Friday, October 19, 2007

Flemming Rose Connects the Dots

In an interview with Michael Moynihan of Reason magazine, Flemming Rose explains his thinking about the cartoon crisis.

First, here’s a part of Mr. Moynihan’s introduction:

…To get a sense of how this diminutive socialist country (previously famous for pork products, liberal views on pornography and Jante’s Law) was tranformed into a main front in Europe’s culture war, I sat down with the man responsible for printing the offending cartoons, Jyllands-Posten’s culture and arts editor Flemming Rose. In a wide-ranging discussion, Rose expounded on his years in the Soviet Union, free speech versus “responsible speech” and his Muslim supporters.

I spoke with Rose in September at Jyllands-Posten’s Copenhagen office.

What follows is just part of the conversation. Flemming Rose is quite formidable. I hadn’t seen the connections he is making here:

reason: Did your time in Russia and as Berlingske Tidende correspondent in the Soviet Union inform your ideas of free speech and political freedom?

Flemming Rose: Yes. I am going to write a book about the cartoon crisis and I am going to compare the experience of the dissidents in the Soviet Union to what has happened to people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ibn Warraq, Salman Rushdie and Irshad Manji… I am very much informed by my contact with [Soviet dissidents] and I’m close to the Sakharov camp-people like Natan Sharansky and Sergei Kovalev… The dissidents were split between what I would I would call the nationalist camp and the human rights movement. And I would say that I identified more with the human rights movement, although I am a big admirer of Solzhenitsyn, of course, because of what he accomplished. But today he is, in fact, supporting Putin and he believes that he’s conducting a very wise foreign policy program. I don’t think Sakharov would have subscribed to this view.

reason: Were you surprised by the reaction of those who argued not for unfettered free speech, but “responsible speech?”

Rose: Well, no. I think many people betrayed their own ideals. The history of the left, for instance, is a history of confronting authority-be it religious or political authority-and always challenging religious symbols and figures. In this case, they failed miserably. I think the left is in a deep crisis in Europe because of their lack of willingness to confront the racist ideology of Islamism. They somehow view the Koran as a new version of Das Kapital and are willing to ignore everything else, as long of they continue to see the Muslims of Europe as a new proletariat.

Like during the Cold War, there is a willingness to establish a false equivalence between democracy and oppression-between a totalitarian ideology and a liberal ideology. When I look back at my own behavior during the “cartoon crisis,” it was very much informed by my experience with Soviet Union because I saw the same kind of behavior both inside the Soviet Union and those dealing with the Soviet Union in the West.

The whole interview is enlightening; I've only excerpted part of it.

For a video (posted yesterday) with further comments from Mr. Rose, go here. And, yes, he speaks English very well.

Someone hat tipped me on this, but I can't remember who it was. Please take credit in the comments!