Thursday, March 30, 2006

National Liberty Museum's Caretoon Contest

Just when you think the level of intellectual discourse in America can't go any lower, the "National Liberty Museum" (located in Philadelphia near the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall) comes along to plumb new depths.

It first came to my attention from a large display ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer (March 15th) that the National Liberty Museum is running a "caretoon contest". Get it? "Caretoon contest".

The ad invited us to create a cartoon to "express your personal ideas about peace and understanding in our world", reflecting "appreciation for diversity" and "interfaith understanding". (See here for the details.) The clear implication of the word "care"toon (and the contest itself) is that the original Danish cartoons were somehow "uncaring", maybe even hateful.

Here is my "personal idea" for the museum to consider (not in cartoon form): When the publication of some cartoons leads to death threats against the cartoonists (who then must go into hiding fearing for their lives), then freedom of speech, one of the cornerstones of liberty, has been dealt a heavy blow. When the National Liberty Museum responds with a mawkish "care"toon contest (implicitly blaming the cartoonists) – rather than a strong statement in defense of freedom of speech – I realize that any intellectual understanding and valuing of liberty is all but dead in this country.


Blogger Ben Bertin said...

I can understand both sides of the Dutch Mohammed cartoon situation, and while I disagree outright with the violent threats that have been made on the paper and the artists, I see where they come from. Religious people believe things that seem irrational to the non-religious, and so, naturally, they are poked fun at. But to depict Mohammed (12 times over, no less) with the full knowledge of the infuriating blasphemy that many people will see is nothing more than provocation, & in my opinion verging on racist against Muslims. I don't believe that artists should be censored (although I'm sure I could think up a few cases where censorship would be appropriate), but I do believe that these cartoons were nothing but mean spirited and their publication a poor judgement.

Okay, great, Jyllands-Posten, your paper is totally free, and now you've depicted Mohammed and pissed off a bunch of people to prove just how free you are to the whole world. And now (duh) you are receiving death threats from a religious group that has shown a history of extreme pride and reactionary violence. What else could be expected?

As far as the "Care"toon Contest, it seems to me like you are attacking something that is positive, but lacks a proper explanation (without the explanation, the contest can be labeled irresponsible, distracting people from the real issues at hand by presenting an idealized and unrealistic concept). It is a contest promoting world peace, and uses the Dutch Mohammed cartoon incident as a jump off point. Nowhere does the description of the contest call for censorship of art. It only calls for positive cartoons that promote positive ideas and reactions, rather than negative cartoons that promote negative ideas and reactions, as the cartoons published in the Jyllands-Posten did. I see nothing wrong with that.

9:45 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home