12. March 2006 · Comments Off on Truth In a Print Petticoat · Categories: General, GWOT, History, Pajama Game, World

Sometime around the turn of the last century, Rudyard Kipling (my very favorite short-story writer, after Saki, or H.H. Munro)— a writer not entirely unexposed to the real world, or the machinations of newspapers, society or the military—wrote a fine little story about three newspaper writers, whose life advendures had them on a little tramp steamship in the middle of the ocean. Suddenly, there is a strange, underwater volcanic explosion, a mysterious fog over a mysteriously calm sea, with all sorts of strange debris floating in it… and a pair of aquatic, apparently prehistoric sea dinosaurs nearby. The sea monsters are enormous, but it becomes clear to the riveted newshounds that they are a mated pair. One of them has been terribly injured by the underwater eruption, and is dying, right before their eyes, and to the evident distress of it’s mate. The three journalists watch in horrified sympathy… and their first impulse is to make it the biggest scoop of their lives… but then they realize that it is so incredible, that no one will ever, every believe them, and by the time they are all safe on land and trying to sell the story to their editors, they realize that they are best off just putting it across as fiction.
“For truth is a naked lady,” says the narrator, in the story’s punch-line, “And if by accident she is drawn up from the bottom of the sea, it behooves a gentleman to either give her a print petticoat or turn his face to the wall and vow that he did not see.”

It’s a pretty apt description of how most of our western media outlets treated the Affair of the Danish Cartoons. Throw a print burka over it, repeat the obligatory invocation “But Islam is a religion of peace!” as needed, as reflexively as a Catholic congregation crossing themselves at the mention of the Trinity, turn away and look at the wall and pretend you just don’t see anything in the interval. The trouble is, the monsters are being thrown up to the surface faster and faster. For most of us who are drawn to pay attention, especially after 9/11, we are all but drowning in a tsunami of incidents and portents, every one of which involves militant Islam, political Islam, aggressive Islam, or just local thugs (or individual nutcases) justifying themselves by wrapping themselves in a supremacist Moslem identity. The Madrid and London bombings, the Paris riots, Bali and Beslan, Kenya and Cronulla. Mass protests demanding that their archaic religious laws apply to non-believers. Demanding a respect to their beliefs which is not reciprocated. A tidal spew of insult, lies and incitements to individual and mass murder, from so-called religious leaders across the Moslem world. Simmering war in Chechnya and Indonesia, Darfur, and European banlieus; car bombs, gang rapes, beheadings; the victims are piled high and world-wide. American contractors, Russian soldiers, Afghan teachers, Indonesian school-girls, Australian teenagers, Iraqi policemen. Dutch filmmakers, British and Italian writers, Danish cartoonists, American reporters and pacifists, doctors and do gooders. Hindu temples, Shia shrines, Egyptian and Kenyan hotel complexes, bars in Bali….

…and our Western freedom of speech. Our right to discuss, criticize, parody and analyze critically is nakedly threatened, and our intellectual and cultural leading lights, as well as our mainstream news personalities guard their own tongues metaphorically, lest the rest of them have to be guarded in reality. To be fair, there are some brave exceptions, and a sense of good fairness and rough knowledge of people in general commands me to admit that there are good and upright Moslems in nations across the globe who are content in their beliefs, they are internally strong and confident in their beliefs, and are not demanding our intellectual and political obeisance.

There are those good people in the Arab and Islamic world, and I trust in their existence, and honor their courage when they speak out… but alas, there are so few of them, and the ignorant mobs, the oil-money fueled imams, the bought-and-paid for lobbyists speak so deafeningly louder. They crush all the questions and doubt with the certainty of their vision; it is all too horrendous, all too large. To admit the reality of it is to shake the foundations of ones’ safe world. Better for those mainstream news outlets, those with buildings and employees and a market-share at risk, just to pull the print petticoat, the print blanket, the print shroud over it all, let it go away, and hope that tomorrow will bring something easier, more amenable, more ordinary, something that can be safely tucked into the same old comfortable world vision.

The mainstream media can indulge themselves in fantasies; the rest of us can not. We cannot escape the world; it is still with us, in spite of how hard some of its manifestations are to believe.

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