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Sunday, May 2, 2010

May 20: Everybody defend Molly day

Molly Norris is scared stiff, it seems.

The Seattle cartoonist has posted a YouTube video in which she apologizes for her idea to set May 20 as "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" and urges us all to just forget about it.

Meanwhile, it has been bruited that Comedy Central has killed a whole routine about censorship in conformity with the rule that the act of censorship is also to be censored. In response to Comedy Central's prior censorship of a skit whereby Mohammed is portrayed in a gorilla suit, Norris drew a few cartoons of mundane objects claiming to be Mohammed.

And just to mix things up even more, a crude car bomb that fizzled in Manhattan's Times Square is being linked to retribution for the South Park episode that nobody saw, according to Britain's neocon-leaning Daily Telegraph (search "South Park").

Yes, as Bill Clinton noted, vigorous free speech can set off some fruitcake (or some intelligence agency) to blow something up. But that's democracy. The problem of violent reaction to provocative expression has always been an issue. Even one of the apostles (as I recall) pointed out that weak-minded people would wildly misinterpret the Gospel.

As a Telegraph commentator pointed out in yesterday's editions, the problem of terrorism is that people become terrified; the writer chastises America for its languid defense of Norris' freedom of expression.

Undoubtedly May 20 will erupt in an outpouring of such cartoons from the less than terrified, as well as from those who feel it prudent (alas) to post their work anonymously. I can well imagine, however, that "responsible Americans" will maneuver behind the scenes to discourage internet dissemination.

My favorite such cartoon remains the one showing suicide bombers arriving in paradise and being told, "Stop! Stop! We have run out of virgins" (see the Naughty pictures link in the sidebar.)

The point here is not disrespect of Mohammed or Islam, but the right to comment about anything. In fact, some of the cartoons make an important point about the mis-use of Islam.

America will not remain the land of the free if Americans don't resist this cultural onslaught that says that our First Amendment doesn't count anymore. We must recollect that the First Amendment was included at the top of the list of our basic American freedoms in large part because of generations of problems over who could say what about different forms of Christianity.

The South Park-Norris dust-up isn't only about making fun of some religious icon, it's about the right to draw pictures for God's sake! Strict Islamic theology says no drawing of pictures at all lest we be guilty of idolatry. OK, maybe that theory flies in Saudi Arabia, but, to be blunt, it's just plain un-American. We must resist the import of Islamic censorship into America. Muslims here are free not to draw pictures of Mohammed, but they have no business threatening the rest of us.

If they don't like American ways, let 'em hop a flight to Yemen.

We must defend Molly's right to laugh and offend zealots, even though fear seems to have got the better of her.

May 20 is Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.