Le Pape n’est pas Charlie, soit.

As you know, Je ne suis pas Charlie. Well, as it turns out, if Google Translate is right, Le Pape n’est pas Charlie, soit.

And not only that, but watch what you say about his Mama.

I learned all this from this Tweet from Bryan:

My initial reaction was, “Whad’ya mean, ‘start’?” But then I went to find out what he meant, and found this:

Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

Francis spoke about the Paris terror attacks while en route to the Philippines, defending free speech as not only a fundamental human right but a duty to speak one’s mind for the sake of the common good.

But, he said, there were limits.

By way of example, he referred to Alberto Gasparri, who organizes papal trips and was standing by his side aboard the papal plane.

“If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”…

Now, just watch people across the planet completely misconstrue what he said, claiming he’s “blaming the victim” or “excusing terrorists for murder,” when he is obviously doing no such thing. But he is saying what I’ve said before, which is this:

One’s right to free expression is a sacred thing, just like one’s right to freely practice one’s religion. The Pope said that clearly. And no sane person, least of all the Pope, believes anyone should be killed or threatened with death for expressing himself honestly.

But, there is a difference between what you have a sacred right to do and what you ought to do. And if you want to live in a civil society, in which other people have some basic modicum of respect for you, you have a moral obligation to show at least some minimal respect for others.

This is not a terribly hard thing for most experienced editors to understand, because they live in that space between what one has a right to publish and what one publishes if one has any respect at all for one’s readers.

And folks, you don’t have to be an editor or the Pope or somebody with an advanced degree in ethics to know where the lines are. That’s what the Pontiff was getting at with the mock punch. He was saying, we all know where the limits are: Insult my mother, I’ll smack you down. It’s not complicated.

I mentioned the other day that I’ve heard my good friend Samuel Tenenbaum state clearly, on many occasions, where the line is. Samuel takes a back seat to no one in defending civil liberties. But he makes no bones about the fact that you’ve crossed the line with him, and made an enemy, when you insult “my wife, my Mama or my faith.”

Does that mean Samuel would be justified in coming into your office and blowing you away for insulting Judaism? No, of course not. But he’s describing where the boundaries lie in civil society. He’s telling you what is beyond the pale, in case you missed that class in kindergarten.

Charlie Hebdo is wrong to publish childishly obscene (and not even funny, to an adult eye) cartoons that deliberately slap Muslims in the face, that insult them in the most obnoxious possible manner. Millions of those Muslims are people who mean Charlie no harm, and would never resort to violence against them. But they are deeply insulted, and now, with nonMuslims around them all saying “Je suis Charlie,” they feel more marginalized and looked-down-upon than ever. These people don’t deserve such treatment.

The fact that there are a few murderous jerks who will kill you for publishing such cartoons does not make you right for publishing them. If something is wrong, it is wrong whether people shoot you for it, or give you a big, wet kiss for it.

And that’s what the Pope was trying to say…

Oh, and by the way, he also said global climate change is real, and man-caused. That kind of got downplayed….

73 thoughts on “Le Pape n’est pas Charlie, soit.

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Of course, y’all know that the Pope was just kidding about the punching thing, right? I mean, who would really believe that a man of Italian extraction, raised in Argentina, would punch you out if you insulted his… Oh, wait. Never mind… 🙂

  2. Barry

    Just to clarify

    Satire is now ‘wrong’ ( wrong thing to do) if it involves the depiction of faith of a Muslim, Catholic, Jew, or a Christian, Etc…?

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      I wouldn’t say that. I would say that going out of one’s way to deeply insult another’s faith just for the sake of doing so is wrong.

      That’s just basic, fundamental human courtesy.

      It shouldn’t be illegal. You shouldn’t be killed or arrested or even given a ticket for doing so. But you shouldn’t do it. It’s wrong.

      This is really not a difficult distinction. People overcomplicate it for the sake of argument…

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          So you’re saying that this is thoughtful critique of the Prophet?

          This is not one of these postmodern things where the moral value of the thing is totally up to the judgment of the perceiver. Some things are just outrageous to anyone with common sense.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Where’s William Travis when you need him? I’d like him to draw a line in the sand with his sword, and the adults who think that cartoon is outrageous can line up on one side, and those who think it is thoughtful critique on the other…

          2. Barry

            It’s not thoughtful to me. That doesn’t mean it might not be thoughtful to someone else

            or maybe someone else intends to be rude- you like- like Bill Maher does when he insults Christians, or Muslims, or white men, or southern people…..

            1. Barry

              Yeah- that Bill Maher- the one that the SC Democrats invited to come and speak last year

              I don’t recall anyone protesting him or saying it was wrong that he was coming to Columbia to provoke even more

            2. Doug Ross

              I agree, Brad. I find Maher unfunny for the most part. But…. I just change the channel. Anyone who would consider violence against him for his religious views is even worse.

              Taking offense to words is an action taken by the listener. We all have the option to ignore the words or disengage from the speaker.

          3. M.Prince

            Not sure what these examples are portraying. One simply says “A star is born.” The other is entitled “The film that embraces the Muslim world,” with the prone figure saying “And my a-s. You like my a-s?” Frankly, I’m not sure what this is about, so I can’ really judge it.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              Really? The images themselves don’t communicate to you clearly enough? Do they seem subtle or complicated to you in ways that completely escape me? In their intention to offend without making any lofty points, they are startlingly clear.

              It would take a pretty wild imagination to come up with a backstory or other context that would justify these images as having a place in any sort of civil dialogue.

              Why is it that smart people strain to excuse the inexcusable? Drawings such as this are the work of someone with the sophistication and maturity of a 7th grade schoolboy, sniggering while he produces dirty doodles in the back of the classroom…

            2. M.Prince

              No, they don’t clearly communicate anything by themselves. It just seemed to me there was a context missing. I couldn’t tell what they were referencing and, therefore, could draw no conclusions about them. Moreover, they don’t necessarily need to make “lofty points” nor does expression have to be “civil” for it to have value and merit. I personally prefer thoughtful exchanges involving words, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t perhaps a place for this sort of thing.

          4. Dave Crockett

            I always have a problem when the notion of “common sense” is invoked.

            Common sense tells you that birds of a feather flock together. Common sense also tells you that opposites attract. Common sense tells you that sparing the rod spoils the child. Common sense also tells you that hitting children is wrong.

            Your common sense may not be my common sense. It should rarely be considered a basis for consensus.

            1. Brad Warthen Post author

              I really, truly doubt that any of my friends citing the usual postmodern observations as “WHOSE standards” and “WHAT common sense” would have any problem telling their children not to draw such things and show them to people.

              But I could be completely wrong about that, too, couldn’t I?

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        I don’t believe the Charlie cartoonists and editors were publishing it just for the sake of deeply insulting Muslims’ faith. They were making a point, which no doubt was funnier in French, but a point, nonetheless.
        As Phillip, Bryan and others have pointed out, this is exactly what we need to defend. Not the inoffensive–the offensive….and not with a punch.

        1. Brad Warthen

          What do you mean, defend? Defend their right to draw filthy doodles without being killed for it? Sure.

          Defend their editorial decision, as “journalists,” to publish such up redeemable trash? Absolutely not. It’s insupportable.

        2. Brad Warthen Post author

          This is NOT “exactly what we need to defend.”

          You want to know the kind of thing that needs to be defended? There was a show on ETV last night that unfortunately I missed all but a minute of. It was about a tiny weekly newspaper in North Carolina that took on the Klan in 1950.

          Although I missed it, I’m pretty sure that the tactics of the editor did not include obscene drawings of Klansmen. Or of Jesus, since many of the Klansmen no doubt claimed to be Christian, with as much justice as the terrorists claim to be Muslim. Such an approach would have been stupid, childish and pointless, a waste of energy, something that undermined the editor’s cause rather than supporting it…

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Oh, and here’s the cherry on top…

            You know how I missed it? Well, first, I didn’t know it was on (there’s so little worth watching on broadcast TV that I seldom check any more).

            Second, I was watching “The Interview,” which I rented via iTunes. You know, that other assertion of free speech, filled with bathroom humor and assassination jokes, that caused such a stir lately. I’ll try to post something about it over the weekend.

            I saw a tiny bit of the PBS thing when I switched back from Apple TV to cable box. But it was already past my bedtime, so I turned it off. I hope I can still see it on my PBS app later…

            1. M.Prince

              It was an excellent documentary on Pulitzer Prize winner Horace Carter’s reportorial/editorial campaign against Klan activity in and around Tabor City, NC in the 1950s. Hard to believe you opted to watch The Interview instead.

            2. Brad Warthen Post author

              As I just told you, I did not “opt” to do so. I wasn’t aware it was on.

              I knew that any time I spent watching “The Interview” would feel like wasted time, which is why I kept delaying doing so, even though it was staring at me at the top of my screen every time I activated the Apple TV.

              (So why watch it at all? Because I had commented on it without seeing it, and would probably comment on it again, so I felt a sort of obligation — just as I plan to see both “American Sniper” and “Selma,” perhaps this weekend.)

              If I’d known about the PBS thing, I’d have put off “The Interview” one more night.

            3. Brad Warthen Post author

              These days, I very seldom check to see what’s on broadcast TV, because I’ve been too disappointed for years.

              Usually when I turn on the tube, I’m going directly to Netflix, iTunes or (less often) a DVD…

        3. Brad Warthen Post author

          Going WAY back up to this assertion by Kathryn: “I don’t believe the Charlie cartoonists and editors were publishing it just for the sake of deeply insulting Muslims’ faith.”

          Oh, I believe that is EXACTLY what they intended. You could probably cite a number of factors in their motivation, but I sincerely doubt that any single factor played a larger role than their irresistible urge to mock Islam…

          The anticlerical, antireligious thread that runs throughout the post-Enlightenment tradition of French satire is unmistakably present in these cartoons….

          1. Kathryn Fenner

            I believe they thought it was funny. They thought, correctly, that it would sell copies.
            I don’t get French humor–see, also, Lewis, Jerry

  3. Bryan Caskey

    “If my good friend Dr. Gasparri says a curse word against my mother, he can expect a punch,” Francis said, throwing a pretend punch his way. “It’s normal. You cannot provoke. You cannot insult the faith of others. You cannot make fun of the faith of others.”…

    Wait, what?

    I’m fine with the idea that there are things that you should and should not say in polite society. It’s not polite to go around making fun of people. It’s not nice to call people stupid, fat, ugly, or say that their beliefs are stupid. You also shouldn’t call people names, or insult people’s mothers. That’s not nice. My momma wouldn’t like it if I mocked people’s religious beliefs. She wouldn’t like it if I was invited over to someone’s house for dinner, and then insulted their cooking, either.

    But part of living in a free society is being ALLOWED to be impolite without threat of any legal repercussions or physical harm resulting from your speech.

    So…the Pope’s comments about punching someone who insults his mother just astounds me. If someone insults your mother, you walk away. End of story. Punch them, are you crazy? Is the Pope in middle school?

    My momma would not want me punching people who insult her. She would be disappointed if I reacted violently to someone’s verbal insult. She would tell me not to let those people’s words bother me, and that their insults and crass behavior reflect poorly on them</p, not her or me. Words do not justify punching people. Ever.

    As applied to religion (as was the Pope’s metaphor) a person’s faith should be strong enough to simply let mocking of it roll off their back. It should be “turn the other cheek” — end of story. If the Almighty wants to smite the impolite mockers of religion or the cartoonists that mock him, that’s His prerogative. He can make in rain, and drown ’em right out. Maybe he’ll go for the ol’ fire and brimstone. Maybe he’ll wait for judgment day. Point is, the Lord can take care of himself. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, sayeth the lord” (Romans 12:19)

    Even under the “eye for an eye” Rule, insults do not warrant punches. When someone mocks you or slanders you because of your belief in God, you don’t punch them. I’m pretty sure of that.

    Accordingly, his saying that you “cannot” make fun of other people’s faith astounds me. Brad, I think you’re saying that one “should not” make fun of other people’s faith. I agree, you should not. But “cannot” is an altogether different word.

    And we don’t punch people who insult our faith, our mommas, our clothes, or our political views. That’s more than impolite, it’s a crime.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Do you think the Pope meant that he would actually punch Dr. Gasparri? Do you think he meant we actually SHOULD hit people who insult us?

      I took it as meaning that Dr. Gasparri knows good and well where the boundaries are. We all should, past about the age of 5.

      I wish he hadn’t gotten playful with the “punch” thing. People are just going to go literal on it, and say the Pope is advocating violence, which no serious person who has the ability to understand other people would think. Watch the video: You actually think he’s teaching us to hit people?

      It’s like the Pope can’t let down his guard and be human and make his point in a playful manner. Which, sigh, I suppose he can’t…

      So yeah, I wish he hadn’t done the punch thing, even though it got a smile out of me. It’s a stumbling block to people who don’t want to understand the serious point he was making…

      1. Bryan Caskey

        Do you think the Pope meant that he would actually punch Dr. Gasparri? Do you think he meant we actually SHOULD hit people who insult us?

        I took it as meaning that Dr. Gasparri knows good and well where the boundaries are.

        He knows good and well where the boundaries are…or else what? He’ll be punched? He was asked this question in the context of the massacre in Paris. He said “a punch awaits him” if there was an insult. How am I supposed to interpret that? Am I not letting the Pope be clear?

        The only reasonable interpretation of those words is that the Pope is gonna punch someone who crosses the “boundary”. He didn’t say, people should know not to cross boundaries.

        Kidding or not, if I had said exactly what the Pope said about punching someone who insults my momma, I guarantee you that my momma would be ashamed of me.

        The Vicar of Christ needs to stick to being serious and actually thinking before he speaks. What he said was dumb, and his momma is probably disappointed.

          1. Juan Caruso

            Agree, also. Here is why:
            “Pope Francis said Thursday there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

            I notice, as have protestants and muslims throughout history that the Pope’s opinion has obviously not been the Catholic Church’s position throughout most of its history. Moreover, his personal opinion as expressed above is remarkably self-serving, n’est pas?

            At times like this my First Amendment right to comment is extremely valuable to me, may be eye-opening to a few, and is probably offensive to many of my relatives and perhaps Brad W.

            No apologies, the Pope and his defenders went out of their way to abridge the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens in particular. He is a one-world government, anthropomorphic climate change booster after all, and that is something too many socialists seem to do.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          As I said above, I agree, too. He’s had such great press relations, he let his guard down, and did something uncharacteristic.

          By “uncharacteristic,” I don’t mean punching his friend, because we know he wouldn’t actually do that.

          What I mean is that it was uncharacteristic for him to fail to communicate well.

          This Pope has been so great at getting people to hear the Gospel of love, at communicating what the Church is all about. He’s been deft is saying things in ways that people who don’t WANT to hear the message hear it nevertheless.

          By including a bad joke that will be a stumbling block to understanding, he slipped in a way that he doesn’t usually slip. That’s a shame.

          And it’s particularly a shame because what he had set out to say, and what I’ve been trying to say the last few days, is important, and easy to misunderstand…

            1. Bryan Caskey

              The thing is, it’s so fundamentally wrong, the joke doesn’t even work. And I’m not sure there is a “moral obligation” to be polite in a civilized society. Being rude and offensive isn’t an immoral act. It’s just impolite.

              I just don’t understand his thinking here. If I were Pope (perish the thought, right?) this seems like the perfect time to say that Christianity teaches you to turn the other cheek, and that if someone mocks, slanders, or otherwise insults a Christian, then: “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

              It’s basic Sermon on the Mount stuff. We’re not building a rocket, here.

  4. Pope Tommy I

    You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little messed up maybe, but my religion is funny how, I mean funny like it’s a clown, it amuses you? It makes you laugh, it’s here to freakin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How is it funny?

  5. Updated Beatitudes

    Blessed are the pugilists, for if you insult their mothers they will knock your block off.

  6. Bryan Caskey

    I remember when Jesus said something about turning the other cheek, unless the guy really makes you mad, or insults your mother. Then you can punch him in the face. I think it’s in Matthew or Mark. You can look it up.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      No, it’s in the Gospel According to Peter, which didn’t make the cut after the Paul faction took over the Church.

      You know, Peter — the guy who pulled a blade and cut off the ear of one of the guys who came to arrest Jesus.

      Which, I admit, even though I know he was wrong and Jesus TOLD him he was wrong, is one of the things I like about Peter. He was so human.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        And Peter HAD to have been confused, since Jesus had said this earlier:

        36 Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise his scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.

        37 For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end.

        38 And they said, Lord, behold, here are two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.

        1. Bryan Caskey

          It’s the Pope saying that people speaking freely, perhaps rudely and, specifically when they are insulting religion, they are asking for it. The Pope came very, very close to saying that the threat of physical violence is a good enforcer of the limits that he wants to see enforced.

          Basically, the guys at Charlie Hebdo should have known better than to publish that filth, right? I mean, they just should have expected someone to show up and do them physical harm, right? That seems to be where you and His Holiness are headed.

          Amazingly, I am somehow more liberal than the Pope. I never expected that.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Nope. That’s not where I’m headed. The Pope neither, although as I said before, his bad joke about punching his friend will sadly confuse people as to his point — a point that I wish he had made more carefully and thoughtfully.

            The two concepts — whether what Charlie did was appropriate, and the violence visited upon them — are separate.

            It’s too bad, for the sake of my point, that the terrorists weren’t threatening to kill the cartoonists and editors if they did NOT publish the obscene cartoons about the Prophet. Then, everyone would understand what I am saying.

            That may sound silly to you, but it’s easy for me to imagine because, while I certainly don’t deserve a medal or anything, my position takes slightly more courage to assert than the simpler, more popular one.

            If I were to just cry “freedom of expression” and post “#jesuischarlie” and go along with the ideologically correct sentiment of the moment, my position would be easy and comfortable. No need to defend it, since tout le monde would be feeling the very same warm and fuzzy emotion, and would be swaying in time to my motions. I’d be one of the right-thinking herd.

            But when I assert, based on my own judgment, that Charlie was wrong to publish such images (regardless of whether doing so invited violence or not), I open myself to being considered cold or heartless or cowardly or an apologist for terrorists and murderers, a blamer of victims.

            Try, please, to rewind to before the terror attacks — to before Charlie was ever threatened by thugs. Go to the moments that are my focus as an editor, when the cartoons were produced, and when the decisions were made to publish them. I’m saying those were wrong acts, bad decisions — and that has nothing to do with what happened subsequently, or what might have been expected to happen subsequently.

            Some things are wrong. Some things don’t meet the standards of civil dialogue and right action in a civilization.

            As longtime readers of this blog (and of the pages of The State before that) know, I’ve had considerable experience thinking long and hard about how civilized people should interact for our free society to function. And that is what my arguments here are based in…

            1. M.Prince

              “my position takes slightly more courage to assert than the simpler, more popular one”

              Hm, isn’t this the sin of pride — the sin from which all other sins flow?

              And, again, the rules applied to a widely circulating mainstream news publication like The State may not be the same as those that apply to a publication like Mad Magazine or Charlie Hebdo.

  7. bud

    Does this “respect” extend to cults like the moonies, branch dividians or Jim Jones followers? How about faith healers who would deny their children a blood transfusion? At some point this self restraint for religion in order to be polite limits important critiques of issues regarding health and welfare. We touched on that a while back with the Hobby Lobby birth control issue. Sometimes polite equals censorship.

    1. Kathryn Fenner

      You can certainly draw and publish all the cartoons you want about faith healers, et al. You do not allow them to harm their children through neglect and failure to provide scientifically validated medical care.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      The state has an obligation to step in and prevent people from killing their children, regardless of the parents’ belief systems. The state cannot stand by and watch the children die.

      This applies whether the parents believe that medical care shows a lack of faith in God, or adhere to the “pro-choice” position on abortion. Your freedom to express your beliefs stops when it involves killing another.

      But I would not publish obscene cartoons mocking either set of parents for their beliefs.

  8. bud

    Another thought. Would it cross a line to draw a cartoon of the Pope surrounded by pregnant teenagers with a caption suggesting Catholic opposition to birth control is to blame? I say no.

  9. New Catholic Doctine

    Remember, my children, when Jesus was mocked and spat upon, he called down lightning from the heavens and smote their ruin upon the mountainside. Because there are limits to freedom of expression, especially when it insults or ridicules someone’s faith.

  10. M.Prince

    Proposition: We should not insult another person’s faith.

    Sounds simple.

    But let’s take that apart:

    1) Who is “we”? Does it encompass every person and institution around the globe? Or are there niches and crannies that aren’t included?

    2) What constitutes an “insult”? As another commenter asked, does it include what some might call criticism – or, for that matter, irreverence? Is South Park (not my flavor in humor, but nevertheless) occasionally insulting to some Christians?

    3) Who’s faith or, more importantly, interpretation of faith gets covered? That of the most devout and pious? The most extreme and intolerant?

    Suddenly it doesn’t seem quite so simple anymore.

  11. Brad Warthen

    Perhaps I’m more sensitive on behalf of beleaguered Muslims living in Europe, find themselves mocked and reviled as a beleaguered minority, because I just read (then saw the film version of) le Carre’s “A Most Wanted Man.”

    Not a bad book. Sure, it’s another of his “the Americans are beastly and can’t be trusted” screeds, but it’s a readable yarn. And in terms of its anti-Americanism, it’s nowhere near as hysterically over the top as “Absolute Friends.” Even though both end with stunning, last-minute betrayals of a protagonist by U.S. security services, this one’s calmer and more credible.

    Le Carre’s best post-Cold War novel remains “The Night Manager,” with “The Constant Gardener” a distant second…

    1. M.Prince

      “Perhaps I’m more sensitive on behalf of beleaguered Muslims living in Europe, [who] find themselves mocked and reviled as a beleaguered minority….”

      Some are, some aren’t. Some are quite successful and culturally integrated. And many, though they may find the cartoons rather puerile, nevertheless understand the value of free speech and are therefore able to tolerate it. As one American Muslim I heard in interview said yesterday, the Koran calls on believers to treat with forbearance those who mock your belief. It was also pointed out that it is not utterly forbidden to display images of Muhammad.

      A large part of the problem here arises from globalization. Up until quite recently, cartoons like those carried in Charlie Hebdo likely never would have been seen by a majority Muslim audience. But the internet has changed that. Does that mean, therefore, that things that were once acceptable within one cultural context must be made somehow acceptable in all cultural contexts? And should this apply not only to visual arts but to literature and music and every other form of expression as well? That, it seems to me, is not only dangerous (bowdlerization) but asking the impossible. While you and I and many others may find Charlie Hebdo’s brand of humor unpalatable, there may be cultural niches where it is understood differently. The pictures that seem to raise the most ire appear to be those in which a Muslim or Muhammad-like figure is depicted in a sexually suggestive or explicit manner. Those cultures that tend to be more prudish (e.g. Muslim and, I dare say, swaths of the American South) are apt to find this more objectionable than others — like the French and other continental Europeans, for example. Lastly, since the magazine takes an irreverent view of practically all comers, it’s not clear that it can be labelled specifically anti-Muslim. It’s targets are much more widely spread than that.

  12. Norm Ivey

    After the Pope makes the joke about punching his friend, he says, “It’s normal.” I take what he’s saying to mean that when we are insulted, it’s a natural human impulse to strike out at the offender. He’s not suggesting we do that.
    It seems to me Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons aren’t so much about the Muslim faith as they are about faith and religion in general.They have no patience for people who believe in any sort of Supreme Being. Unfortunately, these terrorists are unstable people who can’t handle being mocked.

    In light of this thread, it’s interesting the words the Pope used in talking about man-made global warming: I don’t know if it [human activity] is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face.

    Apparently, we’ve struck Mother Nature without the provocation of insult.

    1. Bryan Caskey

      Yeah, but Mother Nature was talking about how she was the best mother, and I couldn’t let that insult to my mother stand. So she had it comin’. [Caution, that link may be possibly NSFW].

      On the other hand, according to the Gospel of St. Eastwood, we all got it comin’.

      You know, all this talk about politeness, courtesy, and what you do in a civilized society got me thinking. Not so long ago, even we in Western Civilization lived in an age where if somebody was slandering you, it would lead to a duel, which could you know…be somewhat violent.

      I think people might have been a little more on their P’s and Q’s back then because insulting the wrong person could find you selecting pistols at dawn.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it.

        And yes, the code duello did make for a more polite society.

        The challenge, of course, is to be a civil society WITHOUT the threat of violence to keep us in line.

        If progress were an inevitable thing, as the modernist, progressive worldview would have it — if society is becoming kinder, gentler and more high-minded from generation to generation (regarding which I have always had reservations) — then we would have been able to maintain the politeness of, say, the era of Jane Austen without the requirement that gentlemen call each other out when the standards are violated.

        But that hasn’t happened to the degree that one concerned with civility would like. Now, we’re supposed to take any and all insults, tolerate an atmosphere in which outrageous messages fly in every direction, without fighting over it.

        True progress would arrive when we are no longer so eager to give gratuitous offense, and loudly assert our right to do so…

        1. Doug Ross

          “True progress would arrive when we are no longer so eager to give gratuitous offense, and loudly assert our right to do so…”

          True progress would also require people allowing others to do as they please if they are not doing anything that is publicly obscene or targeted toward anyone. You know things like smoking a joint, marrying a same sex partner, betting on a sports event or buying a lottery ticket. You have a right to tell me not to do it but not to prevent me from doing it under the guise of “doing what’s right” or “community standards”. I also should have the right to say “Hush yo’ mouth” and “Mind your own business”.

  13. Bryan Caskey

    For those of you scoring at home:

    When Barry, Kathryn, M. Prince, bud, Doug, Phillip, and Bryan all more or less agree on an issue, I think we can consider that to be something along the lines of an “overwhelming consensus”.

    On the other side, we have Brad, the Pope, and extremist Muslims who are anti-cartoon.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      And NON-extreme Muslims whose faith is mocked by the cartoons. There’s what, roughly a billion of them?

      But numbers don’t matter. If I’m the only person on the planet saying what I’m saying, I’m still going to say it, because it needs to be said. Even more so, if no one else agrees. It’s nice that the Pope has my back, but it wouldn’t change my position if he didn’t.

      That sort of goes to my point earlier. It’s harder to stand up for my position than it is to go along with the crowd…

      1. Doug Ross

        Brad – you and the Pope are on the “let me tell you how you should think and act” team. It was your job for many years to do that. It’s okay that you and the Pope are erroneous in your beliefs. They’re yours and yours alone.

        How many Muslims are offended to the point of taking action? or even wasting more than a moment to worry about what some French cartoonist draws?

        I am interested in hearing how you distinguish between mocking a person’s religious versus political beliefs? You certainly have a long track record of mocking Tea Party types. Is that fair game?

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I have never, ever mocked the Tea Party or anyone else in any terms even remotely approaching those of Charlie Hebdo. Ever.

          Saying, in plain terms, that someone holds an absurd belief is NOT the same as drawing obscene pictures of what that other person holds as sacred.

          Again, folks, this is not that complicated. We have a consensus here on the blog about what is allowable, civil discourse. And (knock on wood) we have arrived at a point where I enforce that consensus by eliminating comments that violate it.

          Yes, for the most part I go by my own judgment — I have to, since I’m the only one with access to the blog’s dashboard. But y’all played a big part in shaping that judgment. For my part, I’d probably be somewhat more tolerant of incivility because of the way I got used to insults in my years as an editor. But I saw how people reacted to ad hominem comments, and how it discouraged and chased away the kinds of thoughtful commenters that I wanted here. So I learned where the lines are. And the feedback I get from people who are not trolls is that I’m drawing the lines about where they should be…

          1. Doug Ross

            You’re standard technique for Tea Party and libertarians is using the word “gubmint”, the intent of which is to mock the intelligence of those who hold such views.

  14. Bryan Caskey

    To me, the important issue is NOT whether the editors and cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo were simply irreverent or downright rude, whether they were childish or courageous (all of this is a matter of opinion) — but only whether we as the at-large citizens of Western Civilization defend the right to express ourselves as we see fit.

    Ultimately, I think Brad is saying that the cartoons are not to his taste. Frankly, they aren’t to mine either. But as they say, different strokes for different folks. (That was Aristotle, I think.)

    Saying you shouldn’t ridicule religious beliefs is fine. Saying you cannot (as the Pope explicitly did) is not fine. That’s where the Pope and I part ways.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      There are standards. They are not that hard to identify, or to understand. Right and wrong are not simply matters of opinion or taste.

      We can certainly argue about where the lines are. But there are common lines.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and Bryan — the most jarring thing the Pope said, the thing that jumped out at me as problematic before the “punch” part — was his use of “cannot” instead of “should not.”

      Not being an Italian speaker, I can’t be sure whether that was the proper translation or not, in terms of connotation. It might be that what he said doesn’t translate perfectly into English; I don’t know. But he shouldn’t have said “cannot.” Not as a matter of ethics or morals, just as a matter of fact. Obviously, one CAN do things that one should not do. If one couldn’t, there wouldn’t be much point in discussing it…

  15. Karen Pearson

    I find Westboro Baptist Church’s insistence on calling themselves Christians to be extremely blasphemous. I’m not going to shoot anyone for it. The great majority of decent Muslims living in France found that cartoon very blasphemous, but didn’t shoot anyone either. The shooting was done by radicals whose faith strays far from Mohammed’s actual teachings.

    The cartoons, I suggest, used a drawing of Mohammed not just to make a point, but precisely because the paper knew that Muslims would consider it blasphemy. I can’t help but wonder if they created a similar cartoon portraying Jesus instead, since the publication was known for satirizing Christianity as well. I suspect the cartoonists could have come up with cartoons that made the same point (whatever it is) without drawing Mohammed.

    Shooting people is much worse that printing obscene cartoons that some believe to be blasphemous. And I contend that we must allow free speech however distasteful. But publishing cartoons like those is just plain rude, and downright stupid. I may defend their right to publish such, but I don’t need to lionize them to do so.

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