Harvard Salient: "look at me! look at me! PLEASE LOOK AT ME!"
Now, let's be honest, I'm not exactly immune to the allure of self-promotion. Unless you're writing for the Crimson or some other overly dominant news source, media is part ideas and part politics; you've got to get attention if you want to be heard. The Salient has for a long time been an all too able embodiment of that principle: provoke first, explain second, bask in the attention, adulation and disdain third. But, one would think the Fullah Barbie, a profoundly hilarious martyrdom complex and an appropriate but unhealthy love of Harvey Mansfield would be enough to satisfy their need for conservative flamboyance and blatant demagoguery. Apparently not, and this week the Salient decided to publish the cartoons of Muhammad that have resulted in international outrage, both peaceful and violent, and a sudden interest on the Right in free speech. And they're very excited about it. (more in expanded post)
Let me start by noting this: I am not attacking their right to do so. People have the right to do and say all kinds of silly or tasteless things (like run through Harvard Yard with socks on their ears declaring their love for football tees and clowns, for instance), that doesn't mean I'm not allowed to say they are wrong or weird for doing it. So please, spare me the free speech whining, no one's knocking on Travis Kavulla's door in Mather and demanding that he follow them to one of our secret prisons in Eastern Europe.
But seriously, what point was there to do this other than pure attention-mongering? Yes, I know, it's a statement of principle that reaffirms the freedom of the press in the United States. That's fine, it's a good principle. But who really thought it was in jeopardy? Mature people realize that part of having a right is being intelligent about exercising it. Of course, the other argument is that the cartoons have a powerful political point – that they are witty or important observations of the realities of "Muslim extremism."
First of all, no, they're not. None of them are particularly insightful as individual political statements; they range from sarcastically self-referential to downright meaningless. Second of all, was the Salient really worried that we hadn't heard this profound set of ideas? Were they worried that the Harvard political community hadn't noticed the massive international debate, protest, deaths and diplomatic stress? Please.
Again, because I fear that some people might spin my thoughts into a defense of the violent outrage, let me be clear: the Salient can print whatever it wants, the Danish newspapers should be able to print whatever they want. The Danish papers, though, could at least make the claim to starting a relevant and difficult political debate to justify being offensive. The Salient is just looking for a few more readers, a lot more attention, and a lot of liberal outrage. In some ways, I guess this post gives them what they want. Unfortunately, I'm not outraged that they printed them, I'm just disappointed that their sophomoric stunts have reached a new low.