I thought I’d plug a couple of pieces I have on Huffington Post. I thought this first one, about Charlie Hebdo, was pretty good, until I read Howard Jacobson’s piece saying the same thing a billion times better. This second one is about some nasty folks in Iran who think they are very clever.
I continue to be amazed by the specious comparisons and attempts at mitigation people make when these events occur, and lest you think I am exaggerating, I’d like to draw attention to part of a comment I saw on Facebook, which effectively compared the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Muhammed with the sort of cartoons that appeared in Der Sturmer under the Third Reich. (I will not correct the grammatical/spelling errors in the comment.)
SOme forms of sarcastic critique (nazi cartoons about Jews in the Prewar Germany) to me are counterproductive to the circumstance they portray. I dont want to ban them but I wont hold them out as symbols of freedom either.
Wow. Just…words fail. There was more to this comment, believe it or not, but I think you can get where it was going and this part made me sick enough. Very big of the commenter to say they would not hold up Julius Streicher-type anti-Jewish vitriol as a symbol of freedom. Especially as they weren’t, unlike the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. Let’s compare, shall we?
The anti-Jewish caricatures of which the commenter was writing, were drawn under a dictatorship as part of state-sponsored persecution of Jews. There was no freedom for anyone to draw any counter-cartoons, so to speak. And they made no political point other than “Jews are bad and we want make you all hate them even more than you already do.” They were also not caricatures of a god or religious figure. They were caricatures of Jews, Germans citizens who had been contributing members of society and posed absolutely no threat. The cartoons at Charlie Hebdo were almost all caricatures of a religious figure — Muhammed. Occasionally there were caricatures of terrorists, Islamists living in France or elsewhere. They were drawn as a response to threats on freedom in a free society and they were drawn — here is the key — with no state support whatsoever. The government of France neither opposed nor supported nor insisted upon such caricatures (as did the government of Germany in the 1930s). Other journalists and artists were free to draw counter-cartoons challenging Charlie Hebdo’s choices.
That the person who made the silly (and rather scary) comment is ignorant of history should not come as a surprise. I remember another time, this person asserted to me that Zionism “was started after World War II by Theodor Herzl.” Um, no. Herzl died very early on in the 20th century, I think around 1904. Zionism began, officially I suppose you could say, in the 19th century, though really, there have always been Jews in what we now call Israel. The movement goes way back.
So click on the links above, if you wish, but especially the Howard Jacobson piece. It’s a good intellectual antidote to some of the profound foolishness out there.