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Professor Myers and the Danish Cartoons

(HT: Lex Communis).

Contrast Professor Myers' public treatment of Catholics and their beliefs with his public posture when, over two year ago, Muslims were upset about Danish cartoons published that depicted Muhammed in unflattering ways. He writes:

There are some things a cartoonist would be rightly excoriated for publishing: imagine that one had drawn an African-American figure as thick-lipped, low-browed, smirking clown with a watermelon in one hand and a fried chicken drumstick in the other. Feeding bigotry and flaunting racist stereotypes would be something that would drive me to protest any newspaper that endorsed it—of course, my protests would involve writing letters and canceling subscriptions, not rioting and burning down buildings. There is a genuine social concern here, I think. Muslims represent a poor and oppressed underclass, and those cartoons represent a ruling establishment intentionally taunting them and basically flipping them off. They have cause to be furious!

I've seen the cartoons, and they are crude and uninteresting—they are more about perpetuating stereotypes of Muslims as bomb-throwing terrorists than seriously illuminating a problem. They lack artistic or social or even comedic merit, and are only presented as an insult to inflame a poor minority. I don't have any sympathy for a newspaper carrying out an exercise in pointless provocation.

So on the one hand I see a social problem being mocked, but on the other—and here comes the smug godless finger-wagging—I see a foolish superstition used as a prod to mock people, and a people so muddled by the phony blandishments of religion that they scream "Blasphemy!" and falsely pin the problem on a ridiculous insult to a non-existent god, rather than on the affront to their dignity as human beings and citizens. Religion in this case has accomplished two things, neither one productive: it's distracted people away from the real problems, which have nothing at all to do with the camera-shy nature of their imaginary deity, and it's also amplified the hatred.

In short, Professor Myers did not write "It's Just a Frackin' Cartoon."

Comments (13)

Illuminating. Thanks for digging this up for comparison.

Yeah but Rome does not issue fatwahs.

I suspect that, as a generalization across the ranks of perfervid secularists, anti-religious animus is, more often than not, unidirectional. There is one religion in particular that enkindles their wrath, and we all know which one that is. Contributing to this hostility, borne of proximity and incomprehension, is the modern Western tendency to idealize the Other, or, at a minimum, to minimize the injustices of the Other by comparison to one's neighbour.

Frankly, I think that secularist elites regard Islam as far more "serviceable", if the proles really have to pray to something. It is a tradition with a long lineage in the West.

Muslims represent a poor and oppressed underclass

Is that so? Certainly it applies to some Muslims. But as a "class," they represent the "oppressed"? Who is oppressing Muslims in Turkey, Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran etc (and some of those nations have a fairly high per capita income)? In Iraq, I suppose Muslims are oppressed if they are oppressing each other, but I don't think that's what Mr Myers had in mind. In Europe, many Muslims are poor. But they're doing generally better, I'll wager, than they were in whatever country they came from. And there are wealthy Muslims in Europe. True, the Palestinians are having a rather rough go of it, andhave been for some time. But most Muslims aren't Palestinians. In short, what planet is Myers living on?

thebyronicman, I think the answer to your question is that Myers is a leftist, so that to his mind "poor" and oppressed" are simply synonymous.

thebyronicman, I think the answer to your question is that Myers is a leftist, so that to his mind "poor" and oppressed" are simply synonymous.

Myers is evidently working from the Schopenhauerian thesis that one doesn't have to be a decent person to philosophize about decency. Watching him work, though, I do have to say that it's a good object lesson in how not to handle yourself when angry. CSL said that the danger in anger is that we enjoy the feeling of righteousness that usually accompanies it. At that point, you're right on the verge of boorishness, so better take care. Myers' ability to maintain a consistent level of boorish, vulgar hostility is truly impressive (or rather, frightening), however. Most rude, vain and self-obesssed people I've personally known need to take a break from it once in a while--I know I do. But this guy has really put all his chips in the middle. The monomania is disturbing, and I think it has a lot to do with the internet. This thing really brings out the worst in people. I mean, take a garden variety schmo with abrasive anti-social tendencies, give him a college degree or two, a "righteous cause," and a blog: Presto! Instant sociopath. Add a generous measure of sycophantic virtual hangers-on, and you've got a recipe for soul suicide, as your followers will cheer you right to the very Gates of Hell. After my period of extreme irritation with Myers over this flap, I'm now starting to feel sorry for the guy more than anything else, and it makes me think of all the times I've behaved abominably when righteously angry with a pen in my hand. Dear God...

"In short, Professor Myers did not write "It's Just a Frackin' Cartoon.""

Actually, he pretty much did. The attempt at contrast rather fails, I think. Not only is his lack of enthusiasm for the cartoons based on what he sees as crude racial stereotypes, but he openly defends the blasphemy part of it. It's only the lack of the latter which would be evidence of him having a double standard when it comes to mocking beliefs he thinks are silly.

Dear Sir Bad:

You're comparing the two PZs at the wrong level of abstraction. It isn't the permissibility of ridicule that is being disputed, but rather, the permissibility of outrage. According to PZ, Catholic outrage is unwarranted while Muslim outrage is warranted, though the latter hurt their cause because they resort to violence. Muslims are portrayed as victims, albeit irrational and misguided, who harm their warranted case by overreacting. Catholics are told by PZ to remain completely silent and speak only when spoken to as they sit in the back of the secular bus.

You are indeed correct that Professor Myers thinks that both Catholicism and Islam are nonsense. But he seems to believe that Muslims have a right to be outraged if they are intentionally provoked by Danish cartoonists but Catholics have no right to be outraged if they are intentionally provoked by him. So, here's the question that you need to answer: What is the principle that reconciles these apparently inconsistent assessments of outrage?

FJB

Catholics are told by PZ to remain completely silent and speak only when spoken to as they sit in the back of the secular bus.

Really? Where? I've seen him say that Catholics shouldn't be calling for a kid to get expelled from school, that Catholics shouldn't be trying to have him terminated from his post, and that Catholics should cut out the death threats. Is it your view that this is all Catholics have to say on the matter or are you just not the slightest bit concerned with representing the situation accurately?

Let's post the rest of PZ's statement, shall we? (emphasis added)

So on the one hand I see a social problem being mocked, but on the other—and here comes the smug godless finger-wagging—I see a foolish superstition used as a prod to mock people, and a people so muddled by the phony blandishments of religion that they scream "Blasphemy!" and falsely pin the problem on a ridiculous insult to a non-existent god, rather than on the affront to their dignity as human beings and citizens. Religion in this case has accomplished two things, neither one productive: it's distracted people away from the real problems, which have nothing at all to do with the camera-shy nature of their imaginary deity, and it's also amplified the hatred.

It also doesn't help that their riots are confirming the caricatures rather than opposing them. Once again, religiosity turns people into mindless frenzied zombies, and once again it interferes with progress.

PZ Myers is an intelligent man, he is able to separate the human being from whatever nonsensical superstition they subscribe to. Atheists like all people, religious people included. We just think your beliefs are dumb.

The belief that a drawing of Mohammad is a reason for outrage and violence is just as dumb as believing that a cracker *is* the manifestation of Jesus. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

Attention all shoppers: cleanup in aisle 7.

Once again, atheism transforms its adherents into mindless, frenzied zombies, interfering with the normal course of human events by engendering mass slaughters and world-historical atrocities. The belief the jettisoning belief in the supernatural represents progress is Dumb. Dumb dumb dumb dumb dumb.

You know, Alan, had you added 2-3 more 'dumbs' to the end of that post, I might have been instantly swayed to atheism. Seriously. No joke.

The 'cooties' argument has been extremely effective after, say grade 2 or so.

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