Friday, February 10, 2006

Kinsley: "The Ayatollah joke book"

Michael Kinsley points out that the Muslim's cartoon of Hitler and Anne Frank merely demonstrates that the West does in fact believe in freedom of speech, despite the craven reactions of many of its newspapers and governments.

Meanwhile, whatever point these European Muslims were making with their cartoon of Hitler and Anne Frank is more or less disproved by their very exercise. No one tried to stop them from putting the cartoon on the Web. The notion that jokes about Frank are beyond the pale is provably false. There's a play running in New York right now called "25 Questions for a Jewish Mother." It's a monologue written and acted by stand-up comic Judy Gold, who says on stage every night that her mother used to read to her from a pop-up version of Anne Frank's diary, and would say, "Pull the tab, Judith. Alive. Pull it again. Dead." Maybe you had to be there. But the New York Times reviewer called the play "fiercely funny, honest and moving" and did not demand that the author be executed or even admonished.

By contrast, in a spectacular exercise of self-censorship, almost every major newspaper in this country is refraining from publishing the controversial Danish cartoons, even though they are at the center of a major news story that these papers cover at length every day. An editorial in the Times on Wednesday said that not publishing the cartoons was "a reasonable choice" because they would offend many people and "are so easy to describe in words." As I write I am looking at a front-page photo in today's Times of Mariah Carey singing into a microphone. Words do it justice, I think.
And here's a wonderful sentence that cuts to the chase of whether we should be concerned about Muslim offence:
But the limits of free expression cannot be set by the sensitivities of people who don't believe in it.

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