Wednesday, February 08, 2006

News Editors: Apologize for Your Disrespect Now

News Editors: Apologize for Your Disrespect Now

It's high time for the dozen newspaper editors in Europe (and one in America) who have printed the images of the prophet Muhammed to apologize to Islam.

15 million European Muslims along with another billion Muslims around the world have been deeply offended by the cartoons that depict the Prophet in a derogatory fashion. Freedom of the press is something that democratic socities are lucky to have, but freedom does not excuse a taunting disrespect for the religion of over a billion people, especially given the knowledge that it is causing such unrest in the Middle East and beyond.

It is courageous to defend democracy and freedom. It is fruitlessly stubborn, socially irresponsible, and violence-provoking for news editors to refuse to apologize for the offense and continue to print these cartoons. When the violence dies down, there will have been ten more terrorists created for every one that was shot dead while protesting in Afghanistan and the West Bank. So much for our utterly stupid bragging about how we can wield our right to be as big an asshole as we please - using freedom as the defense for further aggravating those we know we are taunting.

The images will be employed by extremists to recruit more and more extremist terror in Middle Eastern nations. President Bush has called for an end to violence over the cartoons, but I think he would appear politically brave and civilly respectful if, instead of appealing to only the governments around the world to help end the deadly violence, he would appeal to the better nature of the societies in which these cartoons were printedand recommend that news editors offer some kind of apology. Freedom isn't worth a thin dime if it sets off a chain of violent events that reveals the journalists in that free society to be cruel, wreckless, unethical, careless, and without conscience.

Original cartoons were authorized for printing by cultural editor Flemming Rose. Rose has said that "Apologizing would imply that if you intimidate us enough we will follow your demands." Apology has great power, and Flemming Rose may not have the degree of humility required to admit that he offended others in a disrespectful manner, but his editors should know better. Apology is all about accepting responsibility for your actions. If Mr. Rose thinks it's about blackmail, that's his pride speaking. It isn't as if he HASN'T deeply offended religious people. He has. A bigger man would acknowledge what he'd done. A man who deeply appreciates his free society would talk with respect to those he offended - even those who do not share his world view or the freedom that his own government provides.

Insiders report that the editor of the Conservative Danish paper Jyllands-Posten, Carsten Juste, told his journalists in a meeting: "If I had known Danes would have been put in harm's way as the result of printing these cartoons, I would not have done it." Yet, he refuses to present a formal apology. Why not? The majority of people offended are not in the streets. They grace homes all over this world, including many Islamic communities here in the United States. They believe it's time to stop demonizing their Prophet and demonizing Muslims. It isn't a complicated concept to grasp.

The necessity for apology would not be "giving in to extremists," as many right wing rags (like Front Page) or the cartoonist himself would suggest, for that sounds like nothing more than racism and Islamophobia.

King Abdullah of Jordan said anything that "vilifies the prophet Mohammed or attacks Muslim sensibilities needs to be condemned," but those who choose to protest should do it "thoughtfully, articulately, express their views peacefully."

I think he hit the nail on its head. I join King Abdullah in condemning this misguided attempt at political humor which, by the way, has had a very curious resurgence - a second life. The cartoons originated last September. The first time I read anything about it was when it was reprinted at Front Page, a Zionist-leaning American website, on February 1. I asked myself - why did David Horowitz decide to put it up on his internet site? I sense that he strongly dislikes Christianity and Islam - but why would he wish to incite more violence? Horowitz' motivations are politically suspect. His Front Page bloggers, with cooperation from the hate-blog Little Green Footballs, have never wanted this cartoon die a natural death. It's as if they needed to agitate the extremists to perpetuate Islamic racism and extremism. Were they free to harp on it until it resurfaced as mainstream news? Of course! The question is: Are they pleased with their results? They must be, all of them, because they're cheering for more cartoons of the same kind.

Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance, moderation. I don't believe certain political forces would like us to remain convinced of that fact. Demonizing the "other" has been used throughout history as a way to maintain political power. They're doing it now.

In an article today, Justin Raimondo introduces you to news editor Flemming Rose and causes you to wonder how all of this could NOT be a coordinated effort to bring the world to its knees in the throes of the next world war:
Hate and fear are created out of thin air by the most skillful means, and stereotypes take the place of reality as the world prepares for war. That's what this is all about: the hate propaganda emanating from certain quarters in Europe and the U.S. amounts to preparations for war just as much as the manufacture of arms and the mobilization of armies at the border. We are being psychologically prepared for another world war, and the first shots are being fired from the pages of Jyllands-Posten. I have the sinking feeling that they won't be the last…

Of all my quarrels with his foreign policy, I believe President Bush when he insists that Islam is a religion of tolerance and peace. I'm not sure whether or not he believes it himself, but I know that what he is saying is correct.

Being atheist doesn't have to make you socially retarded. Christopher Hitchens has a strong distaste for anything religious, yet, for a man who claims to be such an intellectual authority on the course of human history, he takes a decidedly anti-social pleasure in seeing the deep beliefs of over a billion citizens of the world mocked.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said his government had nothing to apologize for, and I am inclined to completely agree.

We should never, I repeat- NEVER - apologize for having a free society.

The government of Denmark should not ban this cartoon if they value freedom in their society.

The news editors who have made the disrespectful and unwise business decisions to mock Muhammed are the ones directly responsible for apologizing, and they should do it now. We have to treat another culture as we find them - we must meet them at their level if our aim is to ask the to think critically. The societies targeted by these unwisely promoted cartoons are far behind many in the West regarding the level of freedom in most Western societies. A grade school child understands that you do not MOCK someone different than you and expect them to change their minds about the positive value of your ideas.

Anne Applebaum has a great WaPo column about this - and so does Michael J.W. Stickings.

Anne Applebaum also speaks about the blatant hypocrisy of the right bloggers.

It seems as if this war-loving blogger would just as soon see more terror recruitment with further displays of these offensive cartoons - enough provocation to start a new unnecessary violent conflict so we may lose a whole new healthy chunk of our beloved young generation. She has seen similar increases in terror recruitment as a result of the Iraq war and occupation, which she heartly supported. I didn't see her calling the American media cowards when they buried stories that questioned WMD and the crappy intelligence during the lead-up to the completely unnecessary Iraq war. I didn't see her concern about the rule of law when she perpetuated a narrative of WWII internment camps as myth.

Alan Dershowitz is all pissed off because past media cartoons have mocked Jesus - AS IF TWO COMPLETE WRONGS SUDDENLY MAKE A RIGHT! What a complete boob. He says, "You can't have a story about a cartoon without seeing the cartoon." Of course you can, Mr. Dershowitz. CNN did. Dershowitz acts like a spoiled stomping child aching for playground justice.

Dershowitz says:
CNN has shown no courage. It claims it won't publish the cartoons because they're offensive. But they have published previous cartoons that are offensive. The fact is, they're frightened. The fact is, that this kind of religious and intellectual terrorism is working. It is persuading journalists who would otherwise cover this story with the cartoons to back away--not on ideological reasons or not for reasons of protecting or preserving integrity or anything of that kind, but out of physical and economic fear. This is economic, physical terrorism directed at journalists and it is working.
So what's new? CNN had no courage in the lead-up to the Iraq war, either. They barely mentioned the massive worldwide protests against going into Iraq back in February, 2003 or the people who were questioning WMD before the war began. Gee - I wonder if Dershowitz might have called CNN big chickens for THAT? I DON'T THINK SO.

George W. Bush is a weak-minded leader who has allowed the forces of neoconservatism to trample over his efforts to change the world in a meaningful way. He has allowed them to turn his professed faith over on its head by creating an atmosphere where it's easier to fear than to think reasonably; where a national theology trumps all faith; where it's easier to demonize than to understand; where it's easier to steal power than to gain it lawfully; where it's easier to kill than to care.

Right bloggers and pundits are becoming cheerleaders for Islamophobia, religion-bashing, violence, death, and disrespect. I pray that when we look back upon this time in History, we can say that America is still strong and united, and that peace was finally achieved when these immature people woke up to the fact that we can accomplish more TOGETHER - with old fashioned respect and diplomacy. Fear, war, intimidation, demonization of religion, racism (in the guise of something wrapped as "freedom"), blind hubris, and ignorance are timeless losers for any democratic nation.

News editors - it's time to apologize. The Muslim communities are watching and waiting.

*Related story: Suzanne Nossel has an interesting blogpost on the subject at Democracy Arsenal.