Editorial: They’re Everywhere, the Stupids! By BECKY O'MALLEY

Tuesday February 07, 2006

The headline is a quote from the father of a friend of mine, who knew whereof he spoke. The aptness of his cynical worldview has been apparent in the last week.  

On Monday morning, the Daily Planet received in short order multiple copies of the following letter over different signatures, one of which added the original material which is in square brackets: 


I’m writing to say that, as a member of the media in a free society, you have a RESPONSIBILITY to publish the controversial cartoons on Islamofascism. 

I can understand the indignation of having your religion, and your religious leaders, portrayed in unflattering, even blasphemous, ways by secularists in the mainstream media. It happens to Christians ALL THE TIME in America and Europe. [You don’t see them cutting off heads—if you live in a free socity [sic] anyone has a right to offend you. That is freedom of speech, when that freedom is taken away by people who don’t agree with you, this is down right and simple communism. In America the ACLU is trying to shutdown the freedoms of Christians in the public square. You can’t mention JESUS, and now in America you get arrested. You can’t have anti protest because certain groups of people have more rights than you.] If you allow this censorship, you will allow the Islamic Fascism to win. 

But indignation is NEVER an excuse for violence. And threats of violence need to be *resisted* in free nations. And the best form of resistance to Islamofascist threats here? PUBLISH THE CARTOONS. 

As freedom-loving people, we need to resist the Islamofascists on ALL fronts. In solidarity with the people of free Europe and in support of the concept of freedom of the press, you need to PUBLISH the Danish cartoons.  

Thank you. 


We get entirely too many form letters like this from people who can’t seem to think for themselves, or who have disasterous results when they try. Fortunately, the addresses on most of this group of letters were not local, so the signers probably aren’t even Planet readers, but have used some kind of robot letter generator from some half-witted organization or other. We’d hate to think we were surrounded by them in the East Bay.  

This just in: The stupids are not confined to one religion, nationality, ethnic group or continent. It’s tempting to run up a whole series of cartoons along the lines of the Danish right wing models targeting the foibles of all known religions equally, but we can’t begin to afford enough space to do that on our budget. And also, the tiniest pinprick of possible criticism against any kind of religious organization in the past has subjected us to a deluge of ignorant and vituperative letters which clogged our e-mail for weeks. Comedians sometimes lament that you can’t satirize anything anymore, and they may be right. If we’re going to start up that machine again, we’ll at least do it with our own editorial cartoons, not someone else’s. 

For birthright citizens of what used to be considered a secular society, the concept of blasphemy is hard to parse. We would never have thought, for example, that what seemed to be a gently humorous soft feature on Berkeley’s annual pagan—oh, sorry, Pagan—parade, accompanied by a picture of two young ladies in fairy wings smoking cigarettes while leaning on the hood of a pickup, could be so offensive to so many. We even got letters from Pagans in South Africa. Their main beef? We didn’t capitalize Pagan, as we do Christian or Moslem.  

Religious people, all religious people, should become aware that there are at least some people on this earth who think that most if not all of their cherished beliefs and pretentions are silly. That’s right, silly. Not necessarily awesome, just silly. And equally silly, for the most part.  

We acknowledge the wholesome role of most religious traditions in encouraging what we think is desirable behavior: kindness, honesty, etc. But we also notice that many non-religious people do just fine on these dimensions without believing any of the silly stuff.  

Bad behavior is sometimes encouraged by the belief system of some religions, but much more often by errant members of religious groups who aren’t sanctioned by the authorities in their denomination, whoever the authorities might be. Stupid epithets like “Islamofascist” are created by people who can’t figure out which of these categories is which. “They’re everywhere, the stupids.” 

Yes, plenty of Moslems don’t respect freedom of speech, but neither do plenty of other people who should know better. 

We’re reminded of a wicked couplet attributed variously on the Internet to Spike Milligan, Ogden Nash and Hilaire Belloc: 

“Happy little moron, he doesn’t give a damn. 

I wish I were a moron—my God, perhaps I am.”  

Or, as stated more politely in the Christian tradition, “let him among you who is without sin cast the first stone.”