Thursday, September 20, 2012

On The Vehicles of Shock

oily aesthetics

Instead of holding the mirror up to nature, it appears that the douchebags -- at the French allegedly "satirical" weekly, at the Innocence of Muslims trailer -- are instead using the funhouse mirror, distorting reality altogether, but in quite revealing ways. There is, in the case of the satirical cartoons, an aggressive, musky clumsiness; there is, in the case of the 12-minute trailer Innocence of Muslims, a seedy, ham-fisted, low production value about the film rendering it virtually unwatchable. Both appear, on the surface, aimed at the mid-double digit IQ demographic -- the folks that move their lips when they read the funny pages.

What is it about these two anti-Islamic presentations that is so damned sleazy? And what is it that incites a certain emotionally overwrought religious type -- the stupid saint -- to do precisely the sort of impious behavior that their religion counsels against? Is it not quite interesting that the response -- against embassies, no less -- is mindless overreaction and muderous violence? Emabssies, curiously -- aside from the occasional spying on the side -- are representations of high culture and so it is interesting that they, rather than, say, foreign nationals, are singled out for attack.

Both forms of art -- lower case "a" here-- appear almost designed to provoke shock and rage. Both works are meant to illicit, incite, provoke, inflame the lowest of emotions. And as a result, it would appear that the vehicles, the platforms, the delivery device is as ugly as the emotions those works intend to evoke. The form and structure of those "organisms" are equal to the ugliness of the content. One almost wonders if the ultimate outcome of these sorts of provocation are -- subconsciously, perhaps -- some grand, sanguinary East-versus-West battle royale, with tens, maybe hundreds of thousands dead. We seem to do this ugly dance every thousand years or so. Time to take up the scimetar and the sword again?

The response if violence? How could it be otherwise? And yet, obviously, it should be not. Thomas Friedman has an excellent column about why the Arab world should be more tolerant. Charmed, I'm sure. But that, as we all know, is not going to happen any time soon. It would be nice if the abused, the hungry and the undereducated could become superlative examples of tolerance. "Tolerance" is a democratic virtue, and we are in the nascent stages of a period of Arab democracy (if we are lucky). "Respect," St. John's tutor Eva Brann writes, provocatively, "is better than tolerance." A little more respect --- for religion, no matter how personally implausible -- is, it seems to me, the realistic, the Wise course. Respect and, more to the point, a healthy dose of shame might have prevented those two stupid arguments from having ever been made, and the deaths of the people caught in the crossfire of the inevitable and violent reaction to those arguments.

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