Monthly Archives: January 2006

Something is Not Rotten in Denmark

From the Times Online:

THE Danish editor who brought the fury of the Muslim world on his country by printing pictures of the Prophet Muhammad defiantly declared yesterday: “We do not apologise for printing the cartoons. It was our right to do so.”

As protests continued for a second day in Gaza with shouts of “Death to Denmark’, Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the centre-right daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten, sat in his book-lined office declaring his surprise at the reaction.

He said that he had to stand his ground because, as in the Salman Rushdie affair, freedom of speech was being threatened. “There is a lot at stake. It would be very naive to think this is only about Jyllands-Posten and 12 cartoons and apologising or not apologising.

“This is about standing for fundamental values that have been the (foundation) for the development of Western democracies over several hundred years, and we are now in a situation where those values are being challenged,’ he said.

“I think some of the Muslims who have reacted very strongly to these cartoons are being driven by totalitarian and authoritarian impulses, and the nature of these impulses is that if you give in once they will just put forward new requirements.”

Addendum: A French newspaper called France Soir has now reprinted the cartoons in question. From the BBC:

France Soir said it had published the cartoons to show that “religious dogma” had no place in a secular society.

Their publication in Denmark has led to protests in several Arab nations.

Responding to France Soir’s move, the French government said it supported press freedom – but added that beliefs and religions must be respected.

Islamic tradition bans depictions of the Prophet Muhammad or Allah.

Under the headline “Yes, we have the right to caricature God”, France Soir ran a front page cartoon of Buddhist, Jewish, Muslim and Christian gods floating on a cloud.

It shows the Christian deity saying: “Don’t complain, Muhammad, we’ve all been caricatured here.”

The full set of Danish drawings, some of which depict the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist, were printed on the inside pages.

France Soir has a website but doesn’t appear to have this story online.

Now, RWB definitely thinks it’s good practice and good manners not to make fun of anyone’s religious figures. This, however, has become an issue of to what extent Western societies will give in to threats, intimidation and violence in order to appease the followers of a radical Islam that daily proves itself incompatible with modernity and freedom. Vive la France Soir.

Addendum II: Now following suit (via the BBC again) is La Stampa of Italy, El Periodico of Spain, and Germany’s Die Welt.

Addendum III: Michelle Malkin has a story of another cartoon, and a different way of expressing outrage.

Google, Evil, etc.

Thanks to the reader who writes “You’ve yet to be deemed censorable by China/Google,” and affirms that this site is still the number one search result at http://www.google.cn for “Right Wing Bob.” And welcome to the millions of Chinese now getting all their news about the outside world from RightWingBob.com. The first thing you need to know: out here in the Occident, we’re all obsessive fans of this Bob Dylan guy. His is the prism that shapes our reality.

Joking aside, Google’s kow-tow to the Chinese government is contemptible, of-course. And in the light of their recent resistance to varying attempts at interference or data collection by both the U.S. Government and the E.U., they are effectively demonstrating that they are only willing to compromise their precious database and their high-minded principles if asked to by a communist regime.

Assumptions were already common about the inherent leftist tilt of Google’s founders and operators, but this double-standard regarding censorship (unacceptable if sought by western democratic governments; “just tell us what you’d like us to leave out!” if sought by commies) is pretty stomach-churning. What is this if not a kind of romanticization of communist motives for censorship, versus what others might do in the realm of, for example, obscenity? And Google, more than anyone, was surely in a position to leverage their position and make a stand for freedom of information.

This website uses Google in a variety of ways. It still appears to be the best functioning search engine around, and serves my purpose for this site better than any alternative I know right now. I’ve found Gmail convenient and useful. I run some Google Ads in an attempt to harvest a few pennies. I’m not about to hop precipitiously on a politically-motivated boycott of the some of the best web technology available, but I’m reviewing my options, no doubt like a lot of people. Basically, by doing what it is doing, Google is damaging its public persona and reputation, and competitors should take note and should take advantage.

While we’re at it, the Google search of the day must be “Bob Dylan antichrist,” by which some curious surfer found this site a little while ago, ranked at number three on the Google Hot 106,000. I trust that this surfer had his/her fears allayed … but who knows?

Dans Le Jardin

Dylan played in the town of Lille, in France on March 22nd, 1995. The eleventh song performed that night was In the Garden.

(If you listen till the end of that track, you’ll hear some charming band intro talk from Bob; roughly: Thanks everybody! All right! I want to introduce the guitar player: J.J. Jackson from … J.J. from … I can’t remember where he is from. On the drums Winston Watson, give him a big hand! [ applause] Not too big a hand! Over there on the steel guitar, that’s the one and only Bucky! Bucky Baxter. Played about 300 shows with me. Only about 2 drunk! On the bass guitar Tony Garnier. We’re gonna get out of here right now.

You that Hide Behind Walls

After leading hundreds of thousands of no doubt enraged Cuban citizens to protest the U.S. Mission’s electronic sign in Havana (as referred to in a previous post), Castro has come up with a suitably blunt solution: build a wall.

Cuban workers wielding jackhammers and other equipment have begun erecting a structure that observers believe is likely to block the view of the sign, which transmits messages from people including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln and President Bush.

“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent,” Lincoln’s quote reads.

Also passing slowly on the 5-foot-high ticker, which is on the building’s fifth floor and is illuminated only at night, is a quote by Voltaire that reads, “Man is free in the moment he wishes to be free.”

Harry Belafonte couldn’t be reached for comment.

Bono in Antichrist Flap

A U2 fan attended one of their recent concerts in Madison Square Garden, New York, and came away a little taken aback:

About five songs into their set, Bono stopped the show and strapped on a headband with writing on it. I stared up at the JumboTron to see that the handwritten lettering said: COEXIST.

Coexisting sounds like a great idea. I fully support the peaceful philanthropy that Bono has encouraged, and this seemed like another way that he was trying to spread the message.

Except, it started to feel like more than a political message. The “C” in “coexist” was the Islamic crescent moon, the “X” was the Star of David, and the “T” was the cross of Christ. Bono pointed at the symbols on his headband – first to the cross, then to the star, then to the crescent moon – and he began to repeat:

“Jesus, Jew, Mohammed – all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed – all true.”

He repeated the words like a mantra, and some people even began to repeat it with him. I suddenly wanted to crawl out of my skin.

Later:

After the show, I ran into a friend who had been sitting in the back row of farthest. “What did you think of that headband thing?” I asked. “Well, I couldn’t hear what he was saying because it was bouncing off the wall behind me, and I couldn’t read the headband, because I wasn’t near a JumboTron. But honestly, I felt like I was witnessing an antichrist.” I stood frozen as she spoke. I’d had the same feeling.

Let me be clear: I’m not saying that Bono is the Antichrist. Perhaps he’s just guilty of being overzealous about his politics. But I hope that if he is a believer, the Holy Spirit will convince him that equating Christianity with other religions is false prophecy.

Well. Putting aside the problematic theology that the Reverend Bono is promulgating (assuming that this whole account is true*), doesn’t it seem like he is pushing that “COEXIST” message to an audience for whom it is rather redundant? I mean, New Yorkers? Does Bono have the impression that people are being slaughtered for their faith out on 7th Avenue every day? And he’s just the guy to teach them how to be tolerant?

Now, say U2 put on a free concert in Saudi Arabia (what a great idea!). Maybe near that place with the pillars where they stone the devil. Bono can wear the “COEXIST” headband there, and preach, “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed – all true.” I think it might be very eye-opening for the audience. And maybe for the Reverend Bono too.

*Addendum: Thanks to John Murphy for emailing me a correction to this post. That is: Bono’s in-concert coexist rant appears to be slightly although significantly different to what is quoted above. As on this YouTube clip, he says: “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed it’s true … all sons of Abraham.” And then he calls on Abraham to call on his sons to stop fighting, essentially.

Well, you can argue that Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all Abrahamic faiths; in fact they are officially considered such by those experts who make these kinds of designations. So Bono’s statement, as such, is not egregiously or even technically incorrect. The question remains, however, as to the value of him stating it to huge and almost entirely Christian audiences, versus taking it on the road to Mecca and Medina …

Shocked!

Unintentionally hilarious headline of the day is this from VOA: Israelis, Palestinians Shocked by Hamas Landslide. You would think it must include interviews with man-in-the-street Palestinians, saying something like, “Sure, I voted for Hamas because I like their policies about killing the Jews, destroying Israel and establishing an Islamic theocracy in its place. But I always thought I was the only one!” Such quotes are not to be found, however.

More presumably unintentional yuks at the end of the piece:

Israel is also scheduled to transfer customs revenue to the Palestinian Authority that it collects on behalf of Palestinians. On Friday a senior Israeli finance official voiced concerns about how to transfer funds to any future government that calls for Israel’s destruction. Palestinian officials say if they do not receive the funds soon they will not be able to pay an estimated 135-thousand Palestinian civil servants. And that, one Palestinian official warned, would be a recipe for violence.

I’d like to know what doesn’t constitute a “recipe for violence” on any given day with these types. That would be informative.

Seeing the Real You at Last

So the peace process marches on, with Hamas sweeping the Palestinian elections. Anyone with an unblinkered idea of how the Palestinian people feel about things ( about things like Jews, for instance) could have seen this coming, although the margin of victory for the bloodthirsty-suicidal-murder-party (as versus the slightly more moderate bloodthirsty-suicidal-murder-party) is certainly striking today. Still, democracy remains a wonderful thing. You make your choices and you live with the consequences. The Palestinian people made a bad choice, and now they are going to go through a learning process and, if they’re lucky, at the end of it they might realize what a bad choice they made. And if they’re doubly lucky, they might be able to make a new choice someday. The learning process could involve a lot of things. It’s difficult to predict details when there are so many murderous fanatical lunatics running around, but it’s safe to say that things are going to go from bad to worse. But, in a sense, in the larger scheme of things, the peace process really is marching on.

Well, I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble,
Trouble always comes to pass
But all I care about now
Is that I’m seeing the real you at last.

Singin’ Love’s Praises with Sugar-Coated Rhyme

RWB is not a Roman Catholic, but has been enjoying reading Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical, God is Love (from the First Letter of John, 4:16: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”). One of the enjoyable aspects of this encyclical—for a non-Catholic—is its thoroughly scriptural underpinnings. For that and other reasons, it succeeds in being eminently accessible and clarifying. Reading the snippets published in the general media doesn’t come close to conveying the nature of the actual document (full text in English here), though it wouldn’t hurt to read Richard John Neuhaus’s inital reaction to the encyclical over at First Things (full disclosure: I’ve done a little web-work for that outfit).

The New York Sun today finds ways of relating Benedict’s choice of subject matter to the “clash of civilizations,” and in particular the necessity to point out crucial and practical theological distinctions between Christianity and Islam, and indeed you could see it that way: “In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence[RWB’s emphasis], this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others.”

However, merely as an edifying and educational meditation on, well, God, I don’t think you could easily find much better than Benedict’s latest piece. Here’s a couple of snippets picked by yours truly. Starting with a necessary defining of terms—the varying forms of love being considered—Benedict progresses to a wonderful and moving illustration of the nature of God’s love in these same terms, as evidenced in the Bible.

In philosophical and theological debate, these distinctions have often been radicalized to the point of establishing a clear antithesis between them: descending, oblative love—agape—would be typically Christian, while on the other hand ascending, possessive or covetous love —eros—would be typical of non-Christian, and particularly Greek culture. Were this antithesis to be taken to extremes, the essence of Christianity would be detached from the vital relations fundamental to human existence, and would become a world apart, admirable perhaps, but decisively cut off from the complex fabric of human life. Yet eros and agape—ascending love and descending love—can never be completely separated. The more the two, in their different aspects, find a proper unity in the one reality of love, the more the true nature of love in general is realized. Even if eros is at first mainly covetous and ascending, a fascination for the great promise of happiness, in drawing near to the other, it is less and less concerned with itself, increasingly seeks the happiness of the other, is concerned more and more with the beloved, bestows itself and wants to “be there for’ the other. The element of agape thus enters into this love, for otherwise eros is impoverished and even loses its own nature. On the other hand, man cannot live by oblative, descending love alone. He cannot always give, he must also receive. Anyone who wishes to give love must also receive love as a gift. Certainly, as the Lord tells us, one can become a source from which rivers of living water flow (cf. Jn 7:37-38). Yet to become such a source, one must constantly drink anew from the original source, which is Jesus Christ, from whose pierced heart flows the love of God (cf. Jn 19:34).

The Prophets, particularly Hosea and Ezekiel, described God’s passion for his people using boldly erotic images. God’s relationship with Israel is described using the metaphors of betrothal and marriage; idolatry is thus adultery and prostitution. Here we find a specific reference—as we have seen—to the fertility cults and their abuse of eros, but also a description of the relationship of fidelity between Israel and her God. The history of the love-relationship between God and Israel consists, at the deepest level, in the fact that he gives her the Torah, thereby opening Israel’s eyes to man’s true nature and showing her the path leading to true humanism. It consists in the fact that man, through a life of fidelity to the one God, comes to experience himself as loved by God, and discovers joy in truth and in righteousness—a joy in God which becomes his essential happiness: “Whom do I have in heaven but you? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides you … for me it is good to be near God’ (Ps 73 [72]:25, 28).

We have seen that God’s eros for man is also totally agape. This is not only because it is bestowed in a completely gratuitous manner, without any previous merit, but also because it is love which forgives. Hosea above all shows us that this agape dimension of God’s love for man goes far beyond the aspect of gratuity. Israel has committed “adultery’ and has broken the covenant; God should judge and repudiate her. It is precisely at this point that God is revealed to be God and not man: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim! How can I hand you over, O Israel! … My heart recoils within me, my compassion grows warm and tender. I will not execute my fierce anger, I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst’ (Hos 11:8-9). God’s passionate love for his people—for humanity—is at the same time a forgiving love. It is so great that it turns God against himself, his love against his justice. Here Christians can see a dim prefigurement of the mystery of the Cross: so great is God’s love for man that by becoming man he follows him even into death, and so reconciles justice and love.

Well the future for me is already a thing of the past
You were my first love and you will be my last