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RE: <nettime> publication of "Jyllands-Posten" cartoons is not...
Joe Lockard on Sat, 18 Feb 2006 22:28:54 +0100 (CET)

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RE: <nettime> publication of "Jyllands-Posten" cartoons is not...

-----Original Message-----
From: nettime-l-request {AT} bbs.thing.net
[mailto:nettime-l-request {AT} bbs.thing.net]On Behalf Of Jody Berland
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 4:29 PM
To: nettime-l {AT} bbs.thing.net
Subject: Re: <nettime> publication of "Jyllands-Posten" cartoons is

It seems to me that in the midst of this intelligent conversation, the elephant
sitting in the room is being missed.  Freedom of speech amounts to a kind of
religion in American culture.  It is only useful to term it a



This is just about the approach taken by the ever-more conservative Stanley
Fish in his NYT op-ed piece on the Danish cartoons.  Fish argued that "free
speech" amounted to no more than a liberal faith, one that informed defenders
of free speech just as much as devotion to Islam informs protesters in the
Islamic world.  It is a specious equation of a civil principle with a
theological claim, one that seeks to dismiss a secular concept by
characterizing it as a religious notion in disguise.  The Bush administration
in its statements condemning the cartoons has made quite clear that it regards
this particular free speech exercise -- cartooning Mohammed -- as a threat to
its strategic political position.  Thus in the US the moral-for-the-day
concerns the construction of a contemporary American imperial subject who goes
about work as a culturally-sensitized agent.  Victorian imperialists of the
British Empire were quite similarly concerned with not giving offence to local
religion, as they had occasion to regret when they did.  One difference today
is that we live within a communications environment where local offence to
religion is global.  An official antagonism towards global free speech, one
that operates at many more levels than this symbolic issue, underwrites US
imperialism today.

No one has argued here for free speech absolutism, but a discussion of
exceptions and speech limitations (even if we had the time) would not extend
legitimately to a prohibition against lampooning or satire of religion or
religious figures.  Global self-awareness, an admirable idea, does not entail
torching ideas that offend -- freedom to criticize religions and governments,
women's equality, freedom and equality for gay people, free secular education,
and other objectionable notions -- in the service of cultural sensitivity.  If
these insensitive ideas and their impolite images offend, good.



Joe Lockard
Assistant Professor
209 Durham Languages and Literatures Bldg.
English Department
POB 870302
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ 85287-0302
Tel: (480) 727-6096
Fax: (480) 965-3451
E-mail: Joe.Lockard {AT} asu.edu

Antislavery Literature Project

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