“Piss Christ” and Garland

Piss-Christ

Ethics Alarms participant Other Bill raised “Piss Christ” on the comment thread to my post about the Garland, Texas attack, progressives’ and news media’s “hate speech isn’t free speech” confusion, and Geller’s supporters’ “gratuitously uncivil speech is laudable” delusion. He posted a column by George Parry, published under the heading “Think Tank” on a Philadelphia site. I’m grateful to Bill for raising the column, which he neither endorsed nor criticized. Titled Double Standard on Offending Christians and Muslims, Parry’s argument was…

  • “Christians objected to “Piss Christ” and the feces-covered Holy Virgin. And they rightfully wondered why their tax dollars had been used to promote these blasphemies. But their objections and questions were condescendingly dismissed by the secular left in the media and intelligentsia. …
  • “As if in one voice, the mainstream media and self-anointed intelligentsia argued that antiquated religious sensitivities must not be allowed to interfere with either an artist’s free expression or his right to government funding regardless of how offensive his work may be to Christians….”
  • “In Garland, Texas, on Sunday, two radical Muslims died trying to replicate the Charlie Hebdo massacre by mounting an armed attack on a “draw Mohammed” cartoon contest. We are not talking about drawings of Mohammed dunked in urine or smeared with animal dung. No, the gunmen apparently deemed the mere drawing of Mohammed to be an offense punishable by death…The overall media consensus has been to blame the intended murder victims for recklessly provoking the terrorists. Such provocation, we are told, is unacceptable and irresponsible behavior given the risk of retaliation by offended radical Muslims…”
  • “Better to question the wisdom of cartoonists exercising their rights than to acknowledge and vigorously confront and expose the elephant in the room, i.e., that there is a disturbingly large number of radical Muslims in this country who oppose our Constitution and who believe that murder is an appropriate sanction for those who offend Islam….”
  • “All of which leads to this question: Given their pusillanimous double standard, why should any reasonable or serious person believe, respect, or credit the self-serving mainstream media?”

That’s not the question. First of all, there is already no reason to believe, respect, or credit the mainstream media. Second, while Parry is correct that the analysis of the issues in the Garland attack have been largely incompetent and tainted by media dislike of Geller and journalism’s own cowardice (most news outlets were afraid to show the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, even though they were essential to reporting on the Paris massacre), his analogy with “Piss Christ” is no better.

The questions areContinue reading

The Garland, Texas Shooting, Free Speech and Ethics

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Geller: Like it or not, the First Amendment was designed for her and people like her: infuriating people.

Last Sunday, two men opened fire outside uber-Islam-hater Pamela Geller’s “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” in Garland, Texas. Both gunmen were killed by police, a security guard was wounded. Since cartoons of the Prophet have sparked killings around the globe, this was a risk, if not an inevitability, of holding such an event. That was undoubtedly one of the reasons for it, in fact: to show defiance of those that would cow us into self-censorship.

Since the episode, commentators and pundits have engaged in various levels of  confused ethical thought regarding the competition and the shooting, much of the confusion due to cognitive dissonance regarding Geller, who is beyond question an anti-Muslim bigot. So horrible is it to their delicate liberal sensibilities to have the principle of freedom of speech represented by Geller that rather than accept it, many would prefer to jettison freedom of speech itself. In this they seem to have forgotten that the reason for free speech is precisely to protect the most infuriating, inflammatory, controversial speakers, whether they be hateful fanatics like Geller, or Martin Luther King.

It really is remarkable that the First Amendment has survived so long, since those who discuss it in public the most frequently are journalists and politicians, neither of whom are consistently able to interpret it accurately.

Ethically, this isn’t hard, or shouldn’t be. In fact, not a single new issue is raised by the Texas shooting that was not thoroughly covered here five years ago:

1. No group, no matter how offended or righteous and no matter what its holy book says, is ethically entitled to threaten violence against those who say, or draw, things that they find offensive, including the offense of blasphemy.

2. Encouraging such groups to do this by self-censoring is cowardly and a threat to free speech. Thus South Park and Comedy Central breached their duties to the nation, the culture and free speech by censoring a satirical animated series after receiving radical Islamic threats. As I wrote here: Continue reading

Guess Who Invited Donald Trump to the White House Correspondents Association Dinner?

OK, who's the wiseguy that brought the skunk to the picnic?

I missed it, but the Washington Post of April 28 revealed who it was that invited Donald Trump, fresh from a month of trying to make the President’s citizenship a campaign issue while denigrating Obama’s integrity, legitimacy, and honesty, to the annual light-hearted White House Correspondents Association dinner, where the President is always a featured “performer.” It was buried in the gossipy Style section, but there was the culprit. Who invited him?

The Washington Post invited him, that who.

Inviting Trump to that event is in approximately the same good taste as inviting blogger Pamela Geller to a Park51 (a.k.a. “the Ground Zero Mosque”) controversy, or allowing a group of “Truthers” to crash a testimonial to Dick Cheney.

What could the Post have been thinking? “He’s a fascinating figure to Washington right now!” the Post’s representative breathlessly explained on the 28th. We are to assume, then, that if the dinner was being held this week and Osama bin Laden hadn’t been dispatched (most respectfully, of course) to Davy Jones’ Locker, the Post might have invited Osama’s bullet-riddled corpse to slump at its table.

The Post was stirring the pot, is what it was doing, and that is not the media’s proper of ethical role. If the intention was to set up Trump, who had been called everything from a joke to a fool to a thug to a racist by various Post writers only days before, to be insulted to his face by host Seth Myers and the President, that is taking sides in the news rather than reporting it. If it the intent was to position volatile elements together in the hopes of sparking a story, that is unethical  journalism too.

The paper got both results that it presumably desired: Trump was a sitting duck at the dinner, and then he embarrassed himself by later complaining about the skewering he so richly deserved. It also, not for the first time, showed how rusty those old ethics alarms are at the offices of Washington, D.C.’s most prestigious newspaper.

[Thanks to sharp-eyed Post reader Robert Sher.]

Ethics Alarms Presents “The Mosquies”…the Best and Worst of the “Ground Zero Mosque” Ethics Train Wreck

As I previously noted, the “Ground Zero Mosque” controversy is an epic “ethics train wreck” that has spread its destruction far and wide, across regional, ideological and national borders, leaving confusion, misunderstanding and bad feelings in its wake. Now is as good a time as any to take stock of the situation, and to recognize those who have distinguished themselves during the carnage, for good or ill. To this end, Ethics Alarms presents its first annual  (and hopefully last ever) awards for outstanding ethical and unethical conduct during the whole mess, “The Mosquies.”

The envelope, please… Continue reading