I’m Not Letting Jyllands-Posten Off the Hook
It’s at times like this I thank God I’m not a journalist. It seems that whenever there’s an issue that involves their professional self-interest they’re all over it–even if it means they divorce themselves other realities. The Judith Miller story is a case in point. She participated in a process that led to the outing of a CIA covert agent. Yet when the prosecutor asked her to talk about her contacts with Lewis Libby she refused. She dressed herself up in all the finery of freedom of the press, etc. All the time ignoring that she’d been a willing accomplice of Libby in his conspiracy to uncover Valerie Wilson’s identity (potentially an act of treason). Miller’s publisher and editor rallied to her defense as well with similarly high-flown rhetoric. And it was all for naught as she caved after some time in prison and spilled the beans anyway.
The Jyllands-Posten episode isn’t that far different. This newspaper, in a misguided attempt to test freedom of expression, insulted Muslims around the world. Did they have the right to run the cartoons? Sure. But why test one of our most highly prized liberties with such a godawful cartoon competition? And why didn’t the editorial staff recognize the incendiary nature of a few of the cartoons BEFORE they were published?
Another thing that troubles me is the high moral dudgeon into which the international media have driven themselves. In its eyes, Jyllands-Posten can do no wrong and Mulisms can do no right. Here are a few passages from Tim Rutten of the Los Angeles Times:
The cartoons, which really are rather mild little doodles…
“Mild little doodles?” Hmmm. Tell it to those who burned down the Dutch mission in Beirut yesterday. Isn’t it interesting how when someone you view as your enemy feels an insult you can dismiss and disparage it. Yet when your profession is attacked you come out swinging.
The following is what I call the “two wrongs make a right” defense. According to this errant doctrine, Muslims have no right to protest the Muhammed cartoons because of their own execrable jounalistic standards. Rutten decries:
…The destructive and dangerous double standard that the Western nations routinely observe when it comes to the government-controlled media in Islamic states. There the media is routinely rife with the vilest sort of hate directed at Jews and, less often, Christians. The “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” remain widely available in countries where nothing is published without government permission, and quotations from that infamous forgery are a staple of commentaries published across the Middle East. In recent years, government-owned television stations in Egypt and Syria have broadcast dramas that repeat the blood libel.
Where were the united and implacable Western demands for apologies?
No doubt, the Arab media can be a fetid lot (though there are a number of notable exceptions). But since when is one bad act redeemed by another? Also, I suppose one might ask where was Tim Rutten when these Muslim outrages were perpetrated? Was he writing about them himself? If not, what right does he have now to castigate others for not doing so then?
Here Rutten really gets on his soapbox with megaphone in hand:
…It’s no longer possible to overlook the culture of intolerance, hatred and xenophobia that permeates the Islamic world. The hard work of rooting those things out will have to be done by honest Muslim leaders and intellectuals willing to retrace their tradition’s steps and do the intellectual heavy lifting that participation in the modern world requires.
Listen to the sweeping overstatement here: “the culture of intolerance, hatred and xenophobia that permeates the Islamic world.” Pray tell us, Mr. Rutten how you are such an expert on the Islamic world that you claim to know what permeates it? I could just as easily argue that in some segments of that same world tolerance and respect for other religions are prevalent. And since we’re using the two wrongs make a right defence, how much better do the rest of the world’s religions fare in the areas of intolerance, hatred and xenophobia? Speaking of xenophobia, we Jews were tossed out of so many Christian and Muslim countries we’ve lost count. Intolerance, how about the Crusades? Hatred, how about the Christian blood libel? The way I see it just about any religious tradition must have its share of history it’d like to live down. But in the end, Rutten sees what he wants to see in Islam?
It is unbelievably arrogant & condescending on Rutten’s part to presume to tell Arab society what it must do to become a full fledge member of the ‘modern world.’ Don’t you think European colonialists were saying roughly the same things about Africa and India 100 years ago? And who’s to say that today’s Muslims are NOT living in the modern world?
I’ve studied Jewish, and specifically medieval philosophy and this passage was breathtakingly overgeneralized and unsupported. In discussing the dichotomy between various religious traditions that sprang up during the Middle Ages, he naturally takes the Islamic philosopher to task for his theological errors:
Averroes [the great medieval Muslim philosopher] took the other fork. He held that there were two truths–that of revelation and that of the natural world. There was no need to reconcile them because they were separate and distinct.
It was a form of intellectual suicide and cut off much of the Islamic world from the centuries of scientific and political progress that followed.
Whoa, how do you get there from here?
I’m actually rather shocked by this because Rutten writes for Slate.com & I thought he was more progressive. I’m not saying I don’t agree with his criticisms of Arab societies & Muslim beliefs. I do and I say this in my blog. But to try to deflect criticism of one bad thing by saying your enemy does a different bad thing doesn’t diminish the badness of the original bad thing.
5 thoughts on “I’m Not Letting Jyllands-Posten Off the Hook – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Agree with you on this. One blogger remarked that the journalist taunted a big dog with fangs and ended up getting mauled by it.
It’s like this: Supposing someone comes down your street every day carrying a shopping bag and muttering to himself. If you put out your foot and trip him, you have done a very cruel and insensitive thing. That’s provided that what tumbles out of his shopping bag is his lunch. If guns and bombs and copies of Mein Kampf come tumbling out of the shopping bag, then you have done something useful and instructive.
Yitzchak: A man coming down your street carries “guns & bombs” in his shopping bag & you stick out yr foot to trip him? I’d say you have a death wish or like to get really close to big explosions.
An editorial sample from the Feb 10th ’06 issue of New York’s “Jewish Week”, hardly a safe-haven for rightists. This is expressed with greater eloquence than anything I could conjure up.
“We’re witnessing a bigotry of low expectations. On the one hand, Americans and Israelis incessantly have told each other “not to hate,” to be introspective rather than riot over 9-11 or suicide bombers, but yet we’re asked to be understanding when Muslims, insulted by cartoons, can hate, riot and make war.”
But while Jews ought to be particularly sensitive to a mockery of religion, it is curious how selective that vigilance has been. When American museums featured a portrait of the Madonna smeared with elephant dung, or a depiction of Jesus and a crucifix soaked in urine, the most sophisticated among us dismissed as hopelessly Philistine those who thought those works too offensive for publicly funded venues. Evangelicals are regularly depicted, as one writer said, as either Elmer Gantry or Elmer Fudd, with no gentle requests for sensitivity by those now pleading for Islam. We recall no calls for sensitivity in the Middle East, other than among Zionists, regarding the thousands of regularly produced Arab anti-Semitic cartoons, articles, television shows and public statements by national officials, indistinguishable from those produced on the eve of the Shoah.”
That said, I view Rutten’s comment about living up to the responsibilities of the modern world as not some kind of jingoist neoCon slogan but rather a pointed commentary on how the Islamic world wants it both ways. When a 40-episode TV program is based on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” (Egypt), and when an Arabic-language newspaper serializes the same work (Paterson, New Jersey), all criticism is deflected with sanctimonious cries of “Freedom of Speech!” However, events both recent and distant indicate just how they actually internalize this creed.
Regarding the charge “two wrongs don’t make a right”. Two RIGHTS make a right. It’s right to criticize if not condemn the Danish newspaper for their foolhardy stunt; they should have learned from Theo Van Gogh. It’s also right to inform Westerners that the media in the Islamic world portray their own hatreds against other religions through the basest of caricatures and editorials (not to mention capital punishment) with far greater frequency. It’s right as you mentioned, to remember the mass destruction and murder of the crusades and blood libels.
It’s right to be informed TODAY to which countries are spreading libel about blood. It’s right to be informed TODAY, when we’re trying to do the right thing by providing for our families and educating our children about the beauty of our religion, to understand that the clerics who confidently and publicly call for the death of the “Infidel” are not the Jewish, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist ones.
Segueing medieval history with current events in this case doesn’t succeed in providing historical perspective. It only obfuscates reality. Furthermore it’s a hackneyed and cynical public relations ploy utilized by Europe’s hard left who’ve taken on the role of PR agents for the Islamic radicals.
Michael Moore exercised a bit of entertaining “logic” when he wrote (“Dude, Where’s My Country?”) “Many Israeli children had died too, at the hands of the Palestinians. You would think that would make every Israeli want to wipe out the Arab world, but the average Israeli does not have that response. Why? Because IN THEIR HEARTS, THEY KNOW THEY ARE WRONG” (upper case courtesy of M.Moore).
Don’t expect you to bluntly pledge agreement with that one (…should I?) or consider His Unkemptness to be the chief mouthpiece for whomever; but has this become the norm amongst those who label themselves progressive? Riot makes right? So now, exercising self-restraint against punishing the innocent is now a liability. Those guys find every angle.
If we’re not in contact until then I wish you a Freilchn Purim. And let’s wish the same to Mr. Ahmadinejad, the descendant of Ahasverus….or perhaps another antagonist from that time?
I don’t find this passage “eloquent” at all (& you didn’t provide a close quotation mark so I don’t know where the passage ended & your comment began). There is so much hatred levelled by American Jews & Israelis against Arabs that to say they have “incessantly told each other “not to hate” seems inapt at best. Have you read any of the Israeli/American Jewish Pajamas Media bloggers? They’re dripping in hate. How about Bibi Netanyahu and the Israeli right? Now, not all hate Arabs, that is true. But too many do.
Jews who defended the right of the Brooklyn Museum to display a Madonna smeared with elephant dung were right to do so. It was a piece of art just as the photo of the crucifix dipped in urine was. Their creators were distinguished, albeit controversial artists. While one may argue that cartoons are also a work of art, one can hardly argue that the artistic stature of the Muahmmed cartoons rose anywhere near the level of the works you reference. In fact, even many of their defenders admit they are puerile.
With a few exceptions, the evangelical movement is entirely inimical to the interests of American Jews. That is why I make no “gentle requests for sensitivity” to their interests.
So tell me, because some Muslims and Middle Eastern governments sponsor anti-Semitic portrayals in the media that means that no Muslim has the right to feel offended by the Jyllands-Posten cartoons?
We’re in agreement here. But what most western critics of the Muslim reactions to the cartoons seem to be saying is that Jyllands-Posten had every right to do what they did and Muslims can just go suck eggs since they’re all base swine anyway.
Not so fast. There are plenty of “clerics” from plenty of religions (not just Islam) calling for the death of ‘infidels.’ “Rabbi” Meir Kahane called for the death of Palestinians. “Reverend” Ian Paisley called for the deaths of Northern Irish Catholics. Catholic priests have called for the death of Jews from time immemorial. The list goes on. So you have no right to single Muslims out for sole blame in this matter.
I beg to differ with you. I am a student of Jewish history and literature so what happened to Jews in the Middle Ages for me may have great relevance to events of today. If you don’t agree with my historical analogies you’ll have to make a lot more substantive argument than the one you make here.
I’m not here to speak for, or defend Michael Moore. I never saw the film in question and so can make no judgment on the scene you describe.
I just love it when conservatives try to force progressives into the position of defending every other progressive. I’m just not biting on that one. I also find this passage (“exercising self-restraint against punishing the innocent is now a liability”) too obscure to follow. Can you explain?
Thanks for your good wishes on Purim and the same to you. I join you in wishing “felicitations” to the Iranian president, truly a jewel of a human being.