Isaac Chotiner praises Stefan Collini’s That’s Offensive: Criticism, Identity, Respect:
Treating people with respect is a fine goal, but Collini notices that respect tends to be shown with special deference to so-called “out groups.” Claims of offense that would otherwise be ignored are instead given credence and even deference. Collini also correctly identifies the people who tend to fall into this trap. Very few “progressive” forces, for example, would have shown any “understanding” of hurt Christian feelings if Jesus had been mocked in a Danish newspaper. The entire force of the argument against the offensiveness of the Danish cartoons was based on the concern that Muslims were somehow less powerful than other religious believers. But this hardly qualifies as an adequate justification for a double standard.
Michael C. Moynihan looks into the specific example:
The issue of how the Scandinavian culturati would react to “offensive” portrayals of Christians isn’t, alas, merely a “what if,” to which the answer is obvious. In 1998, some religious groups in Sweden objected to Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin’s photo collection Ecce Homo, which includes depictions of Jesus dying of AIDS, a transsexual Last Supper, and God hanging out with some leather boys. Pretty tedious stuff.
Despite the niggling fact that the exhibition was displayed in various Lutheran churches throughout Sweden, with the approval of Archbishop K.G. Hammar, the editorial pages bravely united in opposition to those demanding that the photos be removed from what was then still state churches. Almost a decade later, those very same newspapers would upbraid Jyllands-Posten, the Danish daily behind the infamous “Mohammad cartoons,” for antagonizing a religious minority. And predictably, following fashionable opinion, Ohlson Wallin denounced the Danish cartoons as needlessly offensive, claiming to see no similarity between her exhibit and the satirical illustrations.
(Image: “Last Supper in South Park” painting by Ron English part of 15 artists paying tribute to the 15th season of South Park at Opera Gallery in New York City. The show runs from March 28 through April 10th.)