One hallmark of a free society is the legal right to make fun of our leaders. Several times per week I engage in ridicule as well as argument against the folks who think they know what they are doing when they attempt to rule us.
We should wear this freedom to ridicule like a badge.
Iranians, alas, can’t say the same.
Mahmoud Shokraye was tried and found guilty for insulting Nameye Amir, a member of parliament. Shokraye drew a mildly funny caricature of Amir, in a colorful post-Nastian style (the kind most major papers now fall back on), and for his trouble got 25 lashes.
Heroically, a number of cartoonists have upped the ante and created even less flattering caricatures, as you can see at the Cartoon Blog. (I sample some of them, here.) Amir got more than he bargained for. I hope it stings — more than 25 lashes’ worth.
There are several lessons to draw from this.
First, “taking offense” is not the basis of any legal action. Or any violent action. In the west, we’re centuries away from duels and other deadly fights of “honor.” The Islamic east is, alas, still embedded in old honor cultures. The faster they can shuffle off that obsession and move to a rule of law, instead, the better.
Second, as Thomas Jefferson put it, governments should fear the people, not the other way around. That’s part of what it means to live in a free society.
Politicians who don’t like it are free to seek a less public job. Really.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.