The Spectacle Blog

Taboos and Old Reliables

By on 2.3.06 | 2:07PM

You didn’t think you’d see the day when the European media was taking a harder stand than the U.S. on an important issue in the Islamic world, but that’s what appears to be happening, as major U.S. media outlets are refusing to run the offending cartoons. "I don't think we would run a cartoon in this newspaper that would be deemed offensive to any religious figure," says a foreign editor of The Detroit Free Press. "We're very careful in terms of any photo or any caricature that we run." Can someone do a check and see if this paper has ever run Ted Rall cartoons?

But hey, all is not lost: American cultural institutions are still very comfortable offending Christians and patriotic Americans. A new exhibit in

New York/>/> (at a fittingly balkanized event called the National Black Fine Art Show) depicts Osama bin Laden in an apparent likeness of Jesus. Apparently a whopping one viewer so far has expressed opposition. The show’s producer was asked whether he had second thoughts on the piece, now that its intent was clear (the artist did not deny it). But you know what his response was without me telling you: “I don't think it's anyone's job or vocation to limit the expression of artists,” he said. Good little sheep.  

So, working off a formulation that Mark Steyn used in his recent New Criterion piece, “It’s the Demography, Stupid,” let me see if I have this right: In the first case, what we need to do is express our intolerance for those who express intolerance of the intolerant; in the second case, we need to show tolerance for those who show intolerance to the tolerant, or perhaps it’s showing tolerance for those who are tolerant of the intolerant.

But then it’s handier, and shorter, to just remember James Burnham’s formulation: “Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.”

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