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Artists for Free Speech Chicken Out

John on April 26, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I love this:

In declaring May 20th to be “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” Seattle artist Molly Norris created a poster-like cartoon showing many objects — from a cup of coffee to a box of pasta to a tomato — all claiming to be the likeness of Muhammad.

[...]On Friday, Norris told a radio talk show host in Seattle that she came up with the idea because “as a cartoonist, I just felt so much passion about what had happened…” noting that “it’s a cartoonist’s job to be non-PC.”

That passion, it appears, has lessened. And fast.

Her stark website today reads: “”I am NOT involved in “Everybody Draw Mohammd [sic] Day!”


Once it became a national story she reeled back, asking [blogger Dan] Savage — in an email he provided to The Ticket — if he would “be kind enough to switch out my poster” with another one — a much tamer version which has no images attributed to Muhammad.

“I am sort of freaked out about my name/image being all over the place,” her e-mail reads.

But wait there’s more:

The creator of a Facebook page dedicated to the day has bowed out as well.  Jon Wellington told the Washington Post (before abandoning ship) that he created the page because he “loved [Norris's] creative approach to the whole thing — whimsical and nonjudgmental.”

While he was still associated with his own event he said: “To me, this is all about freedom of expression and tolerance of other viewpoints, so I hope you’ll help make this a sandbox that anyone can play in, if they want. I don’t think it’d be right under the circumstances for me (or anyone) to censor inflammatory posts *ahem*, but let’s be welcoming and inclusive, mmkay?”

Apparently the posts weren’t “welcoming” enough, as on Sunday morning he announced his departure from the cause. “I am aghast that so many people are posting deeply offensive pictures of the Prophet,” he writes. “Y’all go ahead if that’s your bag, but count me out.”

Clearly, these people are cowards. That said, I’m not particularly sad to see this idea die.

For the record, in five years of blogging I’ve never censored a single comment on this blog, even the ones that call me every name in the book. I’m a free speech zealot and I’m not afraid of offending Muslims.

That said, I chose a middle road when the original cartoon controversy broke. I did so because it became pretty obvious that a lot of the people pushing the cartoons had a humanist/atheist bent. They weren’t advocating free speech per se, they were advocating giving a big FU to religious believers of all stripes. The cartoons just provided a convenient pretext for them to go after Muslims. As I said at the time:

This is a war between a brand of Islam and a brand of Enlightenment secularism. Both sides have in common that when not bashing each other they tend to be bashing Christianity. I chose to be here in the middle getting hit from both sides so there’s no point whining about it. I’m used to turning the other cheek. Just don’t expect me to jump into the fray when the creeps on both sides start hitting each other for a change. When your enemies start a war, keep your head down and hope they both lose.

I guess I still feel that way. Secularism is a good (and Biblical) thing, but offending everyone to make a point to the tiny fraction who don’t agree with you is cultural carpet bombing. How about a bit more targeted attack on the offenders instead of just being offensive to everyone for no particular reason. At least South Park can claim to be funny occasionally. I don’t think we could expect as much from a bunch of Mohammed stick figures cartoons by amateurs.

So I’m with Althouse on this one.

And believe me, if it turns out that there’s a threat to free speech, I’ll be drawing and posting cartoons by the dozen. If you think creeps with knives and guns scare me, you don’t know me. Until then, I’d rather not deeply offend a bunch of mostly peaceful Muslims who never did anything to me. (But if you want to draw something really offensive and e-mail it directly to Hamas/Hezbollah, I love that idea.)

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Category: Islamic Jihad, Secularism & Socialism |

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