Via Buzzflash — what they’re not telling us about the Mohammed cartoon controversy and why the violence is erupting now and not when the cartoons were first published in September 2005.
According to this blogger, the cartoon controversy erupted because of a classic rightie-style misdirection campaign perpetrated by the Saudis. The plan was to get people worked up about the cartoons to take public attention away from the deaths of 350 pilgrims at the Hajj.
These were not unavoidable accidents, they were the results of poor planning by the Saudi government.
And while the deaths of these pilgrims was a mere blip on the traditional western media’s radar, it was a huge story in the Muslim world. Most of the pilgrims who were killed came from poorer countries such as Pakistan, where the Hajj is a very big story. Even the most objective news stories were suddenly casting Saudi Arabia in a very bad light and they decided to do something about it.
Their plan was to go on a major offensive against the Danish cartoons. The 350 pilgrims were killed on January 12 and soon after, Saudi newspapers (which are all controlled by the state) began running up to 4 articles per day condemning the Danish cartoons. The Saudi government asked for a formal apology from Denmark. When that was not forthcoming, they began calling for world-wide protests. After two weeks of this, the Libyans decided to close their embassy in Denmark. Then there was an attack on the Danish embassy in Indonesia. And that was followed by attacks on the embassies in Syria and then Lebanon.
Many European papers, including the right-wing German Springer media group, fanned the flames by reprinting the cartoons. And now you have the situation we are in today, with lots of video footage of angry crowds and the storming of embassies and calls for boycotts of Danish and European products. [emphasis added]
What did I say about not taking bait?
Meanwhile the Right Blogosphere has gone foaming-at-the-mouth, hair-on-fire crazy over the cartoon controversy. They’ve worked themselves up to a screaming pitch about the mad dog Muslims who are fixing to massacre Europe. They have gone off the insufferable self-righteousness scale because most American newspapers will not republish the cartoons, and those newspapers and the State Department and, of course, liberals are all wussie sell-outs of democratic principles.
Can we say they’ve come unhinged? I think we can.
Michelle Malkin, who must have steam coming out of her ears by now, wants to know what the Left has to say. In the past couple of days a few leftie bloggers have offered opinions, including me. Here’s a sampler.
… there is a hint of the absurd in this story, the way continents of people get swept up in reaction to some simple pictures. But this episode seems like a model for what I imagine we’ll be living with for the rest of our lives. There’s something peculiarly 21st century about this conflict — both in the way that it’s rooted in the world of media and also in the way that it shows these two societies or cultures … well, all I can think of to use is the clunky 21st centuryism — they can’t interface. The gap is too large. The language is too different. One’s coming in at 30 degree angle, the other at 90.
He’s not letting rioting Muslims off the hook:
An open society, a secular society can’t exist if mob violence is the cost of giving offense. And that does seem like what’s on offer here. That’s the crux of this issue — that the response is threatened violence and more practical demands that such outrages must end. … So liberal mores versus theocratic mores. Where’s the possible compromise? There isn’t any. On the face of it this gets portrayed as an issue of press freedom. But this is much more fundamental. ‘Press freedom’ is just one cog in the machinery of a society that doesn’t believe in or accept the idea of ‘blasphemy’. Now, an important cog? Yes. But I think we’re fooling ourselves to reduce this to something so juridical and rights based.
And it’s not just Muslims:
I don’t want to imply this is only a Muslims versus modernity issue. I know not all Muslims embrace these views. More to the point, it’s not only Muslims who do. You see it among the haredim in Israel. And I see it with an increasing frequency here in the US. Is it just me or does it seem that more and more often there are public controversies in which ‘blasphemy’ is considered some sort of legitimate cause of action — as if ‘blasphemy’ can actually have any civic meaning in a society like ours. Anyway, you get the idea.
The idea I get is that this entire clash appears to be happening on the Right end of the political scale. Muslim extremists and western wingnuts are whipping each other into a mutual hate frenzy. Liberals, for the most part, aren’t getting caught up in it. We’re not taking the bait.
This next paragraph of Josh Marshall’s is brilliant, so I’m going to quote it even though it stretches the scope of this post a tad.
Much, probably most of what gets talked about as the ‘war on terror’ in politics today is a crock — a stalking horse for political power grabs, a masquerade of rage and revanchism, a running excuse for why we’ve made so many stupid decisions over the last five years. In some cases, on a more refined plain, it’s rooted in intellectual or existential boredom. But beyond all the mumbojumbo about how we’re helping ourselves by permanently occupying Iraq and running the country’s finances into the ground, there is a conflict. There is a basic rupture in the world.
Wow, that’s good.
Anyway, elsewhere on the Left Blogosphere, Dr. Atrios says,
I’m not too sympathetic with the notion that anything under the cover of religion is automatically entitled to deference. On the other hand, “don’t be an asshole” about peoples’ religious beliefs when they aren’t trying to impose them on you seems to be reasonably good etiquette. The cartoons weren’t funny and the visual portrayal of Mohammed was done just to “be an asshole” without any larger point to it. It’s like parading around in blackface just for the hell of it. There’s no point other than “I’m doing this to see who I can piss off.” I certainly defend the right to piss people off, though not always the decision to do so.
Sensible. Shakespeare’s Sister takes note of Atrios, and adds,
I’m not totally sure I would classify radical Islamists as not trying to impose their religious beliefs. I believe that is, in fact, one of their primary goals, both religious and political, which makes me inclined to feel that commentary on those goals, even in the form of cartoons likely to offend, is fair game, and therefore defensible. (The flipside of that is that I find this response of radical Muslims, including calls to kidnap Danes and “cut them into as many pieces as the number of newspapers that printed the cartoons,â€ and assertions that this conflagration never would never had erupted â€œif a 17-year-old death edict against writer Salman Rushdie been carried outâ€ because â€œthen those lowlifers would not have dared discredit the Prophet,â€ indefensible.) Iâ€™m a bit concerned that in our attempts to rebuke the rightwing onslaught to denigrate all of Islam as fundamentally violent, we have begun to minimize the reality that there is indeed a segment of Islam that actively seeks to convert infidels and slaughter those who refuse. It strikes me as dangerously naÃ¯ve to ignore the ambitions of an extremist Islamic element who, given the first opportunity, would happily impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us, and just because a jihadist hasnâ€™t knocked on oneâ€™s door peddling their wares doesnâ€™t make it any less true.
Steve Gilliard has a long post that I urge you to read. It includes an interlude by Steve’s blogging partner, Jen, who is more sympathetic to the Danes than is Steve.
Jazz at Running Scared links to and explicates a rightie blog post, and observes:
The bottom line is this: Shackleford is at least coming very close to admitting what many on the far Right clearly seem to believe, but are not willing to openly state. That is, we are not simply fighting terrorists and radical extremists, but are in fact engaged in a holy war against Islam.
This, IMO, gets to the heart of why the Right Blogosphere is obsessed with this story, the way they were obsessed with the recent French riots. They want a holy war against Islam. They are itching for it. Not that any of them would volunteer to fight, of course … See also Jazz’s post “The Bloodlust of the Unhinged Right Wing.”
The Green Knight sums it up:
There’s still the fact that the rioters are being idiots. Sometimes, there’s no good guy. A newspaper prints cartoons that are meant to “test the limits of political correctness” (i.e. to offend people on purpose, i.e. to be an asshole); the completely over-the-top result is riots around the world.
Nope. No good guy here.
Not that Malkin will ever link any of this.
Update update: Malkin is still claiming the Left is “silent” on the cartoon issue. If you want to click on Malkin’s links to other rightie comments on the so-called “silence” of the Left, you see a whole lotta straw man arguments — e.g., “I’m hearing this argument – that only Muslims are fair game for criticism, and that editorial cartoonists never, ever savage Christianity or Judaism” — followed by examples of anti-Bush cartoons that skewer Bush’s religiosity. And one crude cartoon savaging Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Likud party is provided as an example of something “anti-Semitic.” The examples are all from the British press, btw; apparently the blogger couldn’t find examples from American media that were nasty enough to suit him.
Then the fellow goes on to say (in effect; I am, of course, paraphrasing) that because these British cartoons offended him, then American newspapers had better publish the Mohammed cartoons to defend freedom of expression. Yes, once again we see the foundation of all American conservative moral principles — they do it too.