Re: Cartoon meme

From: Douglas Brooker (
Date: Sat 11 Feb 2006 - 14:36:41 GMT

  • Next message: Wade Allsopp: "Re: Cartoon meme"

    Wade Allsopp wrote:

    > On 2/11/06, *Kate Distin* wrote
    > Your analysis strikes me as having hit the nail on the head. I've had
    > conversations with very moderate, culturally English, not particularly
    > religiously observant Muslims in the UK, who feel very strongly that
    > although they condemn violence and terrorism they can nonetheless
    > understand the feelings behind the violence and terrorism. As you
    > say,
    > there is a perception of being marginalised and not having their needs
    > met within Western society. And another part of the problem is of
    > course the entanglement of any encounter between Islam and the
    > West with
    > the situation in Israel/Palestine. All of this creates a strong
    > feeling
    > of identity with fellow Muslims, whatever their behaviour, and a
    > consequent reluctance to condemn even very extreme behaviour by others
    > within that brotherhood. Heightened in this case by identifying with
    > the feelings of outrage about the prophet being ridiculed and
    > denigrated. Then we as non-Muslims hear even our very moderate
    > friends
    > expressing sympathy with the feelings underlying terrorism - and the
    > alienation is exacerbated.
    > I agree, this is the point I was trying to make when I said that the
    > main losers of all this
    > have been the moderate Muslims living in the west whose main goals are
    > not jihad
    > but simply to get on well with their lives and live peacefully with
    > their neighbours.
    > My sense is that many moderate British Muslims and those such as Jack
    > Straw who
    > strive to represent their views, were wrong footed by the cartoons.
    > The initial reaction was:
    > "this is outrageous, people are linking Islam with terrorism, this is
    > yet another example of the
    > prejudices we face, these publications should not be allowed."
    > We then saw maybe 50-100 radical Islamists (representing about 0.007%
    > of the British Muslim population) outside parliament screaming "behead
    > the cartoonists, let's have another 7/7, go go Bin Laden etc etc"
    > In an important sense it was these people who the REAL cartoons.
    > Remember the idea behind a cartoon
    > is to exaggerate real features of the subject to comic effect.
    > Whereas the original cartoons were pretty weak images published in a
    > Danish newspaper months previously and would have had approximately
    > zero impact on British people's perception of Muslims, these real live
    > cartoons got headline coverage on every TV news channel and just about
    > every serious newspaper in the UK for 2 or 3 days. They will have had
    > a material effect on reinforcing the prejudice against Muslims in the
    > UK. It was only a day or two later that moderate Muslim opinion
    > seemed to wake up to this and begin a largely ineffectual counter
    > offensive.
    > What I think moderate Muslims have not woken up to is that successful
    > cartoon images "work" because they magnify aspects of the subject that
    > are really there. Think of the domineering, handbag bashing Spitting
    > Image puppet of Margaret Thatcher or the grey, mousy puppet of John
    > Major.
    > I think the comedy side of this whole story has not received much
    > attention to date. The Muslim reaction to the cartoons
    > has generally been that because they are cartoons they are there to
    > "ridicule" and perhaps humiliate Muslims. In fact I would say that
    > this is to mistake the nature of comedy and cartoons, at least in
    > British society. Comedy is there to bring us down to earth in a non
    > violent, non threatening way, to prevent us from taking ourselves too
    > seriously. When successful it is perhaps the most effective form of
    > criticism, which is presumably why in just about all of the major
    > world dictatorships, from Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein
    > to the current Islamic theocracies, making fun of the leader and
    > regime in public was something that could rapidly lead to prison or in
    > many cases death.
    > Most discussion of the cartoons has centred on the one with Muhammad
    > with a bomb in his turban, which is really just making the point of
    > the link between Islam and terrorism. I think most people have said
    > that the only one of the cartoons which is actually funny is the one
    > with Muhammad sitting on a cloud being approached by a line of suicide
    > bombers saying "sorry we've run out of virgins". This is the one (or
    > something like it) which should be on posters all over Gaza, Baghdad,
    > Kabul and Bradford, because there is a very dangerous meme out there
    > which needs to be doused and the traditional forms of argument simply
    > don't work against it.

    What is the very dangerous meme out there that needs to be doused?

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