You were expecting civility?

When a recent episode of the cheeky South Park depicted the prophet Mohammed in a bear suit, its creators were probably well aware of what they were setting in motion.  Some fundamentalist nutjob would take exception and threaten them on a website, the episode would be dumbly censored, fans would get pissed and retribution against the offending site would be swift and terrible:

Then the unexpected: Dan Savage posted a cartoon which, in solidarity with South Park and free speech in general, jokingly proclaimed  May 20th as “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”:

…and outrage went viral.

The cartoonist wasn’t expecting her whimsical tongue-in-cheek proposal to go viral, much less turn into a competition to come up with the most offensive images possible.   As a result, she’s distanced herself from the whole idea:

The Seattle artist whose anti-censorship cartoon has helped spawn “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” says she wants no part of the May 20 event, which is gaining momentum online.

“I made a cartoon that went viral but [this campaign] isn’t really my thing,” cartoonist Molly Norris tells Comic Riffs, characterizing her cartoon as merely a personal response to Comedy Central‘s censorship of a “South Park” episode last week. “Other folks have taken it over” — an appropriation she says she is distancing herself from.

Not only the cartoonist, but the creator of the inevitable “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” Facebook page has also opted out.    After a couple of days of spittle-flecked comments and grotesque images being furiously uploaded, the creators of these benign little free speech demonstrations apparently realized things were going sideways.   They were expecting maybe… civility?  Haha.  New to the internet, I see.

Images of Mohammed might be proscribed by Islam, but there shouldn’t be anything to prevent a non-Muslim from drawing one.  And as a free speech exercise, there was a point to be made about the whackjobs who consider threats of violence an appropriate response to perceived slights to their religion:  something like, grow a pair.

On the other hand, setting aside a day for the express purpose of insulting one specific religion seems like a proposition destined to devolve into a shit-slinging competition of Olympic proportions.  Too many people don’t understand that while the right to be an asshole is an important part of free speech, it’s not a requirement.

12 Responses to “You were expecting civility?”

  1. 1 Janus Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 3:43 pm

    I’m in.

    I do not understand the thought processes that tell someone it’s okay to slam me for being what I am, but I’m not allowed to utter a peep in return without fear of death.

    Bring it, assholes.

  2. 2 J. A. Baker Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    As one of my blogging pen pals put it:

    I wonder how many of the people eagerly planning to participate in “Draw Mohammed Day” were OUTRAGED when PZ Myers “desecrated” a wafer of unleavened bread.

    Just my $0.02.

  3. 3 croghan27 Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 9:10 am

    Thoroughly agree here, JJ – this is a competition for the bottom: to see who can be most rude and insulting.

    Perhaps the idea, of a Muhammad drawing contest would be fine at a party, over wine and crepes, but to go out and do it is somewhat beyond good taste.

  4. 4 J. A. Baker Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    this is a competition for the bottom: to see who can be most rude and insulting.

    Speaking of a race to the racist bottom

  5. 5 JJ Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    Janus – I was initially sympathetic to the idea, and in some ways I still am, if it targeted the extremist nuts who think it’s okay to threaten someone for not adhering to their religious laws.

    But I’m not comfortable with the idea of an day specifically to break a law observed by all muslims, extremist or not. It would be like having an “Everyone piss on a crucifix” day. Not all christians are extremists, and setting aside a day to desecrate their religious icons seems a little over the top assholishness.

    Whatever individuals choose to do is another matter, of course.

  6. 6 JJ Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    JAB – Well, that’s the thing, eh? Okay for me but not for thee.

    PZ got death threats by the ton when he ate that cracker. How is that any different from the islamic whacks who threaten people for drawing mo? I don’t see it.

  7. 7 JJ Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    croghan – Yeah, I kind of thought it was a cute idea at first… before I really thought about it and saw some of the images being uploaded to Facebook 😯

    If individuals, or cartoonists or whatever, want to draw Mohammed (or spread peanut butter on a eucharist and eat it) then there shouldn’t be any reason for them not to, and they definitely shouldn’t have to hold back because nutcases are threatening them with violence. But declaring a day specifically to do this is bound to get ugly pretty fast.

    Imagine “Everyone Stomp on a Eucharist Wafer Day”.

  8. 8 JJ Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm

    JAB – OMG, microchipping!? Why not, we do it to our dogs, eh? 😯

    In a similar vein, I was wondering what you thought about Arizona’s new “If they’re white they’re alright, if they’re brown take em down” law. You’re sort of on the front lines of illegal immigration down there in Texas.

    ETA – Nevmind, just stopped by your blog. I see you feel about the same as every other sane person in the world. (The fact that this definition now includes Tom Tancredo is not comforting to me.)

  9. 9 J. A. Baker Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Arizona’s new “If they’re white they’re alright, if they’re brown take em down” law.

    Heh. I see I’m not the only one to have swiped TBogg’s moniker for that flagrantly (and fragrantly) unconstitutional piece of shit.

  10. 10 JJ Friday, April 30, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    😆 But on a more serious note…

    Why are so many other states now contemplating doing the same thing? It’s bizarre.

  11. 11 mollydolly5 Monday, May 3, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Very well written blog article. I appreciate it! Molly

  12. 12 JJ Tuesday, May 4, 2010 at 6:54 am

    Molly – Thank you. A lot of people liked your little “Draw Mohammed Day” cartoon — I thought it was pretty stand up, though it was obviously created with playful sentiment. However, there are a lot of psychos out there on both sides of this issue. Too bad.

    Keep drawing! 8)

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