Does #CharlieHebdo offer the rest of us a ‘teachable moment’ on the meaning of free speech?

The terrible events in Paris this week have unleashed, amongst other things, a lot of good journalism, and some pretty decent responses from brother and sister cartoonists. So, here’s a quick round up of some of the best.

– In the US the Je suis Charlie motif has been popular but highly moderated by an essentially liberal reponse to the graphicness of the cartoons themselves. David Brooks in the New York Times for instance…

…this might be a teachable moment. As we are mortified by the slaughter of those writers and editors in Paris, it’s a good time to come up with a less hypocritical approach to our own controversial figures, provocateurs and satirists.

…in thinking about provocateurs and insulters, we want to maintain standards of civility and respect while at the same time allowing room for those creative and challenging folks who are uninhibited by good manners and taste.

If you try to pull off this delicate balance with law, speech codes and banned speakers, you’ll end up with crude censorship and a strangled conversation. It’s almost always wrong to try to suppress speech, erect speech codes and disinvite speakers.

Healthy societies, in other words, don’t suppress speech, but they do grant different standing to different sorts of people. Wise and considerate scholars are heard with high respect. Satirists are heard with bemused semirespect. Racists and anti-Semites are heard through a filter of opprobrium and disrespect. People who want to be heard attentively have to earn it through their conduct. [Emphasis added]

– On Bloggingheads, Robert Wright and Jeet Heer teased out that specific question of moral versus legal restriction on free speech…– George Packer in the New Yorker Magazine was one of the first out of the blocks on the day itself and gives an enduring rationale for the use of the I am Charlie motif…

…the murders in Paris were so specific and so brazen as to make their meaning quite clear. The cartoonists died for an idea. The killers are soldiers in a war against freedom of thought and speech, against tolerance, pluralism, and the right to offend—against everything decent in a democratic society. So we must all try to be Charlie, not just today but every day.

Charlie Hebdo’s anarchic humour was often deeply unfunny. It’s fierce secularism is of a piece with the French state’s contempt for any authority beyond itself. Personal faith has long since been firmly relegated to the private domain.

The Canadian Heer expounds further on the outworking of that fracture in the Globe and Mail:

in France itself, Islam is the religion of the marginalized, those who, even if they are born in France, are seen by many of their fellow citizens as forever foreign.

Within the context of French radical secularism and anti-clericalism, making fun of Islam is perfectly acceptable and, indeed, morally necessary: Like all religions, Islam is seen as inherently oppressive, and so mockery is liberating. But this type of no-holds-barred irreverence can be blind to its own role in maintaining atavistic prejudices.

Charlie Hebdo’s outputs were occasionally too close to the knuckle even for Charlie Hebdo. “L’affaire Sine” from 2009 shows that freedom of speech has been self-circumscribed.

The UK substantially let go of public censorship in the late 60s when the Lord Chamberlain was stripped of his role in censoring stage plays. The Obscene Publications Act has barely been used over the last fifty years.

But in the west there are many ways in which we deliberately stifle dissent by looking the other way when someone else’s right to free speech are taken from them by violence or, more often, the threat of violence.

Douglas Murray in the Spectator:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali put it best. She suggested in the wake of the Danish cartoons affair that ‘we have to spread the risk.’ But the free press didn’t spread it around then. And I very much doubt that they will now. I know all the arguments. I know the fears – that someone from the typing pool or on the front desk will be the target. I’ve heard every possible argument over the years.

And that is why I can safely say that the free press will fail this latest test too. For all its historic traditions, its self back-slapping for its alleged ‘bravery’ and so on, there are only a couple of tiny outcrops of freedom. The rest of the vast, powerful, fearless, outspoken tradition that is the Western press is too intimidated to publish a single cartoon that might conceivably provoke a Muslim.

This is what it looks like to lose a freedom. Not many people will care today. But they will tomorrow, or another day in the future.

Des Freedman takes almost exactly the opposite view however saying that the big cannons of the media should be pointed resolutely at those in power:

The real reason why the vast majority of the British media has, thus far, chosen not to publish the cartoons is because there is a perception that publication would cause unnecessary harm and fan the flames of a situation that needs calming.

That position may well change following what happened at Charlie Hebdo – it’s possible that some may hold back for fear of reprisals while some may publish and claim that this shows just how brave they are.

A genuinely free media, on the other hand, would devote their resources to reporting on and monitoring power, to thinking about solutions to the problems we face, and to find ways to mark their independence that are not about sensationalism and cheap headlines.

It’s an old English radical point of view clearly shared by Will Self on Channel Four News in debate with a brave (but clearly shaken) Guardian and Slugger Awards cartoonist Martin Rowson:

– Nonetheless, as we know in Northern Ireland, there is also power in guns. And sooner or later when power speaks to power, their victims are sometimes relegated to an inconvenience or forgotten. Jonathan Freedland is one of the few serious UK journalists to consider the subsequent targeting of the Kosher supermarket:

To a certain strain of thinking, one embodied in France by the Jew-baiting so-called comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, the best way to attack “the system” or “the establishment” is to wound Jews.

So there’s little surprise the jihadists who turned Paris into a war zone turned their guns sooner rather than later on Jews. That’s what happened in Mumbai in 2008 and again in Toulouse in 2012, when Mohammad Merah killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school, pulling an eight-year-old girl by her hair to shoot her in the head.

Or maybe that is to overthink it. Perhaps we should simply see the perpetrators as the latest in a long line of murderous fascists, defined as such by their choice of targets. They hate dissent, they hate satire and, as fascist tradition demands, they loathe Jews.

Mark Steel leads with a point in satirical fashion, which also Freedland makes forcefully earlier in his piece:

One way in which we’re ensuring we protect those values, is by demanding all Muslims denounce the gunmen. It’s true that every Muslim leader in Britain has denounced them several times, but that’s hardly sufficient. They might denounce them at five past three, and then again at twenty past three, but what are they doing in between? For all we know they’re blowing themselves up at bus garages.

So to truly distance themselves from the shooting, every Muslim should have to draw their own satirical cartoon involving Muhammad trampolining on a pig, so we know we can trust them.

Similarly, when the Norwegian Christian Anders Breivik committed his massacre, all decent people marched straight down to the church and yelled “oy vicar, why haven’t you issued a statement condemning the shooting”? And politicians insisted Special Branch must infiltrate every C of E jumble sale to prevent similar radical movements growing throughout Surrey.

When Newcastle gunman Raoul Moat went crazy, I’m sure I remember interviewers, callers on phone-in shows and website forums insisting it was up to so-called moderate Geordies to denounce these atrocities, and X Factor started that week with Louis Walsh saying he wouldn’t take part unless Cheryl Cole condemned this “foul evil act of pure foul evil, carried out by her own people”.

On the question of whether to mock or not to mock, Stephen Fry for the former

The now forgotten writer, broadcaster and Christian apologist Malcolm Muggeridge destroyed his legacy as a serious and interesting man in fifteen footling minutes on television in which he languidly described Monty Python’s Life of Brian as ‘tenth rate’ … as if that were a reason to stop it being screened. Utterly disingenuous. He wanted to stop it being screened because he was ‘offended’ by its ‘blasphemy’ and so he offered the same non-argument as those advanced by his fellow Festival of Light founder Mary Whitehouse of hilarious memory: “Oh I’m not shocked, oh no. In fact I found it rather boring.” . Of course you did darling, and therefore we must certainly censor it right away. Bah!

And for the latter, Saladin Ahmed

The question for writers and artists, then, is not whether we ought to limit ourselves, but how we already limit ourselves. In a field dominated by privileged voices, it’s not enough to say “Mock everyone!” In an unequal world, satire that mocks everyone equally ends up serving the powerful. And in the context of brutal inequality, it is worth at least asking what preexisting injuries we are adding our insults to.

The belief that satire is a courageous art beholden to no one is intoxicating. But satire might be better served by an honest reckoning of whose voices we hear and don’t hear, of who we mock and who we don’t, and why. [Emphasis added]

– Nick Cohen sees the same issue rather differently and couches the dilemma in more overtly political terms:

European liberals ought to have stopped, as the lash fell on Badawi’s shoulders, and wondered about their queasiness at criticising the religions of the “powerless”and “marginalised”. The Saudi Arabian monarchy is all too powerful, as are the other dictatorships of the Middle East. Power depends on where you stand and who stands below you. The unemployed man with the gun is more powerful than the Parisian journalist. The marginal cleric may have a hard life, but if he sits in a sharia court imposing misogynist rules on British Muslim women he is to be feared.

European liberals might try to be true to their principles and ally with dissidents, liberals, leftists and free thinkers within Muslim communities. They might help ex-Muslims who fear that one day they will be murdered for apostasy. They might reflect that a Muslim man will encounter xenophobia from the right, but they will hear no rigorous criticism at university or other leftist institutions of the sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia and bloodlust of militant religion.

Self-interest ought to be a motivator. Fear of radical Islam is not only driving support for the National Front in France and Ukip here, but providing an excuse for more attacks on civil liberties, including, despite David Cameron’s pious words after Charlie Hebdo, attacks on freedom of speech.

I hope I am wrong, but I cannot see a culture shift on this necessary scale happening. I fear we must look forward to a lying and frightened future.

And on that theme here’s UK based French journalist, Olivier Tonneau:

…the attack becomes all the more tragic and absurd: two young French Muslims of Arab descent have not assaulted the numerous extreme-right wing newspapers that exist in France (Minute, Valeurs Actuelles) who ceaselessly amalgamate Arabs, Muslims and fundamentalists, but the very newspaper that did the most to fight racism. And to me, the one question that this specific event raises is: how could these youth ever come to this level of confusion and madness? What feeds into fundamentalist fury? How can we fight it?

I think it would be scandalous to answer that Charlie Hebdo was in any way the cause of its own demise. It is true that some Muslims took offence at some of Charlie’s cartoons. Imams wrote in criticism of them. But the same Imams were on TV after the tragedy, expressing their horror and reminding everyone that words should be fought with words, and urging Muslims to attend Sunday’s rally in homage to Charlie Hebdo. As a militant in a party that is routinely vilified in the press, I don’t go shoot down the journalists whose words or pictures trigger my anger. It is a necessary consequence of freedom of expression that people might be offended by what you express: so what? Nobody dies of an offence.

Ireland, even as the only country in western Europe to have brought in new blasphemy laws in this century, has a self conception as a bastion of western free speech which is not quite consonant with the actualité.

Last Thursday’s debate on Prime Time with an Islamic religious leader at times implied that as a citizen he was was somehow wrong for suggesting that he would appeal to those laws if any Irish paper decided to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

If you read Fergal Crehan’s excellent blog on that law, there are serious questions as to whether any attempt to prosecute could succeed, but Irish law provides at least the license to make the appeal, which is probably enough to keep most journalists from taking the risk.

Last word to Scots blogger, Lallands Peat Worrier, who takes on the Scots Police, and teaches us the lesson of poor throttled Thomas Aikenhead and contemporary mealy mouthed attitudes towards free speech (and people being wrong) on the Internet…

More on this latter subject anon…

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  • eiregain

    Great piece mick, Gives us a very good slice through the opinion cake to see the marbled and complex filling.

    From all sections of society you have shown that it is justified to offend and be offended.
    How then do we differentiate between regular political/religious satire and intentionally offensive satire?

    I think the truth is they are as one. Satire is Satire and if your offended its probably working.

    Ultimately its not about the justification of publishing the cartoon or freedom of speech, it’s about the justification of the murder of innocent people because of their ideas.

    At least on that we are all in agreement.

  • LighterSide…

    I am definitely NOT Charlie Hebdo.
    I am not someone who feels that there is any need whatsoever to publish cartoons depicting Mohammed (PBUH) kneeling, arse in the air and balls dangling, asking the question, “Do you like my ass?”
    I am glad that via the wonderweb I was able to see the cartoons that provoke such a response as the murders of 12 people.
    Seeing the gratuitous, juvenile nature of the cartoons left me with little sympathy for any person who took part in a decision to publish this “idea” or “defence of free speech.”
    Rather, it saddens me that no one had the common sense to see that nothing good could come of such blatant provocation. It saddens me that there appears to be an audience in France for such Muslim-baiting, intending-to-offend-for-the-sake-offending petulance.
    The only sympathy I feel is for those innocents who were not part of a decision to publish these cartoons.
    While not believing that the Charlie Hebdo journalists” deserved to die, I do not regard them as innocent. They deliberately and insolently goaded and provoked the sort of people who have shown a willingness to kill and die in response to insults to their religion, and particularly to their prophet, PBUH.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Mick for an informative and well matured journey, I really value your success here in presenting a rich, integrated bricolage of the themes that the massacre has brought up. I’d made clear my own personal sense that the essence of creating cartoons, political or just plain offensive, was something that would always be misconstrued by the punters, in my comments over on the “Cartoonists Unite in Support of Charlie Hebdo” thread. This morning I came across the one survivor, Bernard Holtrop’s (Willem) reactions over on Reuters:

    “For veteran Charlie Hebdo cartoonist Bernard Holtrop, the problem is with some of the paper’s new “friends.”Holtrop, famous in France under the name of Willem, said he was happy if people worldwide marched to defend freedom of speech. But asked about support from Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, he said: “We vomit on all those people who are suddenly saying they are our friends.”

    “We’ve got a lot of new friends – the pope, Queen Elizabeth, Putin. I’ve got to laugh about that,” he said. Willem says he is alive only because he does not like going to weekly staff meetings and was not in the Paris office when two gunman erupted and killed his colleagues and two policemen.”

    It would be interesting to know what the dead would have made of all this postumious “support”, “with friends like that…….”

  • mickfealty

    I have to say that the cartoons (and not just the anti religious ones) left me cold. But it’s French Republican culture at work. These are expressions within a deep culture of the French Res Publica, not just a passing prurience, which does not translate easily out of that culture.

    It won’t happen here. If or when we get hit, there will have to be another reason, like the education of girls perhaps? That is the reason 2000 Nigerians lost their lives this weekend past.

    I say that not to make a blunt political point, but to point out that the line of offense is endlessly moveable. And that there is nothing inevitable about the longevity of open societies or liberal democracies.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    LighterSide,

    But what to Stephen Fry’s point – that it doesn’t matter whether the cartoons were any good or not?

    By saying “I do not regard them as innocent. They deliberately and insolently goaded and provoked the sort of people who have shown a willingness to kill and die in response to insults to their religion” you make the victims of terrorism guilty for provoking terrorists.

    It’s as if the behaviour of terrorist groups is somehow inevitable and the rest of us, if we don’t obey the terrorists, are to be blamed for the consequences.

    That seems to me to abandon those who criticise terrorists, while offering terrorists the succour that their victims are “not innocent”. Look, no one is innocent – but that’s totally irrelevant to whether they have the right not be shot by some ideologue with a gun.

  • Martyn

    Surely the only justification for satire is that effects change.

    (In the West it is usually expected that this change would be from right towards left, from religious towards secular, from monarchy/centralised power towards republican/decentralised power. Satire is rarely trying for change in the other direction.)

    If a satirist has the prime objective of intentionally offending someone just because their belief systems clash, and publishes offending material without any chance of effecting changed minds or changed behaviour, is it really satire?

    The difficult judgement is the grey area on the boundaries between the two.

    Similarly difficult is to get across the message that you have the right to free speech, including the right to offend at will, without actually offending.

    https://whereareyoufrancishutcheson.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/a-true-gentleman-is-one-who-is-never-unintentionally-rude/

  • MainlandUlsterman

    An addition to Mick’s excellent survey of comment: this is a fantastic and moving 5 minute watch for anyone with the time.

    It gives you a better sense than I could ever describe of the human tragedy of this – and of all terrorism. Imperfect but human men and women, funny, serious, sometimes wrong, sometimes right, captured at their business, being themselves. Then slaughtered in cold blood for the sake of someone else’s ideology. Whether their cartoons were any good or not, these people were heroically brave.

    If only more of Northern Ireland’s terrorist victims had been filmed like this before their deaths, there might be less public support now for the people that killed them.

  • LighterSide…

    Point taken that the French man the barricades much sooner than others.
    The reason 2000 Nigerians lost their lives is not that the Boko loonies object to the education of girls. It’s that they are power-hungry psychopaths wrapping themselves in the veil of Islam in order to make themselves feel like manly men.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As Mick says below, MU, the “the line of offense is endlessly moveable”, we’ve been there a few times ourselves (nice, though, to be agreeing with you for once) but we seem so far to be able discuss these things reasonably in our semi-civilised exchanges, that’s what communication is all about really, and, sincerely, I could not agree more with you in: “Look, no one is innocent – but that’s totally irrelevant to whether they have the right not be shot by some ideologue with a gun.” Especially having drawen more than my fair share of absurdist cartoons, and so far only having had my own left arm pulled out of its socket by an irate Italian animator. He had the good grace as a fellow professional to leave my drawing arm in working order.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thanks MU, very good again to be entirely agreeing with you on something important! I’ve a comment over on another Slugger thread you might just enjoy that I think underlines this cruel waste of so much fun and talent:

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/01/07/cartoonists-unite-in-support-of-charlie-hebdo/

    I quote myself:

    “I should also mention that the act of creating a cartoon, as with so much art, is quite technical. You are trying to get a drawing right, that will accurately present an idea. We would all characature one another in studios, (I remember a particularly fun afternoon drawing Gerry Scarfe with whom I was working on Pink Floyd, I drew him “in the manner of Gerry Scarfe”). No one on the inside would usually see this activity as malicious, although outsiders would frequently ask, “were they not really insulted when they saw it?” But insult was far away from our thinking as we strived to simply draw something we saw in our imagination. It was the sheer delight of making something that in a few lines spoke in some hilarious manner about someone you knew, and then their reaction, and their friends reaction. When I comment on Slugger, something of this habit of seeing the absurdity in most things enters almost everything I write.”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh I don’t know about that John, the Charlie Hebdo regular Bernard Holtrop’s (cartoonist “Willem”) reactions over on Reuters, which I quoted at length below, could hardly be called “Far Right”, and regarding the authority of their views on this issue “Willem” has something of his own to say, something that might just represent the voice of his dead colleagues.

    Regarding the “Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, he said: “We vomit on all those people who are suddenly saying they are our friends.” “

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The cartoons are to a very European taste in some ways. Our visual humour, I’d feel, is quite different here and in England.

  • mickfealty

    I’m not sure it does though Martyn. I wonder sometimes if satire’s major use is to merely acclimatise and assimilate with established power, more than actually challenge it. In the ridicule it often merely reinforces the stupidities of an established way of thinking.

    At the same time, if there is any substance in our pretensions towards pluralism and democracy, the actual satire is less central to the question here than a societal onus upon us to make those who comment publicly both to be bound by a common legal system and receive adequate protections from it?

  • LighterSide…

    I posted a reply that seemed to be deemed immoderate or something so I’ll try again.
    I do not regard them as “innocent” because they knowingly provoked people with a track record of violence. They willfully chose to tempt fate. They were actors, not bystanders.
    Was the attack inevitable? I’d say about 70% probability.
    Was it right? No.
    I neither abandon those who criticise terrorists nor offer succour to terrorists.
    I merely ask those with the power to offend on a mass scale to exercise some tact and discretion, and I reserve my sympathy for Nigerian schoolgirls and victims of car accidents, rather than hornet-nest-pokers posing as rampart defenders.
    In the video of the Hebdo group which you posted, I think the telling line was”recess is over.” For this bunch, it was always recess. Too bad they never grew up. Sorry to speak ill of the dead. In the future I hope that those with the power to offend act with more maturity.
    Lost in all this is the fact that everyday, ordinary Muslims, the kind who would never ever support violence of this sort are deeply offended by any depiction of God’s messenger, let alone a grossly offensive one.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    They may well have wilfully tempted fate – they knew people wanted to kill them for exercising their right of free expression, but they went ahead anyway – if that’s provocative, it’s also admirable and extremeIy brave. A free society and free speech is about standing up for people’s right to say things you don’t agree with. If it isn’t that, it is nothing. Drawing a cartoon does not provoke murder. It may provoke anger; but the decision to turn anger into murder is something entirely different in nature. The decision and responsibility for the murder is the murderer’s. Your logic is that of the judge criticising a rape victim for wearing a short skirt. I don’t think much of that view, I must say.

    I have limited sympathy for the “deeply offended” ordinary Muslims. if they want a ban on depicting the prophet, they’ll need to get a law passed through parliament, surely? Otherwise, sharia law bans it, which is fine with me but it applies to Muslims not me. They can’t really apply their belief system to non-Muslims with any expectation of success, surely? It seems a bit absurd. Imagine I were offended by anyone expressing a belief in God: would people be provoking me by saying they believed in God? Would they be provoking me severely by building a church, printing Bibles? I think not.

  • eiregain

    Agreed, as for the “inveitable…longevity of open societies or liberal democracies”

    i can highly recommend “Judith Herrin’s – Byzantium”, a griping non-linear telling of an empire that was Christian/Muslim and many times throughout its history, multicultural and peaceful.

    It went through multiple iconoclasm’s and banning of symbology untill a female empress Justinian’s partner Theodora decided to reinstate the dieties hundreds of years after.

    Multiple wars, dozens of emperors, all with different opinions on the islam and chritianity, It is said they reviewed and changed religious texts regularly to update them for their changing society… when did we do that last?

  • LighterSide…

    You claim that my logic is that of a judge criticising a rape victim for wearing a short skirt and must’ve said that you don’t think much of that view. Neither do I, nor do I think you’ve compared apples with apples.
    Let’s try another comparison.
    A man walks into a bar patronised mainly by people of colour. He declares to have a profound hatred for people of colour. He is beaten within an inch of his life or maybe killed. Do I feel badly for him? No. What did he expect to happen?
    Unfortunately, these tragic events seem to lead to either/or-us/them situations.
    I stand neither with the tactless cartoonists nor with the humourless killers.
    I certainly it is possible to exercise free speech without being gratuitously offensive.
    As a member of the Western community, I wish that “my side” were less eager to “exercise their right to free expression” in such a childish and irresponsible manner.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As Mick says below, LS, the “the line of offense is endlessly moveable”, your absolute position of don’t be offensive only works if there were not such an easily movable line in the cultural sand. And us “tactless cartoonists” always seem to find that one man views as “tactlesness” is simply in another man’s opinion “self-censorship”. What the world really needs is more rael humour about things and considerably less pomposity and self-importance, especially about those who place themselves willingly in the public eye. People with pencils hardly ever kill people, it’s the people who use guns and explosives who usually do that, and painful as it may be, few actually die of being the subject of levity.

    And, hey, about offence, there are people I know that my very existence offends……

  • SeaanUiNeill

    With American family, and quite a lot of friends in the US, John, I, too, take your own point! I’ve made my personal comments about the real cuture shock, between the cartoonists and the punters, elsewhere on Slugger, but indeed, I entirely agree that there are endless mistranslations between cultural perceptions going on all through this global reaction. And I recognise the France you describe all too well, collapsing under the intense contradictions of a strident demand for “Liberté” and a completely contradictory demand for strong, centralised pretty much absolutist “Autorité”, also…..”lie on your belly with your toes in the air” as the very drunk radio exercise girl demanded of her listeners in the 1950s!

    Perhaps the most significant issue for me is how the “new friends” of Charlie Hebdo are using the dead from the massacre to authorise moves towards a potentially more repressive society, a delightful irony that an anti-authoritarian bunch of misfits can finally become really useful to the very “état” they have been mocking mercilessly for such a long time.

    It must be wonderful being a spook, although you may get everything wrong, and percipitate through miscalculation or negligance some serious and bloody tragedy, you simply say it was because of underfunding and continue hemoraging the public purse until either every problem in the world is finally solved or the entire national product is used up in funding the security services. While Mrs Windsor may not issue fatwas, ever since the Dutch Usurper made England into a closet republic (small “r”) a sucession of her minions have looked after such problems of ant real political dissent with far less bother or publicity, something now so habitual taht if you don’t know its tehre you’d hardly notice it.

    My wife tells me that statistics prove that many more people are killed in the USA by domestic furniture, than ever die annually in terrorist related incidents. I wonder how much it would cost to neuteralise this serious threat to the American way of life? A Bauhaus solution perhaps, if that is not too great a cultural shock?

  • LighterSide…

    I agree that the line isn’t firm and I agree with the point made by many that we can’t legislate against offensive cartoons. I believe that individuals must exercise discretion.
    I feel certain that these cartoons “crossed the line” between legitimate political statement and deliberate offence for the sake of offending.
    I believe that the cartoonist”s lack of discretion led(not inevitably but by high probability) to their deaths and the deaths of others. The others have my sympathy.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    LS, I’ve put links above for Mainland Ulsterman to my own autobgraphical musings about what happens when anyone makes cartoons. I think I can honestly say that its usually the sheer fun of a drawing, and any notoriety comes later, and from others. Very little of what others may take offense at is coldly deliberate, in the manner that writing something can be, and I know quite a few German and French cartoonists with whom the action of drawing simply runs away and the idea gets more and more hilarious, or perhaps offensive from another angle. My own work was seldom political. I produced a few spoofy idents for MTV at one time. A line in one someone might just remember was “I just tried to nuke one little part and the whole thing [the world] blew up in my face” but all the drawen characters in that ident were “cast” from the British animation world, with old nobodaddy at the end a thinly disguised John Halas of Halas and Batchelor, but it was intended as fun, with no overt intention to offend, simply to parody aspects of a personality.

    But I still hold to my point, parody and even crude humour are one thing, bloodshed another, and I still think one person’s evaluation of what constitutes discression may be much, much more restrictive than anothers. Its all so very, very subjective!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As I’ve said elswhere, John, when you are involved in drawing this sort of thing, you think about getting a visual image right on the page itself, not “how can I destroy Islam”, its more like being a surgeon, you may be cutting things, sure, and without anesthetic its going to hurt someone, but you are thinking about the operation, not about the issues around “playing the man”.

    But I agree entirely (I’d have to, if I am to be honest) the cultural mileau one mixes with in Paris still invokes the rattle of tumbrils over cobbles, too, for anyone who is at all sensitive to these things. They are all so like the French academic and his wife in that wonderful fifth series of “MadMen”. But watching the guys round the table in the five minutes Mainland Ulsterman put up below, I see people I know. I just cannot begin to think “culpability” as others are doing here, its too close to home.

    And I entirely agree, “One of the best Slugger articles…ever.” about Mick’s piece.

  • Martyn

    I’m afraid you are probably right that satire may set out to effect change, but more often than not fail to do so.
    The pros and cons of all religious and political beliefs being bound by a common legal system is a whole new topic!!

  • LighterSide…

    Not to belabour this, but I think that the so-called defenders of free speech knew exactly what they were doing and how offensive their cartoons were and exercised poor judgement in deciding to publish them.
    In one article that I read, a French minister tried to get them to understand the difference between satire and gratuitous insult, and implored them not pour oil on a fire.
    I really don’t like to speak ill of the dead, esp, the recently dead, but it galls me to see these people held up as defenders of liberty.
    To be clear, the reason not to publish distasteful, repugnant images of a man considered by over a billion fellow prisoners of gravity to be the direct messenger of God is that to do so is rude, pointless and needlessly hurtful.
    The reason to not publish is NOT because some deranged dead-enders(thanks to dubya) may come and kill those responsible as well as bystanders and emergency responders. However, responsible satirists and caricaturists may wish to take these possible consequences into account.
    I think the attitude of these cartoonists can be summed up in the words, “You can’t tell me what to do.”
    They are not worth celebrating. They were not defending my rights.
    I am sorry if this offends anyone.
    It’s just my opinion.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    LS, I know where you are coming from, and I respect that, and sure, I know they aren’t “defending your liberty”, but since the event I’ve been thinking about actual human lives that have been ended brutally and ignorantly, and not about big abstract ideas like “freedom of speech” or anything like that. I had a disagreement with Turgon over on his thread for claiming when he criticised the abstracting of their deaths into blown up “causes” and stated that the general experience of victimhood came first, and then he went on to make a political point with other deaths himself.

    I agree that the ten artists should not be “celebrated”, which is what some of the weekend looked like at times to me rather than a genuine commemoration. The abstracting of actual lives into ill defined “representative figures” that this aspect of the global reaction entails must always dismiss something the simple tragedy of brutally ended everyday lives, the true core meaning of the event, in order to take the front of the stage.

    Hey, I can get flippant, I do a lot, even on this theme, its how I am. But at root I feel that it is real individuals with their individual lives that are what have actually died, and the arguements about rights and wrongs and of “acting with responsibility” in dealing with the threat of violence all pale against the final reality that, for me, for others too perhaps, ten fellow artists are now dead. Now they may have offended people, I know I do a lot, but I’d like to feel that no matter how shocking their work may have been to some, that anyone with any human empathy would not even begin to feel that, even in the faintest way, they brought death on themselves by not censoring their work. And yes, I can empathise into the hurt felt by the Islamic observers of their work, too, but I cannot find myself wanting to go on to kill from anything I may see in that hurt.

    We have had a few decades of violence here, to achieve political goals that would have almost certainly been achieved in a few simple years with a combination of protest, passive resistance and straight constitutional politics. I cannot believe that a recourse to violence, no matter what the provocation, is ever going to be justified in any way. Back in 1968 I imagine some would have thought that NICRA and the PD were “provoking” Paisley, and I’m certain that there were some who would have wanted us all dead, but sometimes such provocation is required if anything is to be bettered for others. These people in Paris were provocative perhaps, but there actually is a gulf between insult and provocation on one hand and a murderious response driven by ideology on the other. Please remember, the dead were fellow human beings, real living people not abstract causes.

  • LighterSide…

    Believe me, I realize that the dead were real people.
    I am merely distinguishing between real people who made stupid decisions, and real people such as the police officer and the people in the deli who suffered the consequences of people making bad decisions.
    I’ll say again that I do not support or condone the killer’s actions.
    It is PREDICTABLE not JUSTIFIABLE.
    Even Hasan Nasrallah posted a video in which he denounces the killers.
    Again, I’ll say that the reason not to publish these cartoons is not for fear of reprisal but out of common courtesy and respect for others.
    I’m sorry if your personal history as a cartoonist causes you to feel particular empathy for these guys.
    The Danish cartoons at least tried to make some point regarding whether Mohammed would have supported terrorism by depicting a bomb within a turban.
    The depiction of Mohammed on all fours, asking if they like his ass is crass, tasteless and pointless.
    The best justification one can make for publishing such a cartoon is “because I can”, which is fine for a five-year-old.
    They were real people.
    I wish they had been more mature people.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Its too utilitarian to simply think of satire as needing to suceed as an instrument of change, Martyn. Across millenia, it has always been created by those who are powerless to confront the powerful in any more active manner. Frequently irony is a “hidden transcript”, a private satire on those too blind to see it, as in Karl Radek’s ironic portrayal of a mighty century old Stalin watching the commemoration of the completion of the world Revolution in Red Square in 1980. Stalin missed the ironic hyperbole until someone pointed it out, and had Karl shot, but for a short while it had much of Moscow laughing behind the monster’s back at his vanity. But, as with Swift and Pope, satire is the playful registering of truths in an entertaining form, while the rest of the world continues to live the serious lies. I think Mick is wrong in seeing this “quiet revolt” of those who are all too wised-up to think that anything active they may do otherwise will change the evils of the powerful one tiny jot, as merely acclimatisation and assimilation with power. For me its an affirmation of the playfulness of reality against what is otherwise the unchallenged triumph of lies. While I’m getting all Welsh Mountain Prophet there’s a great quote from Walter Benjamin:

    “The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer, he comes as the subduer of Antichrist. Only that historian will have the gift of fanning the spark of hope in the past who is firmly convinced that even the dead will not be safe from the enemy if he wins. And this enemy has not ceased to be victorious.”

    Satire reminds us that the apparent success of the powerful is always contingent, never final. “Je suis Charlie” has become a bit trite, used to propagate serious, adult, hard headed causes such as “free speech” and “human liberty”, but it is a reminder that as long as someone else mocks the powerful who take their dignity oh so seriously, someone still knows that they are not utterly victorious.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    What a real pity, LS, to sum up the worth of human lives by a single drawing, no matter how “crass, tasteless and pointless”.

  • LighterSide…

    Stop the violins, please.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    After some thought overnight, LS, I find that I’m entirely at variance with you on this, particularly about what I’d thought at first your strongest points.

    Satire is by its very nature offensive and childish. Take that away, ask it to be responsible and to not offend, and the bag will simply be empty.

    If you use a striking image to describe something other than what another person believes, it will offend their belief. The deeper the belief, the more habitual and ingrained it is for a person, the more pain they must feel on having it challenged in any way whatsoever. There is no such thing as “responsible criticism” in satirical images. Either an image is strong and striking enough to make an effect or it is insipid. Words are more negotiable, but images never are. My own technique of commenting on Slugger often offends people. I know this from the angry reactions I sometimes get to comments. When I spoke of people in NI “voting by standing order”, a word “Cartoon” if ever there was one, I knew it would sound offensive, especially to anyone who votes the same way every election. This is, I know, because such people believe they should vote for a particular party, that they are loyal supporters of that party, but I’m not poking fun at the loyalty of seriously thought out support, such people measure their decisions and know they are not “voting by standing order”, but where someone unconsciously knows that they are being lazy or mind locked offence will instantly be taken. I’m speaking of those so ingrained in their habits and mindset that they vote entirely without questioning their commitment, just as no thought is required for a standing order payment to continue to be paid, only to end the payment. This is offensive because it is true about the person offended. I’d take this as a rule for all the offence that is taken at satire, the more habitual an idea is for a person, the more offended they will be at its being mocked. Real understanding of anything is always a new, unprepared experience, something that enters by a lightning flash of realization, shocked out of those habits of thought that obscure change of ideas rather than by serious hard graft, for the true foundation for genuine belief comes only from open minded exploration, not from preconceptions. New understanding of anything is always something of a shock, and such challenge to their established thought will always be distasteful for anyone not wishing to change.

    Satire is in its essence playful, “ludic” to use the very grave word that academics use to ensure they are taken seriously when they speak about such things. The have to disguise play under the title ‘Ludic Studies” as for anyone who takes the world entirely seriously, the spontaniety of the playful mind must seem always childish. Children bring up silly, inconsequential things in conversation with adults, things that do not chime at all well with what the serious, sometimes tragic, concerns of the adult world require. This drive to a rigid ernestness in the modern world was critiqued by Johan Huizinga in his book on the importance of play, “Homo Ludens”:

    “Huizinga argued that the spirit of technical and mechanical organisation had replaced spontaneous and organic order in cultural as well as political life.” (Wikipedia)

    Significantly he developed his ideas about the importance of free play as a critique of National Socialism, the very model of the hard headed tendency in modern society that denigrates all such spontaniety as culpable foolishness. They know what you should believe, no exceptions.

    “The depiction of Mohammed on all fours, asking if they like his ass” brings the notable homophobia of much of the Islamic community instantly to the mind, it may not be profound, but it is certainly “ludic”, and as such its very inconsequentiality, its childishness, nags at the guilt of anyone who on some unconscious level knows that their hatred of the sexuality of others is a response from ingrained habit that denies others the common humanity they share with them, and this is another. much less entertaining immaturity.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Old fashioned scales, all the dead one pan, the single sheet of paper on the other, hard to balance. But this is actually what your arguement comes down to in one simple vivid image, a word cartoon. Violins? Really?

  • Zeno

    “A man walks into a bar patronised mainly by people of colour. He declares to have a profound hatred for people of colour.”

    Lets say a man walks into a Bar and proclaims that he is offended by alcohol. We would surely say, “why did you come into the bar”.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Hi Zeno, LS might just enjoy this:

  • Zeno

    One man criticises cartoonists for offending people who might attack and murder them, and then attempts to offend a Cartoonist who he is fairly certain will not not attack him and murder him. The logic is then that offending people is fine, but you must not offend people who have Kalashnikovs?

  • Zeno

    Very good. It reminds me of an old spoof that said……..
    Join the Army
    Travel the World.
    Meet interesting people.
    And Kill Them!!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    They were defending all our rights by exercising theirs in the face of extreme intimidation. They may not have been doing it directly – but they were doing it.

    But I think the main reason your line of argument is wrong is that the right to free speech surely can’t depend upon the quality of what you say. Do read Stephen Fry’s piece on this, which Mick refers to above (http://www.stephenfry.com). He talks about how Malcolm Muggeridge (which I just mistyped first time as Malcolm Buggeridge :-), Freudian slip) wanted Life of Brian banned because it was blasphemous and, he claimed, not very funny. I have no doubt the old fool was genuinely offended by it, as was Mary Whitehouse. But that’s not enough. And the fact that Muggeridge didn’t enjoy the film is irrelevant to whether other people should have the right to see it, or Handmade Films the right to make and show it.

    You can’t ban things just because they offend your sensibilities, no matter how deeply held. Your right not to be offended should not be paramount, in any country I want to live in. The right of free speech is.

    Now we do have exceptions, in the UK – the crime of incitement to racial hatred for example. There are such trade-offs. But that caveat was passed in parliament as a law, after elections and due democratic process. If we do think pictures of Mohammad should be treated as a similar exception, then we need to persuade enough people to get a law passed to that effect. You are free to campaign for that. In the absence of such a law, free speech rules.

    Free speech is not only a good in itself, it has a corollary: it places pressure on people to be tolerant rather than be quick to take offence. In a country that honours free speech, because we can’t stop people expressing themselves, we tend not to try. Live and let live reigns. It’s a win-win.

    What worries me too about your line of argument is that it could apply, for example, to people criticising Republican or Loyalist terror movements. You seem to be suggesting any physical attacks on those with the balls to speak out are partly the victim’s own fault. That’s not only nonsense but highly dangerous – and a path to barbarism. This is real and happening in NI now by the way: just ask the likes of journalist Jim McDowell – see this for example. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/local-national/pair-bailed-over-attack-on-sunday-world-editor-jim-mcdowell-28505539.html

    There’s no fudging this – we all have to choose which side we’re on. These people are violent bullies. We stand up to them or we lose.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    are they allowed them at their funerals?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Great posting, MU, and the bit just before the end about the situation here is very much to the point. Me, I find both flavours absurd here, but then I’m a serious neo-Jacobite, and my “back to the Stuarts” politics leave me back in the rows of the seventeenth century, so I can talk!

    We learn only by listening to one another, and although I value my own satiric semi-private “hidden transcripts”, actually sharing issues and empathising with the opinions of others is what makes us all human.

    I can never hear someone who has thought through anything and really cares about it argue a point, without finding myself alongside them in their “truth”, although I still cannot resist poking anything they say that looks at all “mind locked” to me. Thanks again for the posting!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Coming from an army family as I do, yeah!!!!!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Reading back all the exchanges between Seann, LighterSide, Zeno and me on this, one overall point emerges: that attractive as ‘balance’ and ‘trade offs’ might appear as an approach to most areas of political debate, there are areas where they just don’t apply. Certain rights are, or at least ought to be, sacrosanct. The most basic of those would include the right not to be murdered.

    We’ve been given another illustration through the Charlie Hebdo massacre of why the logic of the terrorist is wrong. They portray their actions as the product of inevitable forces, when they are the result of their own decisions as individuals. They say they have no choice but to kill, when they do have a choice. They say they are provoked into violence by the need for change, when other ways of seeking change are available. The people who shot the Charlie Hebdo office to pieces used the same bogus arguments that our own terrorists used over and over again. It was never right.

    The people who make these same bogus arguments in Northern Ireland, in defence of the many Charlie Hebdo massacres we’ve suffered, are now the most popular political party on the island. If all the dead of Northern Ireland aren’t enough of a warning, let us hope the more recent dead of a Paris cartoon office might be.

    Nationalist Ireland is sleepwalking into a nightmare. The Irish state might soon be in the hands of people with these values. I hope they wake up in time.

  • LighterSide…

    Feel free to cry for the cartoonists.
    Feel free to portray them as defenders of free speech.
    In my opinion, they were asinine, petulant and capricious and it’s a pity that the terrorists have elevated to a higher status than they deserve.
    I’ll say again, I am not Charlie. I shed no tears for them.
    As a member of Western society, I feel it my right to criticise them and the role which they willingly played in the ongoing “clash of civilisations.”
    I wouldn’t bother to do so if millions of others weren’t holding them up as beacons of liberty and world leaders weren’t joining arms in a show of solidarity.
    I feel no need to criticise the terrorists. They are beyond the pale. I feel no affinity for them whatsoever. I regret that some here are reduced to binary thinking whereby one stands with us or with the terrorists.
    Again, sorry if my point of view offends you.
    I do not state it with the aim of offending.

  • Zeno

    It does offend me, but don’t worry I won’t slaughter you or your family. But you know that. I note you feel you have a right to criticise but would withdraw the cartoonists rights.

  • ted hagan

    Stephen Fry, as usual, misses the point entirely in that Muggeridge didn’t take up a gun to prevent the Life of Brian being shown

  • ted hagan

    Sorry, but that’s utter bollox. Muggeridge spoke out against Life of Brian because he felt offended by it and wanted it banned. He had every right to his free speech as you have yours. There are laws in France against hate speech and these can be pursued through the courts. The whole point of the Charlie atrocity is that terrorists killed people who fought for free speech.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That doesn’t make a lot of sense Ted – you start off saying ‘utter bollox’ then you seem to agree with me exactly. I may be missing something – which aspect of what I wrote was the ‘bollox’ bit?

  • ted hagan

    Apologies, too long a lunch break. Sorry. Must censor my drinking habits

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes, that Stephen Fry, he’s famously stupid, he can barely string a sentence together … 😉

    I think his point was about attempts at censorship. He was saying Muggeridge wanted Life of Brian banned and one of Muggeridge’s arguments was that the film wasn’t any good. This is what some people have been saying about Charlie Hebdo, as if that were a reason to ban them. It can’t be. I think that was his point? The gun thing is irrelevant to that.

  • LighterSide…

    For the last time, I am not denying them their rights or calling for censorship.
    I am stating that they exercised their rights in an imprudent manner and I am stating that they are no heroes of mine and I hold them in no esteem.
    The only reason we’re talking about them is because some crazy guys killed them as well as other innocent bystanders and police officers.
    Many people are talking about them in reverential tones.
    I am offering a countering opinion.
    I am not endorsing censorship, murder and for the last and final time, THE REASON THAT I FEEL THAT THE CARTOONS SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED IS OUT OF COURTESY AND RESPECT FOR MUSLIMS, NOT OUT OF FEAR OF REPRISAL.

  • Zeno

    Courtesy and respect work both ways. If you go to live in someone else’s country you should respect their culture and values instead of adopting an air of self entitlement and expecting everything to change just because you worship God in a different way.

  • Barneyt

    I must admit, I have not seen the cartoons. My automatic reaction to anyone taking such offense to mockery, particularly where religion is concerned, is to catch yourself on. Surely if your god and religion is not set in quicksand, it can hold up to any provocation. That’s quite a basic and simplistic view I know

    The religion that was offended here is notoriously sensitive. It also has a more direct effect on its followers, in terms of rules and the dedication required to follow Islam. Christianity surely has not done that for some time, so we forget how a religion can adjoin so adhesively.

    The cartoonists did indeed know the risks they were taking. We only have to look at the Danish or Rushdie case to understand the level of offence that can be taken, however they should not curtail creativity in a country such as France or be subject to threats and actual murder.

    Is the reaction in general extreme? Threatening to take lives in response is indeed extreme (and carrying it out is unforgivable), however am I right in thinking that such offenses in the domain of the offended are punishable by death? Is that what Sharia dictates if you insult the idols of Islam or Islam itself? This only serves to rationalise the reaction of the Muslim community or in this case it’s more active parts.

    “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is an apt phrase here. Charlie Hebdo does target a wide audience as I understand, and on that basis and against the backdrop of French republican culture, they have license to tease nay mock who they want (within limits of course i.e incitement). Performing a leaflet drop in the Middle East using Charlie Hebdo material is direct provocation. Continuing along a particular well-worn thread in the safety of your own country, regardless of changing demography, is of course just exercising your basic rights. Acting on this is an expression of the freedom you are used to and fully aligns with what France currently is.

    Where is line between mockery and incitement? The flavour of my words cause me to drift towards out own issues here, particular with regard to incitement and offence taken and given.

    It seems that some folks that could once tolerate marches, no longer can and that is due to an increased level of provocation or additional work being done to orchestrate the level of offence taken.

    It seems to me that elements of Islam are so far down the road of offence and sensitivity, what the likes of Charlie Hebdo will always be threading on thin ice if they continue to “comment” as they do on Islam and its elements.

    As far as I can see, if we compare Christianity with Islam with regard to the level of offence taken, we’re just talking about two different timelines and perhaps two very different eras.

    The question I now have is, “does the intolerance associated with Islam have a place in the non Islamic world?”

  • Barneyt

    I must admit, I have not seen the cartoons. My automatic reaction to anyone taking such offense to mockery, particularly where religion is concerned, is to catch yourself on. Surely if your god and religion is not set in quicksand, it can hold up to any provocation. That’s quite a basic and simplistic view I know

    The religion that was offended here is notoriously sensitive. It also has a more direct effect on its followers, in terms of rules and the dedication required to follow Islam. Christianity surely has not done that for some time, so we forget how a religion can adjoin so adhesively.

    The cartoonists did indeed know the risks they were taking. We only have to look at the Danish or Rushdie case to understand the level of offence that can be taken, however they should not curtail creativity in a country such as France or be subject to threats and actual murder.

    Is the reaction in general extreme? Threatening to take lives in response is indeed extreme (and carrying it out is unforgivable), however am I right in thinking that such offenses in the domain of the offended are punishable by death? Is that what Sharia dictates if you insult the idols of Islam or Islam itself? This only serves to rationalise the reaction of the Muslim community or in this case it’s more active parts.

    “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is an apt phrase here. Charlie Hebdo does target a wide audience as I understand, and on that basis and against the backdrop of French republican culture, they have license to tease nay mock who they want (within limits of course i.e incitement). Performing a leaflet drop in the Middle East using Charlie Hebdo material is direct provocation. Continuing along a particular well-worn thread in the safety of your own country, regardless of changing demography, is of course just exercising your basic rights. Acting on this is an expression of the freedom you are used to and fully aligns with what France currently is.

    Where is line between mockery and incitement? The flavour of my words cause me to drift towards out own issues here, particular with regard to incitement and offence taken and given.

    It seems that some folks that could once tolerate marches, no longer can and that is due to an increased level of provocation or additional work being done to orchestrate the level of offence taken.

    It seems to me that elements of Islam are so far down the road of offense, and the likes of Charlie Hebdo will always be threading on thin ice if they continue to “comment” as they do on Islam and its elements.

    As far as I can see, if we compare Christianity with Islam with regard to the level of offence taken, we’re just talking about two different timelines and perhaps two very different eras.

  • Zeno

    “Is the reaction in general extreme? Threatening to take lives in response is indeed extreme (and carrying it out is unforgivable), however am I right in thinking that such offenses in the domain of the offended are punishable by death?”

    It seems to be a well supported idea in Islam……..

    Center for Social Cohesion: One Third of British Muslim students support killing for Islam
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1340599/WikiLeaks-1-3-British-Muslim-students-killing-Islam-40-want-Sharia-law.html
    http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/pdf/IslamonCampus.pdf

    Policy Exchange: One third of British Muslims believe anyone who leaves Islam should be killed
    http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/ShariaLawOrOneLawForAll.pdf

    NOP Research: 78% of British Muslims support punishing the publishers of Muhammad cartoons;
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/14/opinion/main1893879.shtml&date=2011-04-06
    http://www.webcitation.org/5xkMGAEvY

  • Zeno

    Seaan, I have a cartoon you should draw. In the light of the Belfast Telegraphs refusal to reprint Charlie Hebdos front page I would like to see something representing …………..
    The Belfast Telegraph standing in the Trenches of World War One forcing the rest of the Press over the top.

    (probably didn’t explain that very well)

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ah Zeno, I am so venerible that I remember the days when both broadcast and print media used to research and create their own stories and did not simply offer us précis of press the releases they get.

    But I think I get what you mean. Certain quarters are reluctant to interfere in this “heads I win tails you loose” where evangelicals (not all, how can one ever use words without endless qualifications to avoid misunderstandings like my “confession” comments on this thread?) both support Islam as fellow believers (insulted by “crass secularism”) and as non-believers in Christ (dear Pastor O’Connell’s “heathen doctrine…spawned in hell”). The one thing some of this select group of evangelicals seem to agree over is that some cartoon humour is evil (or “invented” or “lies” or “dishonest”, although to give that commentator his due, he himself has never been guilty of humour and despite his evident sober intellegence may simply not understand how humour works).

    With no clear line for a paper to take, better to let the others walk out into the “Storm of Steel” (Ernest Junker’s excellent title), “aw shucks, never, and I say never, try and sell papers on saying something you cannot judge the fallout from.”

    What people seem to be most offended about in some of my postings are those moments when I sya something hyperbolic and, I hope, funny, but with very serious intent, my “verbal cartoons”. “Voting by standing order”, “Stockholm syndrome” to account for the failure of Scotland to cote for independence, way back, the entire economic policy of NI as a form of “Cargo Cult”. I even see the bizarre absurdity of people stubornly continuing to believe in the canonic versions of events such as “the “seige” of Derry” (a pretty Monty Pythonesque shambles, but with a terrible death toll) and the “big lie” propaganda of the Wigtown Drownings, a “terrible atrocity” that was concocted for propoganda purposes but never happened, whose “truth” was defended hilariously to me over an extended series of very serious postings on Slugger a while back.