Flemming Rose, the Danish Cartoon Controversy, and the New European Freedom of Speech
42 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2009
Date Written: October 2009
Flemming Rose’s decision to run twelve cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed triggered an international controversy. In defending his decision, Rose relies on two arguments: (1) the cartoons were a necessary response to a growing atmosphere of self-censorship imposed by a totalitarian radical Islam and (2) the cartoons - far from being insulting - were actually a way to include Danish Muslims into a national “tradition of satire.” On examination both arguments are problematic. The fear of totalitarian censorship - if even it applies to Muslims - fits poorly with an American free speech discourse that counsels patience, not action in the face of totalitarian threats. Rose’s reference to a “tradition of satire” is rooted in the Danish practices of social informality (hygge) and teasing, But this argument is undercut by Rose’s own anti-immigrant rhetoric as well as the larger anti-immigrant mood in Denmark and Europe.
Keywords: offensive speech, law and religion, comparative law, freedom of the press, freedom of speech
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