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Charlie Hebdo revisited

By Art Hyland

[What follows here is a re-print from an article written Sept. 19, 2012.  It’s being revisited here today because of the killing that took place in Paris yesterday at the offices of the French publication Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine whose editors long ago decided anyone was worthy of critical humor, including some prophet called Muhammed or something.  It shouldn’t take courage to publish a cartoon about an historic figure called Muhammed but it does – -AND THIS IS THE POINT OF THIS RE-PRINT – – it took courage because the vast majority of world media and their cowered governments have succumbed to Islamic demands to make Islam an exception only because of threats to person and possessions if they didn’t.  In other words, the world cowers while Charlie Hebdo (and a few others like that once-courageous Danish newspaper – – which apologized however, so they don’t count anymore) marched on with humor and a normal, Western attitude that a free press exists only if it publishes what it wishes.]

Blasphemy Begets Conspiracy Theory 

Sept. 19, 2012

First there was the concept that an obscure video “Innocence of Muslims,” still published daily on Google’s YouTube (Update:  they took it down – – surprise), was supposed to have incited the Mideast riots in Cairo and other cities that led to the death of an American ambassador and three of his staff in Libya.  This was (is?) the official word from the Administration, but lately they have begun to admit it might not have been.  But this obfuscation is not quite the subject here today.

No, “…today I’d like to talk about Charlie, and what he’s wearing.  He’s wearing black,” was the beginning of a comedic riff in “Good Morning, Vietnam.”  But it serves us well again because there is an obscure paper in Paris, called Charlie Hebdo, that published some cartoons of Muhammad  (although not too obscure because their Muhammad issue sold out as soon as it hit the streets).  And the world is bracing for more riots.  Some embassies are shutting down to avoid expected mob reactions, expected, you see, because a sizable percentage of Muslims do not tolerate a world where people can publish what they wish in their own countries.  They somehow missed that age-old childhood proverb, “Sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never harm you,” nor cartoons. No one knows what Muhammad looked like (I’m not speaking of the millions of people named Muhammad), what he wore, or any other clue about his image, as there are no official images allowed to exist within certain quarters of the Muslim world where he is reported to have lived a long time ago, and from whom an entire religion was formed naming him as a prophet.

But that doesn’t matter because ANYTHING even IMPLIED as a Muhammad image is labeled by certain believers to be blasphemous, including a bear.  As when the notorious South Park creators attempted to have a bear costume represent Muhammad (which depiction was in itself uncommon deference to a sensitive Muslim world who had influenced South Park’s producers to be super-careful about their satirical, successful production lest they find their cars rigged with explosives).  But even that effort was considered taboo and South Park’s Muhammad-in-bear-costume episode was nixed, much to the chagrin of its creators who would just as soon fully illustrate a Muhammad roller skating inside a Jewish temple, as they have happily spoofed so many sacred religious leaders over the years.  Actually, a much earlier episode had a momentary appearance of a Muhammad producing on demand a flame but the Muslim world wasn’t paying attention then. One could say that the Colorado South Park creators and France’s Charlie Hebdo are doing what they were born to do:  discriminate against no one by satirizing everyone.

Their argument is compelling:  by not expressly including Muhammad in their religious repertoire of scathing humor, they are discriminating against him.  Whether it’s Scientologists, Mormons, Jews,  Catholics or Muslims, they all deserve to be treated equally by a fully objective cartoon media.  A perfect example of anti-PC satire is South Park’s character Token, a little Black kid. Is it humor that’s dividing East and West, or is it religion?  I’ve always felt that Jesus, among other human qualities, must have had quite a sense of humor in order to inspire people to drop whatever they were doing and follow him.  Successful salesmen throughout history have had that personal ability to make people laugh.  But one wonders about the Muslim prophet. Back home in America this cartoon story is once again being covered rather humorously by the media but only because it’s being handled seriously.  The American media is willing to buy into the Muslim demand that blasphemy is prohibited by the Constitution.  And so, for example, you have the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor and the Washington Post covering the story all using the same photograph of the French publisher holding the famous publication.  See example: Notice he’s holding a copy of his paper which is cropped so you cannot see the subject itself because…well, you know why.  But thanks to modern media, you’ve already seen it above; a picture is worth a thousand words, or it used to be. But no longer to the American media.

In the days following the famous Danish newspaper cartoon brouhaha, the New York Times opined about cartoons published there: “The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation’s news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.” See for yourself below what the Times was afraid to publish.  That is their prerogative, of course, and so is their choice to except Mohammad as a target, but there is no doubt they are one hundred percent hypocritical in so doing.  The only solace they have is that in this instance they are not alone, as virtually the entire U.S. print and network media conformed to this same sheepish decision. Spines the U.S. mainstream media do not have, and so we have this dichotomy where nothing Christian, Jewish or Protestant is off-limits, but if criticism is Muslim-oriented, it goes onto the cutting room floor because, by God, there are standards that the paragons of the media just won’t ignore.  They alter their principles when threatened with physical violence, although they love to cover it world-wide.  They rail against the United States when it uses its physical power when George Bush was in charge, blatantly criticize the U.S. military like during the General Petraeus hearings, or even publish sensitive, secret information that ruins our intelligence operations and puts our people or allies in harm’s way, all because they have an army of attorneys ready and willing to protect their right to print what they wish to.

But those same attorneys don’t protect them from fatwas, so they fold like blankets when that possibility surfaces. President Obama, who routinely cites Europe as the model for everything the U.S. should emulate, is once again a little behind the times.  While he and his Hillary State Department  are castigating the film and the cartoons, look what’s happening in Europe, according to a UK Guardian article, “By contrast, Wolfgang Schauble, the German home minister, defended the decision by four German newspapers to publish the cartoons: “Why should the German government apologise? This is an expression of press freedom.” Today a New Zealand newspaper, the Dominion Post, became the first in that country to publish the cartoons. Its editor, Tim Pankhurst, said: “We do not want to be deliberately provocative, but neither should we allow ourselves to be intimidated.” In the U.S., only the internet, with its millions of autonomous, independent-minded creators, was willing to show every cartoon available.  And it still does.  For some reason, this group has been ignored by the crazy side of the Muslim population, probably because there are just too many targets (also see Draw Muhammad Day story).  Which is why the paper and network media all ought to have published these simple images long ago, in order to have driven home the point to the Muslim world that it does not dictate our way of life and never will.

They’ve got the sand, so go pound some.

Both the film’s and the cartoon’s influence on Mideast violence helps the Administration’s narrative that these productions actually caused all the troubles, but better still from their perspective, it replaces America’s economic condition  as front page news during a re-election campaign where anything, even cartoons, is better to act presidential about than unemployment, food stamps, deficits, 16 Trillion dollar debt and devaluation.  You know, that unimportant stuff. So, did someone encourage Mideastern TV stations to suddenly focus on a dated, obscure film’s existence?  Who has ties to the Hollywood/internet powers that be who would know what motivates news and what doesn’t, and then who or what organization took advantage of the turmoil to where our embassies were stormed and/or burned in multiple countries?  One could claim a conspiracy about an election-year October surprise occurring in September, caused and/or fomented by a 2012 Plumber’s group connected to an Administration from none other than Chicago. But that’s just a humorous script for a Broadway play.  It’ll never make the papers.

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