The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent


[...] the organized Left gained cultural power, it turned into a monster that found perpetual victimhood, combined with thought and speech control, the most efficient way to hold on to that power. Suddenly it was the Left, the protector of liberty, that was setting rules about what could and could not be said or even thought. - Tammy Bruce

Anthony McIntyre • 22 June 2006

The Blanket has now completed its series profiling the 12 signatories to the Manifesto Against Totalitarianism. Alongside each profile was featured one of the 12 controversial Danish cartoons. The signatories deliberately ensured there would be 12 signatures to the manifesto in order to illustrate the direct linkage between their opposition to totalitarianism and the totalitarian campaign to smash free enquiry by seeking the suppression of the 12 cartoons.

When 'Kartoonacht', as one letter writer termed it, first erupted The Blanket, although requested to, declined to carry the cartoons. There seemed no reason to do so other than shock value. That situation changed once the 12 writers issued their manifesto in the wake of Islamicist racist violence against Denmark calculated to weaken resistance to a creeping theocratic censorship. As the Marxist philosopher Slavoj Zizek was to point out, 'the paradox is that Muslims' only real allies are not those who first published the caricatures for shock value, but those who, in support of the ideal of freedom of expression, reprinted them.'

There was little in the way of opposition to The Blanket's stance. Most people understood that the journal had always existed to provide people with more information rather than less. On the eve of publication I had a lengthy conversation with a representative of the Islamic community in Belfast. His arguments were unpersuasive and left me feeling he had earlier listened to alarmists trying to exploit certain Muslim worries for their own political ends. Eamonn McCann rang and raised cogent concerns about the possible backlash against Muslims living in Belfast. A member of the Anti Racist Network who grumpily objected to the publication left me in little doubt about their own racism.

I had also received some intelligent e-mails from within the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign as well as some illogical e-mails from within the same group. I had a vigorous but healthy conversation with the Belfast group's current chair. His points were well made; I just didn't agree with them. A shrill sounding spokesperson for the IPSC went on radio to convince nobody of anything and then put out a letter criticising The Blanket's decision to publish. But as invariably happens with those who do not write well, the letter writer succeeded only in drawing attention to the deficiency of the argument being made.

Elsewhere, there had been rumblings about a campaign aimed at ostracising The Blanket. It was Socialist Workers Party inspired, directed, it is said, from a bankrupt London leadership determined to protect its alliance with theocrats and kill off any free enquiry by screaming 'racism.' After three people said they would never write for the journal again - one of whom had never written for it to begin with - there followed self-important predictions of more 'defections' to follow. We are still waiting on them. I debated the issue with one of the 'defectors' on radio. It changed nothing. Each failed to persuade the other.

In my more humorous moments I tend to reflect that the experience almost led to me becoming a convert to Islam. Emulating Voltaire I tried my luck and prayed, 'Allah, make my enemies ridiculous.' My prayers were answered. The only enemies that turned up were from the Irrelevant Left. The campaign to shun The Blanket was an unmitigated flop; merely demonstrating to those blissfully unaware of it the habitual insignificance of the Irrelevant Left.

The decision to publish the cartoons was a correct one. At no time did The Blanket feature any cartoon as a signifier of a racist message. Each contentious image was weaved into a narrative that highlighted oppression against Muslims. In particular, the Islamicist assault on the rights of women formed the spine of the narratives. Certainly, there is room to argue that an alternative contextualisation exists which places the cartoons in a racist setting. But such a perspective must compete with others which do not share its core assumptions. Context is always alibi. The alibi might be genuine, but it has no automatic right of passage to the status of fact. As with all alibi, it succeeds to the extent that it survives cross examination. Critics must have the opportunity to falsify alibi, otherwise it emits the sound of one hand clapping. The Irrelevant Left and the one or two fellow travellers who accompany them on their inconsequential forays sought to have their own contextualisation go unchallenged and have others acquiesce in it. Such an attitude is the product of a totalitarian mindset in that it can brook no alternative opinion to its own. If it was ever the intention of the Irrelevant Left to take on The Blanket in a battle of wills it would leave the contest sorely disappointed. The Blanket would never lose as is indeed demonstrated by tonight's completion of the profiles project.

That project amounted not only to a strong defiance of censorship but also a resolute defence of those Muslims who experience the repression and violence of the theocrats. It challenged the racism of those who promote cultural relativism as a means to deny the extension of human rights to others less able to secure them. It was premised on a belief that that there is a global citizenry which should not be thwarted in its quest for global rights by recourse to lesser concerns rooted in ethnicity, culture, religion and nationality. Islam, like Christianity or Judaism, like other belief systems, can search out a place for itself in the world. But where it seeks to create children of a lesser God whom it can treat as subhuman, any religion should be vigorously challenged and pushed back.

One noticeable factor in the wider cartoon debate was fear. Many journalists who commented on the Blanket decision to carry the cartoons stated that their own papers and news outlets should have done likewise but allowed fear of violence, intimidation or disapproval from authority to shape their judgement. In a country where the problem of immigration could arguably be redefined in terms of there not being enough of it, fear of other people is hardly conducive to an atmosphere of understanding and tolerance. Fear is not removed by suppressing doubts but by encouraging them to be expressed openly.

Those critics of the Blanket whose opposition was based on genuine concerns about the rise of racism, and was not governed by some authoritarian impulse to censor and control the views of others, should reflect on what the Blanket has sought to achieve through its management of the cartoon question. Thorny and complicated issues were addressed, not swept under the carpet. Perspectives on theocratic repression that others hoped would never see the light of day were brought to the surface. It became abundantly clear that there is no left-right cleavage on the subject matter. Despite the Irrelevant Left barking a la Pavlov's dog, many on the Left favoured publishing the cartoons, while elements on the right favoured censorship.

Despite the initial rants, the general response has been one characterised by perspicacity more than petulance. Overall, the Blanket has contributed in some small way to a much needed public discussion. Those few who opposed critical reflection closed only the door on their way out. They failed to close discussion. They did not close the Blanket.



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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

22 June 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Framing of Michael McKevitt
Marcella Sands

Foreward to 'The Framing of Michael McKevitt'
Fr Des Wilson

Demagogues and Demigod
Tommy Gorman

Getting It Tight
John Kennedy

The Restoration of Restorative Justice
Marcel M. Baumann

DUP Analysis
Dr John Coulter

Father Faul
Fr. Sean McManus

Aiden Hulme Repatriation Picket
Paul Doyle

Prison Protest Begins
Republican Prisoners Action Group (RPAG), Republican Sinn Fein, Newry

New Hero, and a Legacy
Dr John Coulter

Charlie's Angel
John Kennedy

The Letters page has been updated.

Profile: Mehdi Mozaffari
Anthony McIntyre

The Blanket, the Cartoons and the End of Left and Right
Gabriel Glickman

The Blanket and the Cartoon Controversy: Anthony McIntyre Interviewed
Martyn Frampton

A Welcome End
Mick Hall

Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index

14 June 2006

The Mark of Cain
Anthony McIntyre

Debris of the Dirty War
Mick Hall

More Claims
Martin Ingram

Case Unproven
Anthony McIntyre

Chain Gang
John Kennedy

Better to Put the Past Behind US
David Adams

The Gamblers
Dr John Coulter

Diarmaid Ferriter's The Transformation of Ireland
Seaghán Ó Murchú

Profile: Caroline Fourest
Anthony McIntyre

Le «manifeste des douze» fait réagir
Caroline Fourest

Reaction to the Manifesto (English Translation)
Liam O Ruairc

Freedom of Speech index



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