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Muslims vs Christians – Mac vs PC Users February 8, 2006

Posted by TimTheFoolMan in Blogging, Computers, Politics, Religion.

The Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad have now generated what some news services are calling “a global crisis.” In response to seeing this, Muslims have burned embassies in Lebanon and Syria, engaged in violent riots all across Europe, and generally created the impression among westerners that they are unwilling to tolerate any disparagement of the man who is, for all intents and purposes, the icon of their faith. Even moderate Muslims, in the midst of calling for understanding and tolerance, are attempting to justify the violence.

On the other side of the fence are the pent-up emotions of 9/11, and the sense of “open season on Muslims” that seems to be sweeping across the non-Muslim world. As a result, there are ridiculous re-postings of the cartoons, under the guise of “supporting free speech.” I call bull on this one. How many of the people who are celebrating this form of free speech (enjoyed at the expense of Muslims) were cheering the 1990 Supreme Court decision to overturn the 1989 Flag Protection Act? Are the same champions of free speech going to go out and “buy Iranian” to show solidarity with Tehranians who choose to torch the “stars and stripes”?

All of this reminds me of the similarly childish (but thankfully, less violent) behavior seen by Macintosh and Windows fanatics.

For Whom the Dell Trolls
If you’re a Mac user, you’ve probably found yourself defending the wisdom of your platform choice at one time or another. Whether it’s “OS X versus XP” or the PowerPC versus Pentium spec wars, Mac and Windows users have been taking potshots at each other for years.

The cultural battle typically gravitates upward, making comparisons between Bill Gates and Steve Jobs inevitable. Who hasn’t heard at least one joke aimed at Gates’ financial prowess or Jobs’ “reality distortion field”? To those unfamiliar with the playing field, insults thrown out to the other side are referred to as “trolls,” as the comments are akin to the bait that fishermen might toss off the bow to lure unsuspecting fish into the nets of trolling vessels.

Cheesy Danish
Was the Danish newspaper trolling for the vehement reaction that it must have known would follow the publication of the cartoons? I doubt it. However, publishing them was, at best, disingenuous. What were they hoping to achieve?

Were they simply shooting for a cheap laugh? Possibly. Stereotypically, Danish humor would seem to live by the “sacred cows make the best hamburger” maxim that has been proffered at the expense of Hindus. Even so, is it worth inciting the kind of anger that would knowingly follow the cartoons? It is, only if you simply don’t care about the people you’re offending.

For example, I may be fully within my right to tell a co-worker that he’s an idiot, but if I’m ever in a position where I need his help, I will probably regret my words. Would I tell my next-door neighbor that her new car looks hideous? In either case, I’m simply expressing my opinion. What’s the problem with that?

Trying to be generous, consider the possibility that the cartoonist was attempting to facilitate social change, as has been suggested by several bloggers, looking to justify the images by pointing to women’s rights within most Muslim countries. Even if we’re optimistic, it’s hard to imagine this kind of social commentary bringing about change in societies that have seen remarkably little change as the world around them has changed dramatically. (I’m leaving it an open question whether or not the lack of change is a good thing or not.)


Here is the newspaper’s explanation of their reasoning behind publishing the cartoons, and the history behind the event. The apparent goal was to push questions of freedom of speech into the public debate, and to bring to light “the problem of self-censorship.” The thinking was, if I’m reluctand to do something out of fear of reprisals from some group, that’s wrong, so I should go ahead and push that button. There were parallel questions related to whether Muslims are consistently offended by the publication of any pictures of Muhammed, but these seemed to take a back seat to the question of self-censorship.

Parody Parity
Within the United States, we take great pride in the First Amendment, and the freedom of speech that it guarantees. As a result, I am fully within my right to express all sorts of opinions, regardless of how those opinions may inflame. Extremists on the right and left of American politics use this freedom as a license to ridicule those who differ with them, sometimes doing so while claiming to be aligned with “Christian values.”

Now, in an attempt to “show the west how it feels,” an Iranian newspaper has put out requests for “cartoons ridiculing the holocaust.” Instead of behaving more maturely than those who would inflame and incite, at least part of the Muslim community is responding in schoolyard fashion with their own version of inflamatory cartooning.

Punt the Pundits
Back at the less serious, but similar computer wars, there are pundits representing the Mac and Windows camps that are fully willing to bash the users and designers of the opposing system, pausing only long enough to make fun of Linux. Interestingly, Apple was able to make some slight change in its market share, not by bashing the capabilities of the PC/Windows platform, but by injecting its technology into the platform itself. How? Using iTunes and the ubiquitous iPod. Millions of Windows users have now been introduced to Apple technology, and have seen a glimpse of what they have to offer.

If someone wants to bring change and “enlightenment” to the Muslim world, why not try the iTunes/iPod approach? What then is the “killer app,” the western thought process that (when injected into the Muslim world) can bring an appreciation for the freedoms of speech and religion that so much of the west enjoys? Hmm… perhaps we should ditch our own inflammatory voices from the left and right first. Maybe then, we can teach the rest of the world something about tolerance.


1. bingo game play - February 13, 2006

i have to say used to have a apple mac and since moving onto a PC have never looked back

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