Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Comprehensive Cartoon Timeline 

Now that we are a few weeks into the Islamic Cartoon Riots, I think it is safe to say that as historians, we now have enough analytical space to step back three and a half paces and try to assemble an overview of the "Big Picture" -- the historical context of the Cartoon Crisis.

Timeline Graph of Mohammed Cartoon Heads Per Year

Let's take a closer look at some of the timeline graph's key dates in Cartoon History.

c. 500 BCENobody here but us Jews. No prophetic drawings of the Muslim Prophet's head yet either.
560 CEBirth of Mohammed. First drawing appears on birth announcement. While no copies are made in this pre-Xerox era, the one image alone should have been enough to trigger riots, but who knew?
632Death of Mohammed. There is no record of his face being carved in a mountain memorial, ala Rushmore, or any such blasphemy.
633-939Now and again, careless scribblers might accidentally draw something resembling the Muslim Prophet's head in these peaceful yet turbulent years as people start dying and fancy schmancy stuff starts getting invented that we won't know about for another 1000 years.
940Two people draw an image of Mohammed's head in the same year -- a new record -- prompting the Mahdi, the 12th Imam, to throw himself down a well. The faithful forget to riot about the new precedent-setting level of desecration as they are too busy listening for splashing sounds at the well.
941 - 1884Occasional drawings keep popping up, no big whup. People continue dying. Fancy schmancy stuff continues getting invented until the Jihad runs out of Mojo somewhere in southern Europe.
1885Invention of the crayon. Sharp rise in blasphemous images -- to maybe 5 -- but it goes unnoticed as would-be rioters are too absorbed with the new technology's potential for scribbling informal fatwas and death threats.
2001Low levels of not-for-profit Prophet drawings continue to go mostly unprotested, except perhaps in textbooks in more tolerant countries. Twin Towers destroyed, not much protest about that either.
Sep. 2005Wow. 12 images of the Muslim Prophet are published in a newspaper but few seem to care, apparently momentarily still hung over from their recent Koran-in-the-Toilet binges.
Jan 2006The head count is up to 15 as Imams looking to stir the pot have increased the ante with 3 new desecrations of their own invention. Response is only now slowly building.
Jan-Feb 2006Riots. Burning embassies. Fatwas against cartoonists. Threats of a Real Holocaust..
Feb 2006Quite probably more copies of the Muslim Prophet's image are printed and republished in this month than in any period in history as a response to the riots and threats. Well done.

So we see a pattern of very little cartoon desecration for about one thousand years. Even 9/11 and the destruction of the Twin Towers just weren't quite enough to jump-start the Cartoon cottage industry.

But then the Islamist threats and riots and violence were finally enough to provoke the opening of the floodgates. Am I saying that if the extremists had merely written a few letters to the Danish editor, that the whole thing would have just melted away? That TONS of desecration could have been avoided, if that is what the Islamists had really cared about more than their own lives as they claimed? Yes.

Am I blaming the victim? Only if rampaging mobs who destroy embassies and threaten cartoonists' lives can be called victims.

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