Molly Norris Day
Post #1604 • May 20, 2013, 2:47 PM • 8 Comments
Artblog.net hereby proclaims May 20 to be Molly Norris Day. It is named for the Seattle cartoonist who drew a cartoon in 2010 in which a cup of coffee, a domino tile, a spool of thread, and other inanimate objects all claimed to be the likeness of Mohammed. She made it in response to Comedy Central's self-censorship of two episodes of South Park that depicted Mohammed. This art was used on a poster declaring May 20, 2010 to be Everybody Draw Mohammed Day. Its rationale was that if enough people drew Mohammed, it would become impractical for mujahedeen to murder them all.
Norris meant the idea as satire, but it was taken up as a serious idea by other parties, and Norris distanced herself from it. After Facebook events for the day had reached 100,000 followers, Pakistan ordered Facebook and then Wikipedia and YouTube to be blocked. Demonstrations occurred in the streets of Pakistan prior to the event in which protesters burned Norwegian, Swedish, and Danish flags, in reference to the Jyllands-Posten Mohammed cartoons controversy that Muslim leaders had orchestrated in 2005. Many Western writers criticized the event as insensitive, irresponsible, and offensive. Anwar al-Awlaki, the American and Yemeni cleric who was subsequently killed by the CIA in 2011 under orders from President Obama, issued a fatwa calling for Norris's death. The FBI advised Norris to take a lower profile, citing intelligence and security concerns, and Norris voluntarily changed her name and went into hiding.
Artblog.net will today and hereafter observe May 20 by remembering incidents in the prior year in which acts of free speech and creative expression gave rise, or threatened to give rise, to violence and censorship, and otherwise prompted feckless apologetics on behalf of those who would deprive us of our liberties. Feel free to add additional suggestions via comments.
On August 17, 2012, three members of Russian feminist punk-rock collective Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years of prison, convicted of hooliganism motivated by religious hatred for a protest they staged previously in February in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. One of them was later paroled on a suspended sentence. Two of them, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, remain in jail. Other members of Pussy Riot fled Russia in fear of prosecution. Efforts to win parole for Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina continue, as reported by the website Free Pussy Riot, though they have been hampered by multiple charges against both of violations of prison rules such as "getting up late" and "handing private correspondence to a lawyer."
"The Innocence of Muslims"
In September 2012, protests and riots exploded across the Muslim world incited by "The Innocence of Muslims," a once-screened but repeatedly, partially uploaded film with a murky production history traced to a Los Angeles man currently identified as Nakoula Baseeley Nakoula. The attacks included a particularly fierce one upon an American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Lybia in which Ambassador Christopher Stephens and three other diplomats were killed in RPG and small arms fire. (Another notable attack took place a week later in what was reported to be the first suicide bombing carried out by a woman in Afghanistan.) An early statement from the State Department delivered by Ambassador Susan Rice called the Benghazi attack "spontaneously inspired by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo." Since then the administration has backtracked on that explanation amidst much controversy about the real causes.
New York Anti-Jihad Transit Ads
On September 24, 2012, after New York's Metro Transit Authority lost a legal challenge from the American Freedom Defense Initiative, it posted the group's advertisements in subways around the city. The ads read, "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel, Defeat Jihad." Most of the advertisements were vandalized. Shortly afterward the MTA modified its policy for "viewpoint advertisements" so as to require a disclaimer that its display did not imply MTA endorsement. This was accomplished in time for a December campaign by the AFDI in which a picture of the burning Twin Towers appeared alongside a quote from the Koran, "Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers." For this campaign the AFDI rented space along the subway system's many clocks, presumably out of easy reach of vandals. Kyle Chayka, reporting for Hyperallergic under the headline "A New, Even More Graphic Anti-Islamic Subway Ad," protested that "it’s hard not to view the advertisements as hate speech. Yet AFDI actually won a federal court case in July, defending its campaigns as protected under free speech." The question of what qualifies as hate speech, which your author put to Hyperallergic editor Hrag Vartanian, drew this response: "It's not my job to suggest them [sic] and I'm not really interested in doing so."
Charlie Hebdo's "Life of Mohammed"
In January 2013, French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo published The Life of Mohammed, described by editor Stéphane Charbonnier as "perfectly halal" and which put writings about the subject into comics form. On the day of its release, France closed twenty of its embassies. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault noted that while freedom of expression is guaranteed in France, it "should be exercised with responsibility and respect." Two groups, the Algerian Democratic Union for Peace and Progress and the Organization of Arab Union, have sued the magazine for €780,000 in costs and damages, claiming that the publication was "damaging to the honor and reputation of the Prophet Mohammed and the Muslim community." According to the organizations' lawyer, "They stigmatized Muslims and provoked hatred," and added that "caricatures does not mean anything goes."
Earlier this month a teen from Methuen, MA was arrested for felony bomb threats for a Facebook message that read, "Fuck a boston bomb wait till u see the shit I do, I’m be famous rapping, and beat every murder charge that comes across me!" Initial reports said that bail was set at $1 million; he is currently being held without bail. Police also confiscated his computer and his xBox 360.