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Is it just me, or does this stink?
November 21, 2003 7:44 AM   Subscribe

Johnny Hart at it again? "B.C." creator Johnny Hart is getting some negative publicity (again) for a comic that some say is anti-Islam. See the comic here. An outspoken Christian, Hart has had brushes with religious controversy in the past. Are people reading too much into this, or does it look like bigotry to you? (via Atrios)
posted by Gilbert (115 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
That's a pretty dumb punchline - and not exactly because it is discriminating (or not), either. It's just dumb.
posted by zerofoks at 7:49 AM on November 21, 2003


I just don't know.
posted by pizzasub at 7:50 AM on November 21, 2003


Opus, get back out there! We need you.
posted by dorcas at 7:50 AM on November 21, 2003


Wow, I think that's the critique of religion that will really get people motivated to make a constructive change. . . . not.
posted by tiamat at 7:58 AM on November 21, 2003


I, for one, am utterly baffled.
posted by jonmc at 7:59 AM on November 21, 2003


Reading "ISLAM" into a "SLAM" while counting outhouse moons is really no better than Rapture prophets dating the Second Coming from random numbers in bible verses. The WashPost story is pretty clear on Hart's own take, if you just scroll down a bit.
posted by brownpau at 8:04 AM on November 21, 2003


Here is Hart's bizarre extinguished menorah strip.
posted by Ljubljana at 8:05 AM on November 21, 2003


It's bigotry. It's nice to see that he's taking the cowardly way out and denying that it's a slam against Islam as well.
posted by substrate at 8:06 AM on November 21, 2003


As the Post article states, the strip isn't funny, and doesn't make much sense, unless you read between the lines. I know that BC has slipped over the years, but I think Hart knew exactly what he was doing. Shame.
posted by tranquileye at 8:15 AM on November 21, 2003


how is this bigotry?
posted by clavdivs at 8:16 AM on November 21, 2003


"how is this bigotry?"

I dunno. I mean Hart is implying that one of the world's major religions is a shithouse... and it stinks.

But is he really saying anything about the followers of Islam?

Other than they put up with a lot of shit (which last time I checked was true.)
posted by wfrgms at 8:22 AM on November 21, 2003


I dunno.... seems sorta like that deal way back where there were supposedly subliminal messages embedded in the ice cubes of liquor ads. Sometimes you simply just see somthing because you want to see it.

When I first read the cartoon, I took it as a fart joke.
posted by spilon at 8:24 AM on November 21, 2003


Yeah, he's the Most Dangerous Man in America. Hordes of people who read this will have their opinions of Muslim culture irrevocably changed. Many will take to the streets to burn and loot mosques because of this possible, and if real, subtle and childish denounciation of Islam.

Please join me in public burnings of our "B.C." and "Wizard of Id" anthologies because we all have a bunch on our bookshelves and toilet cisterns. I'll need something to fill the void, though. How will I ever find another comic strip as relevant to my generation as "B.C."? "Hagar the Horrible" has definitely lost it, and I can't stand that bitch Blondie since she abandoned her family to get a job.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:25 AM on November 21, 2003


I don't see it nor do I think it is intended as a commentary on islam. It's just an unfunny, silly, scatological comic strip and one would have to really reach to think it is anything but.
posted by wsg at 8:32 AM on November 21, 2003


"Hagar the Horrible" has definitely lost it,

Well, he was concentrating too hard on Van Halen, so it's natural he'd be distracted.

Seriously, though people who get their knickers in a knot over tiny shit in the sunday funnies have too much free fuckin' time. Remember that Sexism in Beetle Bailey stupidity? With all the real crap in the world, people take on harmless comic strips. Gets their name in the paper and makes 'em feel big I guess.
posted by jonmc at 8:34 AM on November 21, 2003


I dunno. I'm a Muslim and it just seems like regular old bathroom humor. And bad bathroom humor, to boot.

But that's just me. Maybe I'm lightheaded from all the fasting.
posted by laz-e-boy at 8:34 AM on November 21, 2003


It is slightly offensive, but it rings a bell simply because it's not completely untrue. This reminds me of the recent Laura Schlessinger comments in the sense that muslims are trying to push the PC envelope a little bit too much. In a democracy, nobody's free from critical remarks.
posted by 111 at 8:34 AM on November 21, 2003


Bah... BC is the family circus of crappy comics.
posted by EmoChild at 8:35 AM on November 21, 2003


Hart is known for this kind of thing. This is SO obtuse though. Is he really so dumb as to keep on doing it and if yes then he is a coward for doing it this way.

Yeah good one Mayor Curley. Thanks for your stellar contribution to the discussion.
posted by jackiemcghee at 8:36 AM on November 21, 2003


Zach's opinion of this issue is (please choose one):
  1. People still read the funny papers?
  2. Since when has Johnny Hart ever been poignant?
  3. Since when has the B.C. comic strip ever been funny?
  4. You guys are giving this Hart guy way too much credit.
  5. A slam on Islam? Can I have a side order of JFK conspiracy theory with this plate of crap?
  6. People still read the newspaper?
  7. ...I still don't get it.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:41 AM on November 21, 2003


What a pathetic, hypersensitive world we live in. If you don't like someone's comic and their stupid religious comments therein DON'T READ IT.
posted by xmutex at 8:41 AM on November 21, 2003


Good Lord - have we really advanced so far in our civilization that we've forgotten everything we knew about outhouses?

1. They stink.
2. They often do have that crescent moon on them. See http://www.jldr.com/ohindex.shtml.
3. Someone in the Washington Post article insists that you would never slam an outhouse door. Wrong. You would if the weather had warped it and it was the only way you could get it closed all the way. You also would if the wind was blowing in the right direction and pushing the door closed.

In short, it's just a dumb outhouse joke. And while those running CAIR are attempting to educate Americans about Islamic culture, they could try learning something about American rural culture, too. As could some urbanized Americans who've obviously never used an outhouse.

And the punchline should have been, "These catalogs don't last as long as they used to."
posted by pyramid termite at 8:42 AM on November 21, 2003


I'm a pretty intelligent person, I'd like to think, and I would have stared at that all day and wondered how it was anti-Muslim if the article didn't specifically point it out.
posted by archimago at 8:43 AM on November 21, 2003


The One has spoken:

"It's highly, overwhelmingly, incontrovertibly suspicious," said Berkeley Breathed, creator of "Bloom County" and the new Sunday-only strip "Opus." "There's no explanation for that gag without Islam. It's meaningless."
posted by EmoChild at 8:45 AM on November 21, 2003


Yeah good one Mayor Curley. Thanks for your stellar contribution to the discussion.

I liked my sarcasm better. But I'm sorry if I irritated you. I should have just restated previous observations like you did.
posted by Mayor Curley at 8:47 AM on November 21, 2003


Mayor Curley vs. Jackiemcghee

Who will win the title of Sarcastro; the sarcastoristic sarcatinator of 'em all?

/grabs a front row seat
posted by EmoChild at 8:51 AM on November 21, 2003


I don't see any other way to take it. Hart's NOT dumb - except in his crude Christian partisanship, maybe.

But the Menorrah cartoon (which Ljubljana kindly provided a link to) is where Hart's attitudes really hang out. His "Islamo-crapper" cartoon was subtle by comparison (though more vicious).

" "Why is the door slamming? You don't slam an outhouse door."

This is Marshall Blonsky, professor of semiotics at the New School in New York. Blonsky is an expert in the interpretation of signs and symbols. The first thing he said, on seeing the cartoon, is that he didn't get the joke. The second thing he said was that the outhouse is clearly serving some metaphoric purpose: "It represents something that stinks in the world." And the third thing he said was that there was something very puzzling about that SLAM.

"It's inappropriate," he said. "You gently close an outhouse door." One does not ordinarily enter an outhouse in anger or with a melodramatic flourish, he said. One utilizes this particular convenience in as unobtrusive a way as possible.

Blonsky said the cartoon seemed in some way manipulative -- constructed in "a polysemic fashion, to supply multiple meanings that would deliberately evade interpretation." When told of the religious interpretation, he said that in this light, the cartoon suddenly made logical sense. The coincidences were simply too great to ignore, he said. "
( from the WP story)

When I first went to Gilbert's link to the Hart cartoon, I thought - "Where's the offensive cartoon?" - I didn't see it and so I started leafing through other Hart cartoons. Then I went back to the WP story and found the date for the cartoon in question and Lo! - there was the outhouse cartoon. I looked at it again........and scratched my head. It didn't make any sense to me. Where was the joke? What was the "SLAM" all about?

Hart's cartoon meanings are usually transparently clear.

As the good professor of semiotics observed, it's true! - I've NEVER heard someone slam a bathroom or outhouse door, not even in cases of colitis-driven explosive diarrhea. Yeah, the wind could have slammed the door shut, or perhaps the caveman slammed it because it fit poorly in the frame. And monkeys could fly out my butt (though I doubt it, or unless Jim Carey - as God-for-a-day - happens to be passing by).

I think Hart's both subtle enough to contrive the vicious cartoon and also not smart enough to realize that people would catch on to it.

All the same, I think there are probably better things to worry about. - which is why I'm betting that NPR will do an hour special on this monstrous scandal.

Hart draws "beloved" boring and occasionally vicious cartoons, but his critics should save their fire for Rush Limbaugh.
posted by troutfishing at 8:51 AM on November 21, 2003


Outhouse humor.

Not obvious enough for Hart to be some hidden commentary on Islam.
posted by rich at 8:51 AM on November 21, 2003


ZachsMind - your question, "People still read the funny papers?" was probably rhetorical, but still: According to the recent Salon interview with Berke Breathed, "there are, according to an estimate by the Metro-Puck Comics Network, an advertising agency that represents about 200 national newspapers, still somewhere in the vicinity of 105 million people reading the comics pages on a given Sunday."

So, yes. People still read the funny papers.
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:53 AM on November 21, 2003


Bah... BC is the family circus of crappy comics.

Wait ... I thought the Family Circus was the Family Circus of crappy comics.

Back on topic ... the irony of this entire charade is that the comic will now be seen by exponentially more people than it would have otherwise. And I would be surprised if, of the people that did read it before the brouhaha, more than two non-hypersensitive Muslims interpreted it as anything more than a lame fart joke.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:56 AM on November 21, 2003




Ummm.......what was that you were saying, rich?
posted by troutfishing at 8:57 AM on November 21, 2003


It's highly, overwhelmingly, incontrovertibly suspicious," said Berkeley Breathed, creator of "Bloom County" and the new Sunday-only strip "Opus." "There's no explanation for that gag without Islam. It's meaningless."

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time Hart did a gag that was totally meaningless...

Thanks for the quote, EmoChild, but here's what Opus himself said about the controversy:

"That little house with the moon on the door? Does Johnny Hart live there? Gee, he must've gotten a bum deal with his syndicate..."

How do I know this? I'd like to explain but that would involve self-linking big-time and I'm much too modest for that.
posted by wendell at 8:58 AM on November 21, 2003


But I guess I'm reading a bit much into this one.
posted by troutfishing at 8:59 AM on November 21, 2003


Just like I tell my wife sometimes... if you get a bit worked up over this, then just TURN - THE - CHANNEL! (or page in this case)
posted by insulglass at 8:59 AM on November 21, 2003


laz-e-boy ADMITS he's a terrorist! GET HIM!
posted by squirrel at 9:00 AM on November 21, 2003


I saw a comic the other day that made fun of people with hats. And then there was one that poked fun of people in big cars. When will this hideous and uncaring and dare I say it hostile bigotry cease?

Think of the children! And the morons.
posted by xmutex at 9:04 AM on November 21, 2003


Right. And if you read it backwards it says "Paul is dead".
posted by cmdnc0 at 9:06 AM on November 21, 2003


Yeah, the wind could have slammed the door shut, or perhaps the caveman slammed it because it fit poorly in the frame. And monkeys could fly out my butt

Well, troutfishing, you've certainly taught me something today - that the art of discourse has been so corrupted by the internet that people can be reduced to a serious argument over whether outhouse doors ever slam or not.

If only I could afford to print arguments like this on paper. The poor people at Sears have suffered enough indignity.
posted by pyramid termite at 9:09 AM on November 21, 2003


And if you hold the page sideways it says "Look for the Opus article on MSNBC.com".
I am such a self-promotional whore, but I'm trying so hard not to self-link...

posted by wendell at 9:10 AM on November 21, 2003


Granted it's the 21st century now, but in all my outhouse experience the door has always slammed behind me. The doors are on springs for allahssakes.
posted by BirdD0g at 9:18 AM on November 21, 2003


"Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar." - Freud
posted by da5id at 9:21 AM on November 21, 2003


Regarding the slamming of an outhouse door, I dunno about the kinda wooden outhouses depicted in the B.C strip (and which by the way didn't exist with a crescent moon on the door prior to the 1500s anyway, which makes it AD not BC), and whether or not they slammed, but modern day blue plastic portapotties slam with fierce force cuz of the springs used to keep the doors in place. In fact they darn near cut one's buttocks off if one is not careful. I used to frequent renaissance festivals, which is why I know. So it's perfectly legitimate to assume that Johnny Hart could either assume outhouses have always slammed, or that his modern day audience would perceive that outhouses slammed, since modern day ones do. In either case he'd slip in the SLAM simply cuz he'd believe his audience would expect a slam to be there. I honestly can't see how people could read Islamic hatred into this. It's reaching for straws and LOOKING for a fight, that's all this is.

As for reading the funny papers, I don't care what polls say. One can look them up on the Internet or buy the collections in the bookstores. Newspapers are soooo twentieth century. They've been old fashioned since the 1960s.
posted by ZachsMind at 9:22 AM on November 21, 2003


Opus article.
</shabbos goy>
posted by brownpau at 9:24 AM on November 21, 2003


Do people really take this lowbrow sputum seriously? B.C. has got to be the worst comic strip out there, against some seriously strong (i.e., weak) competition.
posted by rushmc at 9:24 AM on November 21, 2003


Wendell, damnit, self-linking is OK in threads, especially when it's on-topic.
posted by namespan at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2003


Forget Opus... Bring back Bill The Cat!!!

ACK!
posted by da5id at 9:26 AM on November 21, 2003


The joke isn't a joke unless there's something else going on. So I vote for bigoted, anti-Islam bullshit, there is no doubt in my mind.
posted by cell divide at 9:31 AM on November 21, 2003


ROFL, brownpau.
Funniest. Closing Tag. Ever.
posted by emelenjr at 9:33 AM on November 21, 2003


Sorry if some people don't get the joke, but this strip is definitely about Islam. Whether or not it's offensive is up for debate (I think it is offensive), but there's no doubt in my mind that it's about Islam.

Johnny Hart doesn't make fart jokes. He's an old prude. He does, however, criticize others' religions.
posted by jpoulos at 9:33 AM on November 21, 2003


So I vote for bigoted, anti-Islam bullshit, there is no doubt in my mind.

Who cares if Johnny Hart is anti-Islam? Radical Islam does stink. Perhaps that's what he means.
posted by BirdD0g at 9:38 AM on November 21, 2003


Maybe there just isn't a joke.
posted by tommasz at 9:40 AM on November 21, 2003


So, moving on, so what if it's offensive?
posted by xmutex at 9:41 AM on November 21, 2003


When you have 3 panels you have a choice, if he wanted to make it about 'radical islam' he could have done so, his strip is set in the cave-man days, there are obvious paralels. But he didn't. Instead he sent a simple, bigoted, anti-religious message out in his strip. His choice, he thinks Judaism and Islam suck. I think he's an idiot. It's his right to criticize whatever he wants, and it's my right to say he's an ass. As xmutex might say, so what if it's offensive? The only thing that bugs me is his flaccid denials.
posted by cell divide at 9:45 AM on November 21, 2003


He does, however, criticize others' religions.

I don't think he's criticizing the religion. I see it as a comment on the current living conditions in some muslim countries.
posted by 111 at 9:48 AM on November 21, 2003


"....Well, troutfishing, you've certainly taught me something today - that the art of discourse has been so corrupted by the internet that people can be reduced to a serious argument over whether outhouse doors ever slam or not." (pyramid termite)

If you feel this strongly about "serious" internet discourse, you should leave this fishbowl and make some comments on Ed's excellent "slave prison labor in America" thread. It's about an issue that reduces Hart - in proportion - to the flyspeck that he really is. But I guess it's not a "sexy" post like this one, so the thread only has two comments at the moment.
posted by troutfishing at 9:50 AM on November 21, 2003


"how is this bigotry?"
I dunno. I mean Hart is implying that one of the world's major religions is a shithouse... and it stinks.


of course it is not bigotry -- it's a much-needed conservative perspective ("Islam is a shithouse") that will avoid any kind of intolerant, leftist intellectual inbreeding in this site
posted by matteo at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2003


I see it as a comment on the current living conditions in some muslim countries.

See, everyone's sarcastic!
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:51 AM on November 21, 2003


111 - what about the Menorah cartoon?
posted by troutfishing at 9:53 AM on November 21, 2003


I'm not going to allow you to keep insulting the peace-loving religion of Islam ....

oh, wait .... two more bombings? ... Turkey and Iran? ... Islamic terrorists again, huh?


Nevermind.
posted by darren at 9:57 AM on November 21, 2003


Any veiled reference that requires me to make two rather large assumptions (to wit, the vertical SLAM in addition to the crescent moons) in the face of reasonable doubt is simply so obscure that it fails to function as any kind of useful commentary due to its utter vagueness. To those who argue that without the Islam slur it makes no sense and isn't funny...I'm sorry, have you read the comics page? Newspaper comics suck ass, and B.C. is, and has for years been, its nadir. I mean, seriously. Cavemen worshipping Jesus? It's just so weird and nonsensical that you can't read it as anything other than the product of a confused and very out-of-touch mind.
posted by vraxoin at 9:57 AM on November 21, 2003


Plausable deniability.

Nice move, Hart.

Utterly hateful sentiment, though.

The sad git.
posted by Blue Stone at 9:58 AM on November 21, 2003


The Simpsons have been lambasting religion since day one-- and a very specific religion-- and where have your self-righteous threads been? Granted, they do it with much more tact and deftness and humor but it's essentially the same thing.

But you guys feel free to continue being really upset about this horribly unfunny comic.
posted by xmutex at 9:58 AM on November 21, 2003


he sent a simple, bigoted, anti-religious message

Don't you mean a cryptic-at-best, bigoted, anti-religious message?

Seriously. Subtlety has not been his strong point before (no, I don't think the cross/package wrapping thing is subltety). His denials don't seem particularly flaccid to me at all -- more just stunned. The accusations seem far more disingenuous than the denial.

Where's Occam's razor here? Where's that quote about never attributing to malice what can be explained by stupidity? They both have their limits (and indeed, I'm usually the first person to argue them), but which explanation is simpler: Hart drew a stupid comic, or Hart drew a comic that it takes a hypersensitive semiotic professors to really decode?
posted by namespan at 10:01 AM on November 21, 2003


A star near the moon would have made things less ambiguous.
posted by euphorb at 10:01 AM on November 21, 2003


I really don't see the slur in that cartoon. In general, I take things at face value, though (as I mentioned in a thread yesterday).

Let's look at it this way: let's assume for the sake of argument that Hart did want to subtly slam Islam. Let's even pretend that we gave an assignment to our art class to that effect. How would we grade this performance?

Personally, I'd give it a D minus. As an effort to subtly slam Islam, it is really a poor job.

Therefore, given that it very poorly fulfills the surmised goal of slamming Islam, that makes it less likely that it actually was intended to do so. If it "worked" --- if we'd grade it an A for the "art class" scenario --- then it would be more likley that that was its intent.

See what I'm getting at?
posted by yesster at 10:04 AM on November 21, 2003




Look at that. Bigotry. What sheer, utter bigotry. No doubt this outhouse was made by a carpenter, too: a Jewish one!
posted by brownpau at 10:13 AM on November 21, 2003


The joke isn't a joke unless there's something else going on.

Of course it's a joke, or more precisely, a gag. "Is it me, or does it stink in here?" That is, is it me that stinks, or is it the shit? Think about how often cavemen had baths. This guy's BO was so bad, he could get confused over whether he was smelling it over the outhouse stench!

I mean, it's not the world's most sophisticated gag, and it's not really that good, especially after I've explained it, but it's a gag nonetheless. Nothing anti-Islamic about it.

Don't tell me y'all are too smart for body humor.
posted by kindall at 10:20 AM on November 21, 2003


"In analyzing this cartoon, semiotician Blonsky cautions against succumbing to the Intentional Fallacy: In criticism, he says, it is a mistake to give much weight at all to the artist's stated intention. For one thing, it discounts the strength and influence of the unconscious mind, he said. All that matters in artistic criticism, he said, is the effect of the art on its viewers: the way people interpret it. In other words, even if Hart intended no offense, the offense is there."

On the one hand, I applaud Blonsky for bringing up the intentional Fallacy, which tend to be ignored in the academic world.

I agree that it makes no difference what Hart intended, unless you specifically care about Hart's intentions. And if you do, fine, but that's a different issue than what is in the strip, which may or may not reflect his intentions.

If you DO care about his intentions, then you're out of luck, because you have no way of knowing what they are or were. Even if you ask Hart, can you believe his answer? He might be honest, he might be lying, or he might be a bad reader of his own intentions.

But in any case, whatever his intentions were, we now are left with a strip, which may or may not be offensive.

Bronsky's view seems to be that it is offensive simply because its offensive. In other words, he thinks that anyone who reads the strip will be offended (or will see how a reasonably islamic person could be offended), so therefor the strip is offensive, even if Hart didn't intend it to be.

I would agree with Bronsky if, say, it was a strip that repeated used the word Nigger or Kike. Lets say that it did, but somehow Hart convinced me that his intentions WEREN'T to offend. I would argue that regardless of his intentions, the strip is still offensive, because MOST people find those words offensive.

I don't think MOST people would find that strip offensive -- even most Islamic people. I think most Islamic people would read the strip, and if nothing was pointed out to them, they'd think, "oh, another lame bathroom joke."

I would suggest that the anti-islam message is a POSSIBLE interpretation that one might make. If you're one of the people who made this interpretation, then the strip is offensive TO YOU.

Symbols have no fixed meaning. They mean different things to different people. It doesn't really make any sense to talk about something "being offensive" in some absolute sense. But I think in casual conversation, when we say something is offensive, we mean that MOST people will interpret it as being offensive. Bronsky has failed to convince me that most people would find the Hart strip offensive.

I think it's possible that there's an anti-Islam message. If so, as others have pointed out, it's not very well executed.

I think it's possible that there's a joke about bathroom smells. If so, as many people (including Bronsky) have pointed out, it's not very well executed.

When *I* interpret the strip, my brain leans more towards the second interpretation: a poorly-executed bathroom joke (that wouldn't be funny even if it were well-executed).
posted by grumblebee at 10:29 AM on November 21, 2003


Don't tell me y'all are too smart for body humor.

Don't be silly. Most folks here are too smart for everything and will spend most of their posting time proving it to you.
posted by jonmc at 10:30 AM on November 21, 2003


Shouldn't we be protesting the true crime? That is, why in hell are Johnny Hart and every other unfunny and uncreative comic stripper still clogging up the comics page?

T-2 days until Opus returns...
posted by RakDaddy at 10:41 AM on November 21, 2003


troutfishing - what do you think is more useful - going over to the prison labor thread and posting, "Me, too, this is awful", or pointing out the sheer inanity of this whole controversy? This is a case of liberal hypersensitive political correctness and deconstruction running amok - and I say that as someone who voted for Nader in the last two presidential elections. It shows an utter lack of proportionality and common sense. It's exactly the kind of thing that people like Rush Limbaugh will use to "show" his audience how "silly" those "liberals" are. It's exactly the kind of cultural demonization of symbols and meanings that has divided our country and corrupted its discourse to the point where many of our politicians waffle and speak out of both sides of their mouths to avoid saying anything controversial and much of our media spark these controversies in order to distract people from concentrating on real problems and issues. It is slowly sapping the meaning and the strength of our debate in this country to the point where people are just yelling and throwing symbols of oppression in each other's faces instead of asking - "Well, what the hell should we do?"

And yes, damn it, that's far more important than the exploitation of prison labor, as that subject won't even be widely discussed without someone talking about cable TV in prison, and "look at what this guy did to that little girl" and "look, he slaughtered all those people because he was abused as a child" and all the other tangents people will use to emotionalize and essentially trivialize the real issue at hand.

This is far more important than you think - our failure to talk to one another intelligently is ruining our ablity to solve things and this thread is a symptom of it.
posted by pyramid termite at 10:43 AM on November 21, 2003


"......I'm not going to allow you to keep insulting the peace-loving religion of Islam ....

oh, wait .... two more bombings? ... Turkey and Iran? ... Islamic terrorists again, huh?" (darren ) - Yeah, and Christianity has spend much of the last century invading various Middle Eastern nations too. So if you're going to tar a whole religion as violent because of the actions of some of it's members, you're going to have to include Christianity as a fellow violent religion.

But I don't seem to recall recent Islamic troop occupations of Britain and the US. September 11th? - well, Al Qaeda isn't a branch of any Mideast government I'm aware of (though Afghanistan harboured the movement). But the US and Britain have - for the purest of motives, I'm sure - invaded and militarily coerced Mideast nations numerous times in this century.
posted by troutfishing at 10:51 AM on November 21, 2003


Sorry if some people don't get the joke, but this strip is definitely about Islam. Whether or not it's offensive is up for debate (I think it is offensive), but there's no doubt in my mind that it's about Islam.

See, you're saying two different things there. "No doubt in my mind" is not at all the same as "definitely." I'll take your word for the first; the second is ridiculous overstatement. kindall up there explained the joke, such as it is, excellently; that's how I took it when I clicked on the "comic here" link, and I assumed the wrong comic had been linked to. When I read the explanation, I thought "Jesus, some people can find offense anywhere." It's mildly funny, more so than a lot of latter-day B.C. (and all of Garfield), but "there's no doubt in my mind" that it's not about Islam. (And an actual Muslim up there agreed.) But let's say it is! Let's say it's not funny at all! Then we have:

1) A syndicated cartoon strip isn't funny!
2) A cartoon is offensive!

*looks at indictment, shrugs, wonders what the hell everyone's going on about*
posted by languagehat at 10:53 AM on November 21, 2003


trout, the Menorah strip is more pro-Christian than anti-Jew, but it's not a very fortunate image I'd say.

See, everyone's sarcastic!

No sarcasm. I do think that Hart is pointing out the fact that sometimes some Islamic countries literally stink. Perhaps he's trying to highlight the underdevelopment, poverty and outright squalor prevalent in some of these countries (do the math), but I do not see it as a religious indictment at all.

Also what xmutex said: not to derail or anything, but Christian faith and Western civilization get unfairly attacked much more often. Why is Nietzsche even taken seriously, for instance? So all religions should be equally respected.
posted by 111 at 10:56 AM on November 21, 2003


Wow ... Maybe if the Council on American-Islamic Relations worried less about cryptic cartoons that NO ONE would interpret as offensive unless they REALLY tried, and more about radical Muslims bombing OTHER MUSLIMS in Istanbul, I'd applaud them. This, however, is a waste of everyone's time and effort. So what if Hart is a Christian and doesn't like Judaism or Islam? Cancel your subscription. Big deal!
posted by marcusb at 11:02 AM on November 21, 2003


pyramid termite - I agree with a lot of what you are saying. But you are feeding the thread too. As far as the prison labor thread goes, there's a certain psychological dynamic which feeds threads - some threads attract people inherently, sure. But others attract comments - and attention - based on the number of comments which have already been made about the thread (probably based on the speed at which comments accrue also).

"It shows an utter lack of proportionality and common sense. It's exactly the kind of thing that people like Rush Limbaugh will use to "show" his audience how "silly" those "liberals" are." - Yes - and that's why I suggested long ago in this overheated thread that people should save their critical energies for the Rush Limbaughs.

"much of our media spark these controversies in order to distract people from concentrating on real problems and issues. It is slowly sapping the meaning and the strength of our debate in this country to the point where people are just yelling and throwing symbols of oppression in each other's faces instead of asking - "Well, what the hell should we do?"

And yes, damn it, that's far more important than the exploitation of prison labor"
I'm not so sure of that. But I actually think the tone of this discussion has been pretty polite. Metafilter isn't where the problems you speak of lie. And - it is a forum where certain issues largely ignored by the mainstream media can be aired, which is why it seemed a shame to me that Ed's painstakingly crafted post on the growth of what amounts to prison slave labor in the US (or, really, a new slave underclass) drew little attention.

That said, I do think Hart's column was intentionally rude - And I don't think people who disagree are off base. It's a close shave of a judgement call - but I agree with you that Hart is a diversionary irritation from much more serious issues.

So: I won't post any more on this thread if you don't!
posted by troutfishing at 11:09 AM on November 21, 2003


troutfishing - agreed. I've said whatever was worth saying already. I'm done.
posted by pyramid termite at 11:16 AM on November 21, 2003


111 is trolling, right? Because Saudi and Egypt have cleaner toilets then a lot of non-Muslim countries I've been to...
posted by tranquileye at 11:33 AM on November 21, 2003


I find 111 more offensive than this cartoon. But, yes, Hart is lying.
posted by Outlawyr at 11:42 AM on November 21, 2003


Really, I think it's just such a nonsensically bad joke people figured there had to be more to it, and then put "slam" and the crescent together. Hart isn't currently that clever; if he was he might have made a decent joke out of it. Also I don't actually care if a comic strip is anti-insert-religion-here, so long as it doesn't suck.
posted by furiousthought at 12:01 PM on November 21, 2003


But, yes, Hart is lying.

Who needs a polygraph when you've got Outlawyr?
posted by pardonyou? at 12:03 PM on November 21, 2003


trout..

the menorah cartoon is obvious. It is blatantly obvious. Though I doubt Hart had the 'intention' in that cartoon to say 'Jews suck' more than 'Jesus was killed by the Jews', which, well, you could take as 'Jews suck'.

And that I can understand.

Now, take an outhouse. The traditionally outhouse has a moon carved in the door - no relationship to Islam. the 'Slam' I immediately assumed was that the character was in a rush to get in, it being the middle of the night and he having to get up and go take a crap.

I didn't think it was a particularly funny strip, but in comparison to the Menorah strip.. well, if it is about Islam, it shows a depth of thinking that Hart has never really been capable of.

I mean, there should be more outrage over his depiction of Native Americans with that recent assinine character addition he did, representing them as stupid and friendly with the spaniard conquistidor.

See, that's obvious. I think if he had something to say about Islam, he would have made some stupid character for it and done it obvious, not some slight of hand potty joke.
posted by rich at 12:08 PM on November 21, 2003


tranquileye and Outlawyir, you mean it's absolutely out of the question that Muslim countries could have unsanitary toilet facilities? You mean Egypt is a pristine, spotless, squeaky-clean country? tranquileye, you mean Egyptian bathrooms strike you as cleaner than those of other countries? Which ones exactly?
posted by 111 at 12:13 PM on November 21, 2003


There are seven clearly visible crescent moons on this anti-islamic google image search.

I think I'd rather save my outrage for something that better deserves my wrath.
posted by mosch at 1:01 PM on November 21, 2003


Foreign toilets. Now THAT is a whole nother thread.

When Hart started inserting overtly religious messages in his strip, it struck me as so unintentionally ironic. After all, it's titled "B.C.", isn't it? (Unless you think B.C. stands for Boring Christian). I hadn't seen it in the papers here in L.A. for years; the Times, which carried it from Day One, dropped it some time ago, and the suburban (and more Conservative) Daily News never picked it up, even though they like to make a big noise about adopting content that the Times doesn't want. But I'll call "Occam's Razor" on this too... Johnny Hart was never smart enough or sneaky enough to have 'hidden messages' in his strips. Still, it wouldn't surprise me if somewhere, somehow, in a comics syndication office, they are frantically airbrushing out a six-sided star from somebody's drawing of an outhouse (I'd bet on Snuffy Smith).
posted by wendell at 1:10 PM on November 21, 2003


I see it as a comment on the current living conditions in some muslim countries.

:::boggle:::

Most folks here are too smart for everything and will spend most of their posting time proving it to you.

The insecurity schtick is really getting old, mate. Really.
posted by rushmc at 1:49 PM on November 21, 2003


Speaking of subtle digs, is it just me or did the Washington Post intentionally make Johnny Hart look like some sort of kreepy kultist in this picture:



"How will you command me, O 'Dark Master?."
posted by dgaicun at 2:43 PM on November 21, 2003


Interesting to see an elderly cartoonist so thoroughly crucified by a group of people with no evidence and a dearth of real insight into his intentions, other than that he's a devout Christian. No mention of Islam anywhere to be found. Welcome to MetaLynchMob.
posted by dhoyt at 2:50 PM on November 21, 2003


PS: I hate BC, and am an atheist, but come on.
posted by dhoyt at 2:53 PM on November 21, 2003


So we've had to replace "French" with "freedom", what word will we replace "slam" with so no one will be insulted by it?

I'm sorry, but I just don't get it. I looked at the cartoon before reading the story or comments, and all I saw was a mostly unfunny reference to outhouses. Having spent some time in my childhood visiting relatives that used an outhouse (with a moon on the door, I might add), I giggled a little at the reminder that I always had to slam the door so it would stay closed ... and it always stank. Have any of you ever used an actual, weathered and old outhouse? One that has been in the same location for decades?

Then I came back here, read the news story and comments, and realized that evidently I am not sensitive enough to religious discrimination. Hell, even after hearing everyone explain so eloquently (or not) WHY we should be outraged over this cartoon, I am still finding it hard to develop any outrage over it. I sent the cartoon to one of my Muslim friends and asked her to look at it. She asked me why I sent her such a boring cartoon. I asked if it offended her in any way. Her response?

"Why should it offend me? I have indoor plumbing."

Really, people ... I think some of you are just simply reading WAY too much into it.

On the other hand, my 10 year old next door neighbor thought it was hilarious, but then kids seem to be a little bit better at enjoying bathroom humor."
posted by Orb at 3:36 PM on November 21, 2003


As for the judeo-christo-muslim unholy trinity, someone light a match! ;-P
posted by mischief at 3:40 PM on November 21, 2003


The comic is way wrong, that door should stay open, I never close the outhouse door. What does it all mean?

What if the fourth panel showed the outhouse blown to rat shit? See? It's only a shitty comic.

That Marshall Blonsky, professor of semiotics probably works it out with a pencil. [wait, that's how does a mathematician take a... oh, nevermind]

euphorb, a star near the moon? Isn't that the flag of Turkey? Uh-oh.
posted by alicesshoe at 4:17 PM on November 21, 2003


Don't feed the tro111
posted by inpHilltr8r at 4:54 PM on November 21, 2003


did the Washington Post intentionally make Johnny Hart look like some sort of kreepy kultist in this picture

If the shoe fits....
posted by rushmc at 7:12 PM on November 21, 2003


I don't know what's more hilarious: the Oliver Stone-like conspiracy by CAIR or the fact that even the touchy-feely politically correct types here are so worked up about this. When you've been cranking out seven shitty comic strips a week for decades like Johnny Hart, chances are that you're running on autopilot. And the idea of providing something for people to deconstruct is about as unpalatable as drawing an eighth strip.

What next? Garfield revealed as a bloated Jewish stereotype craving for lasagana? Secret NAMBLA messages within The Family Circus? Luann as an anorexic teenager secretly telling youngsters to starve themselves?

Good goddam. I can't wait for Berkeley Breathed to rock the boat on Sunday. If this BC development demonstrates anything, it's that the comics page, a sedate collection of humorless Hallmark card schtick in panel form, is in vital need of offensive, politically incorrect material.
posted by ed at 7:44 PM on November 21, 2003


it's that the comics page, a sedate collection of humorless Hallmark card schtick in panel form, is in vital need of offensive, politically incorrect material.
Hey, like these Boondocks featuring "Get Condi Rice laid" ?
posted by amberglow at 8:00 PM on November 21, 2003


I want to know what Andy Capp has to say about Islam.
posted by frenetic at 8:17 PM on November 21, 2003


"What next? Garfield revealed as a bloated Jewish stereotype craving for lasagana?" - Ed, you don't mean to say......... oh, never mind.
posted by troutfishing at 8:52 PM on November 21, 2003


In my humble opinion, Johnny Hart is insane. This strip has all the hallmarks of schizophrenia.

Okay, not really. But I still think he is insane.
posted by moonbiter at 12:25 AM on November 22, 2003


euphorb, a star near the moon? Isn't that the flag of Turkey? Uh-oh.

The crescent moon and star is a well known symbol of Islam. Had there been a star next to the crescent moon the symbolism would have been very clear. As it is, the meaning is ambiguous, perhaps purposely so.
posted by euphorb at 2:09 AM on November 22, 2003


The Simpsons have been lambasting religion since day one-- and a very specific religion-- and where have your self-righteous threads been?

Um... a little off topic, but the Simpsons make fun of many religions. Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, Hindu, Mormonism, off the top of my head.
posted by nath at 2:44 AM on November 22, 2003


First off, considering the fact that the croissant was created to make fun of Islam, I'm not at all convinced that the traditional crescent shape on outhouses is all that innocent either.

Second, Hart is either a total tool or he's an ignorant, racist, bigoted total tool. The strip is beyond stupid at face value ("Shit stinks") and only seems to make any kind of sense if if it's some kind of political commentary.

A funnier comic would be one of Hart taking a cross, shoving it up his ass, and pulling it out and saying, "is it just me, or does this cross stink?" I'd pay to see that.
posted by Hildegarde at 12:29 PM on November 22, 2003


The strip is beyond stupid at face value ("Shit stinks") and only seems to make any kind of sense if if it's some kind of political commentary.

I'll remember that the next time I catch an episode of Howard Stern or The Man Show:

"This is so stupid it can only make sense as sophisticated, cryptic political commentary."

UPN will be a whole new experience!
posted by dgaicun at 12:58 PM on November 22, 2003


First off, considering the fact that the croissant was created to make fun of Islam, I'm not at all convinced that the traditional crescent shape on outhouses is all that innocent either.

I see someone at their Paranoia Flakes this morning. Any word on the secret meaning behind the "yellow moons" in Lucky Charms?
posted by jonmc at 2:21 PM on November 22, 2003


it's true, jon--it was about some ottoman invasion that was defeated, i think. : >
posted by amberglow at 3:30 PM on November 22, 2003


I see someone ate their Ignorant Flakes this morning.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:40 PM on November 22, 2003


During the Siege of Vienna in 1683, who was it that was up working in the wee hours of the morning? Yup. And who heard strange sounds underneath the city at those hours? Right again. And who alerted the proper authorities that the Turks were tunneling underneath the city in preparation for an attack, thus staving off certain defeat and in fact turned it into victory?That's right. How was that victory commemorated?...they shaped their dough into the shape of the symbol of the Turkish flag, the crescent, or croissant in french. Now that's ancient history, with just a little effort, a question mark could be formed with the dough, causing people to wonder. "What the hell does that mean"? from here : >
posted by amberglow at 3:45 PM on November 22, 2003


This site says "the 'Croissant' or crescent roll was shaped in this form to copy the basic geometry of the Turkish sword, which was crescent shaped" -- which is rather different (the sword isn't exactly a religious symbol). But who knows if either version is true. All of that, of course, is utterly irrelevant to outhouses, as is Islam. I can't believe this thread is still going. These are surly, paranoid times.
posted by languagehat at 5:34 PM on November 22, 2003


I read that as jonmc mocking Hildegarde's speculation on the ill intent of moons on outhouse doors, not the croissant link to Islam (for which Hildegarde linked to supporting evidence after all). We'll leave the obviously wide gulf between celebrating a specific military victory and making fun of a religion for another occasion, except to note that when Jews celebrate Passover, they do not consider that making fun of Egyptians.
posted by boaz at 5:40 PM on November 22, 2003


It's interesting to find out the origins of things anyway, boaz : >

languagehat: this place (and others i googled) say it's from their flag. Were Turks using scimitars in the 1600s?
posted by amberglow at 5:49 PM on November 22, 2003


I fail to see how speculating about the possible history of popular symbols makes me paranoid. Particularly in this case, given the history of the western use and abuse of the crescent.
posted by Hildegarde at 5:56 PM on November 22, 2003


It's interesting to find out the origins of things anyway, boaz : >

True, and this is a pretty interesting historical tidbit. I actually used to make croissants on occasion when I was younger, and this thread's got me hankering to try my hand at it again (tip: any recipe that uses less than a pound of butter per 20 croissants is worthless; you might as well be buying them at Dunkin' Donuts.).
posted by boaz at 7:19 PM on November 22, 2003


yup, boaz..it reminds me of the origins of hamantaschen, another food that celebrates a victory. I wonder how many there are.
posted by amberglow at 8:06 PM on November 22, 2003


Next up: Are Denny's meals anti-Islamic, as well as fattening as SBN?
posted by weston at 10:39 AM on November 23, 2003


If only those type of outhouses had been designed with no window or or a happy face or something... then we wouldn't have to waste everyone's time with this discussion and this MeFi link.

Its pretty funny that the design on an outhouse and the symbol of a religion would be so similar in the first place. But how do people find such arguments from a comic strip like this? Shouldn't you people be working on attaining world peace or something? Stop arguing about nothing!
posted by nyukid at 1:01 PM on November 23, 2003


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