February 8, 2006
We Need to Make Life Miserable for the Puppeteers

By Froma Harrop

The cartoon furor is no longer about Them. It's about Us, and how we're going to respond to Them. By "Us," I mean people who support the Western ideal of free speech, even when it offends.

The conflagration over a cartoon in a Danish newspaper greatly clarifies things, especially for Europe. It used to be commonplace that a flawed American foreign policy was the root of most Muslim unhappiness. Now, the poster children for peace-loving Continentals -- Denmark and Norway -- are having their embassies torched across the Muslim world.

In police states where people get shot for holding up the wrong sign, crowds are given free rein to smash up European consulates and Christian churches. The puppet masters have big agendas. And for them, stirring anger against the West does have its uses.

Want to end the violence? Want the proclaimed boycotts against Danish goods to go away? It's simple. Launch a reverse boycott against the elites of the countries whose citizens are now taking out their ignorance, envy and self-pity on European institutions.

Tell the various strongmen, sheiks and clerics that they may no longer partake of the pleasures and comforts of the West, while inciting the masses at home. Henceforth, Saudi princes may not come to the great medical centers of Berlin or Boston to have their cancer treated. The militant mullahs can't send their children to private schools in England. The men who cultivate anti-West paranoia among their impoverished masses may not own villas on the Cote d'Azur. And their wives may no longer shop on the Via Veneto.

The West could also ban direct imports. The European Union has already told Saudi Arabia that a boycott of Danish goods would be regarded as a boycott of the European Union. That's a good start -- and far more self-respecting than the craven response of our own State Department. Not a few red-blooded Americans cringed at hearing department spokesman Justin Higgins call the cartoon "unacceptable."

The American media's generally spineless response has been likewise embarrassing. As of this writing, only one major U.S. paper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, has published the offending cartoon (which shows the prophet Mohammed with a bomb as a turban). Papers that ran cartoons of pedophilic Catholic priests chasing altar boys would not print the Danish drawing.

Britain's media were no better. The editor at The Independent gave as his singularly lame excuse that it was not a "good" cartoon. This is the same newspaper that portrayed a naked Ariel Sharon eating a Palestinian baby. The Independent's cartoon judgment is clearly based not on what offends an audience, but on which audience it is afraid of.

By contrast, newspapers in France, Spain and elsewhere on the Continent showed solidarity for their besieged Danish colleagues by publishing the cartoon. The Italian daily La Stampa put it on its front page.

As everyone knows, the cartoon is important not because it was a good cartoon, but because it is news. That America's great dailies forced their readers to go to the Drudge Report to see what the story was about will be discussed for years to come.

A retaliatory boycott against the leading promoters of anti-West hatred, Iran and Saudi Arabia, presents obvious problems, because their chief export is oil. The Europeans have already greatly reduced their reliance on oil by taxing the stuff and otherwise discouraging consumption. On this score, Americans have done next to zero. Their passivity is insane in that their oil guzzling habits are paying for the terrorism being directed against them.

As with most problems, President Bush prefers to let future generations solve this one. The mostly toothless energy proposals listed in his State of the Union Address were similarly "forward-looking." Barron's columnist Alan Abelson envisioned Bush comforting the Saudi ambassador by pointing out that they would both be old men "before any of his energy proposals had the faintest chance of bearing fruit."

Westerners must be clear that we establish our own rules about what's acceptable in our own countries -- and that the job of defusing the crazed masses belongs squarely with their manipulators. The West, after all, can make life a lot less pleasant for the puppeteers.

Copyright 2006 Creators Syndicate

Froma Harrop

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