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Piss Christ, Anyone?

By       Message Anthony Barnes     Permalink
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Piss Christ , anyone?     

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It wouldn't surprise me to learn that our YouTube generation knows little about the outrage sparked by Andre Serrano's 1987 photographic depiction of Jesus Christ on the crucifix submerged in a bottle of Serrano's own urine.   It provoked a furious response among "devout" Christians who showed little tolerance for the free speech canard used to justify the vulgar depictions of the Prophet Muhammad currently in the news.

Nope, back then it seemed, nobody, particularly conservatives both religious and otherwise, was having it.   When it came to Piss Christ, they didn't have the "constitution" to stomach any of that First Amendment sh*t.

Today, like then, most of what I get out of the conservative media is breathtakingly infernal, but little of the malevolent crap it spins out on a daily basis infuriates me more than its seething contempt over what it considers the contempt among Muslims for those who slander their Prophet Muhammad under the cover of "free speech."   

It seems that slandering the Prophet Muhammad has become somewhat of an intermittent ritual for much of the Western world over the past few years.   The Innocence of the Muslims is of course, the latest free speech test case, but was joined just days ago by yet another dispatch of anti-Prophet Muhammad "cartoons" emanating from a French "satirical" rag which shall remain unnamed.

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So today it seems that free speech may be the only part of the Constitution that conservatives and the ACLU agree upon -- at least until the next Piss Christ comes along.   So who or what is next in line to wield "free speech" like a flaming wrecking ball in a linen closet?   What prevents the imbeciles who needlessly provoke Muslim outrage from understanding that even free speech -- just like the right to bear arms, for example -- is subject to the same kinds of common sense restraints imposed on most freedoms in a non-existential society?   But beyond that, what is gained through the exercise of free speech for the purpose of religious provocation; of goading adherents into the position of defending their faith, just because free speech grants one the right to do so?

I'm all for free speech.   But it's about context.    To those among us who, in this particular context, would soapbox the free speech issue, I have one serious question:   Would you stand as firmly in the defense of my freedom of speech to call you an a**hole?   Knowing human nature, my guess is probably not.   So really, when used simply as justification to goad and inflame, is the concept of free speech actually enhanced or diminished?

I presume that outside of a courtroom, lying should be considered a form of free speech.   But how often does one hear somebody justify being caught in a lie by claiming he was simply exercising his "free speech rights?"  

As trite as it may be, the use of free speech rights to express contempt for the Prophet Muhammad in a manner designed to incite is fueled by the same objective that motivates someone to falsely yell FIRE in a crowded building.  

What the conservative media tells us is that when Jesus is defamed -- as they claim occurs yearly during the annual "War on Christmas" -- Christians don't go on killing campaigns.   But as anyone familiar with the Crusades can attest, Jesus need not be defamed in order for killings to occur in the name of Christ.   Certainly in 1987 and beyond, the Piss Christ controversy erupted in a shitload of backlash both here and abroad, some of which would be labeled "terroristic" by today's standards.   In addition to repeated vandalism of the print itself and angry protests, there were continual death threats made against Serrano and against staffers at museums and galleries showing the exhibit

There was also governmental intervention.   It was officially denounced by a couple of apparently free-speech-hating U.S. Senators and Rudy Giuliani tried to ban the exhibit in New York.   And perhaps to no one's surprise, there were legal steps taken by the Catholic Church to prevent its display.    In April of last year, Christian activists completely destroyed a print on display at a French museum.

In light of this, how does one avoid concluding that what's being enacted today is no more than free speech rights being snidely pimped?   Of being expressed in a way that in the end comes off as the pointless bullying of followers of a centuries-old faith which is radically different from that of the bullies.   It's a type of free speech abuse that simply wouldn't be tolerated if imposed on followers of certain other faiths.   

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It's ignorant to presume that Islamists use their abhorrence of slander against the Prophet Muhammad as an excuse to murder non-Muslim "infidels."   Think not?   Ask any Muslim living under Taliban rule.   It's a centuries-old cultural thing that most on the other side apparently just don't understand.    

But any medievalist consequences directed by Muslims against fellow Muslims considered to have been disrespectful to Islam is one thing; the idea of non-Muslims wasting time and energy concocting ways to insult a group that shares a different set of cultural/religious norms seems more like an exercise of free speech depravity.

Try to imagine how the Pat Robertson or that Koran-burning idiot Pastor down South and others of their ilk would react if "Mustapha" from over in Libya decided to bootleg a video showing the Virgin Mary being fucked by a donkey or Jesus Christ getting all "biblical" with a sheep.   Or if "Ahmed" from down in Yemen decided that posting on Facebook, his Photoshop of a Catholic priest pulling a "Sandusky" on 10-year-old altar boy would be something all the Christians who've "friended" him would get a kick out of.       

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Anthony Barnes, of Boston, Massachusetts, is a free-lance writer who leans toward the progressive end of the political spectrum. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to (more...)

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