January 28, 2015

Laydown liberalism

Cartoon by Martin Rowson
For Andrew Sullivan religion was at the heart of the Charlie Hebdo killing and that religion was Islam. He wrote:
"But Islam has nothing to do with this. There are just a few loonies who are suffering from false consciousness, and their real motivations are economic or personal or secular or just purely violent. You can believe that, if you want. Or you can pretend to believe it because it might be more pragmatic to do so. Or you can open your eyes. This is not to say that most Muslims support this kind of mass murder – and the global Muslim response was particularly encouraging. But it is to say that it is not a coincidence that so much terror and violence all over the world is currently being committed in the name of Islam. Some core parts of it are, quite simply, incompatible with post-Enlightenment thought and practice. And those parts have all the energy right now.

January 27, 2015

Is criticism of Islam islamophobic and racist?

On the racist question, Christopher Hitchens says no, and categorically so:
"You cannot be a racist by criticising the Islamic religion, by definition you cannot. There’s now a stupid term that’s trying to be imported into our culture, "islamophobia", as if to group it with racism in general. Nonsense. I won’t have it. I dislike Islam very much, just as I do all religions, and ive every tight to say that I think it’s an absurd and wicked belief."
Glenn Greenwald gives a slippery view to the contrary, saying that the label of racism for anti-muslim animus is a "rational view":

January 25, 2015

Politics is division by definition. Polarisation is what clarifies things.

Israel Shahak, Jewish critic of Israel and long friend of Christopher Hitchens
Sometimes you have to repeat it: politics is division by definition. You could forget it in the fog of media coverage pleading for unity and collaborative decision making. This is not what politics is about. George Eaton wrote in the News Statesman in 2010:
"In a culture where consensus and bipartisanship were viewed as unqualified goods, Hitchens stood out as a contrarian (a term that he perhaps unsurprisingly rejects) prepared to challenge the orthodoxies of both left and right."
Christopher Hitchens said during a 1993 panel discussion:

January 24, 2015

Art is theft, Ctd

By no means a copy or plagiarism, but the remixing of the visual idiom is interesting. Above is Ronald Searle and immediately below is Morten Morland.

January 23, 2015

Christopher Hitchens' regret - Not writing more to people

Christopher Hitchens by Martin Rowson
The combative and confrontational Christopher Hitchens died of cancer in 2011. In 2010 he spoke with Jeremy Paxman, reflecting on his past and politics. At the end he shared a regret
"In case you are watching this anybody, and you ever wonder whether to write to any one, always do, because you’d be surprised by much of difference it can make. Here’s a regret: I regret not doing it more often myself." 

January 21, 2015

Jack Kyle on Ian Paisley

Jack Kyle, rugby player and surgeon, born on February 10 1926. Aged 88 he passed away on November 28 2014.
[UPDATE - Read my essay on Jack Kyle and free speech in Northern Ireland published by Eamonn Mallie here]

We know him as the rugby great and for his work as a doctor. But Jack Kyle was also a man of letters and ideas. Throughout his life he shared comments on the Irish Question that were lucid, forceful and profound. 

On rugby in Ireland he said, "There was never any religious business about rugby. That was the wonderful thing about it." At more length, he said about Irish rugby:
"That was the wonderful thing about [Irish rugby, the absence of religion]. When the various unions were splitting up, the Irish Rugby Union said: “we play as one country”. Those of us from Ulster were very fortunate that happened. It was also a much greater honour for us to play for the whole country. I think it says a lot that during all the Troubles, never once did a southern side fail to come north or a northern side fail to go south."

January 20, 2015

Salman Rushdie - Avoid politeness, Ctd

Salman Rushdie by Ralph Steadman
In a conversation with Christopher Hitchens, Salman Rushdie said that respect proper means that you can take someone seriously and still disagree with them:
"One of the most mealy mouthed pieces of language that has developed to justify this kind of behaviour is a kind of reinvention of the meaning of the word "respect". It seemed to me when I was growing up that respect meant that you took people seriously. It didn’t mean that you never disagreed with them. To respect someone is to say we’ll take on what you have to say and if I don’t agree with it I will offer a counter argument. The idea that it would be disrespectful to someone in any way disagree from this system of belief is a new idea, is a new meaning of the term "respect" and it seems to me to have nothing to do with respect. And what it actually means is I am too afraid to do it. So what you have is cowardice masquerading as respect. And that’s become more and more common. It’s very clear in the case of the [Danish] cartoons."

January 19, 2015

I'm a cartoonist, it's my job to create "brutal" and "bilious" cartoons

A self-portrait by Martin Rowson with a skewered Prime Minister, David Cameron
We artists live under a convention. We have a license to offend. A warrant and a commission to eviscerate people with a pen. Robert G. Ingersoll said:
"The instance we admit that a book is too sacred to be debated or even reasoned about, we are mental serfs."

January 18, 2015

Bernard Crickly on the Irish question and liberal prudery and squeamishness

Bernard Crick, biographer of Orwell and political advisor in the Northern Ireland Constitutional convention 1974.
Bernard Crick wrote 'In Defence of Politics', published in 1962, and in the chapter 'A Defence of Politics Against Nationalism', he wrote about Ireland:
"British imperialism only once seriously endangered the established domestic political institutions in the way that German imperialism strangled and frustrated the growth of German liberalism."

January 14, 2015

James Joyce on Fenianism (1907)

Doodles by Samuel Beckett, including a scribble of James Joyce
In 1907, aged 25, James Joyce wrote 'The Last Fenian'  and remarked upon the enduring struggle between violent and constitutional nationalism: 
"Anyone who studies the history of the Irish revolution during the nineteenth century finds himself faced with a double struggle — the struggle of the Irish nation against the English government, and the struggle, perhaps no less bitter, between the moderate patriots and the so-called party of physical force. This party under different names: ‘White Boys’, ‘Men of ‘98’, ‘United Irishmen’, ‘Invincibles’, ‘Fenians’, has always refused to be connected with either the English political parties or the Nationalist parliamentarians. They maintain (and in this assertion history fully supports them) that any concessions that have been granted to Ireland, England has granted unwillingly, and, as it is usually put, at the point of a bayonet."

January 13, 2015

"Tout Est Pardonné" - The Charlie Hebdo front cover and Christopher Hitchens on cartooning the prophet

In 2006 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and the people of Denmark were subjected to a coordinated campaign of intimidation, sabotage and murder following the publication earlier in 2005 of the image of the prophet of Muhammed. Christopher Hitchens wrote in response, ‘The case for mocking religion’:
"There is a strong case for saying that the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and those who have reprinted its efforts out of solidarity, are affirming the right to criticize not merely Islam but religion in general."

January 12, 2015

The eloquence of Oscar Wilde

A cartoon of Oscar Wilde at the end of his visit to America in 1882, The Judge magazine.
[UPDATE - Martin Amis on the perfect paragraph rhetoric of Hitchens here and below]

Christopher Hitchens was a man of inimitable intellect and staggering, effortless eloquence. I've often pondered how he possessed such mastery and control of the language and rhetorical flair. I feel that James Joyce, speaking to Vanity Fair in Paris in 1922, gives a hint:
"All the great talkers have spoken in the language of Sterne, Swift, or the Restoration. Even Oscar Wilde. He studied the restoration through a microscope in the morning and repeated it through a telescope in the evening."

January 09, 2015

Harry Furniss - 'The Confessions of a Caricaturist' (1901)

Edward Carson by Irish cartoonist Harry Furniss.
Harry Furniss is an Irish-born cartoonist who worked in England and wrote an autobiography published in 1901, 'The Confessions of a Caricaturist, Illustrated'. He denied his Irishness:
"I was born in Ireland, in the town of Wexford, on March 26th, 1854. I do not, however, claim, to be an Irishman. My father was a typical Englishman, hailing from Yorkshire, and not in his appearance only, but in his tastes and sympathies, he was an unmistakable John Bull."
The irony of this can be found in the letters of George Bernard Shaw: "I am a traditional Irishman, my family came from Yorkshire." Harry also said:
"My family moved from Wexford to Dublin when I was ten. It is pleasant to know they left a good impression. In Miss Mary Banim’s account of Ireland I find the following reference to these aliens in Wexford, which I must allow my egotism to transcribe: “Many are the kindly memories that remain in Wexford of this warm-hearted, gifted family."
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