You make good points. OTOH, one could argue that it's legitimate to use the Pope, head of the Catholic Church, as a symbol for the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, but not to use a Jew -- even a Chief Rabbi -- as a symbol for all Jews, who are not exactly a coherent group. Using an Israeli soldier, or the Israeli PM, as a symbol for the Israeli military or society, would both be closer and might upset fewer people.
Quibbling over details, or a case where the details matter?
The Pope had to rise through the hierarchy of bishops etc. It's likely he either owes some of these people or these people know things about the pope he would rather not have come out.
Alternately: He's trying to fight the issue internally without it being a public scandal.
Or a combination of the two: Quietly fight the issue by compromising with the most powerful people behind it so as not to cause scandal for himself and the church.
"the Catholic Church does have a terrible record of covering up paedophilia,"
Meanwhile, as part of No Child Left Behind, a study was commissioned to determine sexual abuse of children in public school. They came to a conclusion that it was about one in ten.
Or, as the study author put it, your child is a hundred times more likely to be molested by a school teacher than a priest.
Everyone remember the uproar over that? The cartoon like this with a public school teacher in place of the Pope?
No, of course not, because the truth is not "he just seems to disapprove of it much less than anyone else does", it's that the media really do disapprove of it much less than anyone else does, and therefore gives it the full press coverage only when they hate an institution on other grounds.
You're leaving out the crucial fact that the Catholic Church systematically covered up for abusing priests for decades, to a degree that it's a reasonable suspicion that every single bishop knew about it. Teachers suspected of abuse lose their jobs. If they don't in some system, that'd be a big scandal -- for that system, not schools in general.
You responded to a line about cover-up by saying teachers abuse too. Logical fallacy.
I'm skeptical of the 1 in 10 figure, but teachers have far more time with kids than most priests -- even for Catholic kids, let alone all the non-Catholics -- so naturally there'd be more abuse in absolute terms. More relevant would be the rate of abuse per time of potential abuse.
Edited at 2012-11-29 12:06 am (UTC)
"If the Pope read my blog, I would totally ask him why he's doing such a bad job pursuing child abusers (actually, can someone explain this to me? It doesn't seem to be in his self-interest and there's no theological justification for it) and try to criticize him on this."
That depends on what you mean by self-interest. It might be in his long term self-interest, and I assume it would be better for the Catholic church, but it would be a long nasty fight, and I don't get the impression the current pope has any fondness for such things.
Edited at 2012-11-29 12:14 am (UTC)
The Pope's attitude to child abuse makes a certain amount of sense if you accept a few (false) premises.
If the church is the only or main way to save peoples souls (and protect them from eternity of suffering) then anything that damages people's trust in the church (and therefore decreases their chance of salvation) is very very bad.
Add to that an overconfidence in your internal mechanisms of 'treating' offenders and getting them to stop doing it again. (I suspect most priests sincerely believe repentance and prayer will prevent re-offending). So you choose to deal with people internally rather than rick the harms of public exposure.
Of course he's empirically wrong on both those counts, but you can see where he's coming from.
There's a certain...boringness... to plain old trolling when it's a bunch of in-group members making fun of an out-group member. There's nothing there. It's like eating SweetTarts.
But *getting trolled* -- reading lots and lots of crap that pushes your buttons -- can be a valuable learning experience. (I think, more so if it's done voluntarily. If people hassled me in person on a daily basis, it would grind me down. Microaggressions do suck. I'm talking about choosing to seek out your most aggressive ideological enemies.)
For a while, I went out of my way to read all the triggering, infuriating stuff I could find. Racists. Radical social conservatives. Radical feminists. PUA bloggers. Self-improvement bloggers.
It took me years, but I finally got to the point where if somebody has what seems to be a true insight, I can accept it, even if it directly insults me, even if it's written by an asshole, even if it's written by someone I believe is literally evil. And if something seems to be false, I can object to it on the grounds of being false, instead of going straight to "don't say that, it offends me." And this is personal growth that you never get if you don't see things that offend you. I bashed my head against the blog-rocks until the Litany of Gendlin came out.
Roissy freaked me the fuck out, I will admit. His advice to boyfriends was to subtly make your girlfriend feel like she's fat, with little intermittent comments, so that she'll stay skinny, and, more importantly, insecure and eager to please you. That kind of thing...worms its way into your head and makes you paranoid. But look, by comparison, pretty much nothing anybody else can say about women, at least abstractly in writing, will get to me on an emotional level. I've already taken my lumps. Most people just aren't *good* enough at emotional manipulation to ruin my day -- I've already had the pure, top-quality product! And this is freeing.
We hate most in others what we fear most in ourselves. I don't know if that explains why many other men are so triggered by this shit, but it certainly seems to be the case for me. That is, I feel literal fear and not just revulsion/contempt.
I think the point being made is not so much if you're offended by this, but rather if you think PEOPLE OUGHT TO BE KILLED for the crime of offending you.
Of course people are going to be offended by any of the cartoons. But I think we all know of representatives of one of these faiths (or non-faiths) who'd go a bit further than writing a 'you are an arsehole' email to the artist.
Good question, and I like your reasoning even though I've not been able to think it all the way through either.
I think Hallq has a good point that there's something wrong with people getting more upset with a cartoon about someone abusing a child, than (reasonably certain) collusion in covering up actual abuse of children. Although I don't think that you can say that a cartoon of someone abusing a child is not offensive, only that in rare instances it may sometimes be worth the harm it does if it really truly is the only way of making your point.
On the other hand, I think harping on about the "Mohammad = evil terrorist" meme is quite awful. Most cultures are based on people who did really bad things sometimes. Look at some of the stories about (Christian) God, or (British) Churchill, or (American) Founding Fathers, etc.
An appropriate mirror might be a cartoon of Jesus ordering a drone strike. If the only position you'll ever accept is people rejecting Christianity wholesale, that might make sense. But if you want to start by getting atheists, christians and muslims to stop killing each other (which I think is a good first step), deliberately offending people by defacing whatever they care most about is probably not an effective way of getting them to stop hating you and say "you know, maybe we should all talk this through".
Cartoon seed: Jefferson and Washington cracking whips over their slaves.
I think a critique like this isn't complete until you generalize it and then noun the generalization.
The core thought in the examples you've given apply in sundry cases (hence it's generalizable). It's something to do with identity politics. Very broadly it's straw manning (with some basis in truth). There's a component of group think such that the in-group is blind to their creating a straw man.
I think it'd like to call it something like "in-group-delusional propaganda." Maybe someone can come up with something more pithy or an existing term.
Edited at 2012-11-29 01:58 am (UTC)
2012-11-30 07:26 pm (UTC)
Minority or historically oppressed groups have a history of understanding themselves very, very well and understanding white men very, very poorly.
> which I will not link to, because it - surprise! - contains a cartoon which may offend you.
Can you unpack that (why won't you do something because it may offend people)?
Edited at 2012-11-29 02:18 am (UTC)
2012-12-01 11:15 am (UTC)
I think regardless of his original intent, it served as a little bit of comic relief, and might conceivably help reactionaries take a step back and read the rest of the post for what it is, rather than continuing with the standard "I already hate you" filter established by an introduction containing an offensive comic.
2012-11-29 05:06 am (UTC)
Condemning the comic for having "lies" is lame. By your standards, all political cartoons, and yes, anything that uses symbolic exaggeration and synecdoche, is full of lies. The propositions that you call lies are either generally accepted and thus believed by the cartoonist and thus not lies (that havings sex with a 9-year-old is always rape, that Aisha was 9), or over-literal readings of the technique of using the leader of a group as a symbol for the whole group (that the pope personally molests children, that mohammed personally bombs stuff). No actual dishonesty was going on with this comic, no deception. (Not in the atheist comic either.)
The comic with the jew would be super offensive to everyone because jews are a protected minority. But if you replaced the jew with a wall street banker and the palestinian baby with an african one, it'd be a run-of-the-mill political cartoon.
All of these comics are about equally stupid, but not egregious by political cartoon standards.
On the subject of offense, political cartoons are *always* offensive to the group they attack. The question of whether offensive comics are ok is the question of whether comics that attack a group are ok (except if the group is a protected minority).
(Steelmanning is another technique that's interesting to apply here. For all of the comics here, I can think of interpretations that make them insightful and true.)
Whether a comic is offensive or not to someone is beside the point. An American individual or organization still has an absolute right to produce and disseminate an offensive comic, and any individual or organization which engages in force or fraud against that individual under the excuse that it has been "provoked" by the comic is in fact engaging in the unprovoked use of force or fraud against that individual or organization -- and should be treated as such by every organ of the United States Government. Which means, if this individual or organization is (or is backed by) a foreign Power, that Power has committed an unprovoked act of war against the United States of America.
It would beside the point if government censorship were at stake. The actual point seemed to be whether certain comics were offensive and whether it is moral or decent to deliberately offend people. Americans have the right to offend, and other Americans have the right to call them short-sighted or bigoted or stupid and shun them for doing so, whether or not they are fair or accurate in doing so.
 Unless it's graphically sexual in which case one may find the legal rights to be not so absolute.
Edited at 2012-11-29 05:52 am (UTC)
2012-11-29 06:23 am (UTC)
Excellent article. I unsubbed from r/atheism long ago specifically to avoid this sort of garbage.
Works for me. (Text is "School shooter: I killed a bunch of christians because they're stupid brainless sheep. But at least I don't believe in creationism." Guard at soviet gulag: "Thank goodness. That would be irrational!")
I think you set the argument out very clearly. In general I don't see the point of offending people just because you feel like it; but I *especially* don't see the point of offending people and then claiming that they are somehow stupid/wrong to be offended by your offensive actions/words. People are offended by all sorts of stuff; sometimes by really really silly stuff because of some specific experiences that they have had, I don't think it's sensible to try to always avoid offending anyone because that's impossible - but I do think that if you are thinking of doing something that you reasonably expect will offend a lot of people it is worth asking whether that something has positive value sufficient to justify that - publishing the facts about abuse scandals is no-doubt going to offend a lot of people, but getting the truth out there, supporting victims, helping prevent further abuse... all good things! But publishing a silly cartoon that says nothing new and isn't even funny ... doesn't really have so many good things going for it. It's like "haha I'm going to annoy you just because I can"... to which I'm mostly "are you five?"
People may legitimately choose to be offended. Having people offended at oneself does not hurt oneself in the slightest.
People may not, however, legitimately choose to express their offense in the commission of acts of force and fraud against oneself. And when people do that, both one's State and one's self have the right to use force and fraud against those people in defense; and the "offense" felt by those people is no excuse or even mitigation for their actions.
It is an interesting post. One thing I still think is unfair in the last comic, which I point out because I think you are trying very hard to be fair, is that it implies the Pope thinks child rape is worse when using a condom. Catholic doctrine, afaik (I am not a Catholic), objects to birth control because it seperates the procreative and unitive aspects of marital intercourse. So rape or molestation, which are neither marital nor procreative (this kind of rape isn't procreative, I mean), should not be made any worse by using a condom, and the juxtaposition makes it appear the Pope thinks so.
Edited at 2012-11-29 03:56 pm (UTC)
I do think publishing the orignal muhammed bomb cartoons had a point other than being mean for the sake of being mean; namely to show that a large portion of the muslim population will over-react violently to provocation and western governments and/or media will cater to demands made during such over-reaction.
And also, presumably, the artist disagreed about how honorably mohammed would have fought, basing this presumption on the justification of the muslim terrorists.
Though you could argue that he was wrong, unhelpful, or both in doing so, of course.
Edited at 2012-11-29 04:29 pm (UTC)
2012-11-30 07:19 pm (UTC)
it would also serve to de-sensitize the Easily Offended Muslim poulation and train them eventually to not care about the actions of those outside the faith.
|From: Matt Sperling|
2012-11-30 08:56 am (UTC)
Not "too offended by A," but "not offended enough by B"
Offending a Muslim or Catholic reveals the level of outrage they can experience and are willing to express. One can then fairly ask why an institution they belong to and adore covering up child rape did not result in that same level of expressed outrage.
In other words, it isn't that they shouldn't outraged at the image, perhaps they should be outraged; the image is indeed an unfair account! The point is that they be asked to produce a reason or examine the potential reasons they didn't feel as outraged or didn't express it regarding child rape being covered up or codified.
And the answer is that outrage at a single person producing a deliberately offensive object is much more likely to have reasonable effect - to get him to stop, for example - than a generalised outrage at the fact that a large number of bishops in a church which is kind of focussed on the idea of redemption were too keen to believe that people who had abused children could be readily redeemed.
Not the most deliberately offensive religious-themed cartoon I've seen; that would go to this one from "The Onion", God bless 'em (warning: NSFW).
It's also not the most offensive thing I've read about a pope; that would probably have to go to a college rag-mag style online piece at the time of the death of Pope John Paul II which was so bizarre that it was outstripped being offensive.
I'm not quite sure what the idea of linking the Pope and Mohammed is, though; firstly, Islam thinks Christianity is offensively wrong on the nature of God (a trinity instead of a unity and having a son/becoming incarnate) and secondly, Islamic religious opinion appears to permit contraception (so the condoms reference is not at all applicable) and there are various rulings on abortion (it seems that things such as the 'morning-after' pill and abortion to save the life of the mother are permissible).
Thirdly, I'm so tired of the whole 'this Pope covered up child abuse' meme that I'm not going to get into it once again. Every time someone claims it, someone else provides links to what they consider evidence for counter-claim, then it degenerates into "You lot are women-killers and child rapists!" and no-one is edified, instructed or convinced from his or her opinion.
Fourthly, the much lesser point - I have no idea whether or not Mohammed actually had sex with a nine year old girl. A betrothal at such an early age wasn't uncommon back then (or even still in certain parts of the world) and mediaeval Christian royalty were always betrothing their children to one another at ridiculous ages for the purposes of alliances and political gains (and then breaking those betrothals when a better prospect came along) - the understanding was that the partners wouldn't have sex until both were old enough, which pretty much meant "when the girl started menstruating and was capable of bearing children and the boy reached puberty".
Heck, Juliet in "Romeo and Juliet" is about fourteen when her parents plan to marry her off to Paris, and her father tells her "When your mother was your age, she was already pregnant with you".
I'm also curious as to what you consider the current Pope is failing to do/not doing enough of in regard to child abuse, and what he could do.
Some of the uproar seems to be based on the simplistic notions that if only the Roman Catholic church permitted divorce, contraception and abortion, allowed priests to marry, and ordained women as priests, then none of this would ever have happened. I've seen serious proposals that if only women had been in power, no children would ever have been abused. That seems to have been made in ignorance of the facts that (1) nuns also have been accused of abuse (2) non-Catholic denominations also have similar - if not on the same scale - problems (3) secular bodies (sports organisations, schools, state children's homes) have scandals as well, which means that "If only teachers could marry and women could be teachers" is not the answer that it seems to be.
Also, a lot of the cases are indeed historic - we're talking about something like fifty to sixty years' worth of dirty linen being aired in public all in one go. And, in Ireland at any rate, "abuse" means not just sexual abuse but physical and emotional neglect and abuse in children's residential homes, but talking about the "church abuse scandal" means that people automatically assume it is all sexual abuse and only sexual abuse.
Yes, we dealt with it horrendously. But things are improving slowly and better policies are in place and bishops are prepared to deal with it instead of worrying about scandal and hushing things up.
I would refer you all to the recent scandals plaguing the BBC; one is to do with child abuse allegedly perpetrated in the 70s by a DJ and TV show host
which was supposedly ignored, covered up and never mentioned by the staff (including quashing a news report about the allegations in 2011), and in reaction to that, going to the opposite extreme and putting out a programme accusing a prominent former Tory politician of being involved in child abuse at a North Wales children's home.
He was named on the Internet (along with a list of other alleged abusers), all kinds of people went on Twitter excoriating the guy, and a presenter on another television station handed the Prime Minister - who had gone on the show to defuse the outrage over a member of his political party being accused of this - a list of names of alleged abusers he printed off a website, which included his (it could be seen when the sheet of paper was held at a certain angle).
Then the victim said "No, that's not him. Way back when I made my complaint, the cops showed me a photo of the man who abused me and told me it was *name of politician*, but now I see him, that's not him."
Cue much rowing-back and grovelling apologies (hoping they wouldn't be sued into oblivion for libel and slander) from all those who had been calling for his head.
So knee-jerk reactions one way or the other don't help anyone.
2012-11-30 07:14 pm (UTC)
One issue with the Pope is that he may be taking a lesson from Gorbachev (If the emperor has no clothes, and he himself exhibts self-criticism, revolution may follow).
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