On Point: On Assassinating Freedom

by Austin Bay
February 27, 2008

In early February, Danish police launched a pre-emptive attack on terrorism when they arrested three men involved in a "terror-related assassination" plot. The cops carefully identified the men as "a 40-year-old Dane of Moroccan origin and two Tunisians."

The would-be murderers targeted 73-year-old Kurt Westergaard, an editorial cartoonist, and his 66-year-old wife, Gitte.

Think about it -- a 73-year-old and 66-year-old. Visit two Danes that age, with names like Kurt and Gitte, and you expect a platter of Danish pastry. If Kurt has an edge to him (and fair bet he has one -- after all, he's an editorial cartoonist), you might hear him satirize European politicians and their more imperious nostrums. Editorial cartoonists get paid to do this, slap down politicos and shibboleths -- at least editorial cartoonists fortunate enough to live in democracies that respect the rule of law.

Why target Kurt and Gitte? Mr. Westergaard works for a Danish newspaper with guts, the Morgenavisen Jyllands-Posten.

In the fall of 2005, the Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons mildly satirizing political Islamism. Its editor argued many Muslim immigrants criticize Europeans and European liberalism but brook no counter-critique. The cartoons didn't purport to convey fact, but were opinion.

Four months after their publication, waves of coordinated violence erupted around the globe, riots organized by Islamist activists. Terrorists threatened the journalists and cartoonists with death.

I recall Westergaard's cartoon quite well. He drew a picture of the prophet Mohammad, but turned the prophet's turban into a bomb with a burning fuse. His cartoon echoed late 19th and early 20th century cartoons depicting anarchists -- usually wild-eyed Russians or Balkanites -- lugging a cannonball bomb with a fuse.

This makes Westergaard not only a student of his craft but an artist who understands the connections between contemporary Islamo-fascist terrorists and the anarchist movement of a century ago. They are extremists. They are murderers. His cartoon captured the thought in a single, brilliant image.

Denmark's prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said the assassination attempt "shows that, unfortunately, there are in Denmark groups of extremists that do not accept and respect the basic principles on which the Danish democracy has been built."

In the wake of the arrests, numerous editorial writers remembered the brutal murders of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (2002) and Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh (2004) by Islamist terrorists. Pearl was kidnapped and slain in Pakistan. Van Gogh, however, was killed on a Dutch street -- stabbed to death. Van Gogh's theologically inspired murderer carved a message in his chest.

In an organized act of genuinely civil protest, two days after the arrests several Danish newspapers republished Westergaard's cartoon.

There is a damning silence, however, reminiscent of the disgusting silence following Van Gogh's slaying. We've heard scarcely a peep of protest on the Westergaards' behalf from Hollywood and the so-called "literary world."

Why would these august industries, so dependent on the protection of free speech and free expression, fail to condemn this murderous form of anti-intellectualism?

I'll hazard a guess. Box office success in the contemporary movie industry depends upon "maximizing the paying audience." This means not alienating anyone, if possible, and certainly not running the risk of insulting anyone. Let your pocketbook be your guide.

As for the literati -- at least, the political glitterati who so gallantly promote arresting President Bush for war crimes -- the doctrines of "multiculturalism" and "victimhood" have become their guiding dogmas. "All cultures are of equal value" is the rough gist of this poohbah mantra, and virtually everyone is a victim of "America" and "capitalism" and "imperialism" and "sexism," et cetera. Non-Christians and non-whites are inevitably victims.

The murder of a Dutch bohemian filmmaker by an Islamist radical must be "understood." The attempted assassination of a Danish editorial cartoonist "must be deconstructed," or whatever befogged term is au courant.

This is, of course, a pseudo-cosmopolitanism and faux open-mindedness. The Islamist killers despise freedom. The murder of an artist and the attempted murder of a cartoonist by Muslim immigrants are harsh but clarifying events that contrast the values of individual cultural and political freedom (liberating Western values) with the "values" of tribal and exclusivist religious identities.

But that's too much clarity for the multiculturalists. Their brains go tilt. They turn their backs, have another glass of white wine and ignore the crimes.

Read Austin Bay's Latest Book

To find out more about Austin Bay and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.


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