RE: Cartoon meme

From: Tim Rhodes (proftim@speakeasy.org)
Date: Sat 11 Feb 2006 - 03:10:57 GMT

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    Wade Allsop wrote:

    >>>As far as I understand exposure to the cartoon meme came in two major
    stages. Firstly on the initial publication of the cartoons in Denmark in September which was surrounded by plenty of media attention so that almost everyone in Denmark would have known about it within a couple of days, then after the visits of the Danish fundamentalists to promote the idea, the cartoons suddenly swept Europe and the Middle East within 3-4 days and then a couple of days later became a global story.<<<

    IMHO this may be a mistaken reading of the timeline in question.

    The Danish-based European Committee for Prophet Honouring (the "Danish fundamentalists" you mention) reported on the cartoons to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) at a December 6th meeting. Yet it was not until the following January when the story first begins to take on global proportions. This leads me to believe it would be erroneous to attribute the rapid gain in this memes distribution to the work of the ECPH in throughout November and early December.

    To me, a more probable catalyst for the rapid increase in distribution of the meme in question would seem to lie in the legal case(s) surrounding the initial publication of those cartoons in Denmark. If we follow the timeline of that story -- as the catalytic co-meme responsible for this gain -- I think we see a more compelling explanation for the resulting memetic mass distribution.

    As follows:

    ~ On September 30, 2005 the cartons are published by Jyllands-Posten .

    ~ On October 27, 2005 a claim is filed with police in the name of several Muslim organizations under the Danish Criminal Code, sections 140 (publicly ridiculing or insulting dogmas of worship of any lawfully existing religious community in Denmark) and 266b (dissemination of statements or other information by which a group of people are threatened, insulted or degraded on account of e.g. their religion).

    ~ On December 7, 2005 Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expresses concern over the cartoons and says that United Nations is investigating racism of the Danish cartoonists.

    ~ On January 6th, 2006 the Regional Public Prosecutor in Viborg decides to discontinue the investigation of whether Jyllands-Posten had committed an offence by publishing the cartoons and closes the case.

    [This event, I believe, is the primary catalyst which triggers the rapid distribution of the cartoon meme -- and its associated memes of anti-Islamic racism, oppression, culture wars, etc.]

    ~ January 7, 2006 two of the cartoons are printed in the Swedish newspaper Expressen and its sister editions Kvšllsposten and GT.

    ~ January 10, 2006 the Norwegian Christian newspaper Magazinet publishes all 12 of the cartoons.

    ~ January 22, 2006 the Brussels Journal publishes the cartoons.

    ~ January 23, 2006 the Danish government delivers its official response to the UN Special Rapporteurs' request of 24 November 2005, citing the January 6 dismissal of the case in Viborg.

    ~ January 24, the government of Saudi Arabia issues its first public condemnation of the cartoons

    ~ January 26, Saudi Arabia recalls its ambassador from Denmark & the people of Saudi Arabia begin boycotting Danish products.

    ~ January 27, boycott begins in Kuwait

    ~ January 29, protests begin & riots follow, etc.

    As we can see, immediately following the Jan 6 dismissal of the case against Jyllands-Posten other papers begin publishing the cartoons; in part as
    "meta-stories" covering the "free speech v. hate speech" case against J-P. This rapidly increases the dissemination of this story (meme) across a much larger audience -- one which also includes a Muslim population already familiar with the back-story and primed to react to what will see as an injustice perpetrated against them by the Danish legal system.

    The pattern of expansion and reaction here is very reminiscent of the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles several years ago.

    The extreme emotional reaction & resulting riots do not follow in a direct line from the initial meme distribution (I.E. the cartoon's publication or airing of the video of Rodney King's beating by police), but rather come as reaction to the perception by the minority group that it is unable to find appropriate justice within the society's laws.

    I think one may be misguided in hoping to understand the recent furor by simply tracking the expansion of the initial memes (cartoons) themselves without concentrating an equal focus on the memetic variations, mutations, and meta-memes that become associated with it.

    -Tim

    Tim Rhodes tim@newstylecollective.org Eyes, Ears & Memes, NSC / SIL2K New Style Collective / Strategic Improv Laboratories www.newstylecollective.org / www.sil2k.org

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