Iranian Free Expression, Such As It Is

In the “Totally Not Surprising” category:

A prominent Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide against Jews as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.

A newspaper in Iran — run by allies of that country’s Jew-hating current president — printing cartoons that might possibly be anti-Jew? Who thought we would ever see that day?

Christ, this is boring already. Speaking in my capacity as Official Spokesman for The West®, I think Iranian newspapers — particularly ones run by pals of the current president of Iran — should go ahead and run any sort of dumbass Holocaust cartoons they want to. Indeed, I celebrate the right of Iranian newspapers to run whatever the hell they want. This is, alas, more than can be said about the Iranian government, whose grip on the press in that country is so total that the 2005 Reporters Without Borders Annual World Press Freedom Index has Iran listed 163rd in a field of 167 (a field in which Denmark, incidentally, ranked number one).

One can hope that when the allies of Iran’s president are enjoying their refreshing little taste of “free expression,” they might consider asking their pal for a little more genuine freedom of the press while they’re at it. But, you know. I’m not exactly holding my breath for that one. Because then the people who run the paper probably wouldn’t remain pals of the president of Iran. And we all know how problematic that can be. But in my capacity as Official Spokesman for The West®, I certainly hope they give it a try.

And of course I certainly hope someone who actually is a spokesman for The West® remembers to ask Iran when it plans to give its newspapers the ability to run actual news, as well as Jew-hating cartoons. Let’s see if that makes it into the Iranian newspapers, particularly the ones owned by the allies of the president. I wouldn’t be holding my breath for that, but I’m already busy not holding my breath for something else. So I invite you not to hold your breath for that in my stead.

25 thoughts on “Iranian Free Expression, Such As It Is

  1. Quite how publishing offensive cartoons in an Iranian newspaper is going to test freedom of expression in The West® eludes me. I suppose it could test the freedom of Iranian newspapers to indulge in a bit of Jew-baiting, were that freedom in doubt.

    Now publishing such cartoons in Denmark would test the freedom of expression in The West (or at least those parts of The West that are in Denmark). But I suspect Denmark has its own Ernst Zundels carrying out such experiments already.

    I think we could do without experimentation on the limits of freedom of expression and on just how offensive various forms of Muslim- Jew- and Christian-baiting are. Unfortunately Hamshahri is probably not going to show restraint, and Jyllands-Posten has already put their foot in it. I am suprised just how intense the reaction is, but Jyllands-Posten were not ignorant that their acts would be very offensive.

  2. That’s what they said about images of Muhammed, and yet it didn’t stop the Danes!

    Yes, well, in this case I don’t think the Danes are being good role models.

  3. Well, yet another example of the absolute cluelessness of the Islamic fundies when it comes to the West in general, and the US in particular. We have, sad to say, passed that particular test, more than once.

    If you work in law enforcement or civil liberties law for any lenght of time at all you will become aware of a booming neo-facsist cottage publishing industry that probably makes anything the Iranians can come up with in the anti-Semitic line look like amature hour. Not to mention Nazi rallies in Stokie and the like.

    And if no one stops them, these idiots are going to become members of the nuclear club.

  4. I suspect strongly someone will stop them, and that they will probably have Stars of David on their jet fighters.

  5. I suspect strongly someone will stop them, and that they will probably have Stars of David on their jet fighters.

    :Sigh: Yes. And that will do wonders to the state of Israeli-Muslim relations. But what the heck else are the Israelis supposed to do? Nothing? That’s also a really bad option. Diplomacy? That be nice if it works. I really, really hope it works. :sigh:

  6. What is hilarious is the belief that this little stunt will cause anything other than amusement at the sheer, utter, not-getting-it-ness of it all.

    I wonder if these guys will learn anything when they discover that massive conniption fits, complete with fires and threats of violent death are not the inevitable consequence of offending people.

    Honestly, do they REALLY think we’re quaking in our boots dreading the onsought of OFFENSIVES CARTOONS ?!

    Pathetic squared.

    Times a hundred.

    Plus infinity.

    By the way, I am really digging Old Man’s War. You can thank Mr. Reynolds (and the author, of course.)

  7. Can anybody give me the actual address of an actual site that has the actual cartoons? The twelve that are pissing everybody off? I can’t believe I still can’t find them anywhere.

  8. Yeah, seriously. Not that great. If I was being lynched by a bloodthirsty mob in another country, I’d at least like to think the free world had managed to have a good laugh, at my expense.

    Wait that’s not true…I’d be thinking about my mommy.

  9. I don’t find any of them particularly interesting, to be entirely truthful about it.

    Aye, me either. What *I* find offensive is that the intent seems to have been to offend Muslims. The claims of Jyllands-Posten otherwise ring a bit hollow to me, and their excuses strike me as lame. What the jackasses burning down buildings and calling for executions find offensive is probably a bit different.

  10. What *I* find offensive is that the intent seems to have been to offend Muslims.

    Certainly seems that way. But I’m more offended that the Danish couldn’t find a way to be offensive and funny at the same time. Actual Mohammed Jokes. Rather than just… you know… graven images that offend their morality.
    http://vito-excalibur.livejournal.com/84118.html
    (caution: this link connects to graven images of Mohammed, Jesus, and Shiva… drinking, playing cards, and being snarky)

    But I suppose Political Cartoons have a long history of not being actually funny. *shrug*

  11. Iran’s response to print anti-semitic cartoons is almost an exact reprise of the old Soviet political freedom joke:

    An American and a Russian citizen discuss political freedom in their respective countries.

    The American says to the Russian “I am free to stand in any public square in Wahington DC and yell ‘The President of the United States is an idiot!’ and no one will arrest me.”

    The Russian replies “I, too, have this freedom. I can stand in any public square in Moscow and yell ‘The President of the United States is an idiot!’ and no one will arrest me.”

  12. Two generals are bragging on their armies, one Russian and one American.

    “Our troops get a thousand calories a day,” said the Russian.

    “Ours get TWO thousand a day,” replied the American.

    “Impossible,” said the Russian. “No one can eat that much cabbage in one day.”

  13. “A prominent Iranian newspaper says it is going to hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West will apply the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide against Jews as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed.”

    The newspaper will call this special event “Thursday.”

  14. “I suspect strongly someone will stop them, and that they will probably have Stars of David on their jet fighters.”

    That would be interesting, as they’d have to fly by the US armed forces to do so. Of course, the planes would be American-made, so they might get away with it.

    Or the Israelis could always use their own nukes, although that wouldn’t solve the fly-through-the-Americans angle until they develop a rocket.

  15. What *I* find offensive is that the intent seems to have been to offend Muslims.

    Yeah, well, they’re testing the limits of free speech. It’s all well and good to *think* you have the right to free speech, but if you don’t actually go out and test it out once in a while for fear of offending someone – well, that’s an awful lot like your right to speech is restricted, innit?

    Here’s my take on what newspapers should be printing next

  16. Let em publish whatever they want. In fact, sent the cartoons to some of the best and brightest, the funniest jewish standups and comedy writers working in the United States. Let them have a crack at it. Something perhaps the muslims could have done.

    “You call this a cartoon of the Prophet? My six year old son could draw a better cartoon of the Prophet…if he were allowed too, that is.”

  17. Wade, as I understand it, the Jyllands-Posten originally solicited cartoons of Mohammed for the harmless (if naive) purpose of putting out a book on Islam for kids. Only after many of the artists they asked to submit refused–on the grounds that their lives would likely be risked–did the newspaper decide to “test” the response of the local Muslim population to various depictions of their Prophet. (Andrew Sullivan has been going on quite a bit about this background.)

    At least since the casual butchering of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, many Europeans have been extremely alarmed by just how lethal offending the Muslims in their midst has really become. I don’t, in other words, think the Danish paper was being prankish or gratuitously insulting. I think they intended to inspire a healthy public debate about free speech vs. religious intolerance.

    Being offended without responding violently, after all, is something every adult must learn eventually. (Or learn to appreciate instead the secret joys of long-term incarceration.) And what’s the earliest and most effective mechanism for teaching that basic civic lesson in restraint? Being mercilessly teased as a child–often about the very things you’re most sensitive about.

  18. BTW, if you use WordPress, why not use “Spam Karma 2″ together with with “Bad Behavior”? It’s a proven spam-stopper combination of free plug-ins. Also, Textile (the free WordPress plug-in) is nice for formatting.

  19. Lewis wrote:

    Yeah, well, they’re testing the limits of free speech. It’s all well and good to *think* you have the right to free speech, but if you don’t actually go out and test it out once in a while for fear of offending someone – well, that’s an awful lot like your right to speech is restricted, innit?

    Nope. You’re right to free speach isn’t being restricted, your speach is–by the rules of politeness. Same end point: restricted speach; but different journey. That may be a bit hair-splitting, but many restrictions on speach are legitimate. Some are legal: no incitement to violence, slander, libel. Some are moral: politeness, truthfulness. Some are in the social and economic arenas: criticism, boycotts. And some are in the arena of conflicting right: no incitement to violence, censorship in private media (no spamming this blog!). Now there can certainly be arguments over exactly where the lines should lie, but if you’re saying that we shouldn’t worry about politeness, well I disagree.
    And to be clear, I think that what Jyllands-Posten did have the right to publish what they did. The Danish police appearently agree.

    dan dragna wrote:

    Wade, as I understand it, the Jyllands-Posten originally solicited cartoons of Mohammed for the harmless (if naive) purpose of putting out a book on Islam for kids. Only after many of the artists they asked to submit refused–on the grounds that their lives would likely be risked–did the newspaper decide to “test” the response of the local Muslim population to various depictions of their Prophet. (Andrew Sullivan has been going on quite a bit about this background.)

    Ah, that’s not quite the story I heard: The story I heard is that a Children’s author (not Jyllands-Posten) had difficulty finding illustrators because they feared for their safety. Now that is an important story. As for the motivation of Jyllands-Posten, their claimed motivation is to demonstrate to Muslims that they must be ready for insults, mockery and ridicule in a secular society. (I’m relying on the incomplete translation in the wikipedia article). Frankly, I don’t buy it, and even if I did I don’t think Danish Muslims need that demonstrated. Now some Danish Muslims have not been convinced that violence is not an appropriate response, but I don’t see where the article helps there.

    At least since the casual butchering of Theo Van Gogh in the Netherlands, many Europeans have been extremely alarmed by just how lethal offending the Muslims in their midst has really become. I don’t, in other words, think the Danish paper was being prankish or gratuitously insulting. I think they intended to inspire a healthy public debate about free speech vs. religious intolerance.

    Perhaps. And that debate may occur. But inciting a backlash was not a good way to do it. And while some of the reaction has been completely inappropriate, Jyllands-Posten could not have been ignorant of the offence they might cause. I do agree with Andrew Sullivan though that there is “simply no equivalence between people who merely want to publish and people who use the veiled threat of violence to intimidate them.” I hope we can all agree here that threatening (and offering) violence in response to cartoons, no matter how offensive, goes way beyond merely being offensive.

    Being offended without responding violently, after all, is something every adult must learn eventually. (Or learn to appreciate instead the secret joys of long-term incarceration.) And what’s the earliest and most effective mechanism for teaching that basic civic lesson in restraint? Being mercilessly teased as a child–often about the very things you’re most sensitive about.

    Heh, I learned restraint in socializing with my brothers. I learned lack of restraint in one schoolyard because the authorities allowed merciless teasing, and that’s a really shitty situation to be in when you’re in forced captivity with bullies. In that situation violence is a good solution. (Posturing is better, but not always effective). I’ve encountered quite a number of people on the Internet who have no sympathy for bullies being gunned down in school by their victims; merciless teasing does real harm. I’ve been quite fortunate to escape relatively unscathed, and to not have been in such a situation for the past decade. Fortunately, the schools are now taking bullying seriously around these parts (Ontario). BTW, the United States is vying with Russia for the highest incarceration rate in the world. It seems your children are not learning restraint: it’s not just pot smokers in your prisons.

  20. Andrew Wade,

    Sorry for dropping your first name in my previous post, and thanks for clarifying the origin of those Danish cartoons.

    I do think, however, that whether Jyllands-Posten decided to publish their cartoons because of the fears expressed by artists they themselves solicited, or instead because of the fears expressed by artists solicited by someone else, is a peripheral matter.

    The heart of the matter–since we seem to agree that every paper ought to have the legal right to publish whatever cartoons they see fit without fear of physical injury–is whether newspapers, along with every other medium of expression, ought to censor their own journalistic and artistic speech in deference to the religious sensitivities of others.

    You apparently think they should.

    And since I’m sure you aren’t suggesting that Islamic beliefs alone should be granted this politeness exception to criticism and satire, you must also disapprove of films like Martin Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” etc., and prefer that they too had never been made. And feel similarly antagonistic toward Ron Howard’s upcoming film “The DaVinci Code.”

    For those of us, myself included, who strongly disagree with your preference for a society devoid of religiously insensitive expression, I suspect we’re worried about waking up to the alternative. Let’s call it Wade’s World.

    Wade’s World is a safe, self-censorious kingdom ethically cleansed of the religiously indelicate and the theologically objectionable. A twilight land inhabited by the bashful, inoffensive, perhaps even pious, creative shades of the once visceral, often secular, button-pushing, border-tresspassing, profane–even, shiver, outrageous–novelists and musicians and poets and painters and filmmakers and cartoonists that many of us take for granted today.

    The commonwealth equivalent of some mannered Co-Op or somnolent retirement community. (Hmm…why might I be thinking of Canada about now?) A perfectly pleasant place to die perhaps, or even visit on occasion as a change of pace, but not a place I’d really want to live in.

  21. dan dragna,

    Andrew Wade,

    Sorry for dropping your first name in my previous post, and thanks for clarifying the origin of those Danish cartoons.

    No problem.

    I do think, however, that whether Jyllands-Posten decided to publish their cartoons because of the fears expressed by artists they themselves solicited, or instead because of the fears expressed by artists solicited by someone else, is a peripheral matter.

    Normally I’d agree, but it does bear on what their intent likely was, and that’s relevant when we’re judging them.

    The heart of the matter–since we seem to agree that every paper ought to have the legal right to publish whatever cartoons they see fit without fear of physical injury–is whether newspapers, along with every other medium of expression, ought to censor their own journalistic and artistic speech in deference to the religious sensitivities of others.

    You apparently think they should.

    Yup. That about sums it up.

    And since I’m sure you aren’t suggesting that Islamic beliefs alone should be granted this politeness exception to criticism and satire, you must also disapprove of films like Martin Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ,” Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” Monty Python’s “Life of Brian,” etc., and prefer that they too had never been made. And feel similarly antagonistic toward Ron Howard’s upcoming film “The DaVinci Code.”

    The Last Temptation of Christ — Never seen it.
    Passion of the Christ — Never seen it, but I have read reviews. The “blame the Jews” theme sounds unnecessary and not particularly accurate to history. Neither do I think the Crucifiction was central to the life of the Christ, though others disagree and that’s ok. So no I don’t think it should have been made.
    Life of Brian — It would be a shame if this one was never made; it is a funny movie. But it is also offensive. I wouldn’t bring it to just anyone’s movie night.
    The DaVinci Code — Never seen it.

    For those of us, myself included, who strongly disagree with your preference for a society devoid of religiously insensitive expression, I suspect we’re worried about waking up to the alternative.

    That’s not what I said. There’s a large middle ground between complete insensitivity to religious sensitivities, and complete (self-)censorship of anything objectionable (as if that’s even possible). I lie somewhere in it. I suspect you do too. Where we disagree is on where in that middle ground we should be.

    … The commonwealth equivalent of some mannered Co-Op or somnolent retirement community. (Hmm…why might I be thinking of Canada about now?)

    Heh. You found me out, I am, in fact, Canadian. And it is a pleasant place to live. But we do enjoy a good laugh and a good debate as much as anyone else: in fact a great many of America’s comics are Canadian.

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