Let me begin by confessing that I am a free speech extremist. There is no question in my mind that the Danish newspaper has the right to publish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, cartoons depicting acts of pedophilia, cartoons mocking the Holocaust (incidentally, the latter is shortly expected to appear in a paper in Iran). Any paper in Iran has, in my opinion, the same freedom of speech to publish cartoons mocking the Holocaust as does the New York Times.
Whether the Danish newspaper acted on its own whim and based on its own loathing and disrespect of Islam and Muslim people, or whether they were merely doing their part to help Amrika in its crusade against those who would stand between US and its oil, is irrelevant.
They have every right to do it, and in my opinion, we should all respect their right to do it, and respect them enougb to also acknowledge their right to accept the consequences of having done it.
Whatever their motivation, they are adult human beings, with the free will to choose what to do and what not to do, regardless of the effect their decisions may have on others.
That is a question that moves us out of the realm of free speech and into the realm of responsibility.
I have seen people argue that much worse anti-Muslim material is available all over the internets. This is true. There are lots of Americans on the internet, and Americans have been conditioned since birth to believe that 1) They are an exceptional master race, and 2) Muslims and Arabs are not really human beings.
Not all Americans drink that kool-aid, societal conditioning, even as sophisticated as the US has made it, is never 100% effective. It only works partially in some cases, and not at all in others.
It does, however, work well enough so that there is ample evidence of its effectiveness on the “mainstream” message boards and in the lairs of the “mainstream” bloggers.
While a blogger, a message board poster, and a mainstream, commercial newspaper editor all have the same freedom of speech (or should have, in my opinion), they do not necessarily have the same level of responsibility to a particular community, In the case of the Danish newspaper, that community would be Denmark.
Denmark has a sizeable Muslim community, and once the cartoons were published, they could not be retracted. They were available for dispersal by anyone who for whatever reason, wished to make their publication widely known.
It is not an unrealistic expectation, given the current situation, that a responsible newspaper editor would give some thought to the broader implications of this particular exercise of free speech.
The LEGO company, for example, is now just one company being boycotted by millions of people, although they had nothing to do with the publication of the cartoons, regardless of why they were published, and then re-publicized.
The Danish government, which did issue one of those politician-speak nonpologies, is hardly in a position, and quite probably disinclined, to do the one thing that could have helped matters, and that is, reprimand and penalize the newspaper, not as an affront to their having exercised their freedom of speech, but for having disregarded their responsibility to the community they serve.
A commercial newspaper is not an individual blogging in his pajamas. There is no chance that the US or any government will find any use for even the most rabid anti-Muslim invective to be found on the yahoo boards, even if they print it out and have copies distributed from Africa to Indonesia.
A mainstream newspaper published in a European country, especially one who has supplied expendable crusaders to the US, is a different matter.
It should also be remembered that while it is nearly out of the possibility for many Americans to comprehend, people in the Majority World do not have a positive view of western colonialism.
Perhaps the way to make it most understandable is to say that the Majority World is ungrateful.
Centuries worth of ungrateful, and many of the people demonstrating now are barely, if at all, aware of the cartoons. They are, however quite aware of many other things much more deadly than cartoons.
So the situation becomes delicate here, because as they demonstrate against western neo-colonialism, they are by definition also demonstrating against the native overseers that Washington has installed, and to whom are paid millions, billions, in American tax dollars, precisely to keep them from doing things like demonstrating against western neo-colonialism. Clearly, however US is paying, that amount must increase, see how many of them there are! Torching embassies!
Whether the operation will be successful in heating up anti-Muslim sentiment in Europe sufficient to lower the cost of expendables for US crusade expansion is still unclear.
As with most human endeavor, especially iffy ones like this, the total can exceed the sum of the parts rather rapidly, and who is to say whether people who have been so long denied “freedom of speech” will be willing to return to their normal state of crackdown, even if funds for the purpose are increased.
What is certain is that all empires come to an end, and Europe, at least the people, if not the politicians, are just as aware of the danger represented by Mr. Danger to their own children, and what could appear to be the effects of yet another of Washington’s famous operations, just might evolve into a reminder of a responsibility even larger than that of a Danish newspaper, as people grasp at the freedom to make more clear the simple message that The World Can’t Wait.