Everybody Draw Mohammed Day is over.
The ashes of all the American flags have been swept up from the streets of Karachi and Islamabad. The screaming demonstrators have returned to their slums. The fatwas have all been issued. The “Death to America” banners have been stuffed into dumpsters or used as toilet paper.
Pundits are publishing platitudes, right-thinking folk are scowling in disapproval, and Facebook can at last breathe a collective sigh of relief. Ordinary folk can go about their daily routine, knowing that they are completely safe — so long as they never, ever do anything that offends a Muslim.
With almost a year to prepare for the next one, now would be a good time to take stock, to examine the reasons for the phenomenal success of EDMD and consider the possible ways that next year’s version could be made even more successful.
The occasion was a remarkable one, given that it was entirely viral — the MSM only picked up on what was happening after it became too large to ignore. When the media finally did report what was taking place, it was with the predictable focus on how offended Muslims were by our blasphemous behavior — because, you see, any depiction of their prophet is strictly prohibited by Islam (this last assertion is totally false, but that’s a topic for another post).
Molly Norris, the unfortunate woman who set the whole viral EDMD event in motion, did nothing to support the movement once it got started, and everything she could to stop it. It became obvious that at the time she first drew her cartoon she had no idea of its significance — had she really never heard of a “death fatwa”? Or Theo Van Gogh? — and that she was totally clueless about what she had unleashed.
But it was an idea whose time had come, and, thanks to South Park, it seemed to tap into a widespread resentment of Islamic bullying here in the United States. The response was extensive, and although there were no celebrity participants — no Garry Trudeau, no Bill Watterson — not all submissions consisted of crude sketches of a bearded guy in a turban, or anatomically explicit cartoons of Mohammed getting it on with a goat.
EDMD even had a marginal presence in the MSM. One example is mainstream syndicated comic strip, “Over the Hedge”:
To see the punch line, click here.
All in all, it was a day to remember. But how can we help make next year’s EDMD even more memorable?
I don’t have any great insights of my own to present, but I’d like to open up a forum here where people can put forward ideas and suggestions about what can be done to make Everybody Draw Mohammed Day 2011 an even greater success. If a light bulb goes on over your head, please feel free to illumine our comments with it, and also make sure you spread it elsewhere — the nature of a viral operation requires that its components appear simultaneously in a number of locations and media.
I’d just like to point out a few factors that helped EDMD take off in such a spectacular fashion:
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1. It emerged from the grassroots and spread upwards.
Ordinary people picked up on the meme once it appeared. “Of course! What a great idea! Why didn’t I think of that?” seemed to be the general sentiment. It’s possible that some people made money from the occasion, but nobody got rich from it. It was a true citizens’ movement that took off and became so large that it gained the attention of the MSM — not to mention that of the legendary hair-trigger Muslim Street.
2. Immediate Muslim anger helped increase the stature of EDMD.
As soon as the meme surfaced, Muslims denounced it. The larger it grew, the more widespread and ominous the reaction. This tells us that putting a burr under Islam’s saddle is definitely the way to go.
3. Social networking sites were paramount.
Without the Facebook group, EDMD would probably have never reached critical mass. But any single site is vulnerable, so multiple instances in multiple venues will always be the most effective strategy.
4. YouTube is essential.
I’m not a video person, so it pains me to say this, but nothing works better than YouTube to make a meme go viral. All those videos that appeared before the day — some of them stunningly professional — were necessary to spread the word. Once again, a single site or service is vulnerable, so multiple instances in multiple locations are necessary when propagating videos.
5. The most successful images are not particularly confrontational.
One of the reasons that Ms. Norris’ idea was so appealing was that it was so obviously harmless. Those who issued death threats against her for drawing a teacup claiming to be Mohammed obviously didn’t understand that they were acting against their own best interests. People who otherwise might have paid no attention couldn’t help but notice that Muslims — skinless people in a sandpaper world, in Zenster’s memorable phrase — were taking deadly offense at something that was as innocuous as a cartoon could possibly be. The irony was lost on Muslims, but not on the rest of us.
Please feel free to add your own ideas and observations to my hastily compiled list. There’s much more that can be said about Everybody Draw Mohammed Day.
One more point worth mentioning concerns the tendency by Muslims and Westerners alike to regard Muslims as devoid of agency.
This attitude consigns the faithful followers of Mohammed to the status of robots. We must not offend them, because they are unable to control themselves, and will react to certain stimuli in as predictable and unalterable a fashion as would a machine. They are not human beings who can exhibit self-awareness and act autonomously. They are drones, and they cannot help themselves. That’s why it is up to us to act in certain ways so as to prevent them from responding violently.
It’s important to reject this assumption overtly.
It’s important to grant that every Muslim has personal agency.
It’s important to treat a Muslim as we would any other human being.
Remember: by launching Everybody Draw Mohammed Day, we gave the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims the opportunity not to be offended.
We showed them the respect they so often demand by treating them as full human beings and allowing them to demonstrate that they — not the kuffar, not the “Zionist Entity”, not the “Great Satan” — are responsible for their actions.
They can laugh along with us if they choose. Surely they can take a joke…?
Or they can ignore us. They can turn up their noses at the foolishness of non-Muslims, and not give us any credibility by paying attention to us.
Or they can take to the streets, burning flags and cars and embassies and killing people.
It’s not up to us.
It really is up to them.
Hat tip for the comic strip: TB.