I'm going to engage in an act today which makes me subject to the death penalty in many countries. At the bottom of this column you will find a link to a newspaper blog which contains the twelve Danish cartoons that have caused rioting and anger around much of the Muslim world. I am specifically providing you with this link because I am completely appalled that no US newspapers (of which I am aware) have had the courage to offer their readers the option of viewing the editorial cartoons which led to the following outrageous quote "We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible," one preacher at Al Omari mosque in Gaza told worshipers during Friday Prayer, according to Reuters. Other demonstrators called for amputating the hands of the cartoonists who drew the pictures." (Quoted from the New York Times 2/6/06)
Before you dismiss the above as just the rantings of a few fanatics, take some time to read the comments posted from readers on the BBC (which also refused to post the cartoons), or anywhere else throughout the Internet. It is flabbergasting to me how many gutless apologists there are out there who are willing to immediately restrict the rights of freedom of speech of all people so as to not "offend" some particular creed or religion. Frankly, that's exactly why the First Amendment was created. Thomas Paine took his life in his hands when he had the guts to challenge British rule prior to the American Revolution. Having seen the potentially lethal effects of state imposed censorship, our founding fathers specifically wanted to keep the publication and dissemination of ideas, even unpopular ones, completely unrestricted. That's precisely why the American Nazi Party was able to march in Skokie, IL many years ago, and why we let the Klan march today. The people who adhere to those extreme ideologies may be idiots, but the rules of our country allow all ideas to be presented.
Well, maybe that's not so true any more. Here is a quote from our current President (also from the New York Times) "The Muslim world erupted in anger on Friday over caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed published in Europe while the Bush administration offered the protesters support, saying of the cartoons, "We find them offensive, and we certainly understand why Muslims would find these images offensive." What in the heck is an American President doing supporting the actions of those millions upon millions of Muslims who would wantonly kill 12 Danish artists merely for creating sketches? I completely understand the need for careful International diplomacy (the Muslim world does, indeed, control a great deal of the oil we need), but I find it beyond dismaying that the ostensible "Leader of the Free World" would be so cynical and craven.
Where this is all leading is to my once again urging you to support the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. I've written urgent editorials in the past in which I have prophesied that our Civil Rights, and especially our rights of Free Speech, would soon come under attack from forces within America. The day has now come when the corporate interests who control our media are censoring what you can view, and our President apologizes to those who would murder those who present ideas that they find offensive. I'm not entirely sure that the CBLDF has any ability at all to help the Dutch artists, but if they're under savage attack today, you can bet that our comics creators will be next. Oh, wait a minute. Didn't the heads of the Pentagon just jump all over editorial cartoonist Tom Toles of the Washington Post, for creating a cartoon which accurately depicted one of the potential consequences of the war in Iraq? I most certainly don't deny the Joint Chiefs of Staff the right to publicly protest against an idea/image with which they disagree, but they were actually saying that the editorial cartoon should never have been printed. That's a blatant attempt to implement exactly the kind of censorship that I most fear.
I know that legal challenges dealing with adult-themed materials has been a frequent issue for the CBLDF here in the USA, and that it sometimes seems that those of us who support the Fund are mere apologists for pornographers. In reality, however, what we clearly see is that pornography is merely the canary in the coal mine. When the religious fanatics of this country, or any country, are allowed to make it a crime to create images which offend them, they won't just stop with smut. Civil rights are rare and precious, and must be constantly protected, or they will be stolen and destroyed. Just ask the people of Russia, who are seeing their once relatively free press dismantled, with journalists fired and imprisoned for disagreeing with the new totalitarian regime. You say that it couldn't happen here? Actually, I think that it already has. When our country fails to rally to the defense of the 12 Danish artists, the Danish people, and all of the rest of Europe, then we've lost what little moral high ground that we had remaining.
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund
Danish Comics: blog.newspaperindex.com/2005/12/10/un-to-investigate-jyllands-posten-racism/
271 Madison Avenue, Suite 1400
New York, NY 10016
A standard membership is only $25 a year. That's a pretty small price to pay for holding millions of fanatics at bay who would take away not only your civil rights, but also those of your children and grandchildren. We may not be able to win the battle for the Danes, but at least we can help to protect ourselves.
PS: By the time that you read this column, the link that I've provided you to the Danish cartoons may have been hacked into, and destroyed. Numerous websites are currently reporting vandalism when they try and post the cartoons. The Jihad has begun. Don't be afraid, and don't let the religious fanatic vandals win. Surf until you find the cartoons, and then send a letter of support to the webmasters. They'll need all the positive feedback that they can get...
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Denver, CO 80221