Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Caricatured one-downmanship...

A slightly new twist to the Cartoon Controversy: the Iranian newpaper Hamshari - owned by the Tehran City Council - has, apparently, launched an international competition to find images satirising the Holocaust, which it will then publish in retaliation for the caricatures of Mohammed. The newspaper claims it is testing the West for hypocrisy:

The Western papers printed these sacreligious cartoons on the pretext of freedom of expression, so let's see if they mean what they say and also print these holocaust cartoons.

It seems clear, of course, that it is not really a "test", but rather a provocation; the use of the word "pretext" makes it quite clear that the newpaper feels that the freedom of expression argument was not honestly deployed, and thinks that it has come up with the means to expose this. The two situations are much more different than alike (excepting, perhaps at an extreme level of generalisation such as "images likely to upset a lot of people"); and I really wonder if they will have the desired effect. Certainly, they will draw sharp criticism, and some condemnation, from "the West", as have the Mohammed caricatures; but if they are looking to elicit a response comparable in magnitude to that of sections of the Muslim world to the latter, then I think they will be disappointed. If there was no burning of embassies when the Iranian president called the Holocaust a "myth", then I don't think a few - almost inevitably both crude and crass - "satirical" depictions along similar lines will cause much more excitement.

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