Monday, January 08, 2007

Anonymous, Mohammad, and Outrage

To review, Anonymous #2 wrote a (mostly) thoughtful comment about the U of MN controversy over a visiting professor. I decided that I would post it in its entirety if Anonymous #2 would identify him/herself. Otherwise, I would chop it up and respond to it bit by bit. The offer still stands.

In response to this post, I got an intelligent (if rambling) response from him/her:

But seriously, why do you care who I am? I'm not trying to provoke you (well, maybe just tease you a little bit), but I am intrigued as to why it matters. I mean if I made up a random blog name like Mr.Alice or AttitudesAnonymous would that suit you? Now I'm curious.

Isn't an idea an idea, whatever its source? Forgive the cliche, but "A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet..."

ME: It's my blog. Most newspapers make you give your name when you write letters to the editor. It is kind of chicken on my part to cut your comment into bite-size morsels. But it is just as chicken for you not to give your name. You really should get your own blog, and I don't mean that in a negative way. You should claim your work. Seriously. In addition, I think the discourse is better when people identify themselves on the Internet.

As for images of Mohammed, and such:

In the grand scheme of history, don't you think rage is a relatively common reaction for a believer to have towards perceived heresy? I mean, what would have happened to the South Park producers under the Spanish Inquisition? Or if the episodes had come to light in Salem during the witch trials? If you drew such pictures of Chairman Mao during the Cultural Revolution?

I personally appreciate that we live in a country that protects freedom of speech, but it has taken centuries to build up to our current tolerance level. I am not convinced our collective tolerance for religious and other insults is entirely natural. We are trained into it.

Furthermore, having the right to say something doesn't mean your audience doesn't have a right to get mad at you for saying/drawing it. Obviously, I don't believe rioting and violence are an appropriate reaction, but the anger is rather predictable, don't you think? I mean, didn't these guys put Rushdie on a hit list for the "Satanic Verses"?

Why hand out free ammunition to the other side? Honest question: do you think "training" extremists to get used to inflamatory speech is a practical option? Will they allow us to thicken the faithful's skin without the extremists' permission? If you repeatedly wave the red flag in front of the bull, does he stop charging?

Of course, people use perceived insults to advance political goals.

ME: Last sentence was really closer to what I was getting at. I was not asking whether outrage over perceived blasphemy was new. I wonder whether the specific outrage over the depiction of Mohammad is new. I suppose we could attribute it to Western ignorance, but I have a hunch that it is not a longstanding taboo -- at least not in modern times.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, you have a preference for identities, and it is your blog. I cannot argue with that.

I still do not wish to identify myself, so there we are.

Maybe I will get my own blog someday, but I am still figuring out who I am and what I think. I'm not ready to make any grand announcements at the moment.

Take care.
Anonymous #2

January 10, 2007 9:38 PM  

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