Posted by: Winslie Gomez | 31/07/2007

Cartoons, Hate and Freedom

Photo of Fence

I am concerned about the issue of censorship on all forms of communication.

It is perfectly acceptable for the rule of common decency to avoid offending, if you can help it.  But there also has to a cathartic valve for outburst, expression of frustration, annoyance or we will become a repressed people.  Just as in the biological realm, a bloated gut is definitely unhealthy, so to will we become psychologically constipated if we have no room for free speech.

Surely that cannot be good for us, nor should it be tolerated or condoned in any way. 

Perhaps it is by venting our feelings that we experience change because it either challenges the norm or is completely innovative; a bit like a psychological purgative.

My contention and difficulty is that all works of art, poetry or prose need to be viewed in their time and cultulral context.  It only becomes an issue when:

a) We take it out of it’s context.


b) We weave a new meaning into it’s fabric. 

But I hastily add that we need to look back and despise all material that demeans the individual and provide material that explains Tintin for example, in it’s context so that future generations will be able to make objective decisions. 

How should I put it – We need to see Auwshwitz before our eyes so that we never repeat it ever again.

I was prompted to write this post as a response to an article on racist cartoons especially Tintin.

The article points to discussions on racist cartoons and ask pertinent questions.  It includes two other references.   I really liked Women of Color site and agreed with most of the topics and felt comfortable.  That perhaps says more about me than about the blog.
The second referenced site is in Ridwan Laher  and his post “Tintin is a F*cking Racist”.

I enjoyed reading Ridwan’s post and can sense the fire in his belly.  But, I grew up reading Tintin without the racist connotation being visible to me.
Here is a history of censorship that I find just a teensy weensy bit frightening
I also drew attention to the same fears in a comment.

So what do we know about censorship.  It would appear to have a checkered history.

What is happening at present?

Here in the UK
A UK court has ruled that reporting restrictions on a leaked memo must remain in place, even while acknowledging that the initial grounds on which restrictions were based were incorrect, writes Jo Glanville

Index on Censorship has won a limited victory in its joint appeal with the BBC, the Times, the Guardian and other media organisations, against the gagging orders on reporting the Leo O’Connor and David Keogh official secrets trial. O’Connor and Keogh were jailed in May for breaching the Official Secrets Act. David Keogh, a civil servant, had leaked a memo of a conversation between George Bush and Tony Blair, which he gave to Leo O’Connor, a parliamentary researcher. During the trial, discussion of the contents of the memo were held in camera. After Keogh and O’Connor were sentenced, the judge, Mr Justice Aikens, ruled under the Contempt of Court Act that the press could not discuss the trial and the alleged contents of the memo in the same article – despite the fact that the memo had already been widely discussed in the press. He also ruled that the media could not report a statement made by David Keogh in open court, which related to the contents of the memo.

Index, along with the UK’s leading broadcasters, newspapers and media organisations, appealed against the gagging orders.

The Court of Appeal has upheld the ruling – albeit under a different section of the law – which bans the press from reporting the statement made by David Keogh in open court. It also ruled that the press cannot suggest that allegations about the contents of the memo, which appeared in the Daily Mirror in 2005, represented the evidence given in camera. Mr Justice Aikens has said that the reports are inaccurate. So although the Kafkaesque restrictions have been modified, censorship on how the press reports the case still remains in place. No journalist can write freely about this case without risking contempt of court.

The limited success of the appeal means that secrecy is maintained, protecting the UK government and the US administration from immense potential embarrassment. The prosecution even conceded during the trial that the leak did not constitute ‘actual damage’.

What is exposed here is the farce of conducting an official secrets case: the contents of the memo remain in the public interest, but it remains in the government’s interest to keep them hidden.

Remember Denmark and the alleged anti-Islam Cartoons

Four men have been jailed – three for six years and one for four years – for their part in demonstrations against the Danish Mohammed cartoons last year. Kenan Malik’s eloquent defence of free speech from the current issue of Index on Censorship explains just why we need to think again about incitement

Free speech for everyone but bigots is no free speech at all. The right to transgress against liberal orthodoxy is as important as the right to blaspheme against religious dogma or the right to challenge reactionary traditions. In any case you cannot challenge bigotry by banning it. You simply let the sentiments fester underground.


The media may have given you the impression that feminists support moves to censor sexual media, so you might be surprised to know just how many feminists out there have been actively opposing such censorship since long before there was an Internet. And we still do.
Scare stories about the alleged new dangers of the Internet haven’t changed our minds. We still see the same dangers in censorship that we always have, and the “new” arguments really seem remarkably familiar.
The equation is simple: Those who have power get to censor, and those who lack power get silenced. If you find yourself in a position to demand and get censorship, you can be sure you are among those who have the power, and you are acting to oppress others.

How about Dictators around the globe:

Net censorship spreads worldwide
By Mark Ward
Technology Correspondent, BBC News website
Repressive regimes are taking full advantage of the net’s ability to censor and stifle reform and debate, reveals a report.
For instance, in Iran Mojtaba Saminejad has been in jail since February 2005 for putting online material ruled offensive to Islam.

China was the nation that came in for most criticism for its efforts to monitor and censor the net. The RSF noted that net censorship in the country had undergone a significant shift in the last two years.

BBC accused of censorship after cancelling short story broadcast
Owen Gibson, media correspondent
Tuesday April 17, 2007
The Guardian,,2058727,00.html
‘It all seems rather arbitrary’ … Hanif Kureishi. Photograph: Jane Bown
The author Hanif Kureishi accused the BBC of censorship last night, after it dropped a radio broadcast of his short story describing the work of a cameraman who films the executions of western captives in Iraq.
Radio 4 cancelled a reading of Weddings and Beheadings, one of five nominations for the National Short Story prize due to be broadcast this week, after concluding the timing “would not be right” following unconfirmed reports that kidnapped BBC Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston had been killed by a jihadist group.

China censorship damaged us, Google founders admit

Jane Martinson in Davos
Saturday January 27, 2007
The Guardian

Google’s decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

The decision rests with YOU.



  1. Great article.

    “Just as in the biological realm, a bloated gut is definitely unhealthy, so to will we become psychologically constipated if we have no room for free speech.”

    An odd, but apt analogy. I agree that freedom of expression is critical to our having a a free society. Censorship is a dangerous restriction.

  2. Donna
    What a welcome sight!
    I could say where have you been, but that would be too personal.

    As for the quote above, you should know me by now, I am a bit odd. Actually nothing seemed to add grist to the mill so to speak.

  3. Hi Winslie, freedom of speech/choice vs censorship mirrors a recent blog discussion I’ve been having about rights with . We need boundaries but choice must not be taken away. Who set’s the boundaries? They do. Who are they? I don’t know.
    Tin Tin racist? Not really, only in the minds of those who wish the issue to exist. I looked at a copy of Tin Tin in the Congo in Borders today and yes there are black African characters but it is based in The Congo.
    What next? Harry Potter satanic? Mickey Mouse sexist? Noddy homophobic?
    Where does common sense kick in these days?

  4. Thanks Daveross
    I was thinking maybe I’m just a bit odd.

    Exactly, I appeal to common sense (whatever that means) sounds good though!
    Noddy was a bit that way inclined, just kidding!, what abot Seaman Stains!
    Or the Telly Tubbies!

  5. Telly Tubbies? Now there is censor fodder. That baby in the sun, purely satanical!

    Tintin racist? By today’s standards, I would have to say I agree. I can understand Mr. Enright’s outrage at the depiction of Africans, but I don’t believe the book should be relegated to the adult graphic section.

    What would be wrong with telling his two-year-old child that “We are not buying this book because it wrongly describes Africans”? He could go more in depth with his older child, explaining that the 1930s was a period of racism and, furthermore, the author regretted this book.

    Building a wall around children to “protect” them against history is wrong because it denies reality, puts up a barrier against the truth, however ugly it is.

  6. Well said Donna
    Walls only stifle realism. We need to evolve out of the protectionism of former years.

    As for Telly tubbies I quite like them and Noddy as well!

  7. History is often defined as the first version of events that come to press and censorship is very often the knife that cuts that block.

    Information, dis-information, censorship and filtered news. Its a brave new world out there.

  8. Wow Paul,
    Glad to see someone with a positive world view.
    I am perhaps looking at the world through a negative filter and therefore the only, inevitable final result, is the destruction of humankind.

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