In the wake of the shameful Dagbladet cartoon, some journalists are questioning why this cartoon, which has caused such international condemnation, has not triggered even the slightest debate about our “satirical culture”, which more than once has landed us in the uncomfortable gaze of the international community.
Bjørn Gabrielsen of Dagens Næringsliv has questioned this mysterious silence (not online, bad google translateIn hi newly released book “Freedom of expression freedom” (Humanist Publishing) writer and computer programer Bjorn Stærk says that he is willing to accept agitation against ethnic groups in the interests of free speech. Only in this way, he writes, can the society continuously inoculate itself against bad ideas. At the same time he points out that there must be procedures to avoid wasting time on a discussion whether or not the earth is flat over more important things. “Discussions are more brutal than dialogue, but honest. Discussion stresses the differences of opinion that make us aware of them and forces us to deal with them. ” Stærk writes.But in Norwegian media there has been little discussion after Dagbladet in late May came in the focus of international news with a drawing that would have made “Hitler and Himmler to cry with joy,” according to Abraham Cooper of the Wiesenthal Center. The cartoon by Tomas Drefvelin shows a couple about to torture a child while they explain clearly newly arrived police officers that “this is tradition! An important part of our faith. ” Simultaneously they wave about a bloodstained book which, most readers will presume are religious texts. The police officers respond apologetically “Faith? Oh, but then it’s okay! “
How to describe the drawing depends somewhat on what background you have and how you want to represent yourself. Member of Parliament Jenny Klinge (SP) tweeted “It must be possible to criticize circumcision of boys without being called a Nazi.”
For the Nazis themselves there will probably be no doubt that the drawing depicts a Jewish rituals and Jewish power over society. The drawing alleges vicious religious rituals, the use of the devil-fork, a presentation that the minority controls the police. The parallels to the anti-Semitic drawings from the 30th century are numerous. Drefvelin drawing also recalls medieval numerous depictions of alleged Jewish ritual murder. Jews have also consistently been accused of having power over the state apparatus and the law, a claim which coincides rather badly with Jewish experience. Taking examples from Scandinavia in our own time, kosher slaughter is banned in Norway and Sweden, male circumcision is under pressure, the shots at the synagogue in Oslo in 2006 and bombings outside the Jewish community center in Malmö in 2013 were not judged as hate crime. Drefvelin humorous points presuppose a fundamental consent to ideas about Jewish bloodlust and power.
But one should take care to not draw conclusions too fast. it is of course possible that the cartoonist and the newspaper have intended to accuse religious minorities in general of ritual
murders and secret power over the society . Concurrence with classic anti-Semitic propaganda could be a random occurrence and a result of lack of historical knowledge. In the aftermath of the storm the drawing caused Dagbladet published an editorial in two languages in which it was called a “political statement.” This is hopefullya poorly thought through assertion since one is reluctant to believe that editorial board sees a similarity between the drawing’s message and the reality, something which is required of a political point. “The earth is flat” is not a political statement.
Also if one chooses to interpret the drawing as a representation of circumcision instead of ritual murder, is it hard to read this as directed against any other religion than Judaism. Male circumcision in Muslim tradition, when it takes place outside the hospital, is performed on older boys and not necessarily, or even normally, with recitation of sacred texts.
Both the cartoonist and Dagbladet have tried to explain that the intention has not been to harass any specific group. On his Facebook Drefvelin wrote “some interpret more into drawing than is there.” Dagbladet writes “Those who have decided that drawing is an expression of hatred, do not believe the artist when he says he made a parody of religious practices that are not directed towards any particular religion or group. ”
But what Dagbladet and Drefvelin think is hard to know and hard to do anything about. How the drawing is perceived and what it is similar to, is on the other hand abundantly clear.
admitting to a mistake of recognized ignorance will be forgiven by most, but this lifeline can not be grabbed without some humiliation. It is entirely human in such a situation to resort to what seems like an alternative face saving strategy: to protest one’s innocence and in stead produce claims about the other party’s agenda.
Bjorn Stærk presents a number of theoretical dilemmas about freedom of expression in his aforementioned book, most of them more interesting than this blunder with Dagbladet. For example: What if you’re the editor of the debate page and receive a comment from a famous extremist, but who presents remarkably and well documented facts? Dagbladet’s cartoon represents only the same old nonsense about a minority’s evil and power. It is perhaps something of an irony that conspiracy-theories from medieval ages, in 2013 is communicated and defended by an avowed atheistic cartoonist , a supposedly liberal newspaper and several Norwegian politicians. But it also provokes a numbing sense of déjà vu.
Bjørn Gabrielsen is a literature reviewer and commentator in Dagens Næringsliv