Parabenizar um amigo
Na imagem, da esquerda para a direita, Frank Sinatra, Ricardo Gross e Janet Leigh (a treinar já o papel de Marion Crane).
a.k.a. Contra a Corrente
"Sou reaccionário. A minha reacção é contra tudo o que não presta." Nelson Rodrigues
"A very different sort of Peter Principle was at work in the literary activities of Michael Wharton, a.k.a. Peter Simple, who for nearly fifty years bemused, delighted, irritated, and entertained readers of Britain’s Daily and Sunday Telegraph. Wharton, who died last month at ninety-two, wickedly satirized the absurdities of the politically correct, sanctimonious British establishment through a steady stream of fictional characters and events whose preposterousness was perfectly calibrated to mirror the preposterousness of their real-life counterparts.
As an obituary in The Daily Telegraph noted, Wharton early on demonstrated his fundamental unclubbability. Engaged at the BBC features department in 1953, he perpetrated the ghastly floater of lamenting that Stalin had ever been born on the very day that his BBC colleagues were in mourning over news of the dictator’s death. Which is stranger, the current Archbishop of Canterbury—who, among much else, recently announced that he was a Druid—or Wharton’s Bishop of Bevindon and his “partner,” the Rev. Mantissa Shout? You won’t find Wharton’s invented company “Rentacrowd, Ltd.” in the phone book, but we all know what he meant by “rentamob.” Not everyone was taken in by a review of a book called The Naked Afternoon Tea by Henry Miller or an advertisement to “Learn Etruscan the Way They Did” (though quite a few were). But what about “Abdul Rashid Mahmud, otherwise Stan Horrocks, 29, of no fixed address,” who made his appearance in Wharton’s column after the Afghan war in 2002? At his court hearing, Mahmud declared that he was “a prominent member of the Spagbollah, an extremist wing of the Taliban, sworn to liberate first Nerdley, then the Stretchford conurbation, the whole world. His breath smelled of newsprint.” Whose antennae are sufficiently sensitive to distinguish with confidence between Mr. Mahmud and Richard Reid, the London-born product of an English mother and Jamaican father who converted to Islam, took the name Abdel Rahim, and culminated his brief career by attempting to blow up a commercial flight using bombs hidden in his shoes?
The last few decades have not been kind to the arts of satire and parody. The acceleration of absurdity in modern life has guaranteed a short shelf-life for such deflationary arts. Reality has been relentless about catching up and then overtaking even the most exaggerated spoofs, send-ups, and burlesques. The art world is a notorious laboratory for the defeat of satire. (Imagine: a chap puts a cow carcass in a tank of formaldehyde and calls it art: is that a diseased parody or a Turner-Prize-winning work of art?) But social and political life has not been far behind. Consider, to stick with an English example, the phenomenon of George Galloway, the Respect Party MP, friend of Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad, and reality television contestant. Is he a malevolent public relations prank? Or is he really the Honorable Member for Bethnal Green and Bow? With Peter Simple, Michael Wharton consummately ventriloquized such egregious imponderables. He possessed perfect pitch for bombast, and commanded the rhetorical skill to twist it, ever so slightly, so as to expose it to the astringent sanity of ridicule. What a pity he will no longer be plying his trade. The George Galloways of the world—their name, alas, is legion—deserve him."
Free speech should override religious sensitivities. And it is not just the property of the West
""I DISAGREE with what you say and even if you are threatened with death I will not defend very strongly your right to say it.” That, with apologies to Voltaire, seems to have been the initial pathetic response of some western governments to the republication by many European newspapers of several cartoons of Muhammad first published in a Danish newspaper in September. When the republished cartoons stirred Muslim violence across the world, Britain and America took fright. It was “unacceptable” to incite religious hatred by publishing such pictures, said America's State Department. Jack Straw, Britain's foreign secretary, called their publication unnecessary, insensitive, disrespectful and wrong.
Really? There is no question that these cartoons are offensive to many Muslims (see article). They offend against a convention in Islam that the Prophet should not be depicted. And they offend because they can be read as equating Islam with terrorism: one cartoon has Muhammad with a bomb for his headgear. It is not a good idea for newspapers to insult people's religious or any other beliefs just for the sake of it. But that is and should be their own decision, not a decision for governments, clerics or other self-appointed arbiters of taste and responsibility. In a free country people should be free to publish whatever they want within the limits set by law.
No country permits completely free speech. Typically, it is limited by prohibitions against libel, defamation, obscenity, judicial or parliamentary privilege and what have you. In seven European countries it is illegal to say that Hitler did not murder millions of Jews. Britain still has a pretty dormant blasphemy law (the Christian God only) on its statute books. Drawing the line requires fine judgements by both lawmakers and juries. Britain, for example, has just jailed a notorious imam, Abu Hamza of London's Finsbury Park mosque, for using language a jury construed as solicitation to murder (see article). Last week, however, another British jury acquitted Nick Griffin, a notorious bigot who calls Islam “vicious and wicked”, on charges of stirring racial hatred.
In this newspaper's view, the fewer constraints that are placed on free speech the better. Limits designed to protect people (from libel and murder, for example) are easier to justify than those that aim in some way to control thinking (such as laws on blasphemy, obscenity and Holocaust-denial). Denying the Holocaust should certainly not be outlawed: far better to let those who deny well-documented facts expose themselves to ridicule than pose as martyrs. But the Muhammad cartoons were lawful in all the European countries where they were published. And when western newspapers lawfully publish words or pictures that cause offence—be they ever so unnecessary, insensitive or disrespectful—western governments should think very carefully before denouncing them.
Freedom of expression, including the freedom to poke fun at religion, is not just a hard-won human right but the defining freedom of liberal societies. When such a freedom comes under threat of violence, the job of governments should be to defend it without reservation. To their credit, many politicians in continental Europe have done just that. France's interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, said rather magnificently that he preferred “an excess of caricature to an excess of censorship”—though President Jacques Chirac later spoiled the effect by condemning the cartoons as a “manifest provocation”.
Shouldn't the right to free speech be tempered by a sense of responsibility? Of course. Most people do not go about insulting their fellows just because they have a right to. The media ought to show special sensitivity when the things they say might stir up hatred or hurt the feelings of vulnerable minorities. But sensitivity cannot always ordain silence. Protecting free expression will often require hurting the feelings of individuals or groups, even if this damages social harmony. The Muhammad cartoons may be such a case.
In Britain and America, few newspapers feel that their freedoms are at risk. But on the European mainland, some of the papers that published the cartoons say they did so precisely because their right to publish was being called into question. In the Netherlands two years ago a film maker was murdered for daring to criticise Islam. Danish journalists have received death threats. In a climate in which political correctness has morphed into fear of physical attack, showing solidarity may well be the responsible thing for a free press to do. And the decision, of course, must lie with the press, not governments.
It is no coincidence that the feeblest response to the outpouring of Muslim rage has come from Britain and America. Having sent their armies rampaging into the Muslim heartland, planting their flags in Afghanistan and Iraq and putting Saddam Hussein on trial, George Bush and Tony Blair have some making up to do with Muslims. Long before making a drama out of the Danish cartoons, a great many Muslims had come to equate the war on terrorism with a war against Islam. This is an equation Osama bin Laden and other enemies of the West would like very much to encourage and exploit. In circumstances in which embassies are being torched, isn't denouncing the cartoons the least the West can do to show its respect for Islam, and to stave off a much-feared clash of civilisations?
No. There are many things western countries could usefully say and do to ease relations with Islam, but shutting up their own newspapers is not one of them. People who feel that they are not free to give voice to their worries about terrorism, globalisation or the encroachment of new cultures or religions will not love their neighbours any better. If anything, the opposite is the case: people need to let off steam. And freedom of expression, remember, is not just a pillar of western democracy, as sacred in its own way as Muhammad is to pious Muslims. It is also a freedom that millions of Muslims have come to enjoy or to aspire to themselves. Ultimately, spreading and strengthening it may be one of the best hopes for avoiding the incomprehension that can lead civilisations into conflict.”
“The furore in Europe and around the world over the publication of cartoons depicting Mohammed, and which ridicule other aspects of Islam, is but the latest example of an increasingly dangerous cultural clash. Danish and French flags - symbolising two countries whose press has published the drawings - have been burnt in Pakistan in small but heated protests. European Union offices in Gaza were ringed by Palestinian gunmen, and a Norwegian mission in the West Bank has closed following threats from militants. In Western cultures with traditions of freedom of speech and, in many cases, anti-clericalism, these reactions seem extreme.
The editor of France Soir was sacked for publishing the cartoons, which first appeared in Denmark, even though he was seeking to uphold freedom of speech. Other papers have followed suit. Adhering to the prevailing disregard of freedom of speech in his own party, EU trade commissioner Peter Mandelson has criticised the publication as provocative. It certainly was: but does appeasement of forces hostile to Western values not perpetrate a far greater wrong?
The Daily Telegraph has chosen not to publish the cartoons. We prefer not to cause gratuitous offence to some of our readers, a policy we also apply, for example, to pictures of graphic nudity or violence. However, there might be circumstances in which the dictates of news left us with no choice but to publish - and where the public interest was overwhelmingly served by such an act, we would.
Our restraint is in keeping with British values of tolerance and respect for the feelings of others. However, we are equally in no doubt that a small minority of Muslims would be offended by such a publication to an extent where they would threaten, and perhaps even use, violence. This is a problem that the whole of the Western world needs to confront frankly, and not sidestep.
The right to offend within the law remains crucial to our free speech. Muslims who choose to live in the West must accept that we, too, have a right to our values, and to live according to them. Muslims must accept the predominant mores of their adopted culture: and most do. One of these is the lack of censorship and the ready availability of material that some people find deeply offensive: anyone who wishes to see the cartoons can find them within a few clicks on the internet.
Those Muslims who cannot tolerate the openness and robustness of intellectual debate in the West have perhaps chosen to live in the wrong culture. We cannot put it better than the editorial in an Arab paper in which the cartoons briefly appeared yesterday (before all copies were suddenly withdrawn): "Muslims of the world, be reasonable."”