Monday, August 27, 2007

Special Consideration Doesn't Help

Religious Staffers React,
Major Sunday Strip Banned!


I'm pretty sure I know the response that such censorship would get. And, I'm pretty sure that the favored religious group wouldn't win friends by receiving special consideration.

The Washington Post and other newspapers pulled a strip from Sunday's comic section. Religious members of the Post staff, consulted about Sunday's "Opus," declared an emotional reaction to how the strip portrayed their faith. The Post's top brass had "considerable alarm" over the offending strip's content.

This isn't the "Opus" with a Jerry Falwell punchline. That was August 19's strip.

This was yesterday's strip. Lolla Granola, the strip's religious faddist, says that she's a radical Islamist, and wants to be called Fatima Struggle. The strip ends with Fatima and her boyfriend, Steve, sitting on a couch.

That's pretty hot stuff right there, but it gets worse. Granola/Fatima says,
  • "You're not getting a girlfriend obsessed with decadent western crud"
  • "You're not getting a girlfriend blathering about 'American Idol'"
  • "And you're not getting a girlfriend who resists a man's rightful place"
(Warning! ADULT CONTENT!) Steve says, "anything else I won't be getting, Fatima?" She replies, "God Willing."

Writers Group comics editor, Amy Lago, who flagged the offensive strip for subscribing newspapers, gave two reasons for drawing attention to it. First, the jokes about Islam might by "misconstrued." Second, there was that sexual innuendo in the punchline.

What does this have to do with the War on Terror?

Fanatic Muslims have segued from saying "Death to America" to doing it. Quite a few people in this country are understandably nervous about Islam.

Uneven treatment of religious views doesn't help defuse this situation.

I'm a devout Catholic, and have gotten accustomed to the background noise of American culture, including gags about drunk and lecherous priests, nuns gone wild, constitutionally-protected works from Rebecca Reed’s "Six Months in a Convent" to Jack Chick's comics, and sophisticated statements like "As you've probably heard, the Pope has asked all the Cardinals to return to Rome. You know how they got them all to come back? They told them that there was going to be a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir."

I'm not sure that I'd be at all comfortable with a society in which prominent newspapers banned a cartoon which a hypersensitive Catholic might find offensive, and passed a cartoon which poked fun at, say, the Dali Lama. A situation like that would smell of special treatment: something no group should want.

There may be a sort of soft prejudice here. The Post decision can be interpreted as assuming that Christians are sophisticated enough to understand, and tolerate, a joke; while assuming that Muslims, as primitive people, must be given special consideration.

The Post ran Sunday's "Opus" on washingtonpost.com. What, they figure that Muslims and children don't go online?

Whatever the reason for pulling that strip, I don't think that the Washington Post's sensitivity helps establish Islam and Muslims as an acceptable part of mainstream America.

My information is from "Washington Post, Other Newspapers Won't Run 'Opus' Cartoon Mocking Radical Islam," and the Jerry Falwell "Opus" strip and Fatima Struggle strips. They're both pretty funny.

Posts on this general topic:

2 comments:

American Interests said...

Your suggestion about Christian sophistication in contrast to Muslim primitivism is a plausible one.

As a Catholic myself I too have grown accustomed to gags about the religion which by and large, go over my head.

The print media's sensitivity is pronounced even in my neck of the woods - Australia.

Personally, I am angered by our preoccupation with Muslim sensitivities, recall last year when the Da Vinci code was released, the faith of millions of Americans, Christianity, was singled out for criticism, with endless fictional details and yet networks and the print media refused to air or print Mohammed cartoons out of great sensitivity to American Muslims. Christianity was questioned as a false religion in The film and yet the networks demonstrated an incredible sensitivity to American Muslims on the sensitive subject of threatened violence against mostly mild Danish cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

Thanks for the comment.

I sympathize about your observation about the two-tier sensitivity shown in media.

However, I want to make one thing clear: I do not believe that Muslims in America are primitive, or that Christians are sophisticated, or that secular people are superior.

I do think that a plausible model that explains the Washington Post's behavior is that the Post top brass believe that Muslims are inferior, incapable of bearing the sort of banter that is normal in American public discourse.

That doesn't mean that Muslims wouold be inferior, just that the decision-makers believe they are.

And I have no direct evidence to support that model.

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Blogroll

Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.