Well there’s no doubt what the story of the week has been – the Danish ‘Muhammed’ cartoons and the furore they’ve stirred up all over the place.
I’m not going to dwell overmuch on what’s been said, and is still being said, either in the dead tree press or across large sections of the blogosphere, nor am I going to be running a shed of links to other commentaries – if you need to catch up on things – in which case you’ve been asleep all week – then start with Tim’s linkdump over at Bloggerheads and work from there.
Why? Because I’m simply not stupid enough to suckered into this whole game.
Let’s take step back and look what’s really happened here.
This all started with a Danish newspaper that no one’s ever heard of outside Denmark commissioning a bunch of fairly crappy and unfunny cartoons using Muhammed as their central character.
Why? To stir up a bit of controversy, get a bit of free publicity and flog a few more newspapers.
What happens next is entirely predictable.
The Islamic world gets pissed off with a bunch of Westerners taking the piss out of their prophet (for profit) and deliberately breaking a major taboo in their religion – so they start complaining, protesting and calling for everything from boycotts of Danish goods (which as Dave Weeden wonderfully noted, is a fat lot of good when Denmark’s two main exports are lager and bacon) to the odd beheading or two…
…which is exactly what happens every time someone takes the piss out of their religion and something the newspaper in question knows perfectly well – which is precisely why they commissioned the bloody cartoons in the first place.
About the only thing the newspaper hasn’t got out of this gig is the piece d’resistance of pissing off the Islamic world, an honest-to-goodness fatwa – something that can’t be too long in coming as it only takes one suitably qualified foaming-at-the-mouth fundamentalist cleric to kick that particular game off.
Fair enough, file this one under ‘if you put your dick in a hornet’s nest, you’re bound to get stung’.
But it continues, still in full predicability mode, as the bandwagon jumping starts in earnest on the pretext that this is all a matter of the right to free expression – no it isn’t, its about flogging newspapers and cheap publicity. None of that matters, of course, because by now a few newspapers in other countries have decided that there’s plenty of room in the hornet’s nest to fit their dicks in as well, enough cheap ‘heat’* to go around and enough punters dumb enough to buy their rags just to see what all the fuss is about to make reprinting these cartoons worth their while.
* ‘Cheap Heat’ – a term used in professional wresting for a situation where the ‘heel’ (bad guy) deliberately insults the audience, the town/city in whcih they’re working or (commonly) a local sports team, to get the audience to boo him and take the side the ‘babyface’ (good guy) in the bout.
And of course, like Bagpuss, when the dead tree press wake up and start banging on about how reprinting these cartoons is really only defending the right to free speech, so a section of the blogosphere do the same thing because they too are defending freedom of expression – as well as those other great freedoms of capitalist liberal democracies, the freedom to funnel money into the pocket’s of newspaper proprietors and the freedom to be too stupid to understand what’s really going on here.
And so things continue to escalate until, inevitably, we end up with Syrians going out and setting light to the odd embassy or two and our very own bunch of rent-a-wingnut fundies wandering the streets of London carrying placards demanding the summary execution of all blaspheming infidel cartoonists.
Over in the politicosphere things are also happening…
Nick Griffin of the BNP, having just been acquitted of inciting racial hatred by spouting off about the evils of Islam is busy beavering away at his next ‘I told you so’ round of speeches and public engagements.
The Government’s tame Muslims in the Muslim Council of Britain and MPACUK suddenly come over all moderate and tolerant because it suits their interest to play the game and particularly to have anyone who might rock the boat and challenge their position as the self-appointed leaders of the Muslim community in the UK tarred as potential ‘extremists’, whether they’re extremists or not. Equating youth with extremism is a very effective means of keeping young progressive Muslims in ‘their place’ as some self-style ‘leaders’ know all too well.
And of course, dear old Jack Straw is pushed out front and centre to make just the right kind of placatory noises to suit the occasion, while, behind the scenes, the spin doctors are already working overtime to figure out just how much political capital they can make out of TV news footage of brown-faced people with placards demanding that those who mock Islam should be ‘butchered’ and chanting about ‘Bin Laden coming’ for the government’s next run at forcing through some more crappy, illiberal, authoritarian anti-terrorist legislation – let’s face it, you can bet your arse that all this is going to come up when the government have to try to get last year’s anti-terrorist legislation, with its appalling ‘control orders’ renewed.
But hey, who gives a shit about that when you’re sat there in your jim-jams and playing at being a fearless defen-duh of free speech and a fully paid up member of the 101st Fighting Keyboards (Dumbass Platoon).
Never mind that the Spectacle has you and you’re just too self-absorbed to see it…
Cue Keanu Reaves, looking cool and flying up into the stratosphere in full Superman mode…
Cue End Titles…
Cue Monster riff from Rage Against the Machine…
Principles are one thing, sympathies another. In principle I support the right of any newspaper to print cartoons of Mohammed and the right of anyone else to reproduce them. As far as sympathies go, can I just say that if you side with a group of effete right wing pseudo intellectuals in making sport of a decent, inoffensive and hardworking group of people like my Muslim neighbours, then you ought to be fucking well ashamed of yourself.
It’s called having moral and ethical standards and I fully support this view – no self censorship here.