Brave Angela? Merkel Presents Award to Danish Cartoonist

By the adjusted measures of this current economic slump, the German economy is doing unbelievably well—the Wall Street Journal, noting that the “economy grew 9% in the second quarter on an annualized basis and unemployment, at 7.6%, is well below U.S. levels,” calls Germany the “envy of Europe.” But despite provoking the envy of its economically sclerotic neighbors, Angela Merkel’s coalition government, which includes the libertarian-leaning, tax-cutting Free Democrats (FDP), is taking a battering in the polls, with the FDP hemorrhaging supporters.

But the typically uncontroversial Merkel, according to this dispatch from Reuters, is today “to honor Mohammad cartoonist [Kurt Westergaard] at a press award” ceremony in Berlin, something that might help lift her sagging popularity. The right-leaning tabloid Bild called her appearance at the awards ceremony the “bravest performance” of the Christian Democrat’s tenure as chancellor. Indeed, introducing the controversial Danish cartoonist Merkel declared that “"[We] are talking here about the freedom of opinion and of the press. It's about whether in a Western society with its values, he is allowed to publish his Mohammed cartoons in a newspaper or not.”  

But before we heap too much praise upon Merkel for doing the obvious—defending the free speech rights of an elderly cartoonist—keep in mind that she couldn’t avoid qualifying her support of Westergaard with that ubiquitous nonsense line, repeated like a mantra by critics of Jyllands-Posten and Westergaard—about freedom of speech being freighted with certain “responsibilities.” Bizarrely, Merkel also condemned the Florida sociopath who will hold a Koran burning at his church to mark the anniversary of September 11th as "abhorrent." (Yesterday, the German police staged a series of raids on buildings associated with the neo-Nazi movement, though President Obama has yet to weigh in on the group’s anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.)

While German bloggers and newspaper columnists gasp and applaude Merkel’s “bravery”—FAZ breathlessly concluded it was "probably be the most explosive event of her chancellorship so far”—perhaps they might instead chin-stroke on a more obvious question: Why does a limited defense of free speech by the leader of a Western democracy provoke such astonishment from the press corps?

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  • Schmerkel||

    Why does a limited defense of free speech by the leader of a Western democracy provoke such astonishment from the press corps?

    Because the "free speech" ... it offends.

  • ||

    Because in presenting this award, Merkel is exposing both herself and her family to the possibility of murder by jihadists, and the press are amazed that any politician would do this for the sake of a mere principle. Kudos to Merkel.

  • Schmerkel||

    That's what I said.

  • a||

    Speaking of which, when will Reason join Burn a Koran Day?

  • Rich||

    I suggest that the Reason staff sponsor a "Burn a Copy of Reason Magazine" Day. They might sell more hard copy, and could truly say they address burning issues.

  • ||

    LOL

  • evil is me||

    some body should buy a bible and a koran, take the cover off of both and put the cover from the koran onto the bible and then send it to the church to be burned.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    'Bout time this guy got an award.

  • EJM||

    Bizarrely, Merkel also condemned the Florida sociopath who will hold a Koran burning at his church to mark the anniversary of September 11th as "abhorrent."

    Well, he was a pastor in Germany up until a few years ago.

  • SIV||

    Democrats bring out the BIG GUNS

    Wes Clark attacks Rand Paul over ‘Aqua Buddha’

  • Binky||

    Nice "Katie Holmes on Tom Cruise" action at the link.

  • ||

    Did you expect more from such a low-life like Clark?

  • Yurop||

    To call the FDP libertarian leaning is ridculous, they are more like the democrats in the US. I can't remember that the FDP has cut any taxes, apart from the tax cuts for hotels.

  • Apologetic California||

    They can't, they've never run the government before. They're always junior partners.

  • Yurop||

    The "junior partners" do have a large say when it comes to enacting laws; it's just that the FDP is too corrupt to get anything done. That's the reason why their poll results are in the shitter, too.

  • Rrabbit||

    The FDP are not libertarian, but they are not like the US democrats either. They are essentially a big money party, and always willing to sell out their principles if that enables them to become junior partner of a coalition government.

  • Apologetic California||

    How do you say "I welcome our German overlords" without making any coded reference to the Nazis, but doing it in a way that doesn't talk about the war.

  • ||

    Heil Hohenzollern.

  • affenkopf||

    Saupreißn

    (apparently my comment is not in English, how the hell did you get through the filter with?)

  • Urkobold™||

    IT'S EASY TO BE BRAVE WHEN YOU HAVE THE LARGEST BOSOM IN THE EUROPEAN THEATER.

    YES, CLICK ON THE LINK! IT IS YOUR DESTINY.

  • Particle Physicist||

    Crap, I thought you said BOSON.

  • Urkobold™||

    FOOL! KNOW YOU NOTHING OF PHYSICS? BOSON IS A TYPO FOR BOSOM. AS ANYONE WITH A LEGITIMATE EDUCATION IS AWARE, THE CURRENT SEARCH FOR THE HIGGS BOSOM IS CRITICAL TO THE STANDARD MODEL, AS THE STANDARD MODEL SHOULD HAVE PERFECT TITS.

  • Sparky||

    YOU'RE NOT VERY FUNNY.

  • Urkobold™||

    SCIENCE RARELY IS, YOU TAINTLESS FOOL.

  • ||

    Germans are an ugly ugly people.

    I suspect all the hot ones moved to the US in the 1800s.

  • ||

    You are such an idiot. That's the most stupid and wrong-headed thing I've ever read on here. What an unmitigated fool.

  • ||

    Bizarrely condemned the book burner guy? C'mon dude. I realize that libertarians often have a hard time seeing acts outside of a context-free vacuum, but book burning is miles apart from publishing a cartoon simply from the history of book burning, especially in Germany. I could give two shits about the Koran or Bible as holy texts--- but burning any book is pretty creepy. Even Twilight. Doubly so from a guy who has said that Islam is a satanic religion. This should be Libertarian 101--- just because something is a constitutionally protected expression, doesn't mean the speaker isn't a total fucking asshole. And calling him such is totally legitimate.

  • Here we go again||

    I could give two shits about the Koran or Bible as holy texts--- but burning any book is pretty creepy.

    So, "any book" is a holy text? Why should burning my book be "creepy"? Do you know what people used to use the Sears catalog for?

  • ||

    Holy text? No. But the symbolic destruction of a book, even your book, is act of unreasoning destruction. It's saying ideas shouldn't be rebutted or discussed. It says that ideas are dangerous, and should be destroyed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4_j4c7Bop0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FkbgeR8LKs

  • ||

    You really like books, don't you, toxic. Maybe you should see a psychologist. Your bibliosexuality isn't natural. NTTAWWT.

  • Gretchen||

    It's not so much the fact that it's a book burning which makes the distinction clear to me, as the intention behind the act-- the Florida church is burning the Qur'an as a "Fuck you" to all Muslims. The cartoons were drawn to say "We retain our freedom of speech." Two very different messages. One is a matter of being willing to offend to make a point; the other is offending simply to offend. That makes the moral difference between the two more than clear to me, aside from the obvious right to do both.

  • Binky||

    Points taken. However, if someone gives you the finger, do you believe you are morally justified in responding with deadly force? I think this is more what the "pastor" is getting at, rather than "offending simply to offend".

  • Fluffy||

    They may have been doing it for that reason at one point -

    But now that Petraeus has said, "Don't do it or They will attack us more," backing down would be every bit as great a capitulation as failing to support the Mohammad cartoonists.

    The bottom line is that the only reason to describe the act as "abhorrent" is if you believe that one group has the right to impose its view of the sacred on everyone else. It's fucking paper and ink and nothing more. It's not special. There is nothing to it of any value whatsoever any greater than the rolled-up newspaper I used as kindling in my fireplace.

    And the whole "But it's books, and books are different than flags, and bras, and draft cards, and effigies of dictators!" stuff really annoys me also. The reason "book burning" occupies a dark symbolic place in our cultural psyche is because book burners in history were wielding political power either as the state or as the church behind the state. The Nazi book burnings were significant acts of oppression because they possessed the power to track down and destroy every public copy of a banned text. If you aren't the state, and you aren't a medieval church wielding a power that may as well be the state's, book burning is no more "oppression" than flag burning is. It's a transgressive personal political act and that's basically it.

  • if||

    mulsims don't wanna be thought of as gaylords, then they should stop acting like gaylords.

    media thinks the only lens that matters here is muslim sensitivity. it isn't. it is the bottom rung of what matters.

  • It||

    is interesting, isn't it, that on the one hand, Allah is said to rule everything, and OTOH, Allah's followers must defend Him from every insult, however slight or imagined. Could Allah be His followers? Naah, that'd be blasphemy.

  • ||

    I think the Koran burning is obnoxious, needlessly offensive, and serves no good purpose, but it's hardly like the U.S. is sanctioning the event. We have freedom of speech. Period.

  • ||

    This should be Libertarian 101--- just because something is a constitutionally protected expression, doesn't mean the speaker isn't a total fucking asshole. And calling him such is totally legitimate.

  • ||

    Sure. So?

  • ||

    Hey, Episiarch, I have someone for you to add to your nekulturny list: Dan Aykroyd. I sat and watched a few minutes of Ghostbusters II (a film I have yet to watch all the way through), and saw a scene where his character and Egon were discussing pizza options:

    Egon: Thin or thick?

    Ray: Chicago.
  • ||

    Aykroyd's been on the list since Blues Brothers 2000, dude. You should know that.

  • ||

    You're shitting me, that really happened? I thought it was just a horrid dream I had. Fortunately, dream or no dream, I have yet to see even a scene from that "movie."

    Speaking of Aykroyd, I felt horrific pity for him in another minute of bad-film glancing I did this past weekend. I wasn't aware that he was forced to do a bad imitation of Bill Murray in Caddyshack 2. That's hellishly wrong.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    When I saw him on According to Jim, it made my heart sad.

  • BakedPenguin||

    Don't forget Dr. Detroit and Nothing But Trouble.

    If anyone wants to sponsor a movie burning, let me suggest these.

  • Fluffy||

    The only reason to regard the speaker here as a total asshole is if the Koran is, in fact, the word of God.

    Are you saying that the Koran is the word of God? If so, welcome! Thank you for increasing the diversity of the board.

    If it's not the word of God, then the action isn't actually blasphemy. Which puts the people who are upset about the act immediately in the wrong.

  • EVL29||

    Moo!

  • ||

    To be intellectually consistent, those that oppose the burning of ole glory should oppose the burning of the koran. Sure, some sophist might feebly try to distinguish the two with the former being a symbol of the state while the latter is a symbol of a religion. Such sophists would be making my point.

  • Tom Walls||

    Somewhere, angry Islamists will be burning merkins in protest.

  • ||

    the Florida sociopath who will hold a Koran burning at his church

    I think this and the mosque has exposed me as a pro-pro. I think i just automatically choose to favor the actions of poeple who are being protested by other poeple.

    If group X want to do something and group y wants to stop it sign me up for support of group x no questions asked.

    This makes me pro-Koran burning and pro-mosque building at ground zero.

  • ||

    "But before we heap too much praise upon Merkel for doing the obvious—defending the free speech rights of an elderly cartoonist..."

    I don't really know this guy's story, but I'm not sure I understand giving him an award for drawing these cartoons.

    You want to give an award to some newspaper for printing cartoons in the face of intense public pressure? Maybe I understand that.

    But why the government should pick anybody on any side of that fight is beyond me...

    Like I've said so many times before--printing cartoons that offend Muslims isn't any more heroic than Muslims exercising their right to peacefully protest against newspapers who print cartoons that offend them.

    When the government picks somebody to honor in that fight--that's just identity politics, nothing to praise Merkel for.

    If she follows through on her promises and cuts their federal budget to the bone? Then I'll nominate her myself for some kind of award.

    But Merkel stickin' it to the Muslims doesn't impress me in the least--threats or no threats.

  • Apogee||

    ...Muslims exercising their right to peacefully protest

    Oops.

    And really, we all know the snipers were actually looking for Christian theocrats.

  • ||

    I'm not saying this is what you're doing here, but rights are kinda funny in that we shouldn't pick the people we like, defend their rights, and then try to think up new and creative ways to disparage the rights of people we don't like...

    The right of newspapers to print what they please is in no way superior to the right of Muslims to peaceably assemble and protest whatever any newspaper prints that offends them.

    It's all the same thing.

    It is true that some Muslims made death threats against various people associated with the cartoons, and no one from the newspaper made any death threats towards Muslims for protesting...

    But that's beside the point, isn't it?

    If the point is that newspapers have the right to print what they please, and Muslims have the right to be offended and protest whatever newspapers write...?

    Then Angela Merkel has no business taking sides. Prosecute people who make violent threats? Absolutely. Other than that, the government has no business taking sides.

    In all fairness, she should turn around and present an award to a Muslim who peacefully protested the newspapers who printed this man's cartoon.

  • ||

    "In all fairness, she should turn around and present an award to a Muslim who peacefully protested the newspapers who printed this man's cartoon."

    But why should exercising your rights in a free country win you an award?

    And I guess that's my question here. Why does creating a cartoon that offends Muslims merit an award?

    Maybe there's more to the story--but that's what it looks like's happening from where I'm standing.

  • Fluffy||

    Why does creating a cartoon that offends Muslims merit an award?

    Because extremist Muslims threatened violence over it. And that makes anyone who stands before them and tells them "Fuck off, bring it on, cunts!" automatically in the right.

    If there are people in the world who would kill others for not sharing their vision of the sacred, those people deserve to have their vision of the sacred shit on over and over and over until by sheer repetition and ennui they surrender. And in that scenario the shitters are heroes.

  • ||

    "Because extremist Muslims threatened violence over it. And that makes anyone who stands before them and tells them "Fuck off, bring it on, cunts!" automatically in the right."

    Extremist overreactions justifiy baiting? That somehow turns the baiters into heroes?

    Not in my world.

    In the meantime, the government has no business favoring one form of baiting over another. And this is a point you should really consider carefully, Fluffy...

    Has it ever occurred to you that you may sometimes be the victim of baiting yourself?

    Has it ever occurred to you that religious extremists might bait people like you, specifically, to alienate marginal Muslims who otherwise might be more open to assimilation?

    If all they need to do is mail in a threat to make people like you foam at the mouth about how much they hate Muslims...? And entice politicians like Merkel to stand up for the baiters?

    From a strategic standpoint, why are you making things so easy for the extremists?

  • Apogee||

    Nobody's making things 'easy for extremists'.

    They're defending their rights of free expression.

    And in order to have free expression, individuals should be able to not be subjected to murder for expressing themselves.

    You continue to mention the right of Islamists to peaceably protest the cartoons.

    Nobody's arguing that.

    What people are arguing - some by drawing 'baiting' cartoons - is that the Islamists have NO right to physically attack and/or kill others for expressing an idea that they might find objectionable. Nor should the embarrassment of non-fanatics occupy a superior position to the right of free speech.

    There is absolutely no reason to play some reverse psychology game about "real" and "extreme" Muslims. Nobody does that with other protected groups.

    The fact that this needs an explanation is stunning.

  • Fluffy||

    Extremist overreactions justifiy baiting? That somehow turns the baiters into heroes?

    Not in my world.

    Ken, we're all well aware that you are basically on the side of the guys who wanted to kill Rushdie, philosophically if not geopolitically. You really don't have to address it so obliquely.

    I mean, look at some of your asinine statements in this thread.

    It is true that some Muslims made death threats against various people associated with the cartoons, and no one from the newspaper made any death threats towards Muslims for protesting...

    But that's beside the point, isn't it?

    How in the flying fuck is that beside the point? That's the entire point.

    That's like saying that a newspaper that prints an anti-Klan cartoon in 1959 is no more deserving of an award than the people who protest against that newspaper and picket them carrying signs that say "Stop This Nigger Loving Newspaper" as a result.

    Hey - both sides are just exercising their rights - right?

    The simple fact of the matter is that demanding death for drawing a picture or burning a book is irrational and criminal nonsense. Baiting that is therefore the proper thing to do. [I know, I know - not in your world.]

    I suspect that the ONLY reason you think otherwise in this case is because the nonsense in question is religious nonsense. You're more than willing to stand up for religious nonsense, even murderous religious nonsense. If there were people in the world saying that they would kill anyone who published a paper critical of global warming theory, and someone published such a paper in the face of those death threats, I'm sure you would call them a hero.

  • ||

    "Ken, we're all well aware that you are basically on the side of the guys who wanted to kill Rushdie, philosophically if not geopolitically. You really don't have to address it so obliquely."

    Pointing out that politicians like Merkel have no place presenting awards to baiters--for their baiting--is the same thing as coming out in favor of people who make death threats?

    That is a truly frightening world you live in. Hope you find your way out someday.

    Just for the sake of curiosity, in your world, is coming out against torture the same as being on the side of the terrorists?

    "The simple fact of the matter is that demanding death for drawing a picture or burning a book is irrational and criminal nonsense. Baiting that is therefore the proper thing to do. [I know, I know - not in your world.]"

    You're clearly conflating everyone who protested those cartoons with the people who made the death threats, and it's just not the same thing. Protesting things in newspapers that offend you and making death threats just aren't the same thing.

    Free press rights and the right to protest, however, are the same thing. One right doesn't become more important or better than another just because you happen to like the people who are engaging in freedom of the press--but you don't like the people who are protesting. ...and no amount of denigrating the people who hold those rights will ever change that fact.

    Again, don't you get tired of doing whatever the terrorists tell you to do? For however little it costs some half-baked Imam somewhere in Africa or the Middle East to dial in a fatwa, they can make a thousand Fluffies go ballistic all over the internet and spout all manner of hate--easy as pushing a button?

    That's called being a "tool".

    "1. tool

    One who lacks the mental capacity to know he is being used. A fool. A cretin. Characterized by low intelligence and/or self-steem."

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tool

  • Rrabbit||

    I think those cartoons did not offend the muslims.

    The bulk of the muslims who felt offended did not get to see the cartoons. They were offended because of lies their media and their politicians told them

  • ||

    That's just silly.

    "They were offended because of lies their media and their politicians told them"

    Which governments did this? The government of Germany? The government of Denmark, Sweden...?

    Which government's media and politicians lied to Muslims in Germany, Sweden and Denmark about the cartoons?

  • Rrabbit||

    Iran, Lybia, Saudi-Arabia, etc.

    Did you actually *meet* any muslim who saw those cartoons and was offended by them? I didn't.

  • ||

    "Did you actually *meet* any muslim who saw those cartoons and was offended by them? I didn't.I don't know how many Muslims you know, but the answer is yes."

    While a few of them were willing to consider the idea that repeated printings were a response to and defiance of the death threats, etc., most of them, I thought, didn't understand why so much of the media seemed so eager to print things offensive to Muslims. They seemed to think they were being printed specifically because they were offensive to Muslims...

    When you're a member of a minority, that's been the subject of a lot of media portrayals like Muslims (and Arabs) have been, I suspect they were probably already a bit dubious of western news outlets anyway.

    But, yes, denigrating their Prophet was deeply offensive to Muslims I knew, probably more so than say denigrating MLK would be to African-Americans.

  • Rrabbit||

    That Danish newspaper that originally printed the cartoons indeed a few years earlier had rejected some cartoons that christians might have deemed offensive. I.e., they were willing to risk offending muslims, but not christians.

    However, that original print run in that Danish newspaper didn't cause the public outrage. It was pretty much ignored.

    This one:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi.....ansigt.png

  • ||

    Let's hope this commitment to free speech will last for a while. We had a lot of bs discussions about "mutual respect for religious feelings" in Germany recently. When it comes to censorship the Pope and Bin Laden would happily agree, I'm afraid.

  • Woodrow||

    This is much better than the last time a German Chancellor took notice of the Danes.

  • Anton Grambihler||

    Individual Freedom of Expression is more important than media controlled Freedom of Expression.

    Angela Merkel needs to demand that people who disagree with the officially mandated truths about World War II not be subject to imprisonment.

    What is being covered up?

  • Garry||

    My girlfriend is mulima and she was not offended.

  • Rainer||

    in 2010 Angela Merkel foreign policy was still acceptabel. Nowadays it is no loanger bearable.
    She wont be ellected again in 2013

  • Olaf||

    "Typically uncontroversial Merkel".

    Sorry, no way. The german Chancellor is gets rightly criticised for her restrictiv foreign policy

  • Renly||

    Thank you for this interesting blog entry of yours. Keep up the good work

  • Adultcams||

    Seems like Angela Merkel is going to be Firts Lady of Europe

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