Archive for September 18th, 2006

You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry….

I have a faint recollection of a phase in pop music history where a sure-fire way of getting your latest release a bit of extra publicity was to anger the Vatican. One such example that sticks in my mind was the release of Black Grape’s first album. The music press reported that the lines ‘old Pope he got the Nazis/To clean up their messes/In exchange for gold paintings/He gave them new addresses’ had aroused Vatican anger.

The nature and scale of this anger was somewhat left to the imagination. It could have been an entire gaggle of cardinals swinging thuribles above their heads with outraged menace, or it could have been a hard-pressed receptionist on the Vatican switchboard saying that that the Pope mightn’t be too happy if he heard that sort of thing.

The reason I mention this is the reports of ‘Muslim anger’ in the media after the present Pope’s musings last week. From what I can see, demonstrations against the Pope have been hundreds-strong. For instance, Anjem Choudhury, whose sole function in life seems to be to fulfil the wishes of the media for their fair share of Muslim scare stories, demonstrated with a hundred other angry people in London yesterday, and he did not disappoint in his reported demand that The Pope Must Die. And, as you can see from the Daily Mail headline, he is a Muslim. Then you had effigies burnt in India and Pakistan, demonstrations in Indonesia, India, Iran, Egypt and other places.

Yet one of the disappointing things, from the perspective of someone who likes nothing more than to observe thousands-strong rallies of people baying for papal blood, is the absence of such photos from the BBC’s coverage of Muslim anger at the Pope. There are many possible reasons why the BBC may have chosen not to show such photographs -poor lighting; lack of a proper vantage point; a misplaced unwillingness to inflame things further- but then there is the possibility that no such rally took place.

In Ireland, what % of the population would need to turn up at demonstrations against something in order for it to be held up as a manifestation of categorical ‘Irish anger’? I think 0.1% of the population would be a reasonable proportion. That would be around 5000 people. Anything under that and you’d be saying, well, it isn’t really all Irish people at all, just some Irish people who happen to be angry. In fact, if you had 10,000 Irish people protesting angrily at, say, the bombardment of some far-off place, a lot of people would make the point that their anger did not necessarily reflect the views of all Irish people. So if you were talking about a bona fide manifestation of ‘Muslim anger’, then, you’d want to see about 0.1% of Muslims demonstrating. We’d be looking for the order of a thousand thousand-strong rallies around the globe.

Still, this new frenzy is terribly exciting. It’s like the Da Vinci Code meets The Satanic Verses, without the mass purchases of Lurpak butter that characterised the Muhammad cartoons frenzy, but with added logos instead.

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September 2006