The Local Crank

Musings & Sardonic Commentary on Politics, Religion, Culture & Native American Issues. Bringing you the finest in radioactive screeds since 2002! "The Local Crank" newspaper column is distributed by Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.

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Location: Cleburne, Texas, United States

Just a simple Cherokee trial lawyer, Barkman has been forcing his opinions on others in print since, for reasons that passeth understanding, he was an unsuccessful candidate for state representative in 2002. His philosophy: "If people had wanted me to be nice, they should've voted for me."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cartoon Riots

While I don't like to see anyone's faith mocked, I submit that the riots, embassy burnings and so forth (apparently fanned by certain political factions for their own reasons) are far more harmful to Islam than a thousand tasteless cartoons.


Blogger Eric said...

At the very least, it makes one question just how stable or successful these Moslem democracies will really be. So far the trend (which everyone but the Bush administration predicted) is that these democracies tend to reward the Islamic extremist parties and not their secular opponents. The plain fact of the matter is, freedom of speech is not part of the cultural fabric in most of the Middle East, and neither is freedom of religion or women's rights. In fact there is no place in the world more hostile to liberal values than the Middle East, and there is good reason to doubt that Western-imposed democracies there will magically transform their societies for the better.

2/06/2006 2:16 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

As they used to say of the Islamists in Algeria, "one man, one vote, one time." On the other hand, I'm a little leery of ascribing too much to "cultural fabric." How friendly to liberal values did Germany and Japan appear in 1945? Look at the progress they've made since then. And, of course, those democratic values were pretty much imposed from without.

2/06/2006 4:35 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Germany actually had a democratic form of government before WWII. In fact the case of Germany refutes the neo-con logic that democracy inevitably leads to more freedom: the German people voted the Nazis into power, and Hitler then swept away any pretense of democracy was Hindenberg was dead. Further back, the "democratic" French Revolution ultimately ended in wholescale bloodshed and the tyranny of "Emperor" Napoleon. There's ample reason to fear that some of these Muslim democracies will experience the same pattern of voting extremists into power and then seeing the democratic process swept away by tyrants. The third world is rife with such examples, and the current hysteria in the Muslim word about the cartoons reminds us again just how prone these societies are to mob mentality and just how little they really care about true democratic values.

Now, do I think they will ALWAYS be like that? No. In that sense I agree with you, but I don't think the free world should expect these Muslim (and particularly Arab) democracies to succeed in the short term. I am willing to bet that many of them will fail, only to rise again in later years.

By the way, Japan may not have had any democratic tradition before WWII, but they did have the world's most homogenous society, completely free of the kind of ethnic and religious divisions that make democracy more difficult in other parts of the world. Plus they were an absolutely conquered nation that had a cultural tradition of obeying authority (which MacArthur understood and exploited to the fullest, with great results). The situation in post-war Japan couldn't be more different than the situation in the Middle East right now.

2/07/2006 6:56 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

Germany had a BRIEF interregnum of democratic government in between an autocratic monarchy and a psychotic totalitarian state. And don't even get me started on the French. My point was I don't think, given the examples of Japan and Germany, you can make a generalization about "freedom of speech...not [being] part of the cultural fabric in the Middle East." Most Middle Eastern countries are run by garden-variety dictatorships who routinely censor the press to prevent negative coverage of the government, but allow and even encourage all sorts of bizarre anti-Semitic, anti-Western conspiracy theories in major news outlets to act as a safety valve. That's why it's sad that Iran thinks we'd be so offended by cartoons about the Holocaust--in Middle Eastern papers, we're used to it.

2/07/2006 8:05 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Well, it's true that many Middle Eastern governments SUPPRESS free speech, but I think the current mob frenzy over the Danish cartoon shows that the masses may not be that crazy about free speech either. Of course EVERYONE wants their OWN opinions to be heard, and this is just as true in the Middle East as anywhere, but you'd be hard pressed to find a majority Muslim society in existence right now that tolerates the free speech and expression of anti-Muslim views without resorting to mob violence.

A cynic could argue that our "Christian" society is not too keen about anti-Christian speech and expression either, but we tolerate a massive amount of both. The hardcore Christians get pissed and make a fuss about it, but you don't see anything remotely like what's happening over this Danish cartoon. In fact as far as I can tell some of the most vitriolic anti-free expression sentiment in recent years in our country has come from the liberal outrage over "Passion of the Christ." I STILL know liberals who are pissed off about it, and few of them even saw it.

2/07/2006 8:32 PM  
Blogger The Local Crank said...

(In fact as far as I can tell some of the most vitriolic anti-free expression sentiment in recent years in our country has come from the liberal outrage over "Passion of the Christ." I STILL know liberals who are pissed off about it, and few of them even saw it.)

Then apparently you missed the reaction to The Last Temptation of Christ, or the current outrage over Brokeback Mountain. I will agree with you that there are few if any Middle Eastern states that allow the kind of blasphemous free speech that we gritch about here, but never burn down embassies over. Turkey, maybe, at the height of the Ataturk secularism movement, but probably not anymore. And there are NO Middle Eastern governments (besides Israel) that tolerate anywhere near the level of anti-government free speech you regularly see in, say, this blog. I still say, though, that it has less to do with "culture" and more to do with a lack of experience with democracy. Of course, if their first, last and only experience with democracy is electing Hamas or some other Islamist group, well, that would pretty much end the experiment right there.

2/08/2006 4:15 PM  
Blogger Eric said...

Cooincidentally, Fareed Zakaria wrote a great piece in the latest Newseek called "Islam and Power" about this very issue. If you can find it online somewhere, it's well worth your time. I've really come to respect Zakaria as one of the most insightful commentators on the Middle East. He has a weekly TV show every Sunday morning on PBS called "Foreign Exchange."

2/09/2006 3:02 PM  

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