Why we have to take action

February 7, 2006 at 6:22 am | Posted in Taking Action | Leave a comment

The cartoon issue continues to take the lead in the news. The best reporting I have seen is at the BBC, including an article which emphasized this:

The propaganda factor

One aspect that these governments might also want to examine is how they can counter false information.

Twelve cartoons were originally published by Jyllands-Posten. None showed the Prophet with the face of a pig. Yet such a portrayal has circulated in the Middle East (The BBC was caught out and for a time showed film of this in Gaza without realizing it was not one of the 12).

The finger of suspicion has been pointed at a delegation of Danish Muslim leaders who went to the Middle East in November to publicise the cartoons. The visit was organised by Abu Laban, a leading Muslim figure in Denmark.

According to the Danish paper Ekstra Bladet, the delegation took along a pamphlet showing the 12 drawings. But the delegation also showed a number of other pictures which they claimed had insulted Muslims in Denmark. These also got into circulation.

Western diplomats appear to have missed this entirely and seem to have made no attempt to counter some of the arguments in the pamphlet or to distinguish between the various portrayals.

It might not have made much difference but it shows how rapidly propaganda can add to fuel to the fire.

How rapidly propaganda can add fuel to the fire. That is why we have to continue to take action. Free speech is a right, an unalienable right. But we have the right and the responsibility to respond to abuses of this right – abuses by people who spread false information, who exaggerate, or present only one side of a story. And we need to ensure that companies that control the distribution of information – increasingly the Googles, Yahoos, MSNs of the world, do not support and promote those who would add fuel to the fire.

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