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Mark Steyn: An Open-and-Shut Case of Hypocrisy
The Telegraph ^ | November 25, 2003 | Mark Steyn

Posted on 11/24/2003 5:30:19 PM PST by quidnunc

The other day, a producer called me up and asked if I wanted to take part in a discussion about an American cartoon strip — to whit, B.C. by Johnny Hart, which has been running in a gazillion newspapers around the world for as long as I can remember.

I usually check in with it a couple of times a decade while waiting at the gate for a delayed flight, and am happy to find it refreshingly unchanged. It's set in a modified caveman era, which is to say that, like The Flintstones, its characters enjoy certain accoutrements not necessarily consistent with the time period.

On this particular day's strip, Johnny Hart shows us the caveman walking up a hill at night — there is a crescent moon in the sky — and heading for a wooden outhouse, with a crescent moon on the door, as outhouses traditionally have, at least in America. My own outhouse in New Hampshire certainly did, before it was dashed to smithereens in a hurricane (don't worry, I wasn't inside at the time).

Anyway, we next see a sound effect — "SLAM" — to indicate, presumably, the closing of the outhouse door. The final frame shows a speech bubble coming from within the outhouse with the words: "Is it just me, or does it stink in here?" The Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) decided this was not an outhouse joke, but an Islamophobic slur disguised as an outhouse joke.

A reader in the Washington Post had noticed the six crescent moons in the strip, and suggested this indicated the real target of the gag. Cair drew attention to the fact that the sound effect of the alleged door slamming was stacked vertically, in a pillar-like shape, and thus could reasonably be read as "SLAM" contained within the overall shape of the letter "I" — or "ISLAM".

"Hmm," I said, thoughtfully, to the producer. "It's true that it's very hard to slam an outhouse door from the inside, what with the lack of space and so forth. Difficult to get back far enough to give it a loud enough slam to justify a sound effect. Unless there's a strong wind to whip it shut," I added, recalling my hurricane. "And even then, one would be more concerned to latch it carefully lest another gust blow it open again."

"That's Marshall Blonsky's line," said the producer, a little impatiently. Blonsky is professor of semiotics at the New School in New York and had apparently got to my penetrating insight ahead of me: "You don't slam an outhouse door." Professor Blonsky argues that the cartoon is indisputably constructed "in a polysemic fashion".

"I hadn't thought of that," I said.

-snip-

(Excerpt) Read more at telegraph.co.uk ...


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; United Kingdom; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: bc; cartoons; johnnyhart; marksteyn
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Quote:

Meanwhile, while Islamic lobby groups and the most distinguished semiotics professors in America are analysing Johnny Hart's outhouse joke, the European Union's Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia has decided to shelve its report on the rise of anti-Semitism on the Continent. The problem, as reported in The Telegraph, is that the survey had found that "many anti-Semitic incidents were carried out by Muslim and pro-Palestinian groups", and so a "political decision" was taken not to publish it because of "fears that it would increase hostility towards Muslims".

Let's go back over that slowly and try not to get a headache: the EU's main concern about an actual epidemic of hate crimes against Jews is that it could provoke a hypothetical epidemic of hate crimes against Muslims. You couldn't ask for a better illustration of the uselessness of these thought-police bodies: they're fine for chastising insufficiently guilt-ridden whites in an ongoing reverse-minstrel show of cultural self-abasement, but they don't have the stomach for confronting real racism. A tolerant society is so reluctant to appear intolerant, it would rather tolerate intolerance.

But who could ever think ill of The Religion of Peace™?

1 posted on 11/24/2003 5:30:19 PM PST by quidnunc
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An open-and-shut case of hypocrisy
By Mark Steyn
(Filed: 25/11/2003)

The other day, a producer called me up and asked if I wanted to take part in a discussion about an American cartoon strip - to whit, B.C. by Johnny Hart, which has been running in a gazillion newspapers around the world for as long as I can remember.

I usually check in with it a couple of times a decade while waiting at the gate for a delayed flight, and am happy to find it refreshingly unchanged. It's set in a modified caveman era, which is to say that, like The Flintstones, its characters enjoy certain accoutrements not necessarily consistent with the time period.

On this particular day's strip, Johnny Hart shows us the caveman walking up a hill at night - there is a crescent moon in the sky - and heading for a wooden outhouse, with a crescent moon on the door, as outhouses traditionally have, at least in America. My own outhouse in New Hampshire certainly did, before it was dashed to smithereens in a hurricane (don't worry, I wasn't inside at the time).

Anyway, we next see a sound effect - "SLAM" - to indicate, presumably, the closing of the outhouse door. The final frame shows a speech bubble coming from within the outhouse with the words: "Is it just me, or does it stink in here?" The Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) decided this was not an outhouse joke, but an Islamophobic slur disguised as an outhouse joke.

A reader in the Washington Post had noticed the six crescent moons in the strip, and suggested this indicated the real target of the gag. Cair drew attention to the fact that the sound effect of the alleged door slamming was stacked vertically, in a pillar-like shape, and thus could reasonably be read as "SLAM" contained within the overall shape of the letter "I" - or "ISLAM".

"Hmm," I said, thoughtfully, to the producer. "It's true that it's very hard to slam an outhouse door from the inside, what with the lack of space and so forth. Difficult to get back far enough to give it a loud enough slam to justify a sound effect. Unless there's a strong wind to whip it shut," I added, recalling my hurricane. "And even then, one would be more concerned to latch it carefully lest another gust blow it open again."

"That's Marshall Blonsky's line," said the producer, a little impatiently. Blonsky is professor of semiotics at the New School in New York and had apparently got to my penetrating insight ahead of me: "You don't slam an outhouse door." Professor Blonsky argues that the cartoon is indisputably constructed "in a polysemic fashion".

"I hadn't thought of that," I said.

"How about this?" said the producer. "If it's really just a sound effect, how come there's no exclamation?" "Hmm," I said, even more thoughtfully than before. In the end, I declined the invitation. Although I agreed of course that Islamophobic cartooning was the most pressing issue of the week, in my usual shallow way I'd become distracted by some of the day's more trivial stories - the 11 Hindus burnt alive by a Muslim gang in Bangladesh, the 13 Christian churches torched by Muslim rioters in the Nigerian town of Kazaure, and the 27 Turks and Britons murdered by Muslim terrorists in Istanbul.

No dead Jews in that particular day's headlines, but otherwise a good haul of Hindus, Christians and, of course, Muslims. Every society has its ugly side: in America, the problem is stone-age cartoons; in Nigeria, it's stone-age - or stoning age - reality. But one can't help noticing that polysemic cartooning seems a notably ineffective way of stirring up anti-Muslim feeling, at least when one looks at preliminary statistics for Muslims murdered in America this Ramadan, compared with Muslims murdered in, say, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

My advice would be to go for the direct approach, like Sheikh Anwar al-Badawi, the A-list imam who does the "Thought For The Day" slot on Qatar TV: "O God, destroy the usurper Jews and the vile Christians." Nothing very polysemic about that. Nothing very polysemic about Cair, either. America's most prominent mainstream Muslim lobby group, it has organised rallies that managed to climax with the singing of "No to the Jews, descendants of the apes." Its chairman, Omar Ahmad, has said that "Islam isn't in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant". The Koran "should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth". But its supply of White House invites and presidential photo-ops never seems to dry up, and its willingness to see offence everywhere is treated respectfully by the media.

Meanwhile, while Islamic lobby groups and the most distinguished semiotics professors in America are analysing Johnny Hart's outhouse joke, the European Union's Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia has decided to shelve its report on the rise of anti-Semitism on the Continent. The problem, as reported in The Telegraph, is that the survey had found that "many anti-Semitic incidents were carried out by Muslim and pro-Palestinian groups", and so a "political decision" was taken not to publish it because of "fears that it would increase hostility towards Muslims".

Let's go back over that slowly and try not to get a headache: the EU's main concern about an actual epidemic of hate crimes against Jews is that it could provoke a hypothetical epidemic of hate crimes against Muslims. You couldn't ask for a better illustration of the uselessness of these thought-police bodies: they're fine for chastising insufficiently guilt-ridden whites in an ongoing reverse-minstrel show of cultural self-abasement, but they don't have the stomach for confronting real racism. A tolerant society is so reluctant to appear intolerant, it would rather tolerate intolerance.

In Holland, the late Pim Fortuyn recognised that at some point the contradiction has to be resolved. In Nigeria and Sudan and other frontiers between the ummah and the rest of the world, it already has - in favour of sharia and the Islamists. It's hard to see why the enervated West should prove any more successful at squaring the circle. But we can at least cherish the absurdities on the way down: European Jews menaced by anti-Semites get less attention than American Muslims menaced by polysemites.

2 posted on 11/24/2003 5:33:22 PM PST by 1rudeboy
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To: quidnunc
I definitely think it's a jab at islam.

I just don't care :)
3 posted on 11/24/2003 5:33:24 PM PST by Britton J Wingfield (TANSTAAFL)
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To: quidnunc
ROFL!
4 posted on 11/24/2003 5:34:09 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: Britton J Wingfield
AGREED!

And I CONCUR too!

;>)

5 posted on 11/24/2003 5:36:34 PM PST by steplock (www.FOCUS.GOHOTSPRINGS.com)
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To: quidnunc

6 posted on 11/24/2003 5:37:36 PM PST by Alouette
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To: quidnunc
I usually check in with it a couple of times a decade while waiting at the gate for a delayed flight, and am happy to find it refreshingly unchanged.

Damn! Took the words right off my fingers.

7 posted on 11/24/2003 5:37:52 PM PST by South40 (My vote helped defeat cruz bustamante; did yours?)
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To: All; RikaStrom
For those who need some assist on 'polysemic' it is a great word to add to your vocabulary. Polysemic is something that has many meanings or something to which multiple meanings can be ascribed. Now be sure to try using it in a sentence tomorrow!
8 posted on 11/24/2003 5:39:21 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: Britton J Wingfield
"I just don't care :) "

hey, islam by any other name....
would still smell the same

p.s. did you see b.c.'s tax breaks for the rich?
it was a hoot...

9 posted on 11/24/2003 5:40:20 PM PST by hoot2
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To: anniegetyourgun
Polysemic

Not to be confused with Polysomic, I'm sure. ;-)

10 posted on 11/24/2003 5:41:40 PM PST by South40 (My vote helped defeat cruz bustamante; did yours?)
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To: Alouette
Now, if the final frame had said, "it is just me, and it doesn't stink in here"....I would have assumed it was a jab at one of the lib/dem candidates for prez.
11 posted on 11/24/2003 5:41:55 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: South40
True. Though it makes one start to question if these things are polyspermic in their inception. ;-]
12 posted on 11/24/2003 5:43:38 PM PST by anniegetyourgun
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To: anniegetyourgun
As I posted on another thread about this, if the motif had been stars and stripes instead of crescents, and the sound effect was "BUSH!" the mediots would be all over themselves trying like hell to get Hart nominated for a Pulitzer.
13 posted on 11/24/2003 5:55:53 PM PST by JennysCool
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To: Britton J Wingfield
I definitely think it's a jab at islam.

I agree. If it isn't, then it just doesn't make any sense.

I just don't care :)

That makes several of us!

14 posted on 11/24/2003 5:58:09 PM PST by Tax-chick (Free opinions on any subject! No returns without receipt.)
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To: quidnunc
Wow, the clarity of thought in Steyn's article and the utter precision of his expression are amazing...
15 posted on 11/24/2003 5:58:55 PM PST by The Electrician
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To: quidnunc
Steyn must be so refreshing for the Brits to read. He just tells it like it is and it always ends up both witty and wise.
16 posted on 11/24/2003 6:02:25 PM PST by McGavin999
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To: quidnunc
I think it's a rather unfunny cartoon, but to see this as a "slam" against Mohammedism is rather a flying leap of illogic. I'm guessing Johnny Hart is targeted because he is openly Christian and the Muslim Paranoia Patrol is constantly combing those Christian devils for evidence of "discrimination".

A great essay by Steyn, as usual.

17 posted on 11/24/2003 6:07:36 PM PST by Semi Civil Servant
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To: Semi Civil Servant
Meanwhile, Gary Trudeau portrays the Governor of California as a Nazi sex fiend with no evidence.
18 posted on 11/24/2003 6:17:08 PM PST by Democratshavenobrains
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To: The Electrician
A tolerant society is so reluctant to appear intolerant, it would rather tolerate intolerance.
19 posted on 11/24/2003 6:23:45 PM PST by TheOtherOne
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To: Democratshavenobrains
Yes, and what ticks me off most about that is that it appears in the Comics section in the Sunday Santa Barbara News-Press. At least during the week, they place the strip on the editorial page.
20 posted on 11/24/2003 6:35:00 PM PST by Inspectorette
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