Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Provocation for the nation

Western Standard publisher Ezra Levant has published the infamous Muhammad cartoons in this week's issue of the magazine. And, of course, immediately the blogs and the papers and the other media were into full-scale motive attribution: it was a cooly calculated ploy; a courageous strategy to defend freedom of the press; or an outrageous and racist attack on Islam. Take your pick.

Since no one can truly know Levant's motives, they can only go by what he has said and written. And, at the risk of distorting by paraphrase, it would appear that he thinks this is a question of moral courage and that he has it, while the so-called "mainstream media (or MSM for short)" lacks it.

The gesture seems a week late and a dollar short. Anyone with a smidgen of initiative and a web connection saw these rather lame caricatures more than a week ago. But, as empty gestures go, we should defend his right to make it. And to condemn retailers who have refused to display the issue because of a spread inside. That's just wrong.

FYI, Joyce Byrne has commented on this in This Magazine's blog.

7 Comments:

Anonymous joyceb said...

One vote here for rank opportunism. And hell, anybody who knows me knows I love an opportunity. This one stinks though. Not funny, and adds nothing to the debate.

6:24 pm  
Blogger Brian Stendel said...

I might not know Ezra's precise motives but I'm beginning to understand and appreciate the man as I work on his business. He is steadfast in his belief that we don't have freedom if we allow fear keep us from exercising that freedom. And he refuses to accept the media's excuses for not showing the cartoons that are at the root of the violence and demonstrations while the same media have no reservations about showing images that can be offensive to people of other faiths. Frankly he is pissed off at all the double standards and is willing to lose advertisers and readers by standing up for his convictions. To quote: "The liberal media doesn't respect radical Islam. It is afraid of radical Islam. I'm afraid, too. A little bit at least. But courage isn't the absence of fear. It's not letting fear trump everything else -- like character or duty or our own beliefs. The Western Standard has no explaining to do. We're a news magazine, and these cartoons are news. The publishers, editors and TV producers who are behaving as if they live under sharia law, not the Charter of Rights, have explaining to do -- to their readers and viewers".

I might not always agree with him but I do admire him.

On a personal note, I'm nervous too - my name, phone number and email address all appear on the masthead of the Western Standard (as of last issue) and I'm the lone Toronto contact listed. When I learned of the feature, I asked to be removed from the Masthead but was too late. I'm afraid that I don't have Ezra's bravery.

On the lighter side of the news - The Western Standard stepped up security and the first guard on duty was reportedly a Muslim.

8:45 pm  
Blogger Jon Spencer said...

I dunno. I mean, not to open up a whole can o' worms here, but if someone had published some cartoons or jokes that were offensive to people of the blond persuasion, first nations folks, gay folks, Polish folks, differently-sized folks or whatever ... then is the public's right to see those cartoons/jokes (to judge for themselves whether the furor is justifiable) more or less important than the offense that might be caused by republishing them?

I'm kinda leaning toward thinking it would be "less important". I don't need to know exactly what the cartoon/joke was to appreciate that some people took offense. And that's what the ruckus is all about.

[Naturally, this does not mean I approve of the offended parties having conniption fits about cartoons that result in violence and deaths, particularly when directed at entire countries rather than at the offending parties.]

The appropriate response might be to encourage folks to listen to each other and help resolve the problem, rather than to fan the proverbial flames by risking offending still more people.

Freedom of the press is a groovy thing, but let's "stand up for our convictions" on some things that really matter, not defending (to the death?) our right to offend other people. There are more worthy principles that need defending.

11:41 pm  
Anonymous Scott B said...

Hey DB,

You got it right when you pointed out that anyone can see the cartoons in a nano-second by using google, then hitting click on your home printer. So why is there so much fuss about a magazine printing them? I guess it just proves that magazines still matter, magazines are powerful tools of communication, and that people value magazines more than other mediums. I'm thrilled that The Globe & Mail and the CBC are validating our medium.

6:34 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are quite a few things I find offensive and demeaning and gratutitous and in bad taste on TV. So you know what I do...I don't watch. It takes a lot of effort to go to a newsstand, find the magazine in question (very few copies are distributed, and some retailers are censoring it) and lay down money, so that I can claim to be offended.

8:31 am  
Anonymous Wilber said...

In an interesting magazine sidenote to the cartoon issue, check out the back page of the March issue of Esquire (Cover: Viggo Mortensen). A cartoon about "Jesus' Bar Mitvah". I'm curious if anyone reacts or points out the cartoon parallels (ie. cartoonists, don't make fun of our prophets/messiahs, etc.) and whether Esquire comes to regret the timing.

10:24 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen the new Economist? Is Chapters going to censor that too?

3:57 pm  

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