The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Closer to Home


Anthony McIntyre • 18 March 2006

Strange how the stones that a debate leaves overturned come to reveal little gems that illustrate perfectly the point being made by at least some featuring in the debate. I had not heard from John Kennedy in quite some time. So when he got in touch after having listened into a BBC Radio Talk Back spot featuring myself and a Muslim professor discussing the decision by the Blanket to reprint the Danish cartoons I sensed immediately, given that John is a cartoonist, his reason for the call was to offer support for the decision. I was not to be disabused.

Ironically enough the first time I met John was in St Mary's College during the West Belfast festival a number of years ago. The irony lies in my reason for having been there. As part of my work with a Palestinian human rights group, I had volunteered with many others in to help out on the Palestine Day event being staged as part of the Festival week's activities. The Palestinian population is heavily Muslim, although this was immaterial to my decision to support them. Their human rights were being abused in the foulest way imaginable by the murderous government of Israel. I had no idea then that my belief in human rights for all Muslims, whether in the face of Israeli or Islamic assault, would lead to a situation whereby some of those I had previously worked with over the years would begin to infer that I was pursuing a racist agenda against Muslims, even if out of ignorance. The inference is deeply offensive. But the right of people to express that opinion must always trump my right not to be offended. Otherwise RIP to the concept of free speech.

Taking a break during the Palestine Day event I wandered across St Mary's to look at other exhibitions. By chance I found John Kennedy was staging his work. Initially intending to do nothing more than have a cursory glance, I found myself staying longer than expected. The political cartoons on display were of such a quality the experience was similar to casually picking up a book in a shop and becoming so enthralled by it that half of it is read through before the realisation of schedules and promised appointments being broken kicks in. Fortunately the respect for each other's work was mutual. John seemed to like the Blanket as much as I enjoyed his cartoons. He did not profess to agree with anything written on it, but with the free spirit of the creative artist, he resented curbs on intellectual freedom.

On that front little had changed when he contacted the Blanket to endorse the Blanket's decision to run with the publication of the Danish cartoons in support of twelve writers who had signed a manifesto protesting what they felt was Islamic totalitarianism. Vehemently anti-racist, he felt the issue was one of free speech and the public's right to know what was at the centre of any dispute before making a decision for themselves in relation to its resolution.

He also had his own story to tell in relation to cartoons and their potential to unpick the narrative of those with unaccountable power which they don't want challenged. Daily Ireland had initially employed him as a resident cartoonist. His brief was to offer a sketched take on the prominent events in any week which would then feature in the paper. A big news story last year was the attendance by the McCartney women at the Sinn Fein ard fheis. Too good an opportunity to be missed, John Kennedy submitted a brace of cartoons on the matter to the paper. One showed Gerry Adams addressing the party faithful. It was pitched to show just how faithful the party members actually are, being told to applaud on cue. The other addressed the party's approach to policing, with Gerry Kelly being depicted in a T-shirt which proclaimed: Disband the PSNI 'for now.' Seemingly it was too much for the political sensibilities of the paper's management and backers. They were offended and felt the right not to be offended gave them veto over the right to offend. The cartoons never featured and John was never contacted again.

I was an impartial cartoonist with a brief to see every political party as fair game. There was nothing in the small print about one political party in particular being exempt from caricature. It opened my eyes. To me it was a question of censorship. My decision to publish the cartoons in the Blanket at this point in time is because the Blanket has shown it is not afraid to carry material that others shy away from. This is welcome as it respects people by allowing them to view the cartoons and make decisions for themselves. People's right to know against others' desire to manipulate them, is the issue here.

Neither I nor anyone else at the Blanket could have made the point any better.
































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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

19 March 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Profile: Irshad Manji
Anthony McIntyre

How Muslims are Caricaturing Ourselves
Irshad Manji

The Clash of the Uncivilized
Imam Zaid Shakir

Misunderstandings Abound
Mick Hall

A Vital Question Not Easily Washed Away
Malachi O'Doherty

Zen and the Heart of Blasphemy
Liam Clarke

Gerry Peacemaker
John Kennedy

John Kennedy

Closer to Home
Anthony McIntyre

Drawing a Line Under the Past
David Adams

It's Our Easter, Too, You Know
Dr John Coulter

'The Way Ireland Ought to Be'
Michael Gilliespie

Former Hunger Striker leads 1981 Commemoration March in St. Pat's Day Parade
Deirdre Fennessy

Corn Beef & Lunatics
Fred A. Wilcox

The Letters page has been updated:

New Convert


About the Possible Posting of the Muslim Cartoons

Well Done

A Muslim's Response

Straight Talk vs Orthodoxy

Freedom of Speech index

12 March 2006

Profile: Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Anthony McIntyre

The Right to Offend
Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Spool of Threads
Marc Kerr

Wrong to Claim Freedom of Speech
Mick Hall

Anti-Racism Network Urges Website Not to Publish Racist-Cartoons
ARN Press Release

Fires of Hate
Anthony McIntyre

All is Far From Lost After Riots
David Adams

Who's A Nazi?
Dr John Coulter

'Screamingly Funny in its Absurdity'
Liam O Ruairc

The Letters page has been updated:

One Man's Terrorist is Another Man's Prophet

Christ Collage

An Eye for An Eye

Glad to See Someone is Not Afraid

There Are No Sides to Peace

Silence is Not Golden; It is Complicity
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index



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