Jan 29 2014

The jargon of authenticity

Stephen Evans of the National Secular Society writes an excellent open letter to Channel 4 about the Black Egg censorship of the image of Mo, sending it via the Huffington Post UK.

We were surprised and extremely disappointed to see that Channel 4 News took the decision to cover up the image of Mohammed when showing the Jesus & Mo cartoon, and we are thus keen to elicit the rationale behind that particular editorial decision.

During the report, it was noted that this decision was taken so as not to cause offence to some viewers; however we would like to point out that by your making this decision you have effectively taken a side in a debate where a Muslim man has suffered violent death threats after he explicitly said he did not find the cartoons offensive. You have taken the side of the reactionaries – the side of people who bully and violently threaten Muslims, such as Mr Nawaz, online.

That’s exactly what they have done, and it’s disgusting. Why would anyone do that? I don’t buy the claim that it’s personal fear. I have to suspect it’s something more like a deeply entrenched assumption that the reactionaries are the more “authentic” Muslims and that therefore it’s more compassionate or progressive or postcolonialist or whatever to side with them instead of with not so “authentic” Muslims like Nawaz. It doesn’t take much thought to perceive how massively insulting that is to Muslims as a group – indeed, how “Islamophobic” it is.

Oh look, Evans says the same thing. I annotated as I went, so I hadn’t read that paragraph yet.

Given that your editorial decision seems to be have been weighted by a concern with offence, we might also note that you ended up with a report that was, in fact, very offensive to many; offensive to those who take seriously and cherish our basic freedom to speak and question, and offensive to many Muslims, whose voices you do not hear because you insist on placating the reactionary voices of people claiming to represent what it is to be an ‘authentic Muslim’.

Exactly. Well of course it’s not an original thought with either of us; we’ve been seeing it for years and years. People have been accusing Salman Rushdie of being “inauthentic” for decades because he’s a cosmopolitan.

Whilst we understand that you covered both sides of the issue through your report and subsequent interview, we were keen to highlight the dangerous precedent you have set by taking the editorial decision to censor the Jesus & Mo cartoon, and the deeply symbolic implications that decision has.

Really. Stop doing that. Stop making terrible decisions like that.


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  1. 1
    Sarah Lambert

    Just when I thought we’d won a victory (Universities UK) along comes this. There is no right not to be offended. No belief system should be immune to criticism. I sometimes think we are going through times like the end of the Roman Empire. Cultural Cringe combined with Post-Colonial Guilt = Decadence and Decay. We live in the World’s first global culture, but no culture lasts forever and I think this one might be coming to an end. It’s extremely depressing.

  2. 2

    On the plus side this has given Author some great new material.

    I’m hoping the Black Egg of Islamophobia becomes a huge internet meme in itself.

  3. 3

    It doesn’t take much thought to perceive how massively insulting that is to Muslims as a group – indeed, how “Islamophobic” it is.

    Really? Honestly, just hearing about this now, I didn’t think about that until it was pointed out by you guys.

  4. 4

    “Really. Stop doing that. Stop making terrible decisions like that.”

    Right. Exactly. Even from the position of pure self preservation… This decision will NOT go well for you…These kinds of decisions have a growing history of ‘NOT going well’….Especially in western first-world institutions. How can you NOT know that this decision/ statement-of-position will come back to bite you in the arse…

  5. 5

    As a form of censorship the Great Blob is self-refuting. What so obviously isn’t there is much more noticeable than anything that was there before.

  6. 6

    As a form of censorship the Great Blob is self-refuting. What so obviously isn’t there is much more noticeable than anything that was there before.

    Absolutely, in fact this is universally true for all overt censorship.

    In the same way Burqas etc. far from liberating women from sexualisation as Islamists like to claim only increases the prurience associated with female flesh. This was brought home to me while in Dubai recently as one of the colleagues I was with spent a depressingly large amount of time openly fantasising about what local women were wearing beneath the veil (he eventually stopped when I pointed out that everyone is naked under whatever they are wearing). It’s kind of like in the Victorian era when women’s ankles became fetishised because they were only occasionally glimpsed.

    But to the point, does anyone think we ought to breath some new life into a draw Mohammed day? If we make the image ubiquitous in the west that it would cease to be Islamist pornography.

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