Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Danish Cartoons

And Harper's Monthly
I have just read the article you sent me by Art Spiegelman. Thank you for sending it. I think Spiegelman illustrates the contradictions and follies that liberals seem doomed to fall into in trying to deal with Muslims and the reactions to Muslims. The basic liberal stance always seems to be "Let's not be so patriotically insistent on the rightness of our side. Let's give a sympathetic hearing to the other side. They have a case and a point of view, and we should be making concessions to them. Let's be open-minded and try to see how this problem is also our fault."

In the past this point of view led the liberals into some really atrocious, indeed criminal, follies. Within our time horizon, it was the British left (Liberal still meant and means something else there) which felt that way about the understandable resentment the Germans felt about their defeat in World War One and the onerous terms the Allies had imposed on them at Versailles. So they were more than just sympathetic, they were openly supportive of Hitler and the Nazis. It was not until the beginning of the Spanish Civil War that a split developed within both British and French Lefts. The split came when the Communists in both countries took a clear anti-Fascist position, literally on orders from Moscow. Orwell writes about this in "Homage to Catalonia", which is a wonderful book on a number of levels. Even when the war and the blitz came, the British Left shut up out of prudence, but never recanted. The French Left, having subverted French rearmament, found themselves under German occupation.

Similarly when the Cold War came the American liberals were consistently conciliatory toward Communism and the Soviet Bloc, both at home and abroad. For example it has become a fixed truth that Joe McCarthy was an opportunist oppressor and a wackjob, which may well have been true. But it has never been answered whether he was nevertheless right that there was a coterie of Communists in the State Department. There is both some direct evidence and a lot of indirect evidence that there were.

Liberals sneered at the Truman Doctrine as "imperialism". It became a given that anti-Communism and democracy were opposites. As late as the presidency of Jimmy Carter, liberals were conciliating the Soviet Union in spite of it being a senescent police state. When popular anti-Communist movements sprang up in every Communist country, the Berlin Wall fell, and finally the Soviet Union itself dissolved, largely from public disgust with it and all its works, the liberals prudently shut up but did not recant.

The Muslims are an even harder sell for the left and liberals like Spiegelman. Spiegelman in the Harper's article you sent me is witty and affable and self-deprecating and concedes a bit in order to ingratiate himself and appear reasonable. But his case is clear. It is the Danish editors' fault that the Muslims rioted and boycotted and threatened and denounced and fatwa'ed and generally made fools of themselves in response to the Danish cartoons. After various goings and comings, the thrust of the article is the assignment of a given number of bombs to each of the cartoons. In the end he finds the problem to have been the cartoons, rather than the response to them. He refers sympathetically to the "double bind of the Danish Muslims in first being insulted by the cartoons and then told they didn't understand Western freedom of speech." Poor them.

He also misses no opportunity to characterize everyone less sympathetic to Islam than he is as "right wing" or "national front".

Spiegelman, like all liberal Muslim sympathizers, finds himself stuck with the thinnest of thin arguments. They have to find ways to defend undisguised intolerance and bigotry, oppression of women, gratuitous violence, terrorism, social narcissism, and rejection of secular values including democracy and personal freedom. But, like Spiegelman, they are undeterred. Evasion and smearing opponents may not be much of an argument but they are all Spiegelman's got, so that is what he uses.

1 comment:

  1. The Scorpion8:28 PM

    My god you're getting wordy...must have lots of time on your hands.

    As for Spiegelman, I have always felt that, while not an anti-semite, he just really doesn't like Jews very much. In fact, I think if he had a choice, he would be Danish. So clean, so organized, so tall and blond. Come on, what would you rather be, an elegant reindeer or a rodent?