Archives About Staff BagNews is dedicated to visual politics, media literacy and the analysis of news images.
February 14, 2006

Fighting BOK

Bok-Cnn-1

It seems that western editorial cartoonists are having a difficult time knowing where to land when it comes to the image of Mohammed.

Feeling a license through their medium, and offended that they have become fall guys in the controversy, these artists seem to be chafing over the situation, especially as Muslim reaction continues to escalate.  Having largely instituted a self-imposed (if not, publisher imposed) moratorium on the prophet himself, several cartoonists seem intent on depicting him without depicting him.  Take Cagle’s latest, for example.

Other artists, on the other hand, don’t seem to be holding such a firm line when it comes to the image.  BOK, for example, might think that he’s lampooning the TV networks for trying to have it both ways with the Danish images.  In doing so, however, BOK gives us Mohammed himself, with the crude styling and the allusion to drug use an evident (if unconscious) expression of his own anger over the situation.

BOK’s blog with reaction to the image here.

(Chip Bok/Philadelphia Inquirer.  www. blogs.ohio.com/chip_bok)

  • http://profile.typekey.com/tnt93/ NY Expat

    I’m glad you picked this up. (I posted about it on Daily Kos with nary a whisper.)
    I’m very surprised with the tone of your reaction, however. Are you saying that there is *no* instance where it is OK to portray Mohammed in any shape or form, even if it is commenting on the reaction to a portrayal of Mohammed?
    At what point does polite accomodation become capitulation?

  • The BAG

    NY,
    I’m primarily interested in how the media — and cartoonists in general — are treating the decision given the current environment. Maybe it’s because I’m in my more neutral shrink mode, but I’m not taking a position here. (Although I’m often taken to task for partisanship, I believe a large function of The BAG is to just pose the problem, ask a few good questions, and get out of your way.) I will say, I can certainly understand that the cartoonists are mad. I’d have to also say, however, that I have a lot more respect for Cagle — in the creative way he is avoiding the image, but still managing to articulate the image …and his anger — than I have for BOK. In this instance, I think BOK’s anger has gotten the better of his art. If you’re a real professional in this current environment, I think part of the way you utilize your talent is to excercise discretion in a manner that no way equates with appeasement.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/tnt93/ NY Expat

    I think part of the way you utilize your talent is to excercise discretion in a manner that no way equates with appeasement.
    How does agreeing to never depict Mohammed not equate with appeasement? Yes, you *can* express it as Cagle has, and you *shoudn’t* depict him simply for the sake of tweaking Muslim sensitivities, but there will be times when it’s relevant to current events to depict him, and ironically (in the true, non-Alanis sense of the word), this has become one of those times.
    This is reminiscent of the claim that movies during the Code era were better than post-Code movies because they had to be more subtle in their expressions of taboo subjects. I personally don’t buy it, and I think the fact that the post-Code Seventies are now considered a golden age of filmmaking refutes it very well, but the argument has been made.
    And, since you’re in shrink mode, I’ll point out that sometimes a pixelated image of Mohammed is just a pixelated image of Mohammed. It’s very hard to see any malice intended towards Islam in that cartoon, and CAIR of Ohio should have known better.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/error27/ error27

    There have been a couple times in my life where I have deeply offended a friend over race or religion.
    It was always an accident and we talked through it and they forgave me.
    A few of the Danish cartoons could definitely be seen as racist. Do cartoonists want people to think they are racist?
    On the other hand, cartoonists are paid to make fun of things. To me, the BOK cartoon is only making fun of CNN but people on his blog were offended by it anyway.
    I don’t have the answers…

  • jonst

    >>>>If you’re a real professional in this current environment, I think part of the way you utilize your talent is to excercise discretion in a manner that no way equates with appeasement<<<<
    There are more wiggle words in that sentence than there are wiggles in a Conga Line. However, as a lawyer, I really must salute you for coming with a line that would make even a lawyer blush. On the other hand yours is the only site that I have been able to view all the ‘images’. And I ahve to salute you for that as well. It took guts. Which really says something about the sad, sad, state of the world these days. Children, man, children. A world of children.

  • ummabdulla

    Although Muslims don’t believe that the Prophet(pbuh) should be depicted at all, it was the tone of those cartoons that was so insulting. Certainly, there are are depictions in other places that haven’t caused this kind of a problem. The arrogance of the newspaper and the Danish Prime Minister afterwards also made things much worse, so that this was kind of the last straw in an endless series of insults from the West.
    But what’s with all this talk of “appeasement” and “capitulation”? It’s not as if this Danish newspaper was taking some necessary action, and the Muslim world was trying to keep them from it. It was a completely unnecessary and intentional provocation. Choosing not to print the cartoons is just good judgment, not appeasement.
    I would note, though, that this cartoon shows the Prophet(pbuh) with a sword ready to stab somebody, which is not very neutral either.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/tnt93/ NY Expat

    ummabdulla,
    See the links I provide in my Daily Kos post. The Bok cartoon is a case where the tone of the cartoon is not insulting, but CAIR of Ohio objected nevertheless.
    The appeasement and capitulation I’m referring to is following the type of strict, dogmatic approach to depicting Mohammed that CAIR of Ohio seems to be requesting. Namely, *never* doing so, regardless of context. I know you don’t believe that to be true, ummabdulla, but for me the reaction to the Bok cartoon tips the evidence towards that conclusion.

  • jonst

    Yeah, it is appeasement when you cave because your scared. And I don’t give a damn what bullcrap is offered by editors in the US, they, said editors, are refraining from printing the cartoons because they are scared. Scared for themselves and scared for their staff. I mean SURE, they don’t want to ‘offend’ Muslims. But dig deeper….ask them WHY NOT? You won’t get a straight answer. Hell, they are in the business of offending people.

  • http://www.futurebird.com futurebird

    I mean SURE, they don’t want to ‘offend’ Muslims. But dig deeper….ask them WHY NOT?
    um… becuase it’s mean… I think the real question is why offend people?
    It is insulting that you put offend in quotes. It’s as if you don’t take the way people feel seriously.
    And that is the real problem.
    Lack of respect.

  • readytoblowagasket

    I think using terms like “appeasement” and “capitulation” is Bush-babble. So as long as westerners remain on the Bush-babble level in this global argument, the fires will rage.
    But aside from the “Who’s more ignorant? Me or them?” power struggle going on, I don’t think Bok’s cartoon is successful. By that I mean: I don’t think it’s funny. So if Bok can’t be funny, why add to the landfill of mediocre cartoons? I don’t give a shit if Bok’s mad. (Did Bok even know who Theo Van Gogh was *before* he was murdered? Or just to conveniently supplement his prejudices?) I want cartoonists to be smart. And since Bok’s not (he’s just dealing with the surface — so, bfd), why should I care what he thinks? Or draws.
    I know, I know, it’s a free country. Bok has every right to express his intellectual limitations through his artwork. Thank God I have other choices.

  • jonst

    Yeah, “don’t offend people”, that should be the standard for the media. How do you publish the news with that standard?
    Come on…if you propose to not offend people simply for the sake of offending them? Fine, I go along with that, so long as the that standard is not enforced by threats and violence.
    As to whether I take people seriously or not. I think a great many people were seriously offended. Sorry about that, and I mean that, but its a news story now and people need to see and understand what it is about.Hence,I assume, bag’s decision to publish the photos in question. Or cartoons. Now, do I take ALL of the people seriously? No. I don’t. The mob in Syria? No…I think that was organized, down to the last shout, by the Syrian Govt. Same in Lebanon. And, perhaps, in Iran and Pakistan as well.

  • http://www.futurebird.com futurebird

    Yeah, “don’t offend people”, that should be the standard for the media. How do you publish the news with that standard?
    Well, I think most papers use this standard all the time. They don’t offend the people who read the paper, the people they feel are important and the people they have respect for. If they must offend one of these groups there is a good reason–
    I agree that some of the violence and protests are trumped up and linked to other causes–
    Still, at the heart of this is a problem that one group of people has recognizing the autonomy and dignity of another.

Refresh Archives

Random Notes