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Jan 30 2012

Trots fight back

This just in, from LSE ASH at Facebook – a poster from the Socialist Workers Student Society advertising an event on Thursday. It reads:

Religious discrimination is irrefutably on the rise at LSE. Both the Atheist Society’s efforts to publish inflammatory “satirical” cartoons in a deliberate attempt to offend Muslims, and the ‘Nazi themed’ drinking games serve to highlight a festering undercurrent of racism.

What does really lie behind the claim that religious communities cannot be the target of racists?

Is atheism the road to social progress?

Why do Marxists defend religion?

Great god almighty. A Nazi-themed drinking game is religious discrimination?! And then, if it is, why the “festering undercurrent of racism”? They don’t seem to be able to remember what they’re trying to talk about for the length of a paragraph. Lev Davidovitch would be so embarrassed.

And as for the rest of the dishonest censorious bullshit…The cartoon was and is not remotely “inflammatory” (and what are Trotskyists doing freaking out about things that are “inflammatory” anyway??!) and that stupid babyish tattle-taleish “a deliberate attempt to offend Muslims” is beneath contempt. I feel like composing a cartoon in a deliberate attempt to offend SWP-ers. What a stupidity-magnet.

106 comments

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  1. 1
    maureen.brian

    This lot are so far up themselves that I’ll happily give you a tenner for any one of them who can remember who Lev Davidovitch was. Or shop shouting long enough to hear the question.

  2. 2
    Aratina Cage

    Hmm, that might be it. The student union might have bought the old myth that Nazis were atheists hook, line, and sinker. And that right there is a form of religious discrimination (discrimination against atheists who hold a minority view on religion throughout the Western world).

  3. 3
    Bernard Hurley

    This lot are so far up themselves that I’ll happily give you a tenner for any one of them who can remember who Lev Davidovitch was.

    Or Leon Trotsky for that matter (Yes I do know!)

  4. 4
    Retired Prodigy Bill

    What’s that word we don’t say much in the the USA? Ah, ‘shite,’ that’s it. What drivel. It appears as if the LSE is missing an opportunity to actually educate their students.

  5. 5
    Steersman

    Right, that “deliberate attempt to offend Muslims” really is off-the-wall and suggests someone unclear on the concept of free speech at least.

    Although “inflammatory” seems accurate – “Arousing passion or strong emotion, especially anger, belligerence, or desire” – as that is exactly what happened, at least to some even if it was, for some anyway, analogous to crocodile tears. But the point is that regardless of whether it had that effect in some is no justification for curtailing the display of the cause.

    But “What does really lie behind the claim that religious communities cannot be the target of racists?” really does not compute at all. Is he arguing that most communities can be the target of racists and he objects to religious communities being immunized or protected against them?

    Although his question about Marxists defending religion is one I think the poster and his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms should be giving some serious thought to.

  6. 6
    Eamon Knight

    Ever since I was an undergrad, it’s been my impression that universities, and student government in particular, tend to be infested with ill-informed young idealists who take themselves way too seriously, and wannabe politicians and professional activists who take up a cause just because they need the experience. As a result we get these bodies taking high-and-mighty stands on rather narrow (or, as in this case, entirely wrong-headed) matters of principle.

    (Me? I was a politically-uninvolved engineering student. With 30+ lecture hours per week, plus problem sets and projects, I didn’t have *time* to give a damn about anything else).

  7. 7
    Rudi

    I never realised the word “discrimination” meant “other people sometimes do things i don’t personally like”.

    Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t.

  8. 8
    Simon

    Ah, now it all makes sense (in a warped kind of way). This is bringing back memories of student movements back home in Greece. Here’s how this goes:

    The lefty group is engaged in a trench war with the far-right group (whatever those may be). Since the far-right groups are anti-muslim, the lefty groups equate this rhetoric with the far-right.

    My guess is ideology and philosophy have nothing to do with this. I call it ‘auto-pilot activism’.

  9. 9
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    Ah, Trotskyists… Fond* memories of endless debates with a deadly earnest young proselyte, while I was in college, who tried to persuade me to hide the copy of Marx’s The Communist Manifesto that she’d given me to help understand the “fascist” society in which we were supposed to live. Apparently, she thought I might have problems with the police for reading books by Marx… This was in France in the 1980s, we had card-carrying communists in the government and the Manifesto was one of the books required reading in my high school philosophy classes.

    All in all, highly enlightening conversations if one is interested in the way a human mind can warp and twist reality into complex delusional systems.

    I also had the thrill one day of hearing her telling me, point blank, that the Revolution would wash away the old order in blood, and she meant it very literally. That cleansing would also extend to all who actively or even passively were “in the way”. I asked if that could mean the physical extermination of people like me, who didn’t actively oppress the masses but just weren’t part of the proletariat. Answer: “if necessary”, yes, she wouldn’t have any qualms about it.

    * Well, in a sense…

  10. 10
    Ian MacDougall

    “Lev Davidovitch would be so embarrassed.”

    Lev Davidovitch Bronstein (aka Trotsky) would probably say, paraphrasing Marx “thank God I am not a Trotskyist”.

    In the context of his time, he was one of the world’s best political thinkers, along with Orwell and Koestler.

    I think he would have regarded the modern left’s readiness to ally itself with Islamic fascism as being neither wise, principled or strategically sound.

  11. 11
    Ophelia Benson

    Steersman – why “he” and “his”? We don’t know that one person wrote that, much less that it was a male.

    And I don’t think the fact that some people decided to get inflamed makes the cartoon “inflammatory” – in fact I’m sure it doesn’t. If someone decides to get enraged at a still life of a plate of fruit does that make the still life “inflammatory”? No.

  12. 12
    'Tis Himself

    inflammatory “satirical” cartoons in a deliberate attempt to offend Muslims

    Posting a cartoon of two people with glasses of beer in front of them is neither inflammatory or satirical. If the Muslims were offended then it’s because they were determined to be offended.

  13. 13
    James

    This is a category error in 2 ways. First they are classing criticism or mockery of religious ideas or actions as attacks on the people who follow that religion. Second they are classing hatred or discrimination on religious grounds as hatred or discrimination on racial grounds.

  14. 14
    Rosie

    If that’s the Socialist Workers Party, they have been sucking up to islamists for years, especially as now Israel is now their baddest country in the world and the antisemitic islamists are happy to go along with that. That gets them into all sorts of contortions eg going along with meetings that are sexually segregated and cheering on any theocracy like Iran that comes their way. It’s very comic – they’re a bunch of Marxist atheists who make all sorts of tender excuses for the worst kind of antisemitism, misogyny, censorship etc from followers of their preferred religion.

  15. 15
    maureen.brian

    I find it impossible to accept that they are Marxists – distinct lack of disciplined thought or behaviour – and whatever they may claim they are not atheists, not even the Socialist Worker element of this rabble.

    Anyone feel like doing another lecture series on False Consciousness?

  16. 16
    Rosie

    @ maureen – I’ve been on various comments threads where SWP commenters have dug up incredibly obscure Marxian writings on religion to support their new found piety.

  17. 17
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ Ian MacDougall:

    Comrade Trotsky was very smart and far-seeing, true. He could also be as ferocious as he was pragmatic. He commanded the Red Army during the Russian Civil War and defended at the time the use of terror as a military and political tactic.

  18. 18
    Steersman

    Rosie (#14),

    It’s very comic – they’re a bunch of Marxist atheists who make all sorts of tender excuses for the worst kind of anti-Semitism, misogyny, censorship etc from followers of their preferred religion.

    No end to the bizarre combinations of “strange bedfellows” that political expediency can sanction if not join in holy, on unholy, matrimony ….

  19. 19
    maureen.brian

    Rosie, I now stay as far away from them as I can. Life is short and I have too often found myself explaining very recent history to them, I mean like 30-years-ago history.

  20. 20
    BenSix

    Ophelia -

    If someone decides to get enraged at a still life of a plate of fruit does that make the still life “inflammatory”? No.

    But images of fruit don’t tend to enrage people and the artist couldn’t have known that his creations would inspire such a peculiar response. Criticising or satirising Islam does tend to provoke such reactions and the critic/satirist would be naive not to have grasped that. I’m not sure one can escape the charge of being “inflammatory”, then, unless naivete is more preferable, but if it’s only inflammatory because of the feverishness of the sensitivities of the offended parties “inflaming” them needn’t be an error or a sin. Socrates was inflammatory – he really pissed Athenians off. Galileo was inflammatory – he irked the Inquisition. Even a certain K. Marx was inflammatory. Whether it’s a bad or good thing depends on the nature of the, er – inflammation.

  21. 21
    Ophelia Benson

    The artist who painted the still life is not a man.

  22. 22
    Steersman

    Ophelia (#11),

    Steersman – why “he” and “his”? We don’t know that one person wrote that, much less that it was a male.

    True enough. I should have used “he/she” or “poster” as I did in my last sentence.

    And I don’t think the fact that some people decided to get inflamed makes the cartoon “inflammatory” – in fact I’m sure it doesn’t. If someone decides to get enraged at a still life of a plate of fruit does that make the still life “inflammatory”? No.

    Seems to me that “inflammatory” is not an attribute of a still life or the cartoon or anything else, but a characterization or description of the viewer’s or perceiver’s response. That you or I don’t experience that in any particular case says nothing about the experience of any other person or whether they have a right to have it or whether it is appropriate or reasonable or not. Seems somewhat chauvinistic otherwise ….

  23. 23
    Ophelia Benson

    More substantively – Ben, you’re buying into the BBC way of viewing these things – that cartoons or novels “provoke” the people who get enraged by them. I think it’s important not to buy into that. I also think “inflammatory” implies intent and thus isn’t the right word.

  24. 24
    Ian MacDougall

    Irene @ #17,

    I have been aware of that for some time, but thanks anyway. Your comments here are always worth reading.

    “Comrade Trotsky was very smart and far-seeing, true. He could also be as ferocious as he was pragmatic. He commanded the Red Army during the Russian Civil War and defended at the time the use of terror as a military and political tactic.”

    As did the Tsarists and Whites. The use of terror was in fact a standard tactic of the contemporary European imperialism. With 20/20 hindsight I think many can say ‘there but for the grace of God went us.’ Trotsky was no angel, but at the same time needs to be judged by the standards of his own time.

    In any case, how many of us can say that with a different set of social circumstances, or despite same, we would not have finished up cheerfully shooting prisoners, or for that matter, stoking the ovens in some death camp? Unanswerable of course, but a lot of the world’s evil is done by normal people in abnormal situations and times.

  25. 25
    BenSix

    Ophelia -

    The artist who painted the still life is not a man.

    No, they’re not. I’ll admit to reflexively using “he” – an inheritance from British culture that I should trash.

    …you’re buying into the BBC way of viewing these things – that cartoons or novels “provoke” the people who get enraged by them…

    I’m just not sure we can avoid the charge of being provocational if we know our thoughts will draw such a response and decide to air them nonetheless. (As indeed we should.) But, yeah, I guess the implication is that this is the desired response which is, of course, untrue.

  26. 26
    Ophelia Benson

    But the ASH groups really didn’t know that that cartoon would inflame anyone. That’s understandable – Jesus and Mo has been going strong for six years, and it hasn’t been inflaming anyone. In addition, it was on their Facebook page, not emblazoned in a public space.

  27. 27
    Rudi

    I once heard about a girl who was bullied by her classmates because they didn’t like the trainers she was wearing.

    In this example, everyone immediately sees that the behaviour of the classmates was completely unnacceptable, and no-one would seriously describe the girl’s trainers as “inflammatory”.

    Yet exchange “trainers” for “cartoons” and “classmates” for “muslims”, and suddenly the example, while morally exactly the same, becomes difficult for so many people.

  28. 28
    BenSix

    Ophelia -

    You’re right. I was thinking in general terms but that’s not reason to drag the poor LSE-ers into it.

  29. 29
    Ophelia Benson

    Steersman – well I think “inflammatory” is like “aggressive” – it includes intention. More so than, say, “offensive” which I think can work both ways – intended to be offensive or taken to be offensive or both at once. It seems really odd to me to call something inflammatory independent of intention.

  30. 30
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Is this cowardice, or something else? Why doesn’t anyone tell these tools to suck it up and grow the fuck up?

  31. 31
    Steersman

    Ben (#25),

    I’m just not sure we can avoid the charge of being provocational if we know our thoughts will draw such a response and decide to air them nonetheless. (As indeed we should.) But, yeah, I guess the implication is that this is the desired response which is, of course, untrue.

    Seems to me that the question of what the viewer of the cartoon or still life experiences in the way of emotions on perceiving them and what actions they may take in response to them – both the experiences and the actions qualifying as responses, but involuntary (largely) in the first case and voluntary in the second one – are the sole responsibility of the viewer himself or herself.

    To argue otherwise (as Rudi argued above in #27), that there should be any form of censure of those painting the still life or disseminating the cartoon, or that any degree of responsibility should be laid on them for any actions of the viewer, seems to be equivalent in the analogous case of women wearing provocative clothes being raped to arguing that those women are partly responsible for that response.

  32. 32
    'Tis Himself

    Improbable Joe #30

    Is this cowardice, or something else?

    It’s probably unthinking devotion to an interpretation of ideology. The SWP have decided, for various reasons (see Rosie’s post #14), that Muslims are being persecuted by hateful racists, and any criticism of Islam, real or imagined, is racist. Since some Muslims complained about the Jesus & Mo cartoon on ASH’s facebook page, then obviously ASH is Islamophobic and racist.

  33. 33
    Steersman

    Ophelia (#29),

    It seems really odd to me to call something inflammatory independent of intention.

    Definitely some problematic nuances there. For example, while the definition itself doesn’t give any indication, that I can see, that intention is a necessary component, I notice that the Thesaurus suggests some alternatives that in themselves imply some degree of that:

    inflammatory – arousing to action or rebellion:
    1.incitive, instigative, rabble-rousing, seditious, incendiary
    2.provocative – serving or tending to provoke, excite, or stimulate;

    However, as per my previous comment, whether a particular action, painting, cartoon or mode of dress “arouses passion or desire” or not, that by itself in no way justifies any particular response on the part of the person experiencing that.

    Another case, I think, of the problematic consequences of conflating feelings and reasons.

    But a curious feature, I think, that sort of ties together the examples I used is that most Muslims, and a great many Christians for that matter, seem to be a rather sexually repressed bunch – I mean, 72 virgins for each of the faithful? (though I wonder what the women think about that and what they expect to find) – and that their aversion to seeing sexually provocative images and behaviours mirrors, and may undergird if not explain, their aversion to the criticism of their religious beliefs.

  34. 34
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Let’s say that there’s an anti-immigrant discrimination problem in Europe, for the sake of argument. Let’s say that many of those immigrants are Muslims. The anti-immigrant bigots piggyback onto reasonable criticisms of Islam to make unreasonable attacks against Muslims. The Islamists, also being right-wing bigots, play the same card by piggybacking onto rational criticisms about anti-Muslim bigotry to push for silencing their own critics.

    And then good people, well-meaning people, find themselves with a dilemma, because there’s a poison pill hidden on either side of the issue. You can say “fuck off Muslims, your hurt feelings don’t trump free speech” and feel like you’re on the side of the actual bigots. Or you can say “well, no, I guess we shouldn’t offend Muslims” and find yourself on the side of the critic-silencing Islamists.

  35. 35
    BenSix

    Steersman -

    I don’t want to rabbit on about this too much more because, as Ophelia says, there’s no reason to think ASH guessed the cartoon would lead to any more passionate a response than a few giggles. It’s harder to judge the consequences of one’s actions than I cavalierly implied – that believers will be vexed by jibes and criticism is predictable but how many, and what they’ll be prepared to, is harder or, indeed, impossible to judge – and if one doesn’t know and isn’t in a position to know those consequences one can’t be “responsible”. Sloppy thinking on my part.

    Still – WARNING: vaguely off-topic philosophical musings follow – if one takes an act in the knowledge of the consequences it’s likely to result in one is, in a sense, responsible. Say a policeman is trying to unarm a hostage-taker who’s planted a gun against the forehead of their luckless victim. The kidnapper screams that if the cop steps forward he’ll shoot. He does and, thus, he shoots. The killer is responsible for the slaying – he’s no less to blame than if he’d pulled the trigger anywhere else, with anybody else – but the policeman is responsible for creating a situation where he had good reason to believe that such results would come to pass. One thing that I’d add, however, is that being “responsible” in this sense needn’t be an act worthy of censure: the things that come to be may have been inevitable or less serious than things that would have otherwise happened. The British and French were “responsible” for the 2nd World War beginning after Hitler invaded Poland but that doesn’t mean they were responsible for the war.

  36. 36
    Godless Heathen

    The conversation about intention and being inflammatory and provoking reactions is very reminiscent of slut-shaming.

    Oh, you were catcalled/harassed/assaulted? Well, what did you expect, dressing the way you did/walking where you did/saying what you said?

    You provoked him!

    It takes responsibility off of the person who is reacting and onto the person who did the thing being reacted too. Clearly, in cases like these, the responsibility for the reaction lies squarely with the reactors since the causal event was so minor in relation to the reaction.

    (Phew. Hope that makes sense.)

  37. 37
    Steersman

    Ben (#35),

    Say a policeman is trying to unarm a hostage-taker who’s planted a gun against the forehead of their luckless victim.

    Good points which I won’t belabor [much :-)]. But the above example reminds me of the front page of a Mad magazine from quite a few years ago which showed a guy holding a dog and pointing a gun at its head with the caption being “Buy this magazine or we’ll shoot the dog”. Generally bad karma I think to be appeasing any anti-social elements – apropos of your further example about Hitler. Although one might argue that doing so gave him enough rope to hang himself.

    But I also think it is a bit of a red herring to be talking of whether someone was offended by some “inflammatory comments, paintings, pictures, or behaviour” – to which the appropriate response seems to be “tough”. And a little bit academic to be talking of whether there was any intention of “Arousing passion or strong emotion, especially anger, belligerence, or desire” as the primary responsibility for that – at least in the sense of an action in response – rests with receiver. Seems that the right to free speech covers both cases.

  38. 38
    Steersman

    Godless Heathen (#36),

    The conversation about intention and being inflammatory and provoking reactions is very reminiscent of slut-shaming. … It takes responsibility off of the person who is reacting and onto the person who did the thing being reacted to.

    Exactly. Basically condoning or trying to claim the right to act irresponsibly. Really not something that should given very much sympathy or credibility.

    Although I think one might reasonably argue that being “catcalled” is an entirely different kettle of fish from being assaulted. Which might be analogous to the difference between expressing one’s feeling of being offended over a cartoon and going out and firebombing a newspaper.

  39. 39
    evilDoug

    Over the past few days, I have come to view the events at LSE as abject opportunism in the interest of personal and group self-aggrandizement.

    Someone (my apologies – I’m losing track of who said what where) asked why the Islamists went after ASH, when J and M have been around for years. My simple answer: opportunism. Author is occult. There is no evidence of him being in a vulnerable position, and his web site is privately owned. A complaint to his ISP would probably be answered with “get bent” or “have your solicitor contact us”. ASH, on the other hand, is open and visible, with a heirarchy above it. Nevermind that the J and M cartoon was as public as Mo’s underwear. This made a great opportunity for the Islamists to actually deliver a complaint to a person or persons. It brought the opportunity for the individuals and the group to bolster their egos, their status and their place in heaven, as defenders of the faith.
    Enter the Minister of Anti-Racism for the LSE SU. I can visualize her bouncing up and down and practically levitating, shouting “That’s my brief! That’s my brief! I got a brief!” What a grand opportunity for her to advance her career, her status, and her image as fine, upstanding and just. No longer just a title with no work to do. She’ll show everybody! So, she takes her junior and off they go to court to prosecute the case. (Rumpole whould have trounced them soundly.)
    Along come the trots. “Oooooh”, they say to themselves, “what a grand opportunity to push another group down a rung on the ladder and take their place.” A grand opportunity to emerge from obscurity and irrelevance by passing themselves off as fine and upstanding and just, unlike those awful atheists.
    Opportunism. Massive, shameless opportunism.

  40. 40
    Steersman

    evilDoug (#39),

    Opportunism. Massive, shameless opportunism.

    “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity” [sayeth the preacher].

    Definitely plays a big part in all we do I think; not always easy to prevent the tail from wagging the dog. Reminds me that Hitchens took a strip off Mother Teresa for, I think, some self-aggrandizement of her own even if it wasn’t all that overt or evident.

  41. 41
    Torquil Macneil

    I agree with the B+W line on all this but that cartoon is a little bit inflammatory and it is silly to pretend it isn’t. Drinking alcohol is proscribed by Islam (not Christianity) so showing Mohammad drinking beer over and again is bound to be seen as deliberately insulting by some (not that an insult entitles the insulted to anything). If the Mohammad character were instead a notable rabbi and the pair of them were always depicted eating pork chops together, I think most of us would understand something a bit whiffy was going on and why some Jews might feel injured or insulted.

  42. 42
    dirigible

    Yes the SWP have long since got into bed with political Islam thanks to the Stop The War Coalition and later the Respect party.

    They are ambulance-chasing political narcissists of the worst kind.

    Lying about ASH in order to whip up hatred (um…) and get the easily misled outraged enough to buy a few party newspapers is, unfortunately, just the sort of thing they do.

  43. 43
    Egbert

    The Jesus and Mo cartoons are not written in Arabic, they’re not meant as communications toward Muslims in order to incite a riot, Muslims are not the audience. The real audience are atheists, free thinkers and other like-minded folk. We don’t give a fuck about blasphemy or being sensitive about beliefs, that is why what we have to say is so ‘outrageous’.

  44. 44
    Sigmund

    @Torquil Macneil
    If you listen to the complaints the beer part, while not ignored, is not one of the principle complaints about the cartoons – which, remember, have Jesus and Mo in several non-pub situations (in the park, using the computer, in bed, etc)
    The main complaints are first, that ANY portrayal of Muhammad is offensive to muslims, therefore if you draw a picture of Muhammad you will offend them, and second, that ridicule of religious beliefs is an offensive disrespectful act that is and should remain beyond the bounds of legitimate behaviour.
    btw, eating pork chops is also something that could apply to muslims!

  45. 45
    BenSix

    Godless Heathen -

    It takes responsibility off of the person who is reacting and onto the person who did the thing being reacted to.

    The kind of responsibility I’m talking about is in addition to the blame attached to whoever’s responding to the act under question. If I had my phone pinched on the Underground after leaving it in my pocket the thief would be as blameworthy as if they’d nicked it anywhere, at anytime, but I’d still kick myself for being foolish enough as not to put it somewhere safer. (As I said @35, though, one can be in part “responsible” for something bad and yet the act can still be good.)

    Clearly, in cases like these, the responsibility for the reaction lies squarely with the reactors since the causal event was so minor in relation to the reaction.

    In this case, yeah. (Which reminds me – I’m still furthering my accidental derail. Stop, Ben, damn you – stop.)

  46. 46
    Torquil Macneil

    “@Torquil Macneil
    If you listen to the complaints the beer part, while not ignored, is not one of the principle complaints about the cartoons”

    I realise that there is a grab-bag of complaints and many of them are entirely opportunistic, I just meant that is is daft to suggest that is nothing provocative or inflammatory in these cartoons. Many perfectly ordinary and reasonable Muslims are bound to find them somewhat uncomfortable, insulting and upsetting, even threatening insofar as they add to the general idea that it is OK or praiseworthy to bait Muslims. That is why the analogy with Jews is pertinent for once, I really don’t think these cartoonists would think it OK to have a cartoon that persistently portrays an important Jewish figure eating pork. We would wonder why they had to do that unless it was to offend, upset or threaten, wouldn’t we? At very least it would strike us as rude and in bad taste. I think the cartoonists here should take a tiny step back and give Mo a cup of coffee instead. Why not?

  47. 47
    Sigmund

    @Torquil Macneil
    I would be willing to see that done as a test case – if only to show that the reason behind posting the cartoons is the examination of religious ideas rather than some principle about drinking beer.
    I even suggested a compromise myself previously – I don’t seem to be able to link to my site here but if you google “sneer review” you should be able to see the “LSE compromise” suggestion.
    Having listened to the LSE debate, however, I don’t think it would make a difference. The J and M cartoons were described as similar to cartoons praising Hitler and calling for the genocide of Jews. The reasoning behind the objections was clearly based on the idea that strong criticism of Islam was tantamount to racism.
    Does anyone who regularly views J and M think that the beer issue is an attempt to be offensive? When people point out that Mo could be drinking coca cola or non alcoholic beer the goalposts shift to “but they are in a bar which is also haram to muslims – because it serves alcohol”
    We can’t give him a glass of water (not with Jesus around!)
    That said I do think it’s worth testing the water (don’t even think of it Jesus!) by having the LSE ASH posting more J and Mo cartoons but picking those that are not set in a bar – if only to make it clear that the issue is blasphemy based on image portrayal rather than any other red herring.

  48. 48
    SAWells

    @Torquil: The idea that depictions of Mohammed are forbidden in Islam, like the idea that depictions of living beings are forbidden in Islam, is simply not true. There’s an archive of islamic art depicting Mohammed here: http://zombietime.com/mohammed_image_archive/

    You’ve mistaken a claim made by some fundamentalists for a universal truth. It’s a bit like saying “Christians believe the eucharist is literally the body of Christ” – some do and some don’t.

    As to the idea that “Many perfectly ordinary and reasonable Muslims are bound to find them somewhat uncomfortable, insulting and upsetting”- good. That is a good thing. If they go to all the trouble of searching out stuff which pokes mild fun at their religion, they are very welcome to be offended by it. They can learn that in a secular society you don’t get to force everyone else to follow your silly little religious taboos.

  49. 49
    Torquil Macneil

    “As to the idea that “Many perfectly ordinary and reasonable Muslims are bound to find them somewhat uncomfortable, insulting and upsetting”- good. That is a good thing. ”

    That rather makes the point for the censorious, doesn’t it? Muslim baiting doesn’t strike all of us as a good and certainly plenty of Muslims are disturbed at how tolerated it has become in quarters that were traditionally anti-racist.

    And you will notice that I didn’t make any claim at all about any religious proscription against depicting Mohammad real or not, so I have not made the mistake that your poor reading or comprehension skills has led you to suppose.

  50. 50
    Torquil Macneil

    “Does anyone who regularly views J and M think that the beer issue is an attempt to be offensive? ”

    No I don’t think it is intentional, but it indicates the sort of insensitivity to fellow citizens that is culpable and which we should react to when it is pointed out to us, like when people unthinkingly use the male pronoun to mean all of humanity. Of course the people protesting in bad faith will never be mollified but it is much less likely that they will build a serious constituency among reasonable people if they agree not to be provocative or insulting for its own sake, and the beer drinking thing is an insult.

  51. 51
    Sigmund

    Torquil, your argument is essentially the same as that made by the Ahmadiyya association – that if you know that something is likely to be offensive to someone else then you should refrain from doing it.
    I’d ask you the same question that the Ahmadiyyas couln’t answer, where do you draw the line?
    You cannot live any sort of life without doing or saying something that is offensive to others.
    Whose rights get to triumph over others rights?
    Give me an objective reason why I should regard a cartoon figure who is holding a beer as inherently offensive.

  52. 52
    Alain

    Toquil,

    The big (very big) difference (between “offending” Jews – or Christians – and Muslims) is that the Jews (or how about atheists?) aren’t known to go around blowing up or beheading those who “offended” them. So it all boils down to how “offense”-sensitive certain groups are! Are you somehow proposing that atheists should be growing thinner skins?

    And the fact that Islam followers these days are getting a special pass from the left (as Rosie pointed out) is especially galling. What a crazy set of circumstances!

  53. 53
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    These people are fucking crybabies, and who gives a damn if they are offended? Offended by what? Lack of respect for things that deserve no respect. People have all sorts of rights in most societies, but something they have NO RIGHT TO is to insist that their personal preferences on non-essential matters be respected by other people in all or even most instances.

    And since I know Muslims who drink beer and wine and brandy, there’s no inherent insult in showing Mohammed drinking a beer. Even if there were, again… too fucking bad. As soon as one of these bullies can produce Mohammed to complain about how his purported likeness is being used, they might have a case. Otherwise, he’s a DEAD PERSON, and other people shouldn’t be taken seriously when they make themselves feel offense at the treatment of some long-dead historical figure.

    Religion in general, and fundamentalism in particular, infantilizes believers, makes them incapable of behaving like sane adults in relation to their stupid belief. It isn’t anyone else’s fault that they are whining crybabies except their religion. And if we offend them often enough, and they see that getting their pwecious feewings hurt doesn’t kill them or make the world come to an end, maybe they will grow up and join the adult world at long last.

  54. 54
    Torquil Macneil

    “Give me an objective reason why I should regard a cartoon figure who is holding a beer as inherently offensive.”

    There is no reason why you should find it inherently offensive but there are good reasons why you should recognise that the to a vulnerable group, used to being on the receiving end of racist abuse and discrimination, this sort of gratuitous baiting could be interpreted as threatening. You may, for another example, like to call women ‘bitches’ or ‘ho’s’ and you have every right to do that, but if women complain to you that they find it offensive or threatening it would be nice if you at least took their views into account and I suspect you would have a dim view of a man who refused to do that.

    I am surprised that you don’t see any force in the Jewish analogy. If a cartoonist in a newspaper portrayed a Jewish politician (say) eating pork chops or bacon sandwiches, would you really think that people would have no cause for complaint or to suspect a deliberate insult? And if people are being insulted, they have every right to complain, don’t they?

  55. 55
    Ophelia Benson

    The link Sigmund mentioned @ 47 -

    http://sneerreview.blogspot.com/2012/01/lse-propose-compromise-for-jesus-and-mo.html

    I’ll also add it to the comment.

  56. 56
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Torquil Macneil, why are you so bigoted against Muslims that you refuse to treat them like adults who can take care of themselves?

  57. 57
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Hah! It is funny because Mo is on the wrong side of the bar.

  58. 58
    Torquil Macneil

    Improbable, there is nothing childish in responding to an insult. I am guessing you have never been in a socially vulnerable group, but it doesn’t take much imagination to see why they might be a bit touchy sometimes. Did I ever tell you the one about the Irishman who wanted to go to university? I think you might find it funny.

  59. 59
    Ophelia Benson

    I just meant that is is daft to suggest that is nothing provocative or inflammatory in these cartoons. Many perfectly ordinary and reasonable Muslims are bound to find them somewhat uncomfortable, insulting and upsetting, even threatening insofar as they add to the general idea that it is OK or praiseworthy to bait Muslims.

    But the cartoon is not baiting Muslims. That’s a ridiculous way to put it. That’s all the more true in that “Muslims” is used to mean everyone with any kind of familial background in Islam, no matter how secular or liberal or non-observant or lukewarm now. “Muslims” is treated as a catch-all term for people from a long list of majority-Muslim countries, but then when issues like this come up the category is also treated as if every single member of it were fanatical and quick to take offense and eager to shut down all criticism of Islam. The whole thing is just stupid, and a recipe for stultification.

    No, there is nothing provocative or inflammatory in these cartoons.

  60. 60
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    What does “socially vunerable” mean? Your guess is stupid. If you mean “minority” then just fucking say so, and stop being a moral coward.

    In any case, you’re still treating Muslims like children instead of like adults. There IS something childish in threatening violence in response to a perceived insult, in digging for any excuse to be offended regardless of the reality of the situation, and to demand that your desire to live in a world free of disagreement with your viewpoint trumps the rights of other people.

  61. 61
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Torquil Macneil, I find your implications about my background rude and offensive. Are you going to apologize and stop posting now, or are you going to add “hypocrite” to your CV?

  62. 62
    Ophelia Benson

    Torquil it’s not an insult. An image of Jesus and Mo sitting companionably in a pub is not an insult – yes, even if the dark liquid is alcoholic.

    You compared it to calling women bitches and hos – but that really is an insult. The proper analogy would be calling Muslims towel-heads or goat-fuckers or the like. Jesus and Mo doesn’t do that.

  63. 63
    Torquil Macneil

    “No, there is nothing provocative or inflammatory in these cartoons.”

    And would there still be nothing inflammatory if the figure was a Jewish holy man and instead of drinking beer they were depicted as eating bacon sandwiches in a cafe? I mean, wouldn’t that strike you as at all gratuitous? Wouldn’t Jews be at all entitled to think there was something fishy about it? If the analogy doesn’t hold, why not? Why is it important that Mo should be portrayed as doing something proscribed my Islam? What would be lost if he was drinking tea?

  64. 64
    Alain

    Torquil,

    You’re conflating religious insults with racism. Muslims are not a “racial” group. Depicting Blacks as cannibals is racism. Depicting Jews as blood-sucking vampires is racism. (Jews are one of those rare groups where religion and ethnicity generally coincide… Sikhs are another. There are Jewish atheists.) Depicting Muslims as terrorists is not racism. Islamic terrorists are extra-national and have no readily identifiable “race” (see the most recent conviction in Norway – http://www.couriermail.com.au/ipad/cartoon-terrorists-found-guilty/story-fn6ck55c-1226257819495 ).

    The depiction of a Jewish politician eating pork is unlikely to raise much objection. 1) Unless he/she is a vegetarian, he/she (as a worldly politician) probably already eats pork. 2) The cartoon would, I suspect, be accusing the politician of hypocrisy, but, for reasons indicated in 1), would be very weak satire. Contrast such a cartoon with the virulent antisemitism that has flooded most Muslim countries (and has even emigrated westwards thanks to groups like the SWP), and you’ll see what constitutes real racism.

  65. 65
    Torquil Macneil

    “You compared it to calling women bitches and hos – but that really is an insult.”

    But many men use these names as simple terms meaning ‘women’. I am with you on the wrongness of that, but they needn’t share that view. You would still be entitled to complain and they would be entitled to snigger at your thin skin. Portraying persecuted groups performing the acts most forbidden to them or which they consider wrong or proscribed is a classic form of baiting. Der Sturmer specialised in it.It is what the blood libel is about (Jews are forbidden from eating blood). WIt is possible that the cartoonists didn’t know how insulting it is to show a Muslim drinking (but they should have, really)) but now they do know, why nnot change it?

  66. 66
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I notice Torquil Macneil is still posting, which I find insulting and provocative as a member of a socially vunerable group.

  67. 67
    Torquil Macneil

    “Torquil Macneil, I find your implications about my background rude and offensive. ”

    But improbable, I was trying to be rude. That is my right. AAnd you are entitled to be offended. What is silly and a bit dishonest is to draw a deliberately insulting cartoon and then pretend to be shocked, shocked I tell you! when the people you mean to offend get offended.

  68. 68
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    So you’re a fool AND a hypocrite. Gotcha, asshat.

  69. 69
    Torquil Macneil

    “You’re conflating religious insults with racism. Muslims are not a “racial” group. ”

    No I am not.Anti-Muslim bigotry in the UK and the US is used as a a racist stalking horse and you have to be very one-eyed not to see that. The tendency for Muslims to be non-white has not only struck the Ku Klux Klan and the BNP, but it has certainly struck them hard.

    But that is as may be. Even if we have to pretend that Muslims are just another social group like the Women’s Institute or the Fabian Society, they are nonetheless a vulnerable and persecuted one and it would be humane to take that into account when you consider depicted them in disparaging ways. If you think religious persecution cannot be every bit as hard-bitten and frightening as racial persecution, I suggest a short educational trip to Belfast.

  70. 70
    Sigmund

    Torquil, most of my Muslim friends drink alcohol and most of my Jewish friends eat pork. There is nothing inherently offensive about doing either of those activities. They are religiously proscribed but not the sort of thing that anyone would see as shocking if religion was not involved.
    You seem desperate to derail the main issue here to that of beer and pork sandwiches but it is nonsensical to even try.
    All you are doing is making me hungry.

  71. 71
    Torquil Macneil

    “Gotcha, asshat.”

    Another dazzling intellect reaches its apogee on the interwebs. ‘Wildean’ doesn’t get close!

  72. 72
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Torquil Macneil, another immature way to respond to insult is to, as you have done, ignore the points made against you and pretend that you are occupying a superior intellectual position. While making insults yourself, I might add… you’ve already earned your Hypocrite Merit Badge, you can stop digging in now.

  73. 73
    Torquil Macneil

    “Torquil, most of my Muslim friends drink alcohol and most of my Jewish friends eat pork. There is nothing inherently offensive about doing either of those activities.”

    That’s true. Just as there is nothing inherently wrong with drinking blood,being wealthy or having a hook nose. And yet when people draw big-nosed Jewish figures covered in riches and with their lips stained with gore, my Jewish friends get terribly upset. Thin skinned, eh? Or something worse …

  74. 74
    Torquil Macneil

    “Torquil Macneil, another immature way to respond to insult is to, as you have done, ignore the points made against you and pretend that you are occupying a superior intellectual position. ”

    Improbable, I realise that you think you have made valuable points and that that ‘asshat’ signifies some profound unanswerable intellectual content, but but that may be because you haven’t spent enough time among people who can breath with their mouths closed. But, my word, how thin skinned you are!

  75. 75
    Ophelia Benson

    Great punch line, Sigmund. By the way I posted your compromise on the LSE ASH Facebook page. Unlike the Trots, the ASH peeps have a sense of humour!

  76. 76
    Ophelia Benson

    But many men use these names as simple terms meaning ‘women’. I am with you on the wrongness of that, but they needn’t share that view.

    Oh, bullshit. No they don’t. Nobody literally thinks those words are “simple terms meaning ‘women’.” People who use them as if they were are being deliberately insulting, as would people who used “goat-fucker” as if it were a “simple word” meaning “Muslim.” That’s got nothing to do with religion-teasing.

  77. 77
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Torquil Macneil, now you really aren’t making any sense. When Muslims feel insulted, it is the responsibility of people to take down the insult to accommodate the thin-skinned Muslims. When you insult me, it is acceptable for you to further insult me by calling me “thin-skinned” which is a trait you find acceptable from Muslims, and you add more and more insults with each post.

    So, you expect me to tolerate more insult than was supposedly directed at Muslims? In that case, my charge stands that you are treating Muslims like children who can’t take the insults that you expect an adult like me to tolerate. Otherwise, what explains the rather glaring contradiction between the behavior you display, and the behavior you expect from others?

  78. 78
    Sigmund

    Torquil said:
    “when people draw big-nosed Jewish figures covered in riches and with their lips stained with gore, my Jewish friends get terribly upset. Thin skinned, eh? Or something worse …”
    So you are saying that an image of two historical individuals acting in ways that is entirely normal and inoffensive in our modern world, is equivalent to the worst sort of Nazi antisemitic imagery?
    These appeals to fake emotional outrage may work for the LSE Socialist Workers society but I’m afraid you’ll have to try harder if you want to convince the rest of us that this sort of slippery slope exists anywhere but your own imagination.
    We know that some (and it is only some, not all of them) Muslims are offended by pictures of Muhammad. But we also know that some (and again, some, not all) Muslims are offended by legal homosexuality, womens equality, criticism of religious teachings and freedom of religious choice.
    Again, where is the objective reason to refrain from activities that only offend religious beliefs.
    Other religions also have their own areas off limits to humor (visit the Catholic League any day of the week to see examples) yet these beliefs are not spared criticism or ridicule. What makes Muslims uniquely unable to cope with the sort of criticism that every other believer accepts (and indeed is it not bigoted in itself to suggest that they cannot cope)?

  79. 79
    Torquil Macneil

    “So you are saying that an image of two historical individuals acting in ways that is entirely normal and inoffensive in our modern world, is equivalent to the worst sort of Nazi antisemitic imagery?”

    No, and I don’t think you imagine for a minute that I am. I am just calling you on your sudden inability to recognise that there can be any offence in portraying persecuted minority groups in ways that are known to be especially repugnant to those groups. That is how baiting always happens. And that is why this cartoon is not entirely innocent of offence.

    We don’t know how many people would be offended by depicting Mohammad drinking beer, but I don’t see any reason to think it is a small number of Muslims because they are likely to ask (as I would) why is he drinking beer. And if the answer is just ‘because it iss funny’, you are entitled to ask why it is funny. And the only obvious answer to that is the bully’s answer: because it upsets people like you.

    You are very sanguine that your Jewish friends would not take offence if a famous Jewish figure was always portrayed eating pork, but why don’t you ask them to see?

    And now I have to go. Children!

  80. 80
    Ophelia Benson

    “portraying persecuted minority groups in ways that are known to be especially repugnant to those groups.”

    The group isn’t portrayed. One person is portrayed (as a generic cartoon-figure). The cartoon doesn’t portray any persecuted minority groups.

    This leap from a portrayal of one “prophet” to the portrayal of an entire persecuted minority group is exactly the stupid (or calculated and mendacious) conflation that is behind all this bullshit. Would you argue that a cartoon of the pope was a portrayal of Catholics? (Maybe you would. If so that would be absurd.)

  81. 81
    Sigmund

    “I am just calling you on your sudden inability to recognise that there can be any offence in portraying persecuted minority groups in ways that are known to be especially repugnant to those groups. That is how baiting always happens. ”
    Which persecuted minority group was portrayed in Jesus and Mo?
    Was it the desperately oppressed Saudi leader group?
    or maybe the Christianity leader group?
    Neither of those strikes me as a persecuted group (although, technically Jesus was persecuted, and Muhammad was no stranger to persecution – just ask the Banu Qurayzah)

  82. 82
    Ophelia Benson

    Furthermore, I don’t know that cartoons of Mo having a pint are “especially repugnant to those groups,” meaning Muslims. I don’t know that at all – and in fact I don’t believe it. To repeat what has been said many times: J and M have been entertaining us for 6 years. How “especially repugnant” can they be?

  83. 83
    Ophelia Benson

    Snap.

  84. 84
    Torquil Macneil

    “Would you argue that a cartoon of the pope was a portrayal of Catholics? (Maybe you would. If so that would be absurd.)”

    And if you saw ‘Fuck the Pope’ painted on the wall of a catholic neighbourhood in Belfast would you argue ‘it is an insult aimed at a single specific figure and not a group, to conflate the two is stupid and mendacious, it is simply absurd to treat it as an insult to Catholics in general and even more absurd to read it as a threat since, after all, only the Pope is being menaced with rape and he is well protected and far away!’

  85. 85
    Ophelia Benson

    No, I wouldn’t. So what? We’re not discussing “Fuck the prophet” painted on “the wall” of a Muslim neighborhood in Bradford (do neighborhoods usually have walls in the UK, as if they were literal ghettoes?).

    You’re just blatantly shifting the goalposts now. Don’t do that.

  86. 86
    Sigmund

    Torquil, if you make that slope any slippier you’ll injure yourself!
    You need to learn how to write better analogies. The ones you come up with so far are ridiculous.
    Let me help you.
    An analogy of writing “Fuck The Pope” on a wall in a Catholic area of Belfast might be writing “Fuck Muhammad” on a Muslim area of Bradford.
    Neither of these is a good thing to do and both could be considered harassment.
    A really stupid analogy of writing “Fuck The Pope” on a wall in a Catholic area of Belfast might be to make a mild cartoon of the pope that pokes fun at his theological pronouncements and posting this cartoon, not on a Catholic messageboard, but on an atheist website.
    I will, however, give you credit for stopping your talk about beer and pork sandwiches. mmmmmmmmmmm…

  87. 87
    Sigmund

    Oops, Ophelia made the same point!

  88. 88
    Ophelia Benson

    That’s the second time we’ve echoed echoed! :- )

    Not a problem. Point deserves iteration.

  89. 89
    Alain

    “And yet when people draw big-nosed Jewish figures covered in riches and with their lips stained with gore, my Jewish friends get terribly upset. Thin skinned, eh? Or something worse …”

    As others above have pointed out, you are conflating beer-drinking with genocidal incitement! And, btw, my Jewish friends (unfortunately) have begun to accept that Der-Sturmer-type cartoons are par for the course in Muslim countries. They might be a bit more worried if such stuff were published in the New York or London Times but they have interiorized the sad fact (as have I) that Islam is a fascist creed and – because it is inherently literalist and appears impervious to any liberalization – that the only hope for people under its nefarious sway is integrate into the modern societies inhabiting the 21st century, not those of the 6th.

  90. 90
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    I hope no one here has missed the extreme irony of someone coming into this space, filled to overflowing with atheists(the least-trusted minority group in America) to preach to us about the treatment of a disrespected “minority” that numbers more than a quarter of the world’s population.

  91. 91
    Godless Heathen

    Torquil @66:

    It is what the blood libel is about (Jews are forbidden from eating blood).

    Um, no.

    Blood libel is a false accusation or claim that religious minorities, usually Jews, murder children to use their blood in certain aspects of their religious rituals and holidays. Historically, these claims—alongside those of well poisoning and host desecration—have been a major theme in European persecution of Jews.[4]

    These claims often involve the use of baby blood in baking matzo for Passover.

    That’s what blood libel is.

    (Source: Wikipedia)

  92. 92
    Godless Heathen

    Alain @65:

    The depiction of a Jewish politician eating pork is unlikely to raise much objection. 1) Unless he/she is a vegetarian, he/she (as a worldly politician) probably already eats pork. 2) The cartoon would, I suspect, be accusing the politician of hypocrisy, but, for reasons indicated in 1), would be very weak satire.

    Actually, the reason it may raise objection is that Jews who keep kosher are not allowed to eat pork. It’s unrelated to vegetarianism.

    However, as pointed out previously, many Jews do not keep kosher and, therefore, do eat pork.

  93. 93
    Godless Heathen

    Steersman @38,

    Although I think one might reasonably argue that being “catcalled” is an entirely different kettle of fish from being assaulted.

    I wouldn’t argue that it’s an entirely different kettle of fish. I’d argue more that it’s towards the less bad end of the continuum of “bad ways women are treated.” So, I’d put them in the same bucket, but would not argue that they are the same severity.

    Also,

    Which might be analogous to the difference between expressing one’s feeling of being offended over a cartoon and going out and firebombing a newspaper.

    I don’t entirely agree that being catcalled or verbally harassed on the street is analogous to expressing the feeling of being offended. I think it’s perfectly fine for someone to offended over a cartoon, as well as to express that opinion publicly, but not to take any steps beyond that (e.g. insisting that the cartoon stop being published, firebombing a newspaper, etc.).

    On the other hand, I do not think that catcalling or street harassment are okay under any circumstances, no matter how the woman is dressed or no matter how ignored the man feels by her not acknowledging him or how offended he feels by the fact that she exists.

    In sum, feeling offended: fine-everyone has a right to their feelings. Catcalling: not fine.

  94. 94
    SAWells

    As a data point, I was given pork shashlik for lunch on my first visit to Tashkent. Tasty.

  95. 95
    Torquil Macneil

    “No, I wouldn’t. So what? We’re not discussing “Fuck the prophet” painted on “the wall” of a Muslim neighborhood in Bradford (do neighborhoods usually have walls in the UK, as if they were literal ghettoes?).”

    Not in the UK generally, but in Belfast, yes they do.

    I am not moving any goal posts Ophelia, I was arguing by analogy. You claimed that the ridicule of a single historical Muslim could not reasonably be taken as a slight or threat towards a larger community and I gave an example of how that could and does happen. I did not suggest they were precisely the same in every respect.

    “… might be to make a mild cartoon of the pope that pokes fun at his theological pronouncements”

    For your ‘mild cartoon’ to be an analogy the Pope would have always to be portrayed engaging in behaviour expressly forbidden by catholicism, having sex with a nun for example, or performing an abortion.

    But (see above) you have misread the analogy. I was showing how Ophelia’s argument failed: it is not necessarily nonsensical to read an attack on or ridicule of a representative figure as an attack on or ridicule of the community that he or she represents.

    Again, how do wwe respond to that Muslim who says ‘OK, I get that you are just engaging in a jeu d’esprit, exploring the absurdities of religion, but why does Mohamamad have to be shown drinking beer? Why make that choice? What would bee lost (except for the offence towards some Muslims) if he wasn’t shown drinking beer? There are so many other kinds of drink.’

  96. 96
    Alain

    Godless,

    Yes, that is what the “blood libel” is about, but it is not just co-incidental that blood is involved; the Torah forbids the consumption of blood.

    And that was my point about pork as well. It is more likely these days that a worldly Jew (e.g. a politician) would be vegetarian than the strict observer of a kosher diet.

  97. 97
    Ophelia Benson

    You claimed that the ridicule of a single historical Muslim could not reasonably be taken as a slight or threat towards a larger community

    No I did not. You babbled about “portraying persecuted minority groups” and I said that one person is portrayed (as a generic cartoon-figure). I didn’t say anything about ridicule, and Mo isn’t ridiculed in that image. Yes you are moving the goalposts; you do it every time you comment.

    How do we respond to the windbag who says “But why beer?”? We don’t. We find something better to do.

  98. 98
    Steersman

    Sigmund (#79),

    Torquil said: “when people draw big-nosed Jewish figures covered in riches and with their lips stained with gore, my Jewish friends get terribly upset. Thin skinned, eh? Or something worse …”

    So you are saying that an image of two historical individuals acting in ways that is entirely normal and inoffensive in our modern world, is equivalent to the worst sort of Nazi anti-Semitic imagery?

    As far as the responses of some individuals are concerned, yes, I would say that the “image of two historical [?] individuals” is equivalent to “Nazi anti-Semitic imagery”. But I think it is important to differentiate between those responses and ideas behind them which I think you, and a great many others, are badly conflating.

    That I personally think Jesus and Mo point out some serious flaws in those two particular religions in no way detracts from me thinking that “anti-Semitic” imagery is badly off the wall and out to lunch. And that a great many Muslims might think the opposite should in no way detract from the fact that they are entitled to feel that way. But in both cases that someone gets offended should in no way cause the suppression of the images that were the cause of the offenses – a point that I think Jerry Coyne emphasized rather well.

    The bottom line and the fact that many seem to be losing sight of is the question of whether there are any reasons or validity to the underlying criticisms. By standing on the principle of free speech for all, regardless of the content or what is said, just means that the best ideas and values are going to win, hopefully – really a large part of the Muslim efforts to limit that because they probably know – in their heart of hearts – that they’re backing a loser, that they don’t have a leg to stand on.

    And I think that point was again made rather well and succinctly by a recent Jesus and Mo where the barmaid said, “I don’t want my fundamental beliefs to be protected from attack or ridicule, thanks. Please feel free to attack or ridicule them anytime you wish”. And all Mo could say in response was “racist” – which really only highlights Islam’s lack of credibility – at the very least.

    They really are a bunch of savage, ignorant and deluded bastards – you might get a kick out this which only highlights the fact that far too many them haven’t left the Dark Ages yet – but denying them the right to free speech is counterproductive, particularly since they seem only to manage to shoot themselves in the feet with that important weapon of the Enlightenment.

  99. 99
    Sigmund

    Torquil, what exactly have you got against beer? Mohammed never drank beer, as it wasn’t around when he was alive. He did, however, drink wine (“covered with a transverse twig”!) – it’s only his followers that are banned from consuming alcohol.

  100. 100
    Roger

    Except that the SWP are not Trotskyists but a weird (and fast disintegrating) neo-Leninist cult that abandoned the key tenets of Trotskyism way back in the 1950s and expelled all their actual Trotskyists back in the 1970s.

    This may seem trivial but those of us who’ve kept the true faith don’t need to be associated with these opportunistic antisemitic scumbags.

  101. 101
    Ophelia Benson

    Well I certainly agree they’re a disgrace to The Old Man. On the other hand he wasn’t entirely non-Leninist himself.

    But he wouldn’t have gone near this crowd.

  102. 102
    Steersman

    Torquil (#96),

    Again, how do we respond to that Muslim who says “OK, I get that you are just engaging in a jeu d’esprit, exploring the absurdities of religion, but why does Muhammad have to be shown drinking beer? Why make that choice? What would be lost (except for the offence towards some Muslims) if he wasn’t shown drinking beer? There are so many other kinds of drink.”

    Uh, how about:

    “How do you know that Muhammad is drinking beer? Were there any specific cartoons that explicitly said that he was drinking beer? Lots of people go to bars and have non-alcoholic drinks. Seems to me that you just want to feel offended. Well, go big, fill your boots. But in any case, in Western democracies being offended is not sufficient reason to limit free speech, particularly where religion is concerned. If you’re not able to handle that then I suggest you decamp to places more tolerant of your intolerance.”

  103. 103
    Steersman

    Godless Heathen (#94),

    So, I’d put them in the same bucket, but would not argue that they are the same severity.

    Well, that’s a start to some common ground. :-)

    In sum, feeling offended: fine-everyone has a right to their feelings. Catcalling: not fine.

    I probably didn’t delineate the situations quite as well as I might have, but I think the crux of the matter is the question of being or feeling offended over supposedly inflammatory statements of one kind or another versus the right to limit the free speech of those who were the proximate cause of feeling that way.

    In the case of the J&M cartoons everyone here, almost everyone here, seems to agree that whether some Muslims feel offended by them or not there is no justification for them going ballistic or preventing the display of those cartoons. And in the case of the catcalling, while I would agree that it may at times be somewhat counterproductive if not actually boorish, I would argue that the people, women mostly, who are on the receiving end of it are certainly entitled to feel offended, but I think it is important to emphasize that they don’t have any right to limit the free speech – the catcalling itself – of those on the other end.

    And, more generally, Ophelia seems to be defending the publishing or display of the Jesus & Mo cartoon on the basis that it is not really inflammatory – which is, I think as does Torquil apparently, not really a very credible or tenable position – while I’m defending it on the basis that being offended, taking offense at inflammatory statements, is not sufficient reason to limit free speech. And while the immediate consequence of that commonality is that we can make common cause – standing shoulder to shoulder manning, and womaning, the barricades together in the face of the barbarians – it becomes a little problematic when we are faced with similar issues which may necessitate parting company.

    For example, while we probably agree that the “Nazi anti-Semitic cartoons” are inflammatory, although we may disagree as to whether they should be suppressed or not, I expect that the situation is quite a bit different in the cases of women “inflammatorily” “dressing for power” and of “inflammatory” cartoons mocking and ridiculing female stereotypes such as the one that led off a recent post by Rebecca Watson.

    The principle of free speech is definitely a problematic one but it seems to be of such paramount value and importance that I think it is wise to remember another one on which it crucially depends, i.e., the principle of equality before the law. Or, more colloquially, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

  104. 104
    Roger

    Trotsky called himself and his followers Bolshevik-Leninists but somehow that never caught on.

    But if there is one key element that distinguishes Trotskyism from Stalinism it was his analysis of the Soviet Union as a degenerated workers state ruled by a bureaucratic caste which if not overthrown would inevitably turn themselves into a new capitalist class.

    The SWP at their very inception as a separate group at the end of the 1940s abandoned this in favour of the not particularly original idea that the USSR was in fact state capitalist and that the bureaucracy were already a state bourgeoisie which through the party owned collectively the means of production and exploited the proletariat exactly as they were a giant monopolistic corporation.

    Other abandonments of Trotskyism followed from this – the qualified and critical support orthodox Trots offered to the USSR in its conflict with capitalist powers was replaced with ‘neither Washington or Moscow but International Socialism’ (a slogan which like the state capitalist theory they had stolen from Max Shachtman), the notion that Trots needed to organise internationally through a Fourth International was quickly abandoned, the concept of a transitional programme was replaced by ultra leftism, solid long-term work within the trade unions was denounced as ‘workerism’ and so on.

    But the true betrayal was indeed the turn to the Mosque which has required their dwindling band of intellectual followers to engage in truly Orwellian falsifications of what Marx, Lenin and Trotsky actually said over and over again about religion (and above all what Lenin and Trotsky actually did to churches and mosques – and the mass graves full of Basmachi Jihadists the Red Army and Cheka left all across Central Asia – when they were in power).

    So a load of lying opportunist scumbags who fortunately are rapidly dying out as they can no longer recruit enough students to replace the old activists who die, retire or leave in disgust or due to the vicious infighting that has been occupying them since the Respect project imploded.

  105. 105
    Ophelia Benson

    Steersman, no – I’m saying the cartoon image in question isn’t inflammatory, but that’s certainly not the only or chief reason I’m saying the effort to censor it is all wrong. I’ve been talking about the other reasons for weeks (and, for that matter, for years).

  106. 106
    G.I. Joe Action Figures

    Antique toys will not go out of fashion. If you want to have some of the coolest toys from when you were younger, check out this webstore.

  1. 107
    Sorry But I’m Not Sorry… « Back Towards The Locus

    [...] one of our bastions of learning to insist that the picture be removed, and to launch a hysterical campaign against religious discrimination.) The idea that must be lain to rest is that if somebody’s [...]

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