L. Neil Smith's
Number 354, February 12, 2006

"...merry mob of mercantilist mass murderers..."

Cartoon Politics
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

A generation or so ago, somebody—I think it was either Tiny Toons or the Animaniacs—identified and described the cluster of phenomena we've since come to know as "cartoon physics". Just as a single example, we now understand that the Law of Gravity doesn't actually apply to a cartoon character until he notices that it does, usually by looking down after he's accidentally run past the edge of a cliff.

In the 21st century, we are becoming forcibly acquainted with similar phenomena in politics. We have been presented, over the past few weeks, with an almost (but not quite) impossible number of absurd sights and sounds, associated with the publication, in Denmark, of certain cartoons deemed blasphemous by the dogwhistles of the Moslem world.

The most absurd, however—and the reason I've taken laptop in hand to write this—was a photograph of what appeared to be a young woman (it was a bit hard to tell, given the religious encounter suit she was wearing), displaying a big picket sign that read, "To Hell With Freedom".

"Dogwhistle?" I pretend to hear you ask. An extremely useful concept from the wonderful movie, Strange Days. A dogwhistle, says one of the characters, is somebody with an ass so tight that when he farts, only dogs can hear him. We have plenty of them here, in our part of the world, ranging from the type of folks who gave Hester Prynne her "A", to the morons who wet themselves over Janet Jackson's right nipple, to the idiots who censored songs by Mick Jagger that are probably older than the censors are, to Marxoid feminists against pornography.

These days we have an astonishing variety of American dogwhistles, from Ralph Reed to Bill Cosby to Hillary Clinton. We have a lawyer dogwhistle demanding that Google tattle on everybody. We even have a Dogwhistle-in-Chief.

In general, however, there are more—and far more effective—dogwhistles in other parts of the world than here in the Land of the Slave and the Home of the Fee. For all of its faults (and they are many, especially lately), in this country we enjoy a two hundred year history of free thought and freedom of expression, from Peter Zenger all the way to The Simpsons. It's been a bitter, bloody struggle. (Sometimes it seems as if my entire professional life has been spent avoiding, resisting, and recovering from censorship.) It's a struggle that's been waged in courtrooms, on picket lines, even on fields of battle, and freedom hasn't always come out on top. But the war goes on, and the goodguys, thanks to that two hundred year history, stand more than an even chance. Freedom of speech is something that millions of Americans have always been willing to kill or die for, and properly so.

I'll repeat myself, because the point is so important. People of the world, take note:freedom of speech is something that millions of Americans have always been willing to kill or die for, and properly so.

Which brings me, finally, to the point of this diatribe.

Five years ago, on September 11th, 2001, a small, grubby handful of moral retards murdered 3000 individuals in America, and the more chicken-hearted among us immediately soiled their delicate collective undergarments. The ugly smell that resulted we now call "Homeland Security".

At the time, some of the worst people in this country wielded the most power and wealth (they still do, regrettably), and they cynically exploited the terrible situation to pursue an evil, murderous course, the principal purpose of which was to get them even more power and wealth.

It would be a mistake, however, to believe that everybody in America is like that. It's even possible that a majority of us oppose the present war and all the bigotry and stupidity which underlie it. I belong to a generation that largely opposed this country's military adventure in Southeast Asia, and like other members of my generation, I have learned enough about its history to be suspicious of nearly every war it's ever required its young men to fight and kill and die in.

I opposed the present war from the outset, understanding that, if we are to believe the officially-reported story, the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was a criminal act, and should have been dealt with as such, instead of being used as an excuse for another of America's insane (but, for some, extremely profitable) wars.

I have other reasons for opposing this war. To begin with, I am not a religious man, although I have read the principal holy books of most religions, and if there are differences—that are significant to me, anyway—between Islam, on the one hand, and Christianity or Judaism, on the other, they are by no means immediately apparent to me.

Also, during my college years in the 60s, many of the classmates I felt closest to were from the middle east. They very kindly (and very gently) gave me a much-needed reeducation about the history of the region and what was really going on there. Consequently, I am not an enemy to the people this government has picked a fight with, any more than I was to the people of Vietnam whom I have come to respect and admire.

I don't think I'm the only one like me. What worries me, however, is that everything I have tried to say and do about this stupid, evil war is in danger of being erased because the people who make shrill and threatening demands that we respect their collection of beliefs have no respect, themselves for our Western tradition of freedom of expression.

This would be the place to repeat my earlier warning, directed with special regard to those friends of mine who happen to be Moslems, as well as to Moslems who would be my friends, except that we haven't met yet.

Freedom of speech is something that millions of Americans have always been willing to kill or die for. Dick Cheney and his merry mob of mercantilist mass murderers have been looking for excuses to use nuclear weapons in the Middle East for at least a decade—if anybody thinks that would be glorious or noble, they don't know enough about how World War Two ended in the Pacific—what the fundamentalists are doing, over a dozen silly cartoons, only makes it harder to restrain him.

In the past few days, buildings have been burned, people have been killed, using those silly cartoons as an excuse. This is not the fault of the folks who conceived those cartoons, drew them, or printed them. They were merely exercising their hard-won freedom of expression. Moreover, publishers or governments apologizing to fundamentalist Moslems—when they'd never even think about giving somebody like Pat Robertson the time of day—reeks of cowardice, hypocrisy, and lack of respect for those whose freedom has now been threatened by brute force.

Meanwhile, a splendid alternative has been offered by one Iranian newspaper, a "Holocaust cartoon contest". Its very irreverance and bad taste conveys to the world exactly how Moslems feel about cartoons of Mohammed.

As for the fundamentalists who have come, in their dementia, to believe their religious laws apply to others: in the immortal words of South Park, fudge you. What the middle east needs right now, worse than anything else, is an effective secularist movement. When the day come that you (or more likely, your children or grandchildren) finally understand that everything is funny, then your views may be worthy of respect.

But not until then.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org.

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

A decensored, e-published version of Neil's 1984 novel, TOM PAINE MARU is available at: http://payloadz.com/go/sip?id=137991. Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press www.bigheadpress.com has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at www.Amazon.com, or at BillOfRightsPress.com.


America's Leading Sporting Goods Discounter
Cheaper Than Dirt!

Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.
We cheerfully accept donations!

to advance to the next article
to return to the previous article
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 354, February 12, 2006