes or guidelines. That is the responsibility of media professionals alone,” said IFJ general secretary Aidan White.
No faked pig-snout cartoons, no surrender, no imaginary new right to freedom from being ‘offended’. No pasaran.