Cartoons and satire were our last weapons – what happens now that we have lost them?

The dust is settling after Geert Wilders announced his plans to host a ‘Mohammed cartoon’ contest, pretty much all of Pakistan went into a frenzy and islamic terrorists descended on the Netherlands, one of them leaving two American tourists severely wounded in hospital after a stabbing attack, and Wilders canceled the cartoon contest.

An inconic anti-Islam activist like Wilders being forced to cancel an event like this is a huge defeat for freedom of speech, and a huge win for islamic oppression. Wilders has sacrificed his personal freedom for his mission and the fight against islam. His statement that it was not worth risking the lives of others is understandable, but bowing to threats of violence now is a huge mistake.

The resounding defeat is exacerbated by the droves of establishment lackeys, pundits, journalists and celebrities eager to emphasize that Wilders had been too provocative. A survey showed that almost 60% of Dutch citizens think Wilders’ cartoon contest was ‘crossing the line’. 30% even think the government should have prohibited the contest from taking place. (The survey was taken both before and after it became known that the contest was being canceled.)

This shows how steadfast westerners are not in the protection of their freedoms. This means that the most violent person simply wins now. Hardly anyone even questions whether they were right to use violence in the first place – being offended is validated to the point that a violent response is considered fair game. If “words are aggression”, this is the price we pay. Feeling ‘offended’ is taken as an objective standard of right and wrong (even though that is an inherent impossibility), so much so that being offended enough to use violence becomes not a cause for further ridicule or condemnation, but rather as evidence that the offender, the target, must have been wrong.

Provocation is an essential tool for progress. We use satire to challenge dogma, to push people out of their comfort zones, to affect change, to move forward. We use laughter and mockery to deal with things that confuse us, that scare us and that threaten us. The west has been thoroughly pacified; mass sex attacks, terrorist attacks, continuous insults and abuses are not enough to elicit a response from the population.

As a right-wing(ish) Dutch pundit put it in an op-ed:

The urge to shackle ourselves in order not to bother a country [Pakistan] on the other side of the globe (and in a time zone where the clock of progression marches very lazily) is a tragic betrayal of ourselves. They are bothering us with their backward convictions, not the other way around.

One might say, can’t you come up with something new, Geert? But these drawings are already our last word. They are our final offer and the last stage of western disarmament. We have put down our arms, to pick up our pens. Pens which we use to sign international treatises on human rights and freedoms. And pens which we dip in the ink of mockery. To tease, to lampoon and, yes of course, to provoke.

It is probably true that satire and cartoons are our last weapons against oppression and tyranny (at least in western Europe, the effectively entirely disarmed part of the west) – a realization that is all the more tragic with the knowledge that the cartoon contest that sparked the op-ed above was canceled a couple of days later. This was our last weapon, but that too, is now gone. What is next, is either violence or defeat.

Westerners have already proven that they are not eager to use violence. It is a trait that speaks to our character. It is positive, until it becomes suicidal. The turnaround could still come from the ballots, but it would have to be quick. The Italian government is on its way to prove that a lot of damage can be undone. If it will not come from the ballots, either through unwillingness or establishment sabotage, I have no doubt the turnaround will come in the streets. It is not a scenario to look forward to by any means.

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