“Everybody Beat A Dead Horse Day” Ethics

Cartoonist Jeff Hibbert's conception of Muhammad

I was stunned to discover that “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day,” last year’s mass warped exercise in going out of the way to insult the religious beliefs of fine, upstanding, moral Muslims world-wide,  is supposed to be an annual event. I would have thought that the justifiable abuse heaped on serial Islam-provoker Rev. Terry Jones would have shown the organizers of EDMD the error of their ways (which I correctly pointed out to them here, and here). But no. The self-styled defenders of the undoubted right to use freedom of expression recklessly and badly still claimed to be standing up for the sullied rights of  the “South Park” creators, who last year had their show censored by cowardly and hypocritical “Comedy Central” suits after a threat by some Muslim nut-jobs. For their part, Trey Parker and Matt Stone have happily moved on to the more profitable work of making fun of Mormons on Broadway, because they won’t kill you. Continue reading

OH NO! Political Correctness Got Me!

Late last night as I was battling worry and insomnia, my TV remote transported me to the Cartoon Network where I encountered, for the first time  in 40 years, a minor Hanna-Barbara animated series called “The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.” Like all Hanna-Barbara shows, but especially the Saturday morning variety, “Penelope” was crudely drawn and aimed its humor at the lowest common denominator: compared to it, Woody Woodpecker is Faulkner. Drawn in by the comforting sounds of great vocal artists of the era like Mel Blanc and Paul Winchell, however, I watched about ten minutes of the show and realized, to my horror, that I now found it offensive…and not for the reason that I found it annoying in 1970 (it is, after all, moronic).

The plot of  every episode of “The Perils of Penelope Pitstop” (a spin-off of H-B’s more successful but just as repetitious and silly “Wacky Racers”) was the same. A female auto racer who is also a blonde, helpless bimbo with a Southern accent is stalked by a villain called “The Hooded Claw,” voiced by the great Paul Lynde.  The Hooded Claw, for no discernible reason,  concocts elaborate plots to kill Penelope, but is foiled, at the last second, every time. The cartoon is an obvious riff on “The Perils of Pauline,” the famous Pearl White silent movie cliffhanger serial in which each segment ended with the heroine tied to a railroad track or falling to earth dragging a collapsed parachute. Yet I found it impossible to appreciate the cartoon’s meager charms because of the loud clanging of  ethics alarms in my brain. Why is the only woman in the show portrayed as a walking, talking Barbie Doll? And why are kids being encouraged to laugh at a woman being stalked by a homicidal maniac? Because he’s an inept homicidal maniac? What could possibly be funny about stalking, an insidious phenomenon that every year leads to multiple murders?

“Oh my God,” I thought. “I’m politically correct!Continue reading

Hypocrisy of the Year: The Islamophobic New York Times Company, Washington Post, Et Al.

The New York Times, as well as the Washington Post and other major newspapers, have piously condemned those who raised objections to the proposed Islamic center in Manhattan, near the site where nearly 3,000 Americans met their death at the hands of Islamic extremists. The Times, the Post, their fellow papers and many of their columnists and bloggers proclaimed that a peaceful religion was being smeared by bigoted Americans and political leaders smitten with “Islamophobia.”

Then, on October 3, a Sunday installment of the prize-winning comic strip “Non Sequitur” was censored from the pages of the Post, the Times-owed Boston Globe (the Times itself has no cartoons) and almost 20 others. The strip, you see, jokingly suggested that an image of Muhammad the Prophet, which strict Islamic principles decree must never be shown or ridiculed under threat of a fatwah, might be hidden among the depicted happy characters in the manner of the “Where’s Waldo?” children’s books. Continue reading

Ethics Train Wreck Update: “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” Claims Its Inevitable Victim

When the self-righteous cartoonists of the U.S.A. decided that gratuitously insulting the entire Nation of Islam, moderates and radicals alike, through a pointless April 20 “protest” that required posting thousands of drawings of the Prophet online, I pointed out, to no avail, that this was an irresponsible act with no accountability, and thus cowardly. The Islamic extremists that started this train wreck by threatening the lives of the “South Park”  creators over an episode that pretended to have an image of Muhammad couldn’t attack everyone, so it was completely predictable that they would focus their fury on Molly Norris, the Seattle cartoonist whose satirical drawing coined the phrase “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.”  And they did. A fatwah has been issued against her, essentially placing her on a death list, and Norris is now in hiding, at the urging of the F.B.I. She has to create a new identity, and may live in fear for the rest of her life.

This is the only tangible result of “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day”—the devastation of the life of the young woman who drew a clever cartoon, and then urged everyone not to make her satiric invention a reality.  Oh, it probably lost America some support among more rational Muslims too, much as the threatened Gainesville Koran-burning would have. I suppose it demonstrated widespread support for columnist Richard Cohen’s fatuous “Americans have a duty to follow through on any offensive use of the First amendment if anyone objects to it, no matter how unnecessary, destructive or thoughtless it may be” argument. I submit to you that neither of these excuse what “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” did to Molly Norris, and those who organized and participated in the April 20 protest share responsibility for her current plight, and, if she is assassinated, her death.

The current ethics verdict on other key train wreck participants: Continue reading

Rev. Jones and the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” Supporters: Explain the Difference, Please

Now that a mad Florida Pastor, Terry Jones, has taken the twisted logic of that addled demonstration to the next step, planing a Koran-burning to show “we will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats,” I’d like to hear how those who set out to stick a finger in the eye of Islam by drawing its prophet can justify condemning Jones, when he plans to stick in his whole thumb. Continue reading

Ethical Standards, Not Laws or Regulations, Must Enforce Broadcast Civility

A federal appeals court just struck down controversial the Federal Communications Commission policy on indecency, ruling that regulations barring the use of “fleeting expletives” on radio and TV were too vague and could inhibit free speech….even if that free speech was smutty.

Good. Continue reading