Think twice before mocking

I don’t entirely agree with Julian here. (Maybe all the commenters have said what I’m going to say; I don’t read comments at Comment is Free any more and haven’t read these. If they’ve already said this just go watch Sarah Palin re-runs or something.)

The piece is about religion and mockery and free speech and the predictability of what people say about them.

But isn’t mockery good, and any belief system incapable of putting up with it deficient in some way? That’s true, but you can’t just ignore the background against which lampooning takes place. Christians, for example, are not oppressed, despite what some wannabe martyrs would have us believe. British Muslims, in contrast, are a somewhat beleaguered minority. We should think twice before mocking them because, while comedy speaking truth to power is funny, the powerful laughing at the weak is not.

Of course, but that is to conflate two issues: mockery of Christians and Muslims, and mockery of Christianity and Islam. I don’t think I’ve spent much time and energy, if any, saying we shouldn’t be told not to mock Muslims. I have spent a lot of time and energy saying we shouldn’t be told not to mock Islam, or any other religion or any other set of ideas. I think there’s a big difference. I don’t much want to mock beleaguered minorities, but I also don’t want to extend that to holding the beliefs or the ideas of beleaguered minorities sacrosanct. That’s especially true given the fact that within any beleaguered minority there are of course people with more power and people with less power, and the people with more power may well use beliefs and ideas to justify their own power. That is in many ways true of people in the beleaguered minority known as Muslims.

There can of course be cases in which mockery of a religion or set of ideas is a way to mock the people who hold them. But even so, I think it’s important to make the distinction, and to keep it in mind.

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