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Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Warning! Offensive Cartoon!

Posted by on February 7 at 16:30 PM

Here’s a cover of The Stranger that some folks found offensive—it’s Pope John Paul II and Terry Schaivo racing each other to the grave.


After this cover ran, the Knights of Columbus did not march into our offices and start beheading people with their dress swords. The Vatican did not demand that Greg Nickels shut down The Stranger.

And that’s one of the markers of a great, big, all-grown-up-now world religion: The ability to take an intentionally offensive jab in stride. Although we weren’t necessarily making fun of the Pope’s death or Schaivo’s (but of our death-obsessed culture and the media’s coverage of both their impending deaths last March, which made it feel like a morbid race), this cover hurt some folks’ feelings. And we knew it would. The hurt folks wrote us letters and screamed at us—and that’s their right, and we printed their letters—and they questioned our judgment. But no one questioned our right to put this cartoon on the cover of our paper.

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And after all the hoopla I can't even remember who won the race.

Jesus, I forgot too. Let me look it up. I think it was Schaivo...

John Paul:April 2, 2005

Terri Schaivo: March 31, 2005

Ladies first after all.

I swore zombie jesus showed up and beat both these suckas.

Nor did the black intelligentsia burn down your offices after you published the "Schola Nigga" cartoon.

It's "Schiavo" guys...

Dear 2nd Grade Spelling Bee Champ: Proper names are exempt from the strictures of the spelling bee.

Dear Schola Cocksucker: Please amend your named to Schola Cocksucka.

I love you all.

Maybe you should run the "Muhammed with a bomb-turban" cartoon on your next front cover, and accompany it with some condescending tripe about "grown up religions" vs. "Islam."

When none of our area's 44,000 Muslims beheads a Stranger staffer, perhaps you could applaud them for their grown up restraint. Then you could proclaim the republication of racist agitprop as a glorious victory for civil liberties.

I don't believe American Muslims, to say nothing of Seattle Muslims, are anti-democratic. But Denmark is being attacked by crowds in Islamic states, as well as certain elements in its own Muslim community, AND by Islamic governments—all for a newspaper, which is privately owned, printing a few cartoons. Islamic states are attempting to regulate speech in Denmark because they consider it offensive to Muslims all over the world. That's crap, and it needs to be said, and said in a loud voice.

As for the tone I take, I heap no more disrespect on Islam than I do on other religions. I think they're all crap, and if one faith comes in for the lion's share of my contempt it is the Catholic faith—which happens to the be the faith in which I was raised.

Sadly, I can't put that image on our cover, as next week is the Valentine's Issue, and I'm putting naked boys and girls on the cover, as we do every year. Flesh, glorious flesh—some religions have a problem with that too, and if we let one religion start dictating what comics we can draw or print, soon others will want to tell us we can't throw good-looking men and women in their undies on our covers either—strict Mormons, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims all have issues with nudity and sex.

Fuck 'em all, I say.

"Fuck 'em all, I say."

I'm primed and ready, sir.

I remember seeing that cover and thinking some people would be offended but then pictured your advertisers saying "That's it! We're not putting our hooker ads in the back of this rag anymore!" and I realised everything would be ok.

Hi Dan,
One problem I have reading your and Andrew's analysis of the Islamic cartoon issue is that neither of you give much of an impression that the issue in general is actually a complicated one. While many people are discussing the difference between the right to do something and the decision to do something, you seem to equate provocation and free speech. And now the actions of extremist Muslims like those wielding incendiary placards in London have drowned out the original debate, which was one worth having. I don't think you're necessarily wrong to be posting these cartoons, but at some point it seems like a simple response of "let's throw this in their face and see how they like it." It's possible to assert your rights and yet to refrain from insensitivity. If you disagree, I at least think that that's the debate worth having now - hoarding Danish cookies and posting bad comics isn't breaking a lot of ground.

Go look at the 12 cartoons—there's nothing especially outrageous about them. The outragous thing has been the reaction—a delayed reaction, one that has been stage-managed and stoked by radical Islamic orgs in Europe and Isamic governments in the Middle East.

The 'toons were published last September. Why outrage now? Fake cartoons were ciculated by Islamic groups—ones that showed a dog fucking a praying Muslim, one that supposedly showed Mohammed with a pig snout (it was actually a picture from a pig calling contest in France—it was a French man dressed up as a pig).

Re-producing these images isn't just about asserting our "what the hell/fuck you people" rights—although those are rights we enjoy, and should protect and assert from time to time. It's about refusing to let an orchestrated "outrage" campaign intimidate us into shredding our freedoms in order to avoid pissing people off.

Freedom of speech and thought is supposed to piss people off; only speech that offends, or potentially offends, requires protection. Provocation, Gabriel, is in the eye of the beholder. Anyone can say that an image or a graph or a film "provoked" them—does that give the most easily offended people or person on earth the right to demand that everyone else self-censor in order to avoid provoking them? I don't think so.

But, hey, I'm all for having the debate—the Stranger recently declined to run an image on our cover that we thought was pointlessly offensive (the PI wrote it up), so we're not into offensive images for their own sake. We debated that cover, and declined to run it. But the Danish cartoons had a point, and I would have, and will, run them.

It would have been good before cheering for free speach to find out more about the Danish cartoons. Did you know that the Danish newspaper had a competition to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the cartoons are the result of that competition? The newspaper CHOSE to INSULT the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

In a way, I think that the justification for publishing the pictures has changed over time. I think that the original decision by the Danish newspaper to publish these cartoons was a pretty poor one, but obviously within their rights. When Die Welt and France Soir heard a simmering of discontent in January, they decided to publish the pictures again in what I see as another pretty poor choice. But now that Islamists are turning to violence and threatening another 7/7 and a new Holocaust, etc., I think that justification for additional publications publishing them is higher, as it shows international solidarity against this kind of extremism.

Dan, you say in your last post that there is nothing especially outrageous about the original cartoons. To use your own words against you, provocation is in the eyes of the beholder, and many people including non-Muslims see a picture of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban as being in pretty awful taste. But I also agree that the more extreme reactions, e.g. in London and in Afghanistan, are to a great degree manufactured ones and that more attention should be given in the media to the faked cartoons that Muslim leaders took on world tour.

An author who had written a book about the profit was unable to find an illustrator for it. No illustrator would draw the prophet, not for fear of offending, but for fear of death or injury. The contest was held in response to this, and the results have shown that the illustrators were right to be afraid. Choosing to insult the Prophet Mohammed is dangerous. Those who believe it shouldn't be have reprinted the drawings in solidarity.
Think, shouldn't we be free to insult?

What right do we have not to be offended? Or not to be disrespected? None. I find Michael Savage to be the most reprehensible thing on the airwaves. He offends me for his comments about minorities, gays, foreigners, liberals and he's probably a Steelers fan too. But he has a right to say what ever the hell he wants. Just like I do. Just like Dan, and Think and Gabriel and everyone else does.

So fuck you, and fuck whatever it is you hold most dear in your life. Fuck me and whatever I hold most dear too.

Think of it as being two different debates: between believers in free speech and opponents to free speech on the one hand, and within believers in free speech on the other. In that latter debate, none of us believe that free speech is contingent on anything like good taste, that we have a right not to be insulted or that, as Dan phrased it, the most easily provoked should be able to write the rules about what is allowable. But there is an argument against publishing these cartoons which isn't an anti-free-speech argument, it is an appeal to common decency. It's a belief that this entire situation was born out of needless provocation in a country where Muslims are far from integrated and xenophobia is rife, on a continent where all Muslims, including moderates, are demonized as extremists and fanatics. And this thoughtless exercise allowed the most radical elements of Islam to twist the facts and rally more militants to their cause. It's certainly not the fault of the cartoonists that radical Islamists have brought this to violence, but they nonetheless set the ball rolling.

And like I said above, I think there is more justification for publishing the cartoons now than there ever was before, what with Islamists threatening to kill Danes and bring on another 7/7. I think it's good for The Stranger to take a stand of solidarity (though choosing smarter and more incisive cartoons would be nice). However, it's still worth considering that the original Danish contest was regrettable.

Being a muslim .. it is my duty to take action against those people who did this ....
I at this time want to b with those people who r against this ...
Holy prophet is da best example for everyone .He was a perfect man ...
we cannot go against the religion of that person even because his religion is also followed us muslim .
We give respect to "Bibi Marium " and cannot go against her even .
If we muslim respect hindus and all da religion then they should also do the same .

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