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Sudsy Wants You to Join the Oregon Commentator

Are You Stupid, Gabe?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the answer is most definitely yes. His column today, aside from being written in his usual mouth-breathing style, declares that free speech is dangerous. Some excerpts:

Last September, a Danish newspaper published 12 cartoons featuring the prophet Muhammad, a key figure in the Muslim faith. A controversy arose not because these cartoons depicted violent and offensive stereotypes (though they did), but because they depicted the prophet, period.

Well, he’s right about the “depicted the prophet” bit, but I’ll let y’all decide for yourselves whether the cartoons depict “violent and offensive stereotypes.

I’m a big free speech supporter. I believe 100 percent that more people have died because of a lack of free speech than because of an overabundance of free speech. But this isn’t just about free speech; this is about worldwide culture wars. This is about global stability.

There’s a quotation around, often attributed to Ben Franklin, that those who will give up essential liberty for temporary security will lose both and deserve neither. That’s the path you’re treading on here, Gabe. You’re poposing that the limit of speech freedoms isn’t threats, libel, slander, “fighting words” or incitement; no, in Gabe-world, the limit is “offense”. That doesn’t wash, you idiot. Having to see and hear things that are offensive is just one of the small annoyances that comes along with freedom, and with being part of the larger global community. I have very few sensitivities, but creeping statism sure offends my sensibilities, if I threaten to kill a few people (and perhaps actually do so) while shouting will that get the statists to shut up? Would I be justified in doing so or would you call me a sociopath and a murderer? I’m going to guess the latter, and you’d be goddamn right .

I offend people every week. I go out of my way to do it. But no one has ever died because of something I’ve said. The news outlets that published the cartoons had every right to do so. But they should have exercised better judgment and decided not to.

Muslims make up 20 percent of the world’s population. With the global political climate being what it is today, we can’t afford to piss off that many people.

I know when I was editing the Commentator, the first thought in my mind was “will some idiot with no sense of humor be offended by this?” If the answer was yes, I published it. If the answer was no, I reworked it until the answer was yes and then published it. The blame for violent reaction falls upon those who react violently, not those who publish newspapers. The blame for this past week’s violence falls not on a few very frightened Danes, but rather on the humorless fools burning down embassies. Being offended is one thing, using that as an excuse to cause violence and death is quite another. The appropriate response to offensive speech is, well, more speech, not self-censorship for fear of violent reprisal.

UPDATE: Jaques Chirac can go to hell.

UPDATE II: Bush 43 and King Abdullah can go to hell too.

I feel very strongly about this: The press has no responsibility to consider who will be offended by publication of a particular item. None. At all. Good, insightful, incisive points are often quite offensive to their targets and it is the duty of any free press to put those forward where they see fit regardless of which nut-job flips out. “Thoughtful about others” means the same thing as PC. The politically correct trend, while often well-intentioned, is dangerous, in my view, to a free exchange of ideas. If I want to argue that “it” is a perfectly servicable non-gendered pronoun in English, or print cartoons about Zombie Jesus (back from the dead to forgive your sins and EAT YOUR BRAIN), or call a bunch of war protesters “Fucking Racists”, that’s my right. Aside from actual threats, fighting words, and incitement (such as yelling “fire” when there is no fire in a crowded theatre), there is no limit to what can be published, nor should there be. Again, if someone is offended, well, okay, fine, and anyone should be free to publish some other piece of speech counter to mine. The onus is not upon publishers to keep people from being offended, but on the offended to respond in a proportional and appropriate manner.

  1. bryan says:

    For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, this site has the images Scott’s talking about– though I doubt it will eventuate in the torching of any Turkish Embassies:

  2. Scott Austin says:

    Correct me if my sources and research are incorrect, Emily — and I have certainly been wrong before — but I seem to recall the Turks doing some illustrations for the Qu’ran a while back, like as in several hundred years. Or at least one of the Imams here in Vegas seems to think that’s the case. If it is, well, I say we plaster that up everywhere and see if the Muslim world wants to burn Turkish Embassies. I think, and this is just me, but I think watching Muslims burn Muslim Embassies would be just fantastic.


  3. amanda says:

    I recognize I am adding my opinion late in the game here but I just read Gabe’s (who ever that is) enlightened article and had to throw in my two cents worth. Actually I only got as far as the line “we will never fully grasp just how big a smack in the face anti-Muslim cartoons are” before I just had to write. These cartoons were not published to be anti-muslim. They were published to protest the fact that the author of a childs book about religion could not find an artist who was willing to depict Mohammad for his educational book. To the newspaper in question, this concept seemed a little questionable and most definitely news worthy. My friends in Denmark (including the one who works for the newspaper) are in complete shock that the little newspaper stirred up so many problems. The two points that I am trying make are probably unnecessary as you all already know this, but it might be refreshing to hear it from an outsider: 1) Gabe appears to be a moron who needs to really check all pertinent information before he submits an article to any publication (even a small, unimportant paper like the Emerald) and 2) Maybe certain fundamentalists, regardless their religion, politics etc., search for a reason to overreact.

  4. Timothy says:

    I’ve always wondered about the virgins thing: who wants to have guaranteed bad sex 76 times?

  5. Andy says:

    As long as you have a passion for what you believe in, or are extreemly sinacle about anything, I’m sure you will have have something to write about.

  6. Scott says:


    Do you know, my High School juniors have been able to articulate the concepts and ideas that Gabe seems singularly unable to conceptualize. My fear of the UofO and the education it provides. Long live Mohammed, and his 76 virgins. Peace out from Vegas, where we live in sin and teach morality……or something like that.


  7. Timothy says:

    Long-standing tribal hatred.

  8. ian says:

    The real question is why “as” and “so” can’t just get along. 🙁

  9. Michael G. says:

    Also, as none of us are paid so we use the term

  10. Timothy says:


    What Ian said, he’s running the show now, I’m just the old guy who pays for the website. And, hell, the OC is always looking for smart folks to contribute.

  11. ian says:

    Salam – We’re always looking for more people to join the Commentator. We need opinion writers, reporters/investigators, artists, designers, business-oriented people, etc. If you drop us an email we’ll add you to our mailing list for meetings and such. You can also find staff applications on our website and on the door of our office in the EMU (room 319, looking down on the Emerald.)

    Also, as none of us are paid so we use the term “job” rather loosely.

  12. Salam says:

    Tim and crew,

    I would just like to say that I have a lot of respect for you guys. I’ve seen numerous publications on campus and the Commentator is by far the best. No beating around the bush, no regrets, and no restraint. And you guys are very informed. I like that.

    That said, want to give me a job? I’d like to help out with the Commentator. I’m a Journalism and Poli Sci major. I don’t like to go out of my way to offend people, but maybe we can work something out?

  13. Andy says:

    100% Correct Tim. A newspaper is a business, and should no be regulated in anyway, unless it commits violence or property violations, due to the fact that the owners own the business. Censorship of the press is a fucked up idea from so many respects, and while we recognize that offending its customers might not be a sound business idea, we have NO right to say whether it should be able to or not. You have no right to not be offended in your life. Others have the right to offend you. The biggest punishment you can dish out to someone is to not do business with them.

    Oreily pointed out yesterday that the NY Times would print the cartoon because it thought it would incite violence, and it censored itself. But yesterday in their arts section they also printed a painting that depicted the Virgin Mary covered with shit. So maybe muhammed being violated with by a dog wouldn’t be that far off…

  14. Timothy says:

    The press has no responsibility for who is offended by what is published?

    What I mean by this is that people choose what to be offended by, and that’s a very individual decision. I’m offended by socialists and religious extremists, some people are offended by female breasts, some by benign depictions of one particular guy who made up one particular book for one particular group of nomadic desert sheep hearders a few thousand years ago. Your milage may vary.

    Publishers aren’t responsible for how people react to what is published, they don’t have any control over that. They print what they see fit, and people are responsible for their own reactions. If they’re offended, fine, they’re free to write letters or publish other things or draw holocaust-denial cartoons. The answer is not to demand “responsibility” or “respect” from the press because that undermines the entire purpose of a free and independent media: to comment and report on the issues of the day, in whatever manner they see fit, without fear of government or violent reprisal.

  15. Timothy says:

    I really just don

  16. Salam says:


    I really just don’t see where you’re coming from. The press has no responsibility for who is offended by what is published? What do you mean when you say press? Who are you talking about?

    Publishers of responsible newspapers do have a responsibility to remain objective in their content. Most newspapers are not propaganda, or at least not blatantly so. And this is a good thing. Can you imagine the response from all corners if the New York Times ran on its front page what you linked to above? It wouldn’t happen because that’s bad judgement and cheap.

    I’m sure that even the wisest anarchists can see why big publishers wouldn’t put junk like that out. It’s stupid and it’s mean. And everyone knows decent people hate stupidity and that mean folks always get what’s coming to them.

    People should be able to publish these images. But to distribute them through a medium of massive scale where they will receive maximum viewership is something that should be reconsidered.

    There is a saying that one should not poke a hungry dog.

    Crossing religious lines is for mudslingers and fools. The modern citizen should know that a little respect makes the world go round.

  17. Olly says:

    Also sprach Tim: “The press has no responsibility to consider who will be offended by publication of a particular item. None. At all.”

    To play devil’s advocate for a moment, the press has, if not a responsibility, then certainly a professional obligation to consider the feelings of their audience. You have a right to call a bunch of war protestors “fucking racists”, but (with a rueful nod to previous OC administrations) that doesn’t mean it’s a wise thing to do.

    The two issues here are, firstly, the cartoons are not an offense to any reasonable (defined here to mean “reasonable to Olly”) definition of propriety. And, secondly, even if they were (as, I think, for instance, the faked cartoon of a Muslim being raped by an amateurishly Photoshopped dog would have been), the appropriate response would be a cancelled subscription and a stern letter to the editor, maybe even a public boycott or, as Tim says, counter-speech in some other forum.

    I used to think the second point, which Tim is addressing here, was the important one. Increasingly, though, I think the first one is crucial, subjective definitions and all.

  18. Thankfully there are depictions of animals.

    I just wish there was a depiction of an animal. Dead…in steak form…on my plate…

  19. Michae G. says:

    At some point in the past, there were not supposed to be depictions of *animals* either. The idea is that all animals and humans are life, and only Allah can create life. Making images of life is trying to be the creator, etc.

    Islamic art classes are good for something, I guess.

  20. emily says:

    Yup, Olly there is.

    Originally there was a ban on portraying images of human being in there entirity in Islam; this has been attributed to close contact with the Byzantine Empire during the Iconoclasm controversies. It is not a mandate that is layed out in the Qur’an.

    But, like so many other religious practices over time the rules are not hard and fast(much like the ban on the consumption of alcohol), and I have physically seen manuscipts dating from as early as the 16th century that depict scenes from the life of the Prophet. Manuscript pages like this:
    litter the archives of many libraries.

    But let me stress that you will never, ever see an “illustrated” Qur’an in this sense. That would be something to get theologically uppity about.

  21. Olly says:

    Jesus, Ian, the guestbook on that site is a circus.

    Emily, the point about other, non-riot-inducing pictorial representations of Muhammed is very interesting. Do you know if there’s a long-standing tradition of that sort of thing?

  22. Andy says:

    Salam, in America, the state is the state religion. Here, we are forced to believe in One State, the Provider Almighty. It is just as precarious to protest against the state in America as is it to depict the prophet in the Muslim world.

  23. ian says:


    I think, as you note, there are significant differences between insulting a religion and insulting a state. The most immediate difference that comes to mind is in terms of whether such an insult is illegal according to the laws of the institution. While Islamic law forbids a depiction of the Prophet (much less the desecration of his image,) U.S. law fundamentally protects the rights of citizens to, for example, burn an American flag. Hell, I’ve seen people burning the Stars and Stripes in the EMU Amphitheater. That’s not to say Americans don’t get riled up at seeing their flag burned, because some do. But it’s nowhere near the reaction we’ve seen throughout the middle east during the past week.

    One would think, as Emily pointed out to me yesterday, that Sunni leaders would more vociferously decry the desecration of Shi’ite mosques than they would a few comics in a western newspaper.

    That appears to be the fundamental point that the protesters are (intentionally?) missing. There is a significant difference between Iranian papers publishing anti-semitic cartoons and Danish papers publishing anti-Islamic cartoons: the Hamshahri is state-run while the western papers have all been independent. It doesn’t help that the Syrian government appears to be sponsoring/organizing most of the protests.

    Part of me thinks a western paper should print a holocaust-denying cartoon

  24. Salam L.A. Koom says:

    I’m a GCC Arab and I understand the extreme degree of sensitivity surrounding the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad in any way. However, as a progressive and open-minded individual, it baffles me to see such violent reaction to what really is essentially harmless material.

    I’m wondering if anyone else finds it odd or hypocritical that the Shi’ite fanaticals in Iran who assaulted the Danish embassy are probably the same people who burn American flags and hang dummies of Uncle Sam from poles. Is that action (which occurs regularly in Iran and before the cartoon incidents) not on the same line of treading on sensitive issues (like the cartoons) ? Can we not draw parallels between flag burning in Iran and the Danish cartoons? True, insults directed toward one’s religion may be arguably different than insulting one’s state, but I think you get what I’m trying to say. It would be interesting to see Americans get as riled up as some of these fanatics over the burning of the stars and stripes. But I don’t think this would ever happen.

  25. Timothy says:

    Oddly, I do have to say that the Iranian sort of has a point in that publication of holocaust denial is a crime in most of Europe. Of course, were I the editor of a Danish paper I’d publish his cartoons, just to prove him wrong.

  26. Olly says:

    My favorite bit was somebody or other demanding that the Vatican put a stop to the dissemination of the cartoons. Um, folks, that’s not exactly how these things work.

    By the way, this all has the potential to get even more absurd very shortly. (Hat tip: Blair.)

  27. emily says:

    Here y’alls go:

    (Edit for mistake: the meeting with the Prime Minister happend in early/mid January, really only making it more rediculous).

  28. emily says:

    After the cartoons were originally printed last September, a group of Muslim religious leaders demanded a meeting with the Prime Minister of Denmark. The Prime Minister denied them the meeting (which was couched in terms of the printed cartoons), which honestly, he is not accountable for all of the citizens of Denmark and probably has as John Stewart so aptly put, “shit to do”. (Am at work, will link to this as soon as I am able). But hell, what a better way to show the powers that be that you mean business by inciting your fellow Muslims and countrymen to kill one another?

    On that note, Turkey has countless Ottomal manuscripts that depict the Prophet Muhammed ( a la “The Night Journey”), which shows how this is not a hard and fast rule historically.

  29. Andy says:

    what does the prime minister or denmark have to do with a newspaper printing cartoons?

  30. emily says:

    I here that how this all got started was when the Danish pime minister refused to meet with a few raging mullahs, who then proceeded to distribute more inflamatory cartoons than the originals had been (that had never been published) to their followers. So now Pakistan has refused vaccinces and medicine from all Danish sources and an epidemic of Superflu will ensues, and will kill 98% of the earth’s population. Racoons will then become the new world order (what with all that trash we left behind and all).

    The lesson?
    Don’t fuck with Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him).

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