Thursday, February 16, 2006

SF's "alternative" media: profile in lameness

















The local "alternative" media---the SF Bay Guardian, the SF Weekly, BeyondChron---like to congratulate themselves for being, well, an alternative to the unhip mainstream journalism practiced at the SF Chronicle and the SF Examiner. But they are often more timid than the Chron and the Ex. Take, for example, the Islamic riots over the Danish cartoons. At least the Chronicle published an editorial on the issue (below). There hasn't been a word on the controversy from the Guardian, the Weekly, or BeyondChron. Why is that? Because the issue is particularly difficult for these folks to deal with, since they are anti-war and oh so multicultural.

How do you square sensitivity to the religion/culture of others with the demands of free speech? Hard question to answer without making someone unhappy. My answer: The religious folks are going to have to be rendered unhappy on this one. It's ridiculous and unprincipled of the alternative media to dodge the issue. If there is any absolute in their business, it's free speech. They/we must insist on the absolute right to be insensitive and vulgar if we choose. If Moslems, Christians, and Jews don't like it, they'll have to lump it.

View the cartoons here.
SF Chronicle, Sunday, February 5, 2006

The caricatures of Muhammad that have ignited an international furor are offensive and recklessly off base in portraying the prophet as a terrorist. The cartoons lacked artistic merit or satirical sophistication. We have to wonder: What were the Danish cartoonists and the newspapers that originally decided to publish them thinking?

Still, the global reaction is far more disturbing than the editors' great lapse in taste and cultural sensitivity. The protests by Muslims demanding violent revenge against the cartoonists---or, in some cases, against Denmark generally---are an affront in their own right to a religion of peace. They also guaranteed that many millions of people would quickly go to the Internet to see what the fuss was all about.

Strong editorial cartoons can be outrageous, unfair and, yes, irreverent to the most sacred institutions of society---even to the edge of blasphemy at times. Humor can be a wickedly effective device in making a point, but it also can be a hurtful weapon if used clumsily or with malice toward a segment of humanity.

The question is, who makes that judgment? Censorship, even when unleashed under the well-intentioned guise of sensitivity, has a way of turning into tyranny.

No law, of state or religion, should be allowed to become the ultimate arbiter of freedom of expression.


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