Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Stupid Is as Stupid does

No one ever said the world was filled with smart people, or that smart people always made smart decisions. This is an example of one of those situations where the person who decided to do this was either just not thinking, or just plain dumb.

A newspaper in Iran is planning on running a "holocaust cartoon competition" similar to the Danish newspaper's Mohammad cartoon competition that sparked off riots and violence around the Muslim world (Iran paper plans Holocaust cartoons). The holocaust cartoon competition will ask participants to draw cartoons of the event of the world largest genocide (Iran Leader Denounces Prophet Cartoons).

Can the Iranian newspaper run the competition? Sure. I is wrong, offensive and stupid, but freedom of press is elemental and as I said about the Danish Cartoons, as offensive and stupid as I find the whole thing, I still defend the freedom of expression. That does not change just because it is of the holocaust and not Mohammad.

Here is were things get just plain stupid.

First, the newspaper is owned by the municipality, which means, it is a state run newspaper. It is not independent and free, but part of the government. How much editorial independence does the newspaper have? I honestly have no idea, but my guess is that it is even less independence than the National Review has (wingnuts... that was a joke... settle down).

Second, and even more importantly, even if they publish these cartoons all over the Islamic world. You will not see riots in Denmark and France (Danish mission in Beirut torched). I will stake my entire net worth that there will be no New York Jews storming the Iranian consulate here and torching the place (Cartoon Protests Stoke Anti-American Mood - Three Killed). There will be now death decrees ordered by Rabbis (Cleric demands cartoonists' death). There will be outrage, there will be indignation, and there will be hurt to those who actually suffered the horrors of genocide. But there will be no violence. The after effect of this will only go to prove that Muslim culture is out of control.

It is also saying to the world that Iran is willing to whine, but not live up to its own rhetoric. If what the Danish newspaper did was so wrong, what makes it right for them to do it, even in spite?

Of course, this also arises the question of, will the Danish newspaper reprint the holocaust cartoons. One of the French newspapers claimed that the context of the cartoon was irrelevant (Tension Rises Over Cartoons of Muhammad)

"We would have done exactly the same thing if it had been a pope, rabbi or priest caricature," wrote Editor in Chief Serge Faubert in Thursday's editions of France Soir, one of the newspapers that printed the cartoons.

The newspapers cannot refuse to print them on the basis of offense. They knew that the Mohammad cartoons were offensive and printed them anyway. And, if they don't print them, it only is more proof to Muslims that this is more to do with disrespect of Islam than it is about freedom of expression.

I hope that western papers do republish the cartoons. It will be offensive to many, but it will also show that we can handle offense without violence. It will show that freedom of expression, both the good and bad of it, are more important to us than the offenses it may bring.

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