Perhaps you'll get a better handle on the issue of the Great Cartoon Controversy of '06 if you consider that even a one panel drawing is still a work of art, made by an artist. And Art has been at the center of the blasphemous firestorm of Free Speech since it began and historically, religious and secular leaders have sought to contain Art and the artist somehow.
Hard to relate to the wild, murderous rioters? Then imagine the most sacred thing you can and then imagine someone taking that sacred image and making an artwork of it in the most vile and despicable of conditions. Righteous Indignation has been as common as grains of sand on the beach throughout human history.
Recently, hordes of angry emailers attacked NBC for a TV show called "The Book of Daniel" and many stations had to consider whether or not to show it. A sculpture of the works of the Ten Commandments in an Alabama courthouse brought fierce battles to the courtrooms. The scope and severity of a battle may change from one culture to another, but it is certainly a battle of great intensity. And it is about control, it is about containing the human imagination.
That pesky Freedom of Expression is still a revolutionary idea. Mix Free Will with Fundamentalism and you have an explosion waiting to occur.
Some in the American press and media are wrestling with the ideas of censorship and law and how can America maintain its leadership in the push for Freedom in these times.
Here's a few thoughts from cartoonist/writer Ted Rall:
"Being provoked, as I tell myself when I'm sitting next to Sean Hannity, doesn't justify reacting with violence. And as Kuwaiti oil executive Samia al-Duaij pointed out to Time, there are better reasons to torch embassies than over cartoons: "America kills thousands of Muslims, and you lose your head and withdraw ambassadors over a bunch of cartoons printed in a second-rate paper in a Nordic country with a population of five million? That's the true outrage.
As the only syndicated political cartoonist who also writes a syndicated column, my living depends on freedom of the press. I can't decide who's a bigger threat: the deluded Islamists who hope to impose Sharia law on Western democracies, or the right-wing clash-of-civilization crusaders waving the banner of "free speech"--the same folks who call for the censorship and even murder of anti-Bush cartoonists here--as an excuse to join the post-9/11 Muslims-suck media pile-on. Most reasonable people reject both--but neither is as dangerous to liberty as America's self-censoring newspaper editors and broadcast producers."
Read the whole column here.
And more from editorial writer John Leo considers whether or not all this is a matter of "being civil" and admits his argument fails as:
" ... pressure to avoid publishing things that offend Muslims has been rising, particularly when death threats are made or expected. [Journalist Oriana] Fallaci, the target of many such threats, is said to be in hiding in New York. Nobody knows how many death threats have arisen from the cartoon dispute. Under the circumstances, civility might emerge as less important than standing up now to the danger of censorship through fear."