Michelle Malkin’s stupid question

Stupid twit.

Readers have been e-mailing all day the question the MSM needs to answer:

Why the Abu Ghraib photos, but not the Mohammed Cartoons?

We’re listening…

Another blogger answers it way better than I can:

BECAUSE IT’S A FUCKING CARTOON, YOU DIZZY SKANK. Do you understand the concept of a cartoon? It’s a picture somebody drew of make-pretend. Do you get confused when you read the Sunday funnies, and think it’s really happening? Do you ever find yourself yelling at the newspaper “don’t do it, Charlie Brown! Lucy’s gonna pull the ball away!” Do you understand the difference between “really happening” and “a drawing”? Am I eliciting blank stares from all around Wingnuttia right now?

God help us. God get me a beer.

Of course, when cartoons generate global riots, they become more than mere cartoons and need to be discussed in the news. But like all highly controversial and inflammatory material, it needs to be handled with care. As one of the more level-headed bloggers puts it,

[M]y cautionary notes advocating that we don’t cheerlead cartoon depictions of Mohammed as a ticking bomb are not some Munich-like appeasement redux, but rather an attempt to advocate judicious and responsible editorial judgment in the context of a wide-ranging ideological struggle against radical Islam–one being fought, not only in the Islamic world, but also very much in a West grappling with how best to integrate their Muslim minorities. Part of this battle means trying not to gratuitously humiliate religious minorities living within your midst.

The new photos of Abu Ghraib have never been seen before and have been long anticipated. They are imminently newsworthy. I believe they should be shown, though it is up to the media to decide whether to do so, and whether to show them pixilated and censored in the name of good taste. Just as it’s their right to show or not show the Mohammed cartoons.

The photos depict real events, crimes that Americans aren’t supposed to commit, and are important for understanding why we are where we are today in Iraq. To not understand that these photos are major news, especially when the administration assures us we do not have a policy of torture…. Well, what can one say, except that it’s vintage Malkin.

The Discussion: 21 Comments

Saying things better than you can involves calling a female political opponent a skank? I thought you were better than that, Richard. I guess gay-bashing would be allowed if Malkin were a lesbian, too.

Malkin’s question is a good one, and you’re willingly ignoring it in favor of a cheap shot. I’m not keen on publishing the cartoons “just to make a point,” but the real truth of it is that the media can publish Abu Ghraib pictures 24/7 and won’t dare publish the “offensive cartoons” because American soldiers aren’t going to threaten to kill them for making the US military look bad. The media, even if they don’t republish the cartoons, ought to be talking about why they’re speaking truth to power in one case and not the other.

February 16, 2006 @ 5:38 am | Comment

Oh good god. Actually I advocate publishing the cartoons – as I like mocking fanatics and throwing their fanaticism back in their faces in the most irreverent ways.

However, the cartoon is categorically different from the torture photos. The prisoners were really tortured. But Muhammed never really had a bomb attached to his head.

February 16, 2006 @ 6:32 am | Comment

I’ve called Michelle a lot worse; she holds a special place in my heart. Maybe you have to know the Poor Man’s style, which I am very used to. Like Rude Pundit, he…well, they’re both on my blogroll if you want to see what I mean.

Read the last two paragraphs of my post. I do not ignore Malkin’s question at all. What we did in Abu Ghraib was news, it was a story. Everything that America stood for, that our war in Iraq stood for, lay shattered. In Denmark, some publisher decided to mock Mohammed in a fucking cartoon, which is his choice. Do you see both items as equally newsworthy? If you do, then I don’t want to continue the conversation.

I totally reject your claim about why the media won’t print the cartoons. I have never heard anyone, even on the right, claim it was for fear of their lives. Maybe political correctness, maybe moral cowardice, or maybe, as Belgravia Dispatch says, because it makes good sense not to inflame the situation unnecessarily. I can’t speak for them.

February 16, 2006 @ 6:38 am | Comment

>>but rather an attempt to advocate judicious and responsible editorial judgment in the context of a wide-ranging ideological struggle against radical Islam

Huh? Isn’t this the case for NOT publishing the Abu Gharib pics? Aren’t you just going to inflame the Muslim world?

I don’t want to rehash this whole issue again as I already covered it in a thread below. And I’m sure I’ll meet with mighty arguments again like “You’re a bigot and a dittohead.” But I’ll just say that both the cartoons and the Abu Gharib pics should be published without any political consideration. The job of the media is to transmit information, not to guard against inflaming one group or another.

I guess I’m the only one who finds it funny that some on the left are defending self-censorship in one case and decrying it in the next, while some on the right are doing the exact same thing in reverse.

The left: “Don’t publish the cartoons: it will inflame the Muslim world! It will hurt our cause! Be responsible!”

The right: “Don’t publish the Abu Gharib pics: it will inflame the Muslim world! It will hurt our cause! Be responsible!”

And, yes, a cartoon is not the same as a picture, blah, blah, blah. Do they have to be the same for the same principle to be at stake? Each side sees a political advantage in one set of pictures/drawings that it wants to exploit.

I guess now I’ll be alternately labeled a “dittohead bigot” and a “liberal/terrorist.”

February 16, 2006 @ 7:44 am | Comment

You’re making the mistake of seeing the two stories in parallel, as though the Danish cartoons (cartoons!) are as newsworthy as photos of Americans actually committing torture. Editors need to be prudent, but must not censor important information about the failings of their government. I never said “Don’t publish the cartoons.” I said all editors have the right to do so, but I personally thought it was a bad idea. Because they were created to provoke, and in themselves were not newsworthy (though the story of what they generated certainly was). This is hardly the case with actual photos of Americans committing atrocities.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:04 am | Comment

“You’re making the mistake of seeing the two stories in parallel, as though the Danish cartoons (cartoons!) are as newsworthy as photos of Americans actually committing torture.”

Yes, they are only cartoons which, in and of themselves, are not newsworthy. They were made so by the reaction to them. At this point it hardly matters whether they are published or not as the pandora box is open, the damage is done and KFCs throughout Pakistan are smoldering piles of rubble.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:29 am | Comment

>>gratuitously humiliate religious minorities living within your midst.

I have one question for richard — and i’m not being sarcastic. You published one of the cartoons on your blog. Does this mean that you were “gratuitously humilating religious minorities?” I don’t think so. I think you published it because the cartoon WAS the story, and your readers couldn’t fully understand the story without seeing the cartoon. I really don’t see why others around here didn’t blame you to death for publishing that cartoon since you did the same thing that the “irresponsible” newspapers did.

>>but I personally thought it was a bad idea. Because they were created to provoke, and in themselves were not newsworthy

Three points:

1) Political cartoons and satire are created to provoke. If that is your standard for newsworthiness (i.e., “will this provoke someone? was this created to provoke?”), then I guess no one should publish political cartoons or satire of any stripe.

2) You hear the same arguments on the right about the abuse/torture pics: publishing them is designed to provoke and inflame people. This is an old story. It isn’t newsworthy anymore. You are just provoking people. And so on.

3) I specifically said that the cartoons aren’t the “same” as pictures. In this case, the pictures are much more important because they constitute documentary evidence of torture and abuse, and further, they contradict the statements of the Bush administration. What is the same is the notion that the media should be the gatekeeper and nanny of our political discourse in an effort to “protect” us. These are the same arguments you hear in the Chinese media: the media should not provoke or inflame people or create “instablility.” In sum, this is about the role of the free press.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:29 am | Comment

Liu hit it squarely on the head. It was the reaction that made the cartoons newsworthy. Who would have even noticed the cartoons without the riots that made them famous? The cartoons and the photos are both rightly part of the debate on the duties and responsibilities of the press. It is ironically humorous that both sides use the same arguement to decry the use of both the cartoons or the photos.

Interesting sidenote; how many who now say the cartoons are over the edge and inflamatory etc – had no problem publishing photos and promoting the display of Serranos’ Piss Christ?

“Everything America stood for lay shattered”? A bit much, don’t you think? This country has been thru worse hits on its image. Race riots, police beatings of minorities, numerous scandals, etc. One thing you maybe overlooked – its us thats publishing the photos and putting the perpetrators on trial. Say what you like, but how many countries would have even allowed these photos if it had been their own soldiers? In the short run, the US is going to get beat all to hell and back over these photos and the abuse they document. In the long haul it will only add to our credibility that we have standards we enforce even if it results in our own embarassment in the eyes of the world? No country is perfect. The strength or weakness of a country lies in it’s willinginess to face it’s faults and failings and deal with them.

February 16, 2006 @ 1:10 pm | Comment

And it’s off to the races again, is it?

Alright, first thing: can we not talk about what “the left” and “the right” say? Can we work with individual examples, since simplistic ideological conflict a la “with us or against us” is the same thinking that burnt down a KFC?

There’s publishing the cartoons in order to have a civil discussion, and then there’s publishing the cartoons for no other reason than to defy extremists. Cartoon as topic or cartoon as badge. Richard, for example, didn’t publish the cartoon as an emblem of solidarity with Denmark, which Malkin did, which basically says that you publish it to support one ideological side – “us”. He published it to begin an open discussion. I do think that CNN could have had more balls about it, slapped the cartoon up on the Situation Room wall and have several Muslim and non-Muslim scholars of different viewpoints sit down with Wolf Blitzer for a good hour long conversation. But CNN didn’t do that, and I think that was a loss.

The same should apply to the Abu Ghraib photos; put them up, but not to declare solidarity or a united front against somebody. That’s not dialogue, that’s a closed minded provocation. That’s what propaganda is; it gives you information, but packaged in a way that says “and this is the only way people ’round here think about it”.

Thing is, this also means calling Malkin a “skank” isn’t helpful either. But hey, the Poor Man doesn’t claim to be news, but entertainment for a particular echo chamber. Likewise, Malkin.

What makes something newsworthy shouldn’t be the images it chooses to publish or not publish. It should be its commitment to civil discussion of the issues between different points of view.

February 16, 2006 @ 3:43 pm | Comment

And just to be clear, a civil discussion is not talking about not publishing cartoons being a sign of a slide into “dhimmitude”, “Eurabia” or any other xenophobic “Muslim invasion” nonsense, which is exactly what Malkin has been serving up lately. A civil discussion might actually involve, oh, I dunno, some Muslims for starters. It might discuss some of the dumb ideas Europe had about immigration, housing and education that contributed just as much as radical clerics to the isolation and segregation of Europes Muslims. It might talk about how Abu Hamza, who definitely should be imprisoned or executed for the false passports, weapons, conspiracy, soliciting murder… but what about those three charges to “incite religious hatred”? That could be used by a less than responsible British government one day against a cartoonist. The same argument was made by the ADL against Matthew Hale after his speeches inspired Ben Smith to shoot people in Illinois and Indiana, but that wasn’t what the FBI got him on. They got him on the solicitation charge, which Hamza also got.

Or how about the fact that Abu Hamza joined the mujahadeen from mujahadeen that came to Britain for medical treatment, because the US and UK were supporting them against the Soviets? How about the fact Abu Hamza was wanted for crimes in Egypt for years while in Britain, and whether or not it would’ve been right to send him there for punishment?

“The Hook” is a classic example of how extremist clerics in Europe, though solely responsible for their outrages, are the product of alot of factors which most people don’t here about. These factors come into play with a guy like Abu Laban, too, who took all those cartoons to Egypt.

And so far the only time I’ve seen anybody from European Islamic moderates, or a group like Muslim WakeUp!, get more than a soundbite is on Irish TV news. And that’s not very good either, because there isn’t one voice for Muslims in the West. In fact, one of the reasons extremist clerics have gotten power in Denmark or France is because European governments have pushed for incorporating “official Muslim leaders”, which doesn’t help integration and has given radicals positions to usurp.

There’s tons more to talk about, and I haven’t even touched Guantanamo. These are complex issues, and putting a cartoon up and screaming about free speech doesn’t address those complexities. It simply allows a shallow self-satisfaction founded on biased ignorance.

February 16, 2006 @ 4:08 pm | Comment

Oh, and another thing: Hirsa Ali, the Dutch-Somali MP known for speaking against the treatment of women, radical Islam and working with murdered director Theo Van Gogh, said this in Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: You want to see these young people be systematically introduced to Western values. But they live in closed communities, so how can they be reached?

Hirsi Ali: Start by knocking on the door! We must penetrate into their worlds.

SPIEGEL: You’ll be seeing many doors slammed in your face.

Hirsi Ali: I’m not saying that it would be easy. For her book entitled “Invisible Parents,” the journalist Margalith Kleijwegt did some research in the Moroccan section of Amsterdam, where Van Gogh’s murderer, Bouyeri, lived. She knocked unsuccessfully on doors six times. The seventh door was opened, and then she learned a great deal about this community. For example, she learned that no parents in that neighborhood knew about the murder, that no parents even knew who Van Gogh was or had heard about the film. They only watch Arab television where they are fed with conspiracy theories about the West. They spend every vacation at home in Morocco. They can’t speak or write Dutch, and they don’t read newspapers. The lesson of Margalith Kleijwegt’s book is that the parents are not equipped to give their children the upbringing necessary in a modern western society. They also have many children and these parallel worlds are growing. We look on without even knowing what happens in them.

This is not a “cowed” European, this is a woman who had her genitals mutilated, escaped an arranged marriage and now looks radicals right in the eye. And What is she advocating? Outreach, not stupid confrontation. At least I’m pretty sure she’s not suggesting knocking on their door and yelling at them about buying legos.

February 16, 2006 @ 4:29 pm | Comment

What Dave said.

James, yes, Abu Ghraib shattered everything. We in America might not see it that way, but we have no global perspective. We lost the moral high ground totally and can never recover it – not while Bush justifies torture and whitewashes Abu Ghraib and other abuses. Look at the swelling controversy over Gitmo just this week. With Abu Ghraib we went, overnight, from liberator to torturer.

About Serrano: I don’t recall the mass media picturing the work of “art” you refer to. They described it; very few showed it. Same with the famous hip-hop painting of the Virgin Mary made with elephant dung (which happens to be a true work of art – quite beautiful, whatever material was used to create it). I read tons of articles about it, but nearly all left out the painting itself. The first time I saw it shown in a major paper was a week ago when the NY Times displayed it in an article about art, in the arts & leisure section. In that case it was essential, as they were discussing its specific merits as a painting.

Liu Yixi, I said in my post above that with the riots, the cartoons became more than cartoons, they became news. Just as you say. Therefore, as relevant news, papers are entitled to show them at their discretion. I don’t see a reason to, but I cherish a free press; let them show the cartoons if they see fit. And let me say I feel there’s no need and good reasons not to.

Jim: I have one question for richard — and i’m not being sarcastic. You published one of the cartoons on your blog. Does this mean that you were “gratuitously humilating religious minorities?” I don’t think so. I think you published it because the cartoon WAS the story, and your readers couldn’t fully understand the story without seeing the cartoon.

I included the cartoon because the author of the contributed post asked me to, and I also wrote the following in my comments to that post:

I republished some anti-Japanese ads made in China a few weeks ago. If I felt this might trigger a global crisis, I would certainly have reconsidered. I think I’ve been completely consistent in my position on the cartoons: It was certainly the Danish magazine’s right to print them, just as it is the right of American publications. But just because they can do it doesn’t mean they should do it.

If I were concerned that my posting the cartoon, by then all over the Internet, would create problems I may have had second thoughts. Luckily, I am not the NY Times or NBC-News, and I don’t need to worry about my posts inciting global chaos. Mass media have a higher responsibility. The NYT, for example, sat on the wiretapping story for a full year, witholding important news, because the government asked them to and because they had to weigh whether the story might endanger the fight against Al Qaeda.

I don’t think showing the cartoon was necessary in the earlier post, but I didn’t think it was harmful either. I left it up to my guest blogger. In this post, I choose not so show any cartoons, yet we all know what we’re talking about.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:13 pm | Comment

Salon explains why they show the Abu Ghraib photos. I concur with every word.
The horrors carried out during the last three months of 2003 by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison are shockingly familiar and, at the same time, oddly remote. The torture photographs that were published when the prisoner-abuse scandal first exploded have lost their power to shock. We have all seen the pictures repeatedly: a pyramid of unclothed prisoners; a naked detainee cowering in front of snarling dogs; captives wearing punitive hoods that seem borrowed from a medieval inquisition; American soldiers grinning over Iraqi dead bodies and, always, that chillingly ironic thumbs-up sign.

Eventually this visual repetition numbs the senses. All these ghastly images have been viewed so often that they seem to belong to a different war conducted by a different superpower in a different century. Yet the photographs that news organizations have so far published represent only a partial sample of the government’s chilling documentary record from Abu Ghraib.

When Salon’s national correspondent Mark Benjamin obtained the never-before-released photographs that accompany this essay, we had to both establish their authenticity and to answer the basic question of our justification for publishing. The images themselves partly answered the why-publish question for us. Speaking for myself, I remain haunted by one of the more seemingly banal pictures in this new collection from the dark side. Taken on Dec. 6, 2003, the photograph shows a uniformed and seemingly untroubled Army sergeant leaning against a corridor wall completing his paperwork. All routine, except standing next to the sergeant is a hooded and naked Iraqi prisoner. Just another day of methodical record-keeping at Abu Ghraib.

The other compelling reason for publishing these pictures is that the system itself broke down over Abu Ghraib. Beyond the collapse of military discipline and adherence to the basic rules of civilized behavior, Abu Ghraib also symbolized the failure of a democratic society to investigate well-documented abuses by its soldiers. After an initial flurry of outrage, the Republican-controlled Congress lost interest in investigating whether senior military officers — and even Pentagon officials — created a climate in which torture (yes, torture) flourished. In similar fashion, the Army still seems intent on ending this shameful story by jailing the likes of Lynndie England and Charles Graner. At least after the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, Lt. Calley was convicted.

Abu Ghraib cannot be allowed to fade away like some half-forgotten domestic political controversy, which may have prompted newsmagazine covers at the time, but now seems as irrelevant as the 2002 elections. Abu Ghraib is not an issue of partisan sound bites or refighting the decision to invade Iraq. Grotesque violations of every value that America proclaims occurred within the walls of that prison. These abuses were carried out by soldiers who wore our flag on their uniforms and apparently believed that Americans here at home would approve of their conduct. Rather than hiding what they did out of shame, they commemorated their sadism with a visual record.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:26 pm | Comment

If I remember correctly about the Virgin Mary dung painting, the artist Ofili’s native culture in Africa (not sure where) didn’t see dung as shit, but actually was associated with something positive (fertility).

Oh right, here.

Of course, to think about those things, you’d have to be more interested in the artists intent and native culture, rather than looking for someone to yell at. So I guess that ain’t gonna work.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:40 pm | Comment

Correct, Dave. Elephant dung was associated with the land and fertility. I remember an artist talking about this in an NPR interview back then, saying Americans completely misunderstood this point. And note, the article you link to doesn’t show the painting but makes its points perfectly well (though I have no problem with showing it).

Americans, trying to see things from the point of view of the culture they are attacking ?? Forget about it.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:46 pm | Comment

I like this line from the Marino article:

Unfortunately, society is always quick to jump on the obvious meanings of something, and not look at the deeper meaning, so this work is seemingly crucified before it has a chance to give its message. People must learn to look at art from a different perspective, and try to understand what it is that the artist was intending to say. It is possible that one day Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary” and other controversial works of art will be appreciated for what they truly mean, not what society’s preconditioned mind has made them mean.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:47 pm | Comment

Richard, I think what that line suggests is that art involves thinking. That is soooo medieval dude.

February 16, 2006 @ 8:51 pm | Comment

Alternet on why the Abu Ghraib photos need to be shown:

The release of the photographs will spark the violence? No — U.S. torture of prisoners sparks massive outrage and justifiably so. Moreover, this outrage should not just be confined to the “Arab world” but should be felt everywhere, particularly in the United States. Besides, Pentagon lawyers have already tried this defense in federal court, and a judge ruled that fear of facing the consequences of your actions is not a legitimate defense.

Starr concluded another report saying the Pentagon is concerned that if the images “appear in the Islamic world, they are concerned they will incite unrest in the Islamic world and therefore put U.S. military troops at risk.”

CNN anchor Zain Vergee then shot back, “And they were swiftly put on Arab TV. As you say, they’re out there.”

They were swiftly put on Arab TV. Is there something devious about that? Is “Arab TV” somehow committing some transgression against freedom and democracy by broadcasting these images that were first put out by Australian TV in a country Bush claims as his ally?

All of the images of the torture at Abu Ghraib should be made public, as the Center for Constitutional Rights and ACLU have been fighting for, because they are an accurate representation of what has happened and continues to happen in U.S.-run and -supported gulags around the world.

February 16, 2006 @ 9:35 pm | Comment

Another Mohammed Cartoon Surfaces

Mohammed funnies…

February 17, 2006 @ 11:30 pm | Comment

Is “Arab TV” somehow committing some transgression against freedom and democracy by broadcasting these images that were first put out by Australian TV in a country Bush claims as his ally?

In short, yes. Do you think Arab TV (often state-owned) analyzes this in its broad context of American strategy and questioning it? Or do you think it goes into sensationalist propaganda with the deliberate attempt to inflame its denizens?

February 18, 2006 @ 1:14 am | Comment

Yknow, today I’m going to go buy Voices of the New Arab Public by Marc Lynch, because I’m tired of assuming I know what Al Jazeera et al. talk about like Johnny K just did.

According to Lynch’s blog Abu Aardvark, the cartoon debate on Al Jazeera was about as sensationalist as our cable news. But there were still people saying the protests were embarassing and one guy even asked why this energy wasn’t being directed at corrupt governments in the region.

Ever notice they never really get Arab jounalists to tell us what the Arab media says? Usually its some white Orientalist instead. Why don’t they just get it from the horses mouth? Hell, David Frost works for Al Jazeera International now, and most ME governments dislike the station precisely because it isn’t state-owned… which is why its so popular!

February 18, 2006 @ 12:26 pm | Comment

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