Over the weekend, there was a Mohammed cartoon contest that two jihadis thought, wrongly, might be a good place to publicly take umbrage.  Now the Sillies are claiming these lowlives as their own.

But the contest, and the security that was in place in the expectation of public umbrage-taking, and the possibility of collateral damage, has led to a lot of Deep Thinking about whether deliberately being provocative, where there is a strong possibility of violent umbrage-taking, is wise.  Here is one example.
Free speech is most precious when it genuinely questions power, when dissent challenges and undermines an unacceptable status quo. Meaningful dissent makes the invisible visible. While the openly tyrannical are obvious targets, in formally democratic contexts free speech is truly only a weapon when it sets its sights upon insidious norms and received ideas rather than sanctioned enemies. Charlie Hebdo is frequently described as satire against the powerful, but power is always context-specific. What is the oppositional value of caricaturing religion in a formally secular nation, particularly if the targeted faith is that of a demonised minority who are often pilloried as enemies of the state anyway?
That presupposes a consensus on what those insidious norms and received ideas are.  Perhaps the insidious norm is self-despising multiculturalism, or a trashy popular culture.

No comments: