Friday, February 10, 2006

Ignorance and Stupidity in Ontario County

Residents of Honeoye, Naples, and Victor are being treated to the joys of good ol' American free press this week. Hometown Newspapers, publishers of the Honeoye Herald, Naples Record, and Victor Herald, made the supremely intelligent decision to print the cartoon that has had the entire world at the brink of chaos for the past week. You can read less opinionated stories about it on the WROC or RNEWS websites. While the editors of these podunk rags claim that they are simply "informing" their readers, I think it is just another example of the extreme cultural ignorance that exists in the suburbs and rural areas of modern-day America.

"Our intent wasn't to disrespect the religious beliefs of any of our readers. It was not to titillate. It wasn't to do any of that stuff. It was basically to inform our readers knowing that they're weren't going to get these pictures anywhere else." - Mike Fowler, owner of Hometown Newspapers.

Admit it Fowler, if this incendiary and offensive cartoon were truly worthy of print, it would have appeared in at least one of the major American news outlets. Instead, the only local media outlet that chose to run the cartoon is a paper with a combined circulation of 4,200 that is more likely to be used as kindling than as an information source. Then again, you must consider their readership - 99.9% white, Christian, shotgun-owning, Fox News-watching, red-blooded Americans. The likelihood that these people would show sympathy/respect to people of other races, ethnicities, or creeds is about the same as a member of Hezbollah rolling a perfect game at Roseland Bowl - slim to none.

In defending his dumb decision to run the cartoon, Fowler said "People want to know what all the fuss is all about." Personally, I wouldn't characterize worldwide protests, burning embassies, and an increasing threat of war as being simply a "fuss," then again, I don't run a respectable news source such as the Naples Record so what do I know. Loyal reader Rose Mary Hooper puts things in perspective for us, "I think it's not in great taste, but I don’t see anything wrong with it. This is a free country, if you don't like it don't look at it." If it's not in "great" taste, Ms. Hooper, is it in "mediocre" taste or just "so-so" taste? The simple fact is that this Ontario County jerk, knowing full well that printing this image would cause pain for the 10,000+ Muslims in Greater Rochester, did so anyways just to sell a few more of his fishrags to his prejudiced neighbors.

Here's my take, Muslims are passionate about their religion and rightfully so. I don't think a cartoon depicting Jesus as a drug-addicted male prostitute would go over terribly well in the Bible Belt and I don't think a cartoon of the Pope fellating a camel would be well-received in South Boston. Would they riot and burn down an embassy or two? Probably not, but we need to understand that there are socio-economic factors at play here, not to mention that Muslim law forbids the visual depiction of the Prophet Muhammad, even if in a positive manner. I think some things are better left to words, that's why we don't see graphic images of murder victims or scenes of child pornography in our local news. There is a fine line between offensive and wrong, these newspapers crossed it; let's hope our community does not suffer for their ignorance.