On July 1st 2001, Comedy Central did something it has never done since. It aired an episode of South Park which depicted the Muslim prophet Muhammad as part of a league of religious icons called the Super Best Friends. At the time there was little reaction to the cartoon or the image of Muhammad, and no one thought any threat was real.
In just over 2 months this all changed… The image below is a video link to that dreadful day…
The September 11th attacks were something not witnessed in our modern time. Although the idea of killing ones self for martyrdom in the past had been done, the scale of the attacks on 9/11 were something not witnessed in the US since Pearl Harbor.
With these attacks came a new era of control and media change. We quietly lost freedoms by governments in the name of security (eg. The Patriot Act), while the media barraged us with images and stories of extremist Muslims who wanted any non believer to die. And so fear mixed with media bias and helped create a new world which was dangerous and confusing, and out of this chaos came a name, Al-Qaeda.
This was the new enemy. An evil terrorist network that had declared a Jihad on the West and could strike anyone and anywhere. Public transport, your place of work, and with the Anthrax scare shortly after, even your home. The problem was, a lot of the stories being reported were inflated by the reporters who were under pressure to give as much information as possible, but had little, or what they were reporting had nothing to do with the new narrative.
A good example of this is the Wall Street Journal which after the Anthrax attacks blamed Al-Qaeda on the attacks with help from Iraq, when in fact it is considered to be a man named, Bruce Edward Ivins a disturbed individual who had told therapists he wanted to kill his co-workers and go out in a blaze of glory. But this did not fit the narrative, and so slowly became a non-story even though today we are still not 100% sure who did it as Ivins committed suicide in August of 2008 just before the FBI were to lay charges. But because it was no longer considered a Muslim or part of Al-Qaeda, the story fell in interest and some still believe Al-Qaeda were a part of the plot because they did not get the small reports on what was happening next.
The thing was Al Qaeda was created by the CIA. (Video link below to portion of Adam Curtis’ Power of Nightmares)
In November 2004, on a nice day in Amsterdam a film maker was on his way to work by bicycle. He had just worked on a movie called Submission with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the female activist and writer. However, this movie changed that morning. The film maker, Theo Van Gogh, was shot, had his throat cut, stabbed and then had a note attached to his body with another knife. The note was a death threat to Hirsi Ali for her “insults” to Islam and Van Gogh had paid with his life for making it.
This was the turning point that saw freedom of speech under attack, but it was the media that fueled this paranoia about what we could and couldn’t say about Islam. Nearly everyday we heard reports of Al Qaeda leaders telling us we would be attacked again soon for comments and actions that were inflammatory to them and Islam. Aid workers were being captured abroad and being beheaded, suicide and car bombs seemed to be going off all over the middle east. This continued the narrative of an Islamic doom, that was set to drown us all in a sea of hatred.
Here is an interview from the BBCs Newsnight program interviewing Dr. Park Elliot Dietz on the shooting that took place at the Winnenden School in Germany in 2009. Here, clearly the expert asks the media to stop hyping these stories as they impress some people to go and do the same, or something more impressive.
What I am arguing here is that the media has helped inflate the problem we have with extreme Islamists. Evil men like Anjem Choudary are constantly given platforms by SKY News and the BBC to help spew his hatred of the west, which makes us feel less attached and more fearful of Muslims and gives any disgruntled narcissist ideas on how to get back at society.
Now for Charlie Hebdo. This attack, which was not the first on the French satire magazine, saw a solidarity among writers and cartoonists across the globe to show support for freedom of speech and an end to extremist tyranny. The Je suis Charlie promo spread the message quickly.
However, I am not sure enough was done. Although the message was clear, I think it needed more. I think every cartoonist and media source should have posted a picture of Muhammad, possibly with the famous line. It didn’t need to be offensive, a simple one like the one I picked from south park would do, but I think that would add more to the message. That the west believes in freedom of speech. That we mock everything and everyone and no one is above satire and criticism. Not even a prophet.
If we can get past this main stream media enticed fear to insult Islam, we will be moving further ahead into a rational age where we no longer fear what might happen to us, but instead say “Fuck you” to those who wish to do us harm in solidarity. I argue that If we stand united and depict images of the prophet in public, the main stream media will soon follow.
Here is a link to a video I think we should all send to heads of production companies to let them know, it’s time to say no more fear….. ( I couldn’t find the whole speech, but you get my point: See cartoon wars part 2 script near the bottom)
With love to France