So far, only the Wall Street Journal, National Public Radio and some French smartasses have gotten the Danish cartoon story right: It seems that the cleric who first protested the cartoons in Denmark then reprinted them in a flyer that was distributed throughout the Muslim world... and he sort of, um, added a few even MORE offensive cartoons to juice up his case against the Danish newspaper.
The Americans, from Bill Clinton to Bush, have gone all mealy-mouthed and scold the newspapers to be more responsible. Coming from those two, "responsibility" is like Messalina calling for chastity. Apparently it's okay to order an air strike that kills hundreds of innocents in order to miss one terrorist target, but if your little ink spills piss somebody off, we never heard of you. Thanks for your strong defense of the Four Freedoms, guys. Vladimir Putin, known affectionately to the Russian mobsters as "KGB Lite", a man whose soul President Bush has gazed into, is first and always a true friend of censorship: "Any provocation in this area is absolutely unacceptable. One should think 100 times before publishing anything, doing anything or drawing anything." Shit, I'd never get ANYTHING done.
But Lor' bless 'em, the French satiric weekly 'Charlie Hebdo' reprinted all 12, along with a new cartoon on the cover entitled "Mohammed stressed out by the fundamentalists" showing the prophet holding his head in his hands uttering the words "It's hard to be loved by fools."
Phillipe Val, the editor of 'Charlie Hebdo', told the BBC: "Of course there has to be tolerance, there has to be respect to any community and any religious believers. But it is very much important for our whole society to show that we have firm principles on which democracy stands. This is an inviolable question of principle here in the land of Voltaire and Zola. We are willing to appear before the courts if some think the drawings go too far, but we are certainly not willing to give way to the desires of religious extremists."
Push comes to shove, these little cartoons are drawing fire in a just cause. Muslim mobs are using violence and intimidation against anyone who criticizes Islam, especially those who suggest that Islam embraces violence and intimidation. It took a couple hundred years for Christians to stop burning anyone who suggested that the Pope wasn't perfect. This may take a while longer; so long as Muslims view themselves as victims, they will feel justified in whatever atrocities they commit.
Something else is going unreported: someone is profiting from these riots. Can you say 'agent provocateur'? So long as the mobs are busy burning down Danish embassies, they're not thinking about what shitty governments they have in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran... If you don't like that scenario, then consider how much juice the imams are getting out of this: play ball with us, or we'll start a riot. Lastly, these hysterical screams for the blood of cartoonists will make the Americans and Israelis look reasonable by comparison. Thus the rioters and the politicians wash each others' hands. Everyone's a winner.
Except free thought, free speech, Danish tolerance, and a few mostly harmless ink-stained wretches.
UPDATE from the AP: Charlie-Hebdo sold out all 160,000 copies with the cartoons, 60,000 more than usual. France Soir, a daily, ran the drawings and sold 40 percent more-- "leading a battle for freedom of the press", their spokeswoman says, perhaps not cynically. Wouldn't it be funny if this insanity makes some hair sprout on the chest of the media? Wouldn't it be something if cartoonists rediscover their power to afflict the comfortable and ridicule villainy in the spirit of Hogarth and Goya, Daumier, Ben Shawn, George Grosz and Lautrec? Who are these monsters, that would turn cartoonists' ink into blood?