February 10, 2006

Oh, Poor Western Culture, Did You Make a Boo-Boo?

From Netscape News: Prince Harry's Nazi Gaffe Sparked Anti-Semitism

You know what? This is TERRIBLE! It's almost as if Prince Harry should have made more sensitive and responsible use of his freedom of expression, and not worn that Nazi uniform in the first place. Oh, but, wait, no— that would have been a threat to democracy everywhere. My mistake! Carry on with the religious conflicts, chaps!


At 11/2/06 18:31, Anonymous ilya said...

you know...i think i read someone else use this very same logical parallel...shit, what was his name? ah fuck it, we'll just call him the president of iran for now.

you're in good company, chap!

At 11/2/06 22:32, Blogger Zosja said...

hahaha "president of iran" haha

At 12/2/06 10:29, Blogger Andrew said...

You know what? Just because somebody is in general not the sort of person you'd want to invite to a cocktail party, doesn't mean they can't occasionally make a cogent argument— so I don't care who made the same logical parallel. The point is, while the European press are going around rabble-rousing "in defence of free speech", there is a pretty much ironclad rule in Europe that you don't mention the Holocaust. Ever. It's not just the Prince Harry thing, either. Berlusconi called Schroeder a Nazi a few years ago and everybody was up in arms for weeks.

So why, if we're going to avoid mentioning that slightly hairy period in German history to avoid hurting anyone's feelings, should we not extend the same courtesy to other groups, too?

At 12/2/06 18:13, Anonymous ilya said...

you should care, friend, because the president of iran isn't concerned with free speech, or 'cogent arguments'. his holocaust-depicting cartoon contest under the guise of freedom of expression is just a ploy to perpetuate his jew-hating. and he finds support in the moral simplicity of people like you and ken livingstone, for example.

regarding the holocaust, when was the last time a group of jews protested violently about a holocaust depiction? the 'slightly hairy period in german history' is just a part of a long, terrible history. why don't you look at your prince harry article, see if maybe you can understand why that ironclad rule exists--the evidence is right there: nazi representations are just the visual go-ahead for already hostile groups to committ hate crimes. on the other hand, we have the riots which have killed 18 people or so to date. riots by muslims, killing muslims, NOT one group attacking another, NOT in europe. perpetrated, i might add, by their own governments. this is NOT the same thing, and if you think it is, you're treading some pretty fine ethical and moral lines.

furthermoe, you want to talk about hurting people's feelings? i'll refer you again to iran, and the entire muslim world for that matter, and the cartoons that daily run the gamut of stock anti-semitic representations of jews. if anything, THEY have no right whatsoever to say a fucking thing to the european press when they behave like that. so, i wonder, why aren't you saying poo to them? don't want to hurt their feelings? or are you afraid that they'll riot and that you'll only be able to blame yourself?

At 12/2/06 19:09, Blogger Andrew said...

Hey, I let it go when you compared me to the President of Iran, but KEN LIVINGSTONE?! That is crossing the line.

And, look, be serious. I am perfectly aware that the President of Iran is no saint, but I am capable of separating an objective moral argument from the person who made it (reprehensible or not). You are, too, so don't act like I am using the argument in order to perpetuate Jew-hating.

The point I was trying to make was that freedom of speech is all well and good, but it needs to be used responsibly. So I agree with you: I don't think it's right for Iran to publish gratuitously inflammatory anti-Semitic cartoons. I don't think it's right for anybody to print gratuitously inflammatory anti-Semitic cartoons. By that same token, however, it's equally wrong to print gratuitously inflammatory anti-Islam cartoons, which is the only thing I've been complaining about.

Surely you can't think that:

(A) I support the President of Iran's anti-Semitism.
(B) I support the Iranian newspaper running this Holocaust cartoon competition.
(C) I support the printing of any cartoons that are irredeemably offensive to any group of people.
(D) It is 'okay' for the West to print anti-Islam cartoons just because some Muslim papers have printed anti-Semitic cartoons in the past.

I say poo on anyone who acts in a way that is prejudiced and offensive in a public forum, wherever it happens. That's why Prince Harry is a douchebag, that's why anti-Semites are douchebags, and that, my friend, is why the European newspaper editors who printed these cartoons are douchebags.

You can call me morally simplistic if you like, but I'd rather that than morally duplicitous-- which is, in my opinion, what you are if you print racist material and try to disguise the fact by appealing to democratic ideals that, in other situations, you are happy to let slide.

We're still on for coffee next month, right?

At 13/2/06 19:20, Anonymous ilya said...

look, i am not saying that you support the things that you listed, nor that you are anti-semitic. you're a smart, reasonable, liberal-minded guy, which is great, and you're not jesse rosenfeld, which is incredible. all i was trying to illustrate is what happens when you bring the moral equivalency argument (if we can't do A, then we can't do B, because A=B) to its extreme conclusions.

furthermore, there is a fundamental difference between the self-critical reactions of the western world (exemplified, in this case, by you) and the utter lack of such an introspective character in the people who are rioting. example: two jordanian editors who rightfully said, "what makes us look worse, the cartoons or rioting across the muslim world?", were sacked.

regardless of whether you think the newspaper editors are douchebags or not, i think the reaction is more contemptible than the act, espcially when it's a completely hypocritical reaction. therefore, i think it's more important to criticize the latter than the former, and the reason so many smart, reasonable, liberal-minded people don't do that is, in my opinion, because they don't feel morally justified in criticizing 'other' cultures who we don't expect to have the same values as us.

i think we can close the debate on that, unless you have something to add. we're on for coffee whenever you want.

At 13/2/06 20:36, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First of all, let us agree to stop using the word "chaps". This is a blog, not a scene from Pygmalion.

Secondly, "the utter lack of such an introspective character in the people who are rioting"? Saying that all rioters lack introspection is an overgeneralization, just like saying that "all presidents of Iran are anti-semitic". For instance, the Stanley Cup riot of 1993 was less of an opportunity to loot Sainte-Catherine Street than it was an attempt to grapple with the post-industrial angst generated by the auto-redefinition of the construct of the Québécois self-in-society. I remember someone calling himself "Gitane" explaining to me the Foucaultian relational nature of power by demonstrating that a jewelry store burglar alarm has no meaning without the prior striking of the storefront window with a tire iron.

Thirdly, which is more hypocritical? Muslims committing violently as a reaction to being stereotyped as violent, or a Dane depicting the Prophet Mohammed as evil by drawing horns on his head, when Danes routinely wear horns on their heads?

I hope this settles the issue.


At 14/2/06 18:11, Blogger Andrew said...

One last word (because it's my blog, so, HA!, I will do what I like):

I'm perfectly happy to criticise the people who are violently rioting about the cartoons, which does seem, uh, slightly unnecessary. But I balk at such a simple characterisation of the reaction; there are many Muslims who have quietly and intelligently objected on grounds ranging from their religious views, to moral arguments, to practical arguments, and I don't think that reaction is contemptible at all. Just as it's a small group of Muslims who are reacting violently, it's an equally small group who are vitriolic anti-Semites, and an equally small group who are fundamentalist terrorists.

So, yes, poo as well on those who are rioting, but let's not pretend those are the only people (or even the majority of people) who have objections to the cartoon.

Also, Mr Dye, thank you for your valuable insights into the topic, though I feel I must protest that, in fact, this exchange has been remarkably similar to a scene from Pygmalion that, alas!, is usually excised from productions for being too controversial.


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