Archive for February, 2006

AlterNet: The Slippery Slope of Self-Censorship

Tuesday, February 14th, 2006

The Slippery Slope of Self-Censorship (found via AlterNet) is an article by David Morris of Minnesota which provides the best commentary yet on the Danish Cartoon Furor.

Downes on Belam on BBCwebsite

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

This is a reference by Stephen Downes to a series of articles by Martin Belam on the organization of the BBC website (in which he was a participant)

MWU!: A Mountain Out of a Molehill Over Danish Cartoons

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

Mona Eltahawi’s article A Mountain Out of a Molehill Over Danish Cartoons provides a welcome breath of sanity.

Writing for the Web: The Limits of Satire

Thursday, February 9th, 2006

Crawford Killlian blogs his Tyee article ‘The Limits of Satire’ on the
Danish cartoon frenzy.

I agree with most of what he says in general terms, but I am not sure that it fits the actual circumstances. The cartoons were not intended for an Islamic audience and were apparently commissioned to address the issue of fear of reprisal for benignly intended artistic expression – to which the artists responded in various ways with only four of twelve actually appearing to attack any aspect of the Muslim world or faith and two or three appearing rather to rebuke the editor.

Killian’s point about mockery being a more appropriate tool for the powerless than the powerful is well taken, but power is largely in the mind of its holder, and those who appear powerful are often fearful. In Europe with an Islamic population of growing size and stridency, the fear of those adjacent that their freedom may be at risk is perhaps more credible than it might be in Canada right now.

Eden and Evolution

Tuesday, February 7th, 2006

Eden and Evolution is an article by Shankar Vedantam in the Washington Post. It starts out with an irritatingly positive-sounding description of a young “Creation Science” biologist presenting a specious distortion of what she was supposed to be teaching (eg “No one has ever seen a dog turn into a cat in a laboratory.” as evidence against macroevolution), and concludes with the following:
< < Peter Lipton, a University of Cambridge historian and philosopher, said the only way he has found to reconcile the factual evidence for evolution with religious faith is to think of religious texts as novels, texts in which believers can emotionally immerse themselves, while still knowing, at another level, that the truth claims being made are not literally true. Russell Stannard, a religious physicist and the British director of the fellowship where Lipton spoke to a group of journalists, bristled at the idea. "I can't see how a Christian can approach the New Testament as a novel," he said. "Whether there is a Resurrection or not is not the stuff of novels -- it is supposed to be historical fact." "Maybe I am asking less of religion than you are," Lipton replied. "Think of all the worldly benefits you derive from religion -- they are benefits that might or might not be divinely caused. I get those benefits; I don't think they are divinely caused." I asked Lipton whether he was trying to have his cake and eat it, too. He admitted he was: "Here I am in a synagogue on a Saturday morning, and I say the prayers and say all these things to God and engage with God, and yet I don't believe God exists. As I am saying that prayer, I recognize it as being a statement to God. I understand it literally, and it has meaning because of the human sentiments it expresses. I am standing saying this prayer that my ancestors said, with feeling and intention, those things are moving to me. What I am saying is, maybe that is enough." >>
How sad… and how evil! to lend credibility to beliefs that one knows to be false and which others hold true and thereby lose their humanity by delegating their moral judgement to the self-proclaimed guardians of the faith.

The Offending Cartoons

Monday, February 6th, 2006

Well, so far as I can tell from this image, the twelve cartoons (on the subject of fear of censorship and/or reprisals regarding representations of Mohammed) are as follows:

  • One appears to be mocking the editor who commissioned the illustrations. It shows a beardless bespectacled nordic looking fellow in a turban with an orange or ball on it labelled ‘PR STUNT’ holding a page on which a stick figure of a bearded man in a turban is drawn.
  • Another has a similar figure holding a sign as one of seven in a police lineup including several bearded turbaned individuals, one of whom has a halo.
  • A third has a young dark haired student named Mohammed pointing to a blackboard on which the text apparently translates to say that “The Jyllands-Posten’s journalists are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs”
  • Another has an apparently fearful cartoonist trying to hide his sketch-in-progress of an unidentified bearded arabic-looking figure.
  • One has some kind of caliph or prince calming a couple of enraged soldiers with words to the effect that it’s only a stupid Danish cartoon
  • Two are apparently straight-up illustrations suitable for a children’s book. One of these has a heavily bearded turbaned peasant leading a donkey across an arid landscape.and the other, which also seems not intended to insult, is a slightly more cartoonish scholarly looking fellow with a crescent-shaped halo.
  • Two incorporate star and crescent into human facial features – one without comment and one with several such characters and a text that I haven’t seen translated.
  • Then there’s the oft reported immam on a cloud turning back burned bodies with “Stop! stop! we ran out of virgins”.
  • An angry looking man in a turban with a sword has his eyes blacked out (as if to protect id) by a rectangle that matches the cutouts in the black chadors of through which the eyes of two women behind him are the only visible details.
  • And then of course there’s the man with the bomb in his turban

Certainly probably a stupid exercise given the circumstances – although the intrusion of restrictive sensibilities into an open culture is something that I hope will be effectively resisted.
Perhaps the organizer should be shot – not by those enraged but by those who are suffering the consequences for his exercise of freedom.

Mohammed the Prophet should be vastly more insulted by the actions and assertions of those who claim to represent him – especially the sleazy characters posing as religious leaders who have added some truly offensive cartoons of their own devising in order to inflame those who find the real thing rather tame.

Actually, despite the inflammatory news reports on all sides the demonstrations of outrage and calls for boycott etc have in many instances been just the kind of exercise of free speech that Europeans should be defending. And where things have gotten nasty the atmosphere has only occasionally gone beyond the level of subhuman savagery demonstrated from time to time by British soccer fans when their colours get accidentally trampled on.

French editor fired over cartoons

Thursday, February 2nd, 2006

This BBC News article reports the firing of France Soir editor Jacques Lefranc by owner Raymond Lakah over the re-publication of cartoons originating in Denmark’s Jyllands-Posten which “gave offense” to Muslims. But if Mohammed is not to be despised, then picturing him with a bomb-shaped turban is far less of an insult to him than killing in his name.

Innovate – Places to Go: Moodle

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Stephen Downes had an article on the ‘Moodle’ CMS in the Dec/Jan issue of the ‘Innovate’ journal of online education.

Downes on Sakai

Wednesday, February 1st, 2006

Stephen Downes has an article on the ‘Sakai’ CMS in the ‘Innovate’ journal of online education.