Sunday, February 05, 2006

Multi-culturalism is dead; press declares, "Long live multi-culturalism!"

No one can say at this point if the adventures of Mohammed in Cartoonland will erupt into widespread violence, or if they will settle into just another source of Islamic grievance against the infidels, bubbling under until the next intifada. But the real significance of the flap is that the incompatibility between the most basic principles of Western freedom and the intellectual closed shop of Islam can no longer stay a dirty little secret. Even in "What, Me Worry?" Europe, the fantasy of peaceful assimilation of Muslim immigrants into one big happy multi-culti family is dead.

Muslim extremist, London demonstration, February 2006

be prepared
Muslim moderate, London demonstration, February 2006

The news has reached everywhere, except the editorial offices of the legacy press, still imagining that they are the gatekeepers of opinion they were when the dead-tree media were the only game in town.

The difference in coverage of the 'Toon That Name business between newspapers and the Web -- especially that portion of it known as the blogsophere -- is so great as to be almost laughable. Laughable, but not funny, considering the stakes involved.

Compare the sophisticated and clear-eyed analysis at, for one example, Belmont Club with what you can read in your newspaper ... assuming your newspaper has anything to say about a possibly developing civil war in Europe (so much less important than a National Security Agency "scandal," and such an unpleasant thing to talk about).

Danish embassy in Beirut during what the Washington Post called "unrest" created by Muslim "protesters."

If your gag reflex is in good working order, here are a few examples I ran across surfing the Web editions of print newspapers.

A former Bishop of Edinburgh has his say in the Glasgow Sunday Herald. After explaining how he had "immediately and sincerely apologised, and felt wretched about what I had done" for an idle remark that offended a Roman Catholic, he gets down to present business:
... a decent society needs more than free speech. It also needs to prize values that ease relations between people of opposing convictions, and the highest of these is courtesy. Courtesy is a form of restraint that sees no point in upsetting people just for the sake of it. The courteous prize the right of free speech – and might even be prepared to defend it to the death – but they also know that freedom may sometimes have to be exercised with restraint, especially towards those who have passed through a different cultural history.
Certain people who have passed through a different cultural history (one which regards the entire non-Muslim world as Dar Al-Harb, the House of War) might indeed wish that the right of free speech be defended to the death of all its defenders. I certainly take his point about courtesy, though. In fact, beheading captives and promising a new, improved Holocaust seem to me a breach of etiquette -- although it could all just be a misunderstanding on my part.

Meanwhile, in the largest city of our good neighbor to the north, The Toronto Star offers a "human interest" angle:
The international controversy over Danish caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad reverberated in Toronto yesterday — with hurt and sadness in the mosques and action in grocery stores. Muslim-owned groceries removed Danish products from their stores, joining a worldwide boycott stemming from publication of the cartoons. "Value is more important than business," said Hanif Kotwal, store manager at Iqbal's, a large supermarket in Toronto's Thorncliffe Park, home to the city's largest concentration of Muslims. "Even if it hurts our business, we have to show solidarity."
See, it's all just a matter of hurt feelings. Toronto's Muslims are so sensitive. They'll even forgo the profits on a few wedges of Danish cheese to express their feelings. The story goes on for about 20 paragraphs to help us understand why the Muslims are so offended, and calls on Ruth Mas, a lecturer in Islamic studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, to explain that "the blasphemy in this case stems not simply from the act of depicting Muhammad, but from the 'awful' depictions of Muhammad in the cartoons."

I know I'm a troublemaker, but I'd have thought that even in Toronto, there might be someone, somewhere, who might disagree with the boycott or put it in the larger context of Islam's refusal to accept any questioning of its absolute system. But I'm sure the paper, in its even-handedness, looked all over but couldn't find any other viewpoint.

Still, maybe those papers aren't representative examples, located as they are in the dhimmified U.K. and in North America's failed state, Canada, balkanized six ways from Sunday.

Let's take the temperature of a high-class paper in the United States, The Boston Globe, read by the brainy elite of Harvard and MIT.
FREEDOM OF expression is not the only value at issue in the conflict provoked by a Danish newspaper's publication of cartoons satirizing Islam's founding prophet, Mohammed. The billowing controversy is being swept along by intolerance, ignorance, and parochialism. The refusal of each camp to recognize and respect the otherness of the other brings closer a calamitous clash of cultures pitting Islam against the West. ...

This was a case of seeking a reason to exercise a freedom that had not been challenged. No government, political party, or corporate interest was trying to deny the paper its right to publish whatever it wanted. The original purpose of printing the cartoons -- some of which maliciously and stupidly identified Mohammed with terrorists, who could want nothing better than to be associated with the prophet -- was plainly to be provocative.
There you go, then. The whole tempest in a teacup is down to "ignorance, intolerance, and parochialism." No important values are at issue; it's just a cat fight. But while both sides may be exhibiting ignorance, intolerance, and parochialism, the implication is plain that the whole silly affair could have been avoided if one of them had been a little less ignorant, etc. Guess which? Here's a clue: the ignorant and stupid side that wanted to be -- oh, my God, no! -- provocative!
As with the current consensus against publishing racist or violence-inciting material, newspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance.
Gotcha! Offending Muslims is a form of racism and incitement to violence. (Well, incitement to violence clearly is correct, although not quite in the way the paper meant it.) Here is an affirmation of the one and only moral issue the Liberal Establishment recognizes: tolerance. The "ultimate" value, in the Globe's words. We must be tolerant of everything, including intolerance itself, as well as kidnapping, beheading, suicide bombing, hijacking airplanes full of innocent people and using them to bring down buildings to kill thousands of other innocent people. All that's standing in the way of world peace and brotherhood is ignorance and the unwillingness of a few "provocative" journalists to refrain from printing anything that might offend adherents of one ultra-thin-skinned religio-political system.

Although the offending cartoons are now all over the Web, where they have probably been viewed by half a billion or so people, the Globe is still so aware of its responsibility as the arbiter of what may and may not be seen by the public -- come to think of it, the paper has a lot in common with Muslim "protesters" -- that after due deliberation among the white shirts on the top floor, it has refused on principle to show the drawings.

You almost have to have some sympathy for these coelacanths of the publishing world, buried in the mud, not quite extinct, unlike the multi-cultural imperative that has blown up all around them.

La commedia รจ finita.


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