Thursday, March 21, 2013

Knowing your enemy / Cartoons ridiculing Christianity

Talking about knowing your enemy, I just googled "Cartoons ridiculing Christianity."

This is one article I read:

Firstly, it mentions that there are now fewer newspaper cartoonists than there used to be.  This is supposedly blamed on the fact that there are always these cries going up for "civility".

Quote:  For some strange reason, it's considered "wrong" by more and more people to mock, ridicule, or otherwise attack foolish ideas, foolish politicians, and foolish decisions. Since when? Why? Ridicule can in fact be one of the best weapons against the powerful, the privileged, and those who would presume to control others.

The problem is seen to be our intolerance of the offensive cartoon.  The struggle is against the powerful, privileged and those who want to control.

I would add that a neutral cartoon is actually an illustration. The function of editorial cartoons is to attack and subvert those in power and their official pronouncements (which are, inevitably in class society, lies). 

Here we have the contrast between a neutral cartoon which only illustrates, and an editorial cartoon which is meant to subvert power and official pronouncements, which are inevitable "lies".  An editiorial cartoon must at least be oppositional, if not revolutionary.  Whether veiled or overt the opposition is always there, and that is why the reader loves it.

The message is pared down to the minimal essence.  "When done well, a cartoon reaches the reader's consciousness with instant clarification, turning a previously complex or obscured concept into something now obvious."

This is kind of good and as someone has pointed out to me, Jesus parables serve a similar purpose.  We usually say they are earthly stories with a heavenly meaning.  We can't exactly say the same thing about editorial cartoons. And therein does lie a serious difference.  They may have a complex and obscure concept in mind, but they are not teachings about God.  Some would like the make it sound like that is the same thing, but it is not.  But I concede a certain overlap. 
I have often used the phrase resistance through ridicule. When we use humor to expose absurdity and hypocrisy, and inspire our readers to laugh at those in power, then we help our readers to be less afraid. When our respect for the powerful switches to contempt, we can better imagine them toppling from their lofty positions. We can imagine toppling them ourselves. 

Personally, I have had these kinds of encounters with people who think that they should treat me this way.  If I, per chance, advance a reasonable argument they can just heap contempt upon me that should satisfy something.  First of all, I am no person in power or have any power to control anything. I am just a housewife, living in a cold climate, who also likes to read.   If my argument possibly is powerful and someone finds it oppressive it could be the weight of the matter or the truth that's not liked.  (It is worth taking into consideration. Maybe.  Yes?)  Most often, I quote people who are much smarter than I.  Quoting is also not well liked.  Yes, yes, we should keep it short. 

I have met people on-line (in real life people don't dare do this to each other), who just simple call me "immature", "bigoted", "medieval", "morbid", "bitch", worthy of contempt as per Matth. 23, etc.;  thankfully I forget the rest.   The ad hominems should really be beneath them or any of us.  But they are not.  When the argument is bad, just yell louder, is the thing that comes to me.  I am not their oppressor.  And if they have a different opinion they might try and state it plainly.  However, stating things plainly is also not wanted.  You have to state things ambiguously.  So, in the end, when a simple woman explains something, the way to deal with it is with mocking and ambiguity, as to topple the existing authorities.  -- Oh, all these revolutionaries.  

Ok, political and doctrinal review and critiques have their place and surely also the simple man and woman, wannabe revolutionary or housewife, should be able to engage in them.  Especially they, actually, as opposed to the career critiquer.  I give you that.  And we are not against simplifying and brevity where appropriate and when well done.  I give you that, too.  And they think, that I, as a confessing Lutheran, present some kind of oppressive power.  I have no idea what oppressive power that would be.  I have pretty much no power, at all.  My church has pretty much no power, at all.  We go to church out of our own free will and need and we pay for it, ourselves.  We let groups use our buildings for all kinds of things.  We hatch, match and dispatch those who barely associate with us, using our facilities, ministers and comfort in the hopes that they may become part of our community.  But we are some kind of oppressive power. 

So maybe it's not that ridicule is "mean," but rather that ridicule -- at least when done well -- causes us to laugh at the targets. Laughing at powerful people and institutions deprives those people and institutions of some of the authority which they depend upon.

--Only if you can't laugh at yourself and your positions depends on your supposed superiority.  But to simply laugh at a reasonable proposition, to oppose things just for the sake of opposing, to ridicule for the sake of ridiculing or your own ego, is not a responsible way of proceeding.  It really is immoral.

The use of sober, calm, rational critiques don't achieve this because they typically presume that the power being used is legitimate. Instead, the focus of the critique is on specific decisions or actions that were poorly handled. But why should we necessarily grant the premise that the power being misused is legitimate in the first place? Why shouldn't we go after the basis of their claims to power in the first place?

BECAUSE, if your argument is poor and theirs is good, they may actually have the moral authority to say what they are saying.  So, to simply attack the basis, their power without actually having the moral high ground or a reasonable thing to say, is just hooliganism.  But, instead, they like to call themselves "prophets" now.  They should remember that a prophet has something useful to say.  He does not just simply oppose "power". 

I do agree that satire and cartoons can be highly effective, so can stories, like Jesus' parables.  People have gone to bite size information these days, much of it encapsulated into tweets and Facebook shares.  And really, one can learn a lot from a well-formulated, well-drawn, little piece.  And humor is powerful.  

But we do need civil discourse.  It does not serve to simply "hate", as they say, or simply "blaspheme", which used to be against the law, or simply "oppose power", as we have explored.  

Here is a response to the article we've been dealing with:

I have received hate emails from readers for my own online comic strip, Cockroach Comix which runs at comicssherpa. Usually the messages come in two forms. The first is out-and-out hateful, telling me to stop oppressing christians (I never mention Christ or Chrisitanity, just religion in general). The second type consists of plaintive whining that begs me to be civil and stop dragging comics through the secular muck and to stop insulting believers with blasphemy, and that I will be prayed for. Next time I get a batch of them I will openly incorporate them into a strip where the bugs present the messages verbatim, and discuss them with readers. All told I include very few storylines with the anti-religion theme, but they garner the most hate mail.

This too, I have seen done on-line.  Someone who had private conversations, even, who had encouraged them all the way, and framed the discussion and set the tone, indulged in what he would know would be "blasphemous" to the other, then turned around the publish excerpts to show how stupid, mean or ignorant the conversation partner was.  

And to be insulted by the fact that someone said that they will pray for you is just the height of it all.  Yes, praying for you is the height of oppressive behavior, the height of hate, the height of ludicrousness   It stings even more than a mocking cartoon. 

The dark side of cartooning is that they have often also served to dumb down issues, or to incite in favor of another power, one as evil as the one that is being decried.  The masters of propaganda were, of course, the Nazi's, and we're recently looked at how they could rise to power.  Their use of media was ahead of the time and masterful.  There were posters and comics and magazines.  You name it, all for the consumption of the "masses", for those who would buy into it. 

Here is one example of a poster I just googled.  It summarizes  the problem at the time.  A great hate and fear of Bolshevism was used to whip the people into supporting National Socialism.  This one says: "Bolshevism without its mask." 

And indeed, Bolshevism was to be feared.  There were the uprisings during the Weimar Republic, there were the purges in Soviet Russia, there was the purposeful mass starvation in Ukraine...  There was the international communist organizations that were poised to bring more countries under Soviet style leadership   The answer lay in National Socialism--not!  We always need to be leery.  I wouldn't worry so much about the people who are offering to pray for you.  

 Mocking also as encouraged by Dawkins.

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