On the Matter of the Pictures: A Critique

I have respected Peggy Noonan in past, partly because, unlike other journalistic courtesans of the American elite, she sensed that the disturbing disquiet, which existed on the other side of her ideological and socioeconomic gated community, might threaten her community. But yet another talking head zombifies.

In her recent offering “On the Matter of the Pictures”, concerning those gratuitous cartoons against Mohammed, Muslims and other religions, she offers this gem of reasoning for their widespread release.

You kill to stop a cartoon? We flood the streets with cartoons.

An underlying spirit of vengeful incivility obviously permeates such reasoning; reminiscent of those internecine uprisings between the Hindus and Muslims in India. And thereby, such minds are corrupted from regarding the true and enlightened self-interests of her nation.

There were but a small coterie involved in the bombings at Charlie Hebdo and other French venues. But Noonan and other journalistic hotheads demand that news media inflict disrespect and insult upon the entities and symbols, which give life meaning and value for 1.6 billion Muslims, because of their collective guilt by association in the murderous rampage at Charles Hadbo. By such reasoning, American tourists might be well advised to circumscribe their travel destinations, lest they likewise suffer personal harassment, humiliation, debasement or be accused of crimes against humanity for their part in Abu Ghraib.

And in awful, if typical parochial American ignorance of history and culture, Noonan suggests:

Steal away their power. Make them banal, not secret, censored and powerful but common. Flood the zone, let everyone see them. Show that they are only cartoons, caricatures, playthings.

Let us make evil banal and commonplace, as Hannah Arendt denoted about her era (“Eichmann in Jerusalem” – 1963). And evil are what these cartoons are; even if that evil could be classified venial, to deploy a Catholic conceptual framework to which Noonan understands. But anyone who has surveyed the ideological landscape of interwar Europe, and not only in Germany, would note how banal and commonplace similar diatribes and caricatures were made of the Jews, the imbeciles, the raving mad and the ideological enemies of both left and right.

By describing such cartoons and caricatures as mere playthings, Noonan betrays a deeper attitude of cynicism as to the value and power of her craft to influence minds and hearts. She apparently perceives that words and pictures are a meaningless game; thereby indicting herself and her craft as worthless to the social and common good.

To the extent that I advocate right to free speech and expression; I am not as likewise obtuse to fail to recognize their impacts upon the subterranean motions of the psyche. I am not unaware of the history by which blasphemy became inflated to differences of theological and non-theological opinion (e.g. late 17th Britain for anti-trinitarianism); for which such reasons an inalienable right to speech and expression was so constituted, in America at least. But when the right to the venial evil of personal and collective slander crosses from the occasional outburst, in the midst of passions, to a systematic, chronic and widespread campaign of gratuitous denigration, not of ideas, but of persons; recent history shows that its commonplace banality eases the devolution to material and social denigration.

In childish pique of vengeful incivility, Noonan and other hotheads declare; “Let us impugn the entities and symbols of reverence and meaning of the ‘not us’”. But by so doing, such hotheads lack both the foresight and imagination in not realizing that their far more numerous adversaries are equally capable of uncovering America’s true entities and symbols of secular reverence. Do you not think that perhaps America’s enemies could depict caricatures of Peggy Noonan, portrayed like the naked Mohammed and manspreading, with her withered genitals delicately covered from view by a camel and camel’s tongue. Perhaps we might have Abraham Lincoln do autofellatio and the Founding Fathers in a Circle Jerk. And if Charlie Hadbo can recommend the imprinting of the holy script from the Qur’an and the Bible onto toilet paper; how many Muslims might find the placement of the words of the Declaration of Independence, or the Bill of Rights or the Gettysburg Address, likewise useful in servicing the needs of their anuses.

The pundits and the commentariat are so lost in their ignorance and self-delusions.

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