On false dichotomies

Two things in the news have been bouncing around in my head for a while, and I thought I’d opine a bit.

Item #1: The Interview.

Some people made a movie about assassinating Kim Jong Un. When I saw the previews – sitting in a theater, waiting for some other movie to begin – I thought: So dumb. Avoid. And put it from my mind.

(The capacity for self-deception in the television & movie industries never ceases to amaze me. The most egregious tripe makes it on the air, or in the theaters, because nobody involved seems to realize that it is egregious tripe.)

The North Koreans were not so sanguine; they took umbrage. Sony was hacked, possibly by the North Koreans, and cowed into cancelling release of the movie.

A bit later, Sony released it anyway, leading to speculation that the whole kerfuffle was a well-orchestrated publicity stunt for a movie that otherwise wouldn’t have earned back its catering budget.

Somehow, the idea took root that going to see The Interview was taking a stand for freedom of speech, not to mention thumbing one’s nose at a loathsome dictatorship. To me, it just seemed like a waste of two hours.

Item #2: Charlie Hebdo

A French magazine published cartoons satirizing Islam and things Islamic (most notably, the Prophet).

I’m told they satirized everything, not just Islam, but nobody cared much about the rest of it. Most people didn’t care much about any of it, but a few people took umbrage. Two of them – or three, possibly even four; reports from Paris are as yet unclear – staged an armed assault on the Charlie Hebdo editorial office: twelve dead, twenty wounded.

I’ve seen the magazine covers, and the cartoons. Perhaps, if I remembered any of the French I learned in high school, I might have appreciated the satire. I have doubts. The images were so crude & vulgar that I can’t imagine any captioning clever enough to redeem them.

There’s a hashtag on Twitter: #JeSuisCharlie. To the extent that it means No, God doesn’t want you to kill people, I agree with it. (That doesn’t mean you’ll see it on my Twitter account. I don’t do hashtags.) But if it means I’m expected to read the magazine, or agree with / approve of its ‘humor’, in order to express my disapproval of violence & murder – no, thanks.

Freedom of speech is a subtle concept, that trips up people who think life is nothing but simple problems with quick & easy answers. (This particular species of mind-rot typically comes from too much of the wrong kind of tv / radio. Turn off the set and think for yourself. You’ll be a better person for it.)

People are free to make a movie like The Interview, to publish a magazine like Charlie Hebdo. I’m free to think anyone who does has strayed from the path of wisdom.

That doesn’t mean I approve of hacking Sony, or of shooting up the Charlie Hebdo offices. I don’t.

I see no contradiction in that. Just because two people disagree, that doesn’t mean one of them must be right.