Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Way to Knock Down that Straw Man

As the Middle East continues to boil over with rage sparked by the Mohammed cartoons, commentators continue to weigh in. In today's USA Today, Kathleen Parker writes a column entitled "Shameless Appeasement," in which she criticizes many in the West for letting rioting Muslims off the hook. Problem is that, as much as I've read about the controversy, I've never seen anybody actually do that. She opines:

Many U.S. newspapers have declined to reproduce the cartoons out of respect for Muslims, setting up the absurd implication that an open airing of the debate's content constitutes disrespect. Both the U.S. State Department and the Vatican have declared that Muslims were justified in being offended, while former president Bill Clinton, speaking in Qatar last month, called the cartoons 'appalling.'
That's a fair enough statement of what's been said. But then Parker jumps to this conclusion:

While our government is issuing sanctimonious sympathy notes to the hysterical mobs, a Jordanian editor is arrested for publishing three of the cartoons and urging Muslims to 'be reasonable.' While President Bush and Clinton were feeling the pain of religious fanatics, marauders were burning Danish government buildings in Beirut, Lebanon, and Damascus, Syria, and promising Londoners a 9/11 of their own.

Such are the fruits of appeasement.

Whoa, hold on a second. How are those things "the fruits of appeasement?" Wouldn't appeasement be something along the lines of "we know you've done wrong, but we understand your pain and therefore will not hold you responsible?" I've heard nothing but a ringing endorsement of the right of the Danish and other newspapers that have printed these cartoons under the principles of free speech. The reaction to the Muslim violence is a little more fractured. Some folks write it off as just "irrational" or "uncivilized," while others recognize that the cartoons can be offensive to some Muslims. But nobody in either camp is arguing that the destruction of embassies or loss of life that has resulted from the protests is somehow justified.

Sadly, this is just another in a long line of straw man arguments drummed up by the right. Dare anyone try to understand an illegal and antisocial act and they are branded "sympathizers" and "appeasers." It's much easier to sit back, point fingers, and laugh at the behavior of others. It doesn't get you very far in understanding how the world actually works, however.

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