Philobiblon: Weekend reading

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Weekend reading

The story behind the cartoons. As I've said before, I think it is a pity no British newspaper has had the guts to print the cartoons, and as my commenter "Clanger" said, Jack Straw's comments are a disgrace. (And so much for America, "Land of Free Speech" - NOT. If the Christian God or any other religious figure is fair game, as they are, why should Islam be any different?

Religions are ideologies - in my opinion immensely harmful and destructive ideologies - and they certainly don't deserve any special legal protection, or indeed to be allowed to intimidate media outlets into censoring themselves.

As ever, Matthew Parris says it beautifully, when referring to the Straw theory:

The approach is tempting. It avoids hurt. But it overlooks, in the evolution of belief, the key role played by mockery. Many faiths and ideologies achieve and maintain their predominance partly through fear. They, of course, would call it “respect”. But whatever you call it, it intimidates. The reverence, the awe — even the dread — that their gods, their KGB or their priesthoods demand and inspire among the laity are vital to the authority they wield.
Against reverence and awe the best argument is sometimes not logic, but mockery. Structures of oppression that may not be susceptible to rational debate may in the end yield to derision. When people see that a priest, rabbi, imam or uniformed official may be giggled at without lightning striking the impertinent, arguments may be won on a deeper level than logic.

Not Big Brother, but "Big Society". Everyone is watching everyone else - on webcams, on "community" screens ...
But is the Big Julie in trouble? I've got witnesses to my saying when she was signed that Julie Burchill wouldn't 'fit' at The Times. It seems I was right, which is a pity, because on her good days she's an excellent columnist.
It is a rightwing piece that comes to the conclusion that polarisation in America is bad because it damages its ability to fight wars, but nontheless this argument that the claim of increased polarisation in American politics is true has some interesting data.

Ideologically, an even greater dividing line than undergraduate education is postgraduate education. People who have proceeded beyond college seem to be very different from those who stop with a high-school or college diploma. Thus, about a sixth of all voters describe themselves as liberals, but the figure for those with a postgraduate degree is well over a quarter. In mid-2004, about half of all voters trusted George Bush; less than a third of those with a postgraduate education did. In November of the same year, when over half of all college graduates voted for Bush, well over half of the smaller cohort who had done postgraduate work voted for Kerry. According to the Pew Center for Research on the People and the Press, more than half of all Democrats with a postgraduate education supported the antiwar candidacy of Howard Dean.
The effect of postgraduate education is reinforced by being in a profession. Between 1900 and 1960, write John B. Judis and Ruy Teixeira in The Emerging Democratic Majority (2002), professionals voted pretty much the same way as business managers; by 1988, the former began supporting Democrats while the latter supported Republicans. On the other hand, the effect of postgraduate education seems to outweigh the effect of affluence. For most voters, including college graduates, having higher incomes means becoming more conservative; not so for those with a postgraduate education, whose liberal predilections are immune to the wealth effect.

So if you could improve American education ...


Blogger clanger said...

All British newspapers should have printed the cartoons, in an act of solidarity.

Once upon a time (when it was worth reading) The Independent would have had a 'satire' special, reprinting both the cartoons, and a whole range of comparable material. I guess it isn't so independent any more.

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men" [Abraham Lincoln.]

Congratulations, al-Qaeda, you won. You beat my government into feeble and cowardly submission, surrendering half a millennium of hard fought freedoms (for which thousands suffered and died) in a single act of grotesque, legislative cowardice.

The British government is running scared.

In the 1980s, even Thatcher's (racist, divisive, homophobic, and usually odious) regime had the self-respect and understanding of what was at stake, to protect Salman Rushdie, albeit grudging the expense, refusing to ban 'The Satanic Verses'.

Shame on you, Tony Blair. Shame on you. Sometimes there is no easy 'third-way' out.

Shame on the editors who don't publish the cartoons.

Shame on the journalists who don't resign in the face of such editorial cowardice.

"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats but I was not a Social Democrat - so I did nothing. Then came the trade unionists but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews but I was not a Jew - so I did little. Then when they came for me there was no one who could stand up for me." [Martin Niemöller]

Today they are coming for Danish cartoonists. And tomorrow?

2/05/2006 02:12:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree, even though I'm an atheist and no respecter of religion in general. What was the point of the cartoons? I've seen them and a lot verged on being racist. They were published within a context of anti-Muslim feeling in those countries (in most western countries now.) I think they were designed to denigrate Muslim people, not the religion. I don't think anything would be gained by British or any other newspapers publishing them.

2/06/2006 01:46:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I simply cannot understand why it has been so very easy to manipulate 'the debate' to the degree that the content and context has been utterly evaporated. Their was political purpose to the original request for the purpose of publishing those cartoons. And it was in fact several religiously run newspapers that first republished those illustrations. Christians.

This was a political act, guised as a Freedom of the Press and Freedom of Speech issue.

There are many consecutive and well researched posts here:
with links to some articles.

In direct response to your post, I would ask "why is it that Islam was the only represented faith in the newspaper editors plight to open debate on self-censorship?". The same newspaper co. rejected satirical images of Christ only two or three years earlier...

2/11/2006 05:14:00 pm  

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