Now here is a strange thing. Earlier this year, several French journalists were shot dead. Their “crime” in the eyes of Islamist extremists was that their satirical magazine (Charlie Hebdo) had published unflattering images of the prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him).
Quite properly Western opinion especially in the media was outraged. Rallies were held all over Europe. And even the usual suspects in Belfast showed up at the City Hall with their “Je Suis Charlie Hebdo” placards.
Yet are there limits to Freedom of Expression? We cant shout “Fire!!!” in a crowded cinema. Nor can we shout obscenities and racial abuse in the streets. And of course there are “hate crimes”.
Was Charlie Hebdo committing a “hate crime”? Or pandering to those who do commit hate crimes? Or are there simply no limits? To be frank, Charlie Hebdo crossed the line into casual abuse of Muslims…but of course that does not excuse murder.
Are Liberals (western civilisation is broadly liberal) guilty of Double Think? Should “we” stand up to Islamism….treatment of women, treatment of Christians etc….in the Middle East? Is Europe more tolerant for accepting diversity….but can that tolerance legitimately be afforded to ritual and inhumane slaughter of animals, forced marriage, domestic violence, genital mutilation of women etc.
It is a classic liberal dilemna.
I no longer contribute to the message board, Slugger O’Toole. The reason is…ironically …a cartoon by Brian Spencer. It featured a crude drawing of Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP Leader and unpopular in sophisticated blogger circles. I do not know whether the cartoon depicted Al doing a Nazi salute. It was never clarified. It would I submit be an abuse of Freedom of Expression if he was so depicted.
Of course if you are unpopular …all is fair. Take David Cameron and the dead pig. Is depicting Cameron with a dead pig on an English bonfire an abuse of Freedom of Expression.Is it a hate crime to hate Tories? Would an effigy of a homeless person be a hate crime?
Now that is interesting ….because clearly there is a power differential. Cameron and his Tories are powerful…a “legitimate” target? And the homeless person is powerless ….not a “legitimate” target?
Yet it is curious how the powerful have re-defined themselves as having no power.
Take USA….where Fux News, the Republican Party up to and including Donald Trump, the “gun lobby”, Wall Street, Christian fundamentalists have re-defined themselves as “impotent” ….a minority under attack from all-powerful liberals.
White, Anglo Saxon, Protestants as a threatened minority?
Is Norn Iron any different….are White, Ulster-Scot, Protestants a threatened minority?
If the KuKluxKlan is no longer institutionally powerful as a century ago….or fifty years ago….the good ole boys seem to making the same noises in the Old South, even if they have cut back on lynching.
Likewise our own good ole boys….in and around the Orange Order seem to be a di inishing force who have adopted the language of a threatened minority.
Their latest cause is a painting on exhibition in the Ulster Museum. It depicts St Patricks Catholic Church and an Orange band going past (as happens a few times every year) and…a group of men wearing KKK hoods. The Orange Order is outraged….well they are always outraged.
I reproduce the art work below.
….well ok….it is not the original but can I get an Arts Council grant for it. Is it offensive …on an artistic level …to draw a man with a hood and a “LOL” sash (Laugh Out Loud).? Does it cross the line from “offensive” to “hate crime” if I change the wording to “Loyal Orange Order”?
At what point does it become a crime?
At what point does Patrick Corrigan from local Amnesty appear at Belfast City Hall with a placard “je suis Fitzjames Horse”?
Is there a point where people marching thru Belfast with a banner “Fuck Christmas” is funny…or offensive ….or a hate crime?
Does it just depend on whether we like or dislike the alleged victim?
When the Hole in The Wall Gang….an alleged group of comedians….depicts local republicanism in characters such as “Da” and “Cathal”…..is it funny or offensive or hate? Or is the depiction of Orange stereotype “Uncle Andy” and his sidekicks “Big Mervyn” and “Red Hand Luke” funny, offensive or hate?
I dont like the Orange Order. Is that permissable?
Is it permissable….in Art…to make a comparison with Ku Klux Klan?
Is it permissable …in Political Rhetoric….to make such a comparison?
Is it permissable to make a joke that the Ku Klux Klan is even more offended at the comparison than the Orange Order?
But this is the place we now are in Norn Iron. Conflict Resolution embraces “good” and “bad”….the positive and the negative equally. The Orange Order is now a minority culture.
Was it worth it?