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Cartoons and religion – bland and not very funny, but offensive?

So the Lars Vilks affair is back in the news again. Did anyone really ever think it would go away?

Following His Grace, Archbishop Cranmer’s contribution to the debate on religion and free speech, I thought I’d weigh in with my own two penn’orth.

The whole object of political cartooning is to confront us with unpalatable details and observations. They are by their very nature excessive. An excess of caricature is preferable to an excess of censorship or the timid pronouncements of those yielding ground to latter-day book burners, who are only using a contrived issue as yet another proxy for anti-enlightenment hysteria.

Who decides what is offensive to Christians, Jews or Muslims? Which are to be considered protected species?

The cartoon is not gratuitously offensive, bland and not very funny, yes, but offensive?

The depiction of Mohammed as a dog is a fairly neat encapsulation of what radicalised religion has come to mean for more and more people appalled by the violence committed in its name. Subsequent reactions – flag burning, fatwas, death threats – only vindicate this perception. The drawings are designed to provoke a response, of that there is no doubt, but political cartoons are provocative. It simply comes back to who decides what is ‘gratuitously insulting’. When you have a group that places itself above all others while at the same time practising an absurdly transparent hypocrisy, then they are an obvious target for parody.

Can any objective person satisfy themselves that public beheadings, massacres and bloodcurdling invocations by religious zealots with mediaeval attitudes are not, by contrast, far more offensive to the senses than a few cartoons in a newspaper? Or how about the officially sanctioned contest in Iran to produce the most offensive holocaust cartoon? There is certainly no moral advantage to be gained there.

The greater part of the debate in our guilt-ridden society has been whether Nerikes-Allehanda was ‘responsible’ in printing the cartoon. The only sense in which they might not have been was the concern that they might result in just such an up welling of fury as we are once again witnessing. Once you start bowing to, and legislating for such behaviour, you only encourage it.

This is just an excuse, a proxy by which they can express their hatred and fear of democracy and pluralism, and it’s a racing certainty they’ll find another before long.

Final word on the matter from Zombietime….

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2 comments on “Cartoons and religion – bland and not very funny, but offensive?

  1. I honestly adore your posting style.

    Don’t give up. Your posts are a pleasure to read.

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