Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Islam, blasphemy and Ezra Levant, OH MY!


Let's say I want to post the dozen "anti-Islam" cartoons that are causing such a commotion. (And, by the way, for those of you who haven't figured it out yet, there's a perfectly valid reason for making those images public: Because they're news, that's why. Please tell me you understand that simple fact. In any event, onward.)

So I post those cartoons on my blog's main page, at which point peace-loving Muslims who are demanding "respect" and "tolerance" threaten to execute me for blasphemy. So what do I do?

Well, let's say that, instead of posting those cartoons on my main page, I post them on a subpage, for which there is a link that reads: "This is a link to the cartoons. WARNING! If you follow this link, you will get to the cartoons! Don't click on this link unless you want to see the cartoons! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED! CARTOONS AHEAD!!" Would that solve the problem?

Before we answer that, make sure you appreciate what I've done here. I've still made the cartoons available, but I've published painfully clear warnings to make sure that no one stumbles across them accidentally. In other words, if you're a Muslim, the only way you can be offended is if you deliberately and explicitly choose to ignore the warnings, at which point I have precious little sympathy for you. However, that's not really a total solution, is it?

Even if you're presented with an explicit warning on my site, that doesn't stop anyone else from linking directly to the cartoons page without giving a warning, whereupon Muslims can quite reasonably say that it's still too easy for, say, their children to accidentally stumble upon those pictures and be offended. What to do now?

If that's the case, I can fix that problem by adding a click-through disclaimer for that page so that anyone getting to that page from anywhere has to read and accept a disclaimer. You'd think this might solve the problem but those same Muslims might whine that it's still too easy to get to the images if all one has to do is "Accept" a clearly-worded warning with as much concern as one accepts, say, the dialog box that tells you you're about to install Windows XP.

Well, fine.

As my last solution, I put those cartoons on a protected page, for which you need to pay $9.95 (Visa or MasterCard) to get access. There. Now are you happy? Have I put enough security in the way to make sure that no one is randomly going to stumble over those pictures, but so that people who are sufficiently interested can still get access to them? Would this make the Muslim community happy? And make sure you understand how important this question is.

I'm prepared to accept that images of the prophet are offensive to Muslims. Fine. For the sake of argument, let's consider that an axiom. But is it also blasphemous for non-Muslims to want to see those same images just so that we can discuss them intellectually?

I don't care one way or the other if Muslims don't want to look at those cartoons -- that's their choice. I do care, however, when they start dictating what I can look at and share with others.

Theoretically, in the context of my imaginary web page, I would be willing to accommodate Muslims by making those images as difficult to get to as possible, so there's no conceivable way for someone to be accidentally offended. But if even that isn't acceptable for them, well, there's really no other way to put this -- fuck 'em.

I could conceivably have some sympathy for Muslims if those images are being crammed into their faces -- that's one thing. But for the sake of informed discourse, there absolutely has to be a way for the rest of us to know what the commotion is about, and to be able to see those pictures for ourselves. And putting suitable warnings and roadblocks on those images seems to be a perfectly acceptable compromise. And what does this have to do with Ezra Levant, you ask? I'm glad you asked.

It should be obvious that this scenario applies directly to Ezra. Yes, he's going to publish those cartoons but, at this point, you'd have to be a total moron to not know that. Anyone with even minimal sentience knows what's going to be in the next issue of his rag, so no one can reasonably claim that they might get blindsided.

I suspect there will be a huge headline on the front advertising the cartoons and, if Ezra is smart, he'll even arrange to have those issues shrink-wrapped so no one can leaf through them standing in the aisle, but will have to plunk down cash first.

If all of this happens, it's going to be awfully hard to sympathize with anyone who whines, "It's terrible! Terrible, I tell you! Those blasphemous images can be seen by any unsuspecting innocent who goes to a restricted number of retail outlets, pays money, tears open the shrink-wrap and turns to page 37. Oh, Allah have mercy, how will I protect my children!?"

Sorry but, at that point, I think Ezra's given everyone fair warning. If you don't want to see the pics, don't look at the magazine. How hard can that be?

And, no, we're not done here.

5 comments:

mk said...

"I don't care one way or the other if Muslims don't want to look at those cartoons -- that's their choice. I do care, however, when they start dictating what I can look at and share with others."

Your point is well taken in this instance regarding the cartoons, but also note that this argument doesn't hold up in general according to the criminal code in Canada. There are obviously some things that the law takes a dim view of people sharing, if you catch my drift.

mk

Dave said...

To take it to a fine point, I absolutely agree that Levant has the right to publish anything he likes. Hell, he doesn't even have to go to any length to prevent their unintentional viewing, for all I care.

I also agree that the reaction of a large portion of the Muslim community is, by and large, artificial. Certainly the post-2005 reaction seems to have been stirred up by periodicals and newspapers with the same claim that Levant himself now makes. (Saudi newspapers claiming freedom to retaliate.)

However, I dragged my sorry ass through the shit-holes of the world for 30 years in a futile attempt to make somebody's life better or at least provide some form of immediate relief from fear. In some manner of speaking, I and a few thousand others spent careers staring down iterant groups of nasty people bent on killing anybody they didn't like. I suppose, in some abstract sense, we were advancing Canadian ideals and freedoms, although I still have a tough time accepting that the purpose we were sent to those places was based on anything so noble.

Nevertheless, in some small way, with the exception of one or two abberations, we made the world a safer place. We also carried a message of "tolerance", which I think most of us believed. I DO know that none of us did that job for the likes of Ezra Levant nor any religious sect which demonstrates their "hurt feelings" through unrestrained violence. Neither side is fighting for a belief - they are defending a constructivist position and they are doing it in an unrestrained manner.

Levant published with full knowledge that he was going to incite a negative, and possibly a violent reaction. He has that right. But where is the responsibility that goes with it? It seems to me that Levant is only able to recognize the constructive right, at the expense of all others. If we all exercise our constructive rights, we will all very quickly descend into chaos.

Levant can exercise his rights. And I can exercise mine. I have the right to call him on his purpose and methods. Levant is a very low form of life, in my opinion. He is a self-serving little pig who employed an extreme method in an attempt to garner personal profit. But deny him his right to express himself? Never.

I do, however, notice that his little effort is starting to backfire. His circulation just took a huge hit and his faux readership just died. Oh well... back to the crossword puzzle.

CC said...

mk writes:

Your point is well taken in this instance regarding the cartoons, but also note that this argument doesn't hold up in general according to the criminal code in Canada. There are obviously some things that the law takes a dim view of people sharing, if you catch my drift.

And you'll notice that I was very careful not to generalize beyond this specific example because I was well aware of that danger.

Also, dave wrotes:

I do, however, notice that his little effort is starting to backfire. His circulation just took a huge hit and his faux readership just died.

And that was also a forseeable consequence of Ezra's choice, but it was his choice to make, and now he has to live with it.

In the end, the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression also gives you the freedom to do stupid, irresponsible things and have to suffer the consequences. But it's still a freedom you should have.

CC said...

By the way, not to sound too smug about this but this is a perfect example of giving a guy enough rope and he'll hang himself.

Everyone else was furious about Ezra's social irresponsibility, while I was more than happy to just keep feeding him rope.

Grog said...

Actually, I wasn't so mad at his irresponsibility as his smug, condescending air of self-conceit.

The irresponsibility - and its consequences - are merely just desserts for him.