Enemies at Home and Abroad: The Cartoon Controversy and Its Meaning; Part I


The events of the last week, across Asia and Europe, prove two things. First, multiculturalism and freedom are not synonyms. Second, there are two threats to Occidental freedom and civilization: radical Muslims and our own governing elites (especially in the United States and England) who seem to view fundamentalist Islam almost as something necessary, dangerous to be sure, but very useful all the same, so useful that it must be carefully nurtured, and occasionally, stung. Symbiosis, I think it's called. A global Islamic jihad versus an Anglo-American crusade, neither of which would be very compelling, or very sellable, without the other. We have Bush and Blair, two righteous fools, that together with Osama bin Laden form a kind of triumvirate of fanaticism and ineptitude, that is likely to lead to a third Middle Eastern War (with Syria or Iran), more Islamic-inspired terrorism, a progressive diminishment of our freedoms, and a growing bill, culminating in national bankruptcy.

Have you read Carl Schmitt's Concept of the Political (1932), which identifies the friend/enemy distinction as the essence of politics? You should. But before that why not watch a neglected cinematic masterpiece, an HBO production actually, from the era before Oklahoma City and the Twin Towers when it was still possible to suggest that perhaps the real enemy, or at least the most dangerous one, spoke English, was born in the States, and worked … for the Government. Flash Point (1984) tells the story of two Border Patrol agents, whose discovery of buried treasure attracts the attention of some rather nefarious fellows, whose job it is to keep certain things, and especially certain kinds of knowledge, safely buried and forgotten.

In the key scene, Agent Logan (played by Kris Kristofferson) is being berated, so to speak, by Inspector Carson (played by Kurtwood Smith). Logan was once a promising young man, who could have advanced high in the national security bureaucracy, or gone into politics to play the fool, but instead he dropped out, and is now happily working for the Border Patrol in southwestern Texas. Carson ridicules his choice, accusing him of being unable to handle the pressure, and says that he is wasting his time patrolling the border. The government doesn't care how many "wetbacks" cross the order, he says; hell, Nixon even had one working for him at San Clemente, an illegal "greaseball" working for the ex-president.

Carson: "You think you've beaten the system because you're hiding out at the bottom of it."

Logan: "I don't work for the system, I work for the law."

Carson: "The law (he says derisively). You work for the same law that pays all our salaries,

The law of supply and demand.

Think about it whiz kid.

You're f __ing job depends on those wetbacks.

And if we didn't have em, we'd invent em.

Otherwise, how'd your department justify the millions it gets from Congress each year?

It's the American way pal.

Supply and demand.

And when the supply is lacking, create it.

Shit … every morning I get up, I thank God for drugs and murder and subversion, because without them, we'd all be without a job.

Logan: "Who are you?"

Carson: "I'm a fixer Logan, I fix things."

Logan: "Yeh? What kind of things?"

Carson: "Whatever needs fixin."

That's inspired. If Islamic fundamentalists didn't exist, we'd invent u2018em. But it does exist, and the challenge is to recognize the danger it does pose, while refusing to allow our government to exploit it for its own selfish purposes.

I know that some believe that the first publication of the cartoons last year was intended as a deliberate provocation, intended to stir things up, rattle Europeans, prepare the ground for the next war; that some neoconservatives, maybe even some within the government, were behind it. Justin Raimondo makes this argument in his February 8 column. I admit it's possible, but even if true I don't believe it matters all that much now. The battle has been joined, and what's being fought over, what's at stake, is nothing less than freedom of speech and of the press, the tradition of critical inquiry, and the freedom to satirize, versus politically correct inspired self-censorship, Muslim intimidation and political violence. It's that simple.

Hard-headed liberals (e.g. Jefferson) have always believed that liberty had to be fought for, and sometimes that fight is not physical but psychological, finding the moral courage to resist the sensitivity codes and thought police and minority bullying that is suffocating intellectual freedom in this country. Publish the cartoons? Yes, and a thousand times YES! And remember Hemingway's advice: Never Apologize!

The Bush and Blair administration care nothing for civil liberties or hallowed Western traditions. Their first reaction to the crisis proved that (they condemned the cartoons and the press organs that published them), as does the so-called Patriot Act and the wiretapping business, but now they are trying to exploit the situation in order to bring about a war. The U.S. Secretary of State, Condi Rice, has blamed the governments of Syria and Iran, which have long been in her and the president's gun sights, for causing all the trouble. They're as bad as the Islamists. Both equally threaten our freedom. It's time to recognize that.

In the second part, I shall discuss the origin and development of the crisis. In part three, I shall discuss its meaning and significance. Until next time, Tu ne cede malis, sed contra audentior ito.

February 13, 2006

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