I found this remark as fascinating as the Charles Moore did in his Telegraph article "If you get rid of the Danes, you'll have to keep paying the Danegeld"
On the Today programme yesterday, Stewart Lee, author of Jerry Springer: The Opera — in which Jesus appears wearing nappies — let the cat out of the bag. He suggested that it was fine to offend Christians because they had themselves degraded their iconography; Islam, however, has always been more "conscientious about protecting the brand".
The implication of the remark is fascinating. It is that the only people whose feelings artists, newspapers and so on should consider are those who protest violently. The fact that Christians nowadays do not threaten to blow up art galleries, invade television studios or kill writers and producers does not mean that their tolerance is rewarded by politeness. It means that they are insulted the more.
Protecting the brand has other implications. The Islamic radicals are smart in that they know the power satire and parody can have in the right hands. There is tension between parody and fair use in intellectual property law because a truly smart parody can replace the original in the audience's mind. Twenty two years later, I still recall the lyrics to the Chicago Bar Association Christmas Spirits revue's send up of the leader of the opposition to Mayor Harold Washington whenever I hear Irving Berlin's music: I'm dreaming of a white mayor, just like the ones I used to know. Oh things went so greatly under Richard Daley and Michael Bilandic in the snow. Listeners to Rush Limbaugh probably have similar experiences with Paul Shanklin's rewrite of the lyrics to many rock classics
I agree with Moore that we cannot let the Islamist example of intimidation work, but I would take it further. Clever satire and parody are a tremendous tool for change and parts of the Islamic world present a ripe target. I'm not talking about crude, vulgar cartoons like some I've seen on the Internet recently, but of razor wit like that in Christopher Buckley's Florence of Arabia, which also took on the failings of our own State Department and French Middle East policy. We need to encourage more artists and writers to take up this challenge by offering them our financial support and our political protection.
Rosslyn Smith 2 05 06