Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Let them eat cartoons


3 More Die in Pakistan Cartoon Protests

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Feb. 15 — Three more people were killed today, as tens of thousands of protesters, incensed at cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad, took to the streets in Pakistani cities for a third straight day, clashing with police and torching western businesses, media reports and officials said.

How stupid and irresponsible it was for that conservative Danish newspaper to publish those cartoons--anyone could have predicted what the likely consequences would be. Here are 3 more people dead--over cartoons.

Of course journalists will make a fuss about Freedom of the Press. They're the Press and that's their job. But is it really such a monumental matter of principle? Why? Obviously, ceteris paribus the more freedom the better but ceteris are not paribus and it is pretty clear that the bad consequences of exercising freedom of the press in this case outweigh the benefits of grandstanding.

It's all more of the conservative let-them-eat-cake policy. Here are hordes of desperate people who don't have the time or money to buy newspapers and sit around reading them, most of whom couldn't read them anyway because they're illiterate, and these irresponsible, grandstanding fools are crusading for freedom of the press--let the eat newspapers. As far as Freedom and Democracy what does the current administration mean? Let's see, "freedom" means laissez faire capitalism, policies to benefit multinationals and the abolition of trade barriers. It also means eliminating free schooling, subsidized food, and other programs that benefit the very poor in poor countries--part of the Washington Consensus on how to discipline poor countries and stop their irresponsible, spendthrift behavior. And "democracy" means voting in pro-American politicians--not, e.g. Hamas.

It's pretty obvious why they hate us. We live in paradise and they live in shit. Our foreign policy is obviously geared to getting more power and more wealth at their expense--while we make hypocritical noises about Freedom and Democracy. Adding insult to injury we mock their primary cultural icon and then read their anger as religious fanaticism, confirming the Clash of Civilizations hypothesis, just showing that they aren't people like us and wouldn't appreciate the good life we have even if they got it. So no point in soft diplomacy or aid--they don't want reliable electricity, clean streets, or basic economic security. No siree--it would all be wasted. They just want to riot in the streets, memorize the Koran and beat up women.

I don't think the rage about these cartoons is in any way religious. If the cartoons didn't depict Mohammed but just showed racist representations of Arabs and South Asians or lampooned other features of their culture you would get the same result--possibly worse. They simply read these cartoons as saying "You people are scum--we laugh at you; we're going to beat you up, enslave you and wipe you out to further enrich ourselves."

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