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Friday, February 03, 2006


Bushitler? And cartoons and free speech

Those who were, and are against the US-led war on terror are regularly accused of spouting inanities like Bush=Hitler. These charges often miss the point. When you are not a government spokesman or a newspaper columnists the closest you can get to mass communication is a placard a demonstration*. The demands of space, and the imperative to be eye-catching, forces the hand, and voice, of the demonstrator. A placard cannot contain a reasoned exposition on the brutalising nature of war, the problems of imposing democracy by force, the demonstrated wickedness and contempt for democracy and human rights of some of the senior figures in the White House. Hell, even that single sentence would not fit onto a placard. But if Bush=Hitler, even in the context described above, is sufficient grounds for writing off the anti-war movement, then what are we to make of a recent statement made by Don Rumsfeld, a man resolutely pro-fascist throughout the 1980s, at least where the people of the developing world were concerned. Rumsfeld said that Hugo Chavez was ‘worrisome’. “You’ve got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money”; “He’s a person who was elected legally just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally”. Now, he is not a protester restricted by a lack of access to channels of mass communication. This man is one of the most powerful political figures in the world. What odds on a new round of fascist coups in Latin America to deal with the worrying left-wing democracies of Venezuela, Bolivia and others. In men like Rumsfeld, Cheney, Negroponte, Poindexter, North, well, there is plenty of expertise around Washington these days. Anti-Americanism? Must be some sort of irrational brain-fever of these latins; it cannot possibly have any basis in a bloody, brutal history of imperialistic domination, can it?

*This is where free-speech fundamentalists must put up or, appropriately enough, shut up. They must recognise that while we can all have the right to say anything we want to our friends and neighbours, only a tiny elite have access to audiences of any size. This political right is reserved for capital and its friends. Access to an audience is not free, it is not universal, it is not yet a human right. If free-speech fundamentalists really believe what they say, let us see them demand a reform of the capitalist system of ownership of the media, rather than making the simple, stupid demand that newspapers publish a handful of cartoons that play into the hands of political Islamists AND Islamophobes. Access to the machinery of mass communication is already restricted, but this, most egregious restriction of free-speech appears not to trouble the ‘decent’ left. Again, what we see is an attempt by the right to recruit the left to their xenophobic reactionary cause by wailing about assaults on ‘liberalism’. And again, we must resist lining up with these bigots, as theirs in no defence of liberalism, only of their own reactionary primitivism. We can defend left-wing liberalism without the help of racists. And if we really care about liberalising speech, is the most pressing demand that of a bunch of sub- Goebbels Danish ethnocentrics to paint Muslims as a danger to civilisation, or it is by breaking the grip of men like Murdoch over our ‘free’ media? I say; smash his fingers if we need to. Free speech for all!

And we attain "free speech for all" by... standing by while the rights of people we don't agree with to express themselves are brow-beaten by religious nuts? You can only play the hand you're dealt. You've been dealt these cartoons, but you're retreating into a debate on media ownership which, while I sympathise with it, really isn't the issue at hand.
I think the issue at hand is: Do people have the right to criticize a religion? My opinion is yes; especially when the followers of such a religion act in such an atrocious manner.
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