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We Are All Danes Now, Latest Installment:

The International Herald Tribune reports:

A leading German opera house has canceled performances of a Mozart opera because of security fears stirred by a scene that depicts the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad, prompting a storm of protest here about the renunciation of artistic freedom.

The Deutsche Oper in Berlin said it had pulled "Idomeneo" from its fall schedule after the police warned that the staging of the opera could pose an "incalculable risk" to the performers and the audience.

The Deutsche Oper's director, Kirsten Harms, said she regretted the decision but felt she had no choice because she was "responsible for all the people on the stage, behind the stage and in front of the stage."

Political and cultural figures throughout Germany condemned the cancellation, which is without precedent here. Some said it recalled the decision of European newspapers not to print satirical cartoons about Muhammad, after their publication in Denmark generated a furor among Muslims.

The decision seemed likely to fan a debate in Germany, and perhaps elsewhere in Europe, about whether the West was compromising its values, including free expression, to avoid stoking anger in the Muslim world....

What debate? Isn't this exactly what's happening here?

I should note that the opera is not quite rejecting Mozart as such: "The disputed scene is not part of Mozart's 225-year-old opera, but was added as a sort of coda by the director, Hans Neuenfels. In it, the king of Crete, Idomeneo, carries the heads of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon, god of the sea, onto the stage, placing each on a stool.... 'The severed heads of the religious figures ... was meant by Neuenfels to make a point that "all the founders of religions were figures that didn't bring peace to the world."'"

But what they're doing is plenty bad enough -- they're surrendering their own artistic freedom by caving in to the fear of violence, and thus encouraging more threats of violence and more suppression of artistic freedom in the future.

Yes, I sympathize with organizations that feel the obligation to protect themselves and their viewers. But on balance such surrender, especially highly anticipatory surrender ("[t]his past summer, the Berlin police said they received a call from an unidentified person, who warned that the opera was 'damaging to religious feelings'[; t]he caller did not make a specific threat against the opera"), is both a disaster for artistic and political freedom, and I suspect encourages more violence than it avoids. Institutions that rely on this freedom need to be willing to run some risks to preserve it.

Finally, I think it's important that the change seems to be overtly motivated by fear of violence, rather than by genuine desire to avoid offending prospective viewers, or to avoid associating with what the organization sees as reprehensible ideas. The latter two justifications are aspects of one's artistic freedom: Artistic freedom includes the freedom to choose the art that one considers most worthy, and (generally speaking) that will attract viewers rather than repelling them. But the fear-of-violence justification is a surrender of that freedom.

DummydaDhimmi:
Why is it that Muslims don't ever seem to be afraid of the reactions of the West? It's past time to turn the tables on them.
9.27.2006 2:08pm
KC (mail):
Those Posideon worshippers can get pretty testy.
9.27.2006 2:15pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Right, except there was no threat of violence. Apparently one guy called the police and complained he thought it was offensive to religion without making any threats of violence. I suppose you mean some sort of implicit threat of violence by muslim radicals in general.

While I agree that violence is not to be rewarded I wonder how you feel about choosing not to walk through bad neighborhoods? Intuitively I think that is 'okay' while I think giving in in this sort of situation is not but I'm not entierly sure of the difference. In both cases there is not an organized attempt to intimidate people into doing what the users of violence want, they just get mad or want money and take it. Moreover, it seems that in both cases your choice ultimately serves the criminal (by keeping out gentrification in the bad neighborhood the gangs and drug dealers stay in charge...if classy joints moved in they would lose their power).

I'm not saying I feel the two are equivalent but I'm hoping someone else can explain the principled difference. Also it is far from clear to me when the moral cause of not bowing to pressure is outweighed by the responsibility you have to the people's lives who may not be willing to risk them for your cause.
9.27.2006 2:18pm
PersonFromPorlock:

It's past time to turn the tables on them.

What tables? Perhaps after we perfect the stinging apology, but until then they really don't have a lot to fear from us.
9.27.2006 2:23pm
Alex R:
Eugene wrote: "But what they're doing is plenty bad enough -- they're surrendering their own artistic freedom by caving in to the fear of violence, and thus encouraging more threats of violence and more suppression of artistic freedom in the future"

I agree completely, and if you simply delete the word "artistic" from this sentence, you could apply it equally well to the shameful actions of the current Administration (and Congress) on detainee torture and on domestic surveillance. (Except that perhaps members of the Administration don't feel that their "own" freedom is at risk.)

I hope to read similar outraged commentary from the Conspirators on these issues...
9.27.2006 2:30pm
KG:
"Why is it that Muslims don't ever seem to be afraid of the reactions of the West?"

Given the West's colonial/imperial policies in the Middle East for the past 150 years, there are plenty of Muslims afraid of the reactions of the West.
9.27.2006 2:46pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Alex R: If one of the bloggers had been following the detainee treatment controversy closely, or was otherwise an expert in this quite complex field, I suspect he would have blogged about it.

I'm certainly not an expert in the field. It's quite likely that whatever I say about the subject will be wrong, unless I spend a lot of time coming up to speed on the matter. There are some subjects on which I can comment even without much knowledge, because they're relatively shallow areas that can be learned well enough quite quickly (consider the occasional questions about how the Twelfth and Twenty-Second Amendments affect Bill Clinton's eligibility for the Vice Presidency). There are other subjects on which I can make a possibly helpful and novel tangential observation without having to know much about the core issue. There are other subjects, such as free speech, on which I have quite a bit of knowledge. There are still other subjects on which specialized knowledge isn't really necessary, because opinions are enough (e.g., Leonard Cohen). The subjects you mention fall in none of these categories.

So, given this, why not read the blogs whose authors actually know something about the matter, and are blogging based on that knowledge, rather than demanding to hear things from people who don't know much about the subject? Did someone slap an "All the Opinions That Are Fit To Print" label on this blog when I wasn't looking, vouching for our willingness to opine on everything, including on things on which we aren't expert, and which require expertise to deal with?

As to domestic surveillance, Orin is indeed an expert; he's blogged briefly about the latest legislative activity. In this post, he explains why he hasn't been blogging more. If you disagree with Orin's perspective, and feel that you aren't getting your money's worth from this blog, I'd be delighted to send you a full refund.
9.27.2006 2:51pm
Stephen C. Carlson (www):
While I agree that violence is not to be rewarded I wonder how you feel about choosing not to walk through bad neighborhoods?

The problem is, I think, is that the Berlin opera is not supposed to be in a bad neighborhood. It is in the capital of a European nation that respects free speech.
9.27.2006 3:04pm
Duncan Frissell (mail):
to avoid stoking anger in the Muslim world....

Weren't automatic weapons invented more than 100 years ago. I understand that the Germans even make some good ones.

Given the West's colonial/imperial policies in the Middle East for the past 150 years,

What were those? The "Middle East" was completely controlled by the Ottoman Turks until 1922. Britain and France (under a League of Nations Mandate) administered Palistine, Transjordan, The Lebanon, and Iraq for 10 to 20 years thereafter. This was not Western Imperialism since the L of N included non-Western states and was meant to be temporary.

The US occupied none of the Middle East save Iraq for 2 years.

I guess residents of the ME are pretty weak minded if 10 years of Mandate Occupation can completely break them.

BTW, North Africa is not the ME. There was more 'Western Imperialism' there.

Note that 700+ years of 'Eastern Imperialism' was not enough to break the spirit of the Spanish. They built a major empire themselves and didn't wimp out until the 21st Century.

"Some guys get it. Some guys never will."
9.27.2006 3:07pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
SCC: I don't think logicnazi's point depends on where the Berlin opera is.

Say a violent and psychotic person moves in down the street. Formerly, the neighborhood was peaceful and safe, now this person has dangerous-looking friends over all the time, and on more than one occasion, you've seen things that make you pause.

This person never does anything OVER the line to where he can be sued or prosecuted, but always skates up to it.

Would you blame someone who told their children not to walk that way down the street anymore, or someone who even themselves altered their own route to work so as not to have to pass by that house?

If not (and even if you would, I think you would agree many would not), that does seem somewhat equivalent to "allowing the psycho to win". And it seems similar, at least in principle, to what the operahouse did.

I, too, intuitively feel that the situations are different, but I am having a helluva time articulating why.
9.27.2006 3:11pm
FantasiaWHT:
I wonder...

Did the director of the opera house request (demand, maybe?) that the production director remove that particular staging before pulling the plug on the whole show?
9.27.2006 3:12pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
logicnazi, you claim that there were no threats of violence. Let's concede that there were none in this case. Nonetheless, labrats can be trained to avoid objects which, upon touch, shoot a mild electric current. People are generally smarter than rats.

Muslims have reacted with absolutely heinous violence to perceived transgressions that, in any Western society, would become nothing more than subject of discussion or, at most, a lawsuit. I think a severed Mohammed head is fairly likely to result in some dead nuns in Somalia, or a near-decapitated artiste a la Van Gogh.
9.27.2006 3:13pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
"This person never does anything OVER the line to where he can be sued or prosecuted"

Theo van Gogh.

There's your difference.
9.27.2006 3:14pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
Daniel: I'm not sure that's a difference. The bit about having not crossed the line was thrown into my hypo just to show why he hadn't been locked up or forced to move or whatever. But if Theo Van Gogh is the difference, then that would mean that if the person in my hypo were actually violent, then it WOULDN'T be okay to shirk his house, but when he was only threateningly violent, it WOULD be okay. That conclusion does not make sense.
9.27.2006 3:25pm
donaldk:
I propose that they settle the matter by substituting an effigy head of the Ayatollah Khomeini. And that his ugly face should be the subject of any cartoons ridiculing his maniacal religion.
9.27.2006 3:27pm
Third Party Beneficiary (mail):
"What were those? The 'Middle East' was completely controlled by the Ottoman Turks until 1922."

Oh, you're so cute when you're fundamentally dishonest!

Algeria: To France in 1830
Tunisia: To France in 1881
Morocco: To France in 1905
Libya: To Italy in 1911
Egypt: British/French council begins running country in 1882, British protectorate in 1914 (Sudan - same)
Oman: To Britain in 1891 (the port of Muscat was also occupied by the Portugese 1508 to 1659)
Yemen: British occupied the port of Aden in 1839 and held a protectorate over its hinterland until 1967
Bahrain: Port of Awal occupied by Portugese in 1521, became British protectorate in 1820
Qatar: British protectorate in 1916 (effectively British administered from 1867 forward)
Kuwait: British protectorate in 1899
Lebanon: French military intervention in Beirut and hinterlands begins in 1860

Need I go on?
9.27.2006 3:30pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Third Party, do you have a cite? I'm just very curious.
9.27.2006 3:32pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Mike: A google search for, say, Tunisia France 1881 will find you information about that; likewise for most of the others, I'm sure. These aren't obscure things for which a cite is needed for verification.
9.27.2006 3:40pm
Alex R:
Eugene, thanks for your response, and I probably should have acknowledged Orin's contributions on these issues. Of course VC bloggers can choose their topics of interest and focus on their areas of expertise, and readers can choose to come back, or not. I would just make the small point that it requires no special legal expertise to comment on the moral acceptability of torture, no matter what name it goes under. I personally do find the decision of the Berlin operahouse tragic, but I find the piecemeal dismantling of our freedoms and our country's values in the face of terrorism far more tragic -- despite the fact that I don't have any particular "legal expertise" to hold this opinion.
9.27.2006 3:44pm
Fourth Party:
What's with all of the new commenters who are surprised that this blog isn't parroting Kos's talking points?
9.27.2006 3:48pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
Prof V. Thanks - it's just so much easier when you are sitting in Admin and someone hands the info over to you, instead of having yourself to do the research. (Not to be extraordinarily lazy or anything).
9.27.2006 3:48pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
I should mention I quite sympathize with people who feel they have to change their behavior in light of risk of violence. It's a sad situation, but a real one for many. But I think that institutions which benefit from artistic freedom or free speech (such as an opera house or Borders, to refer back to an earlier controversy), which can likely get reliable protection from police, and which can afford to hire extra security, should be held to a higher standard than a typical individual.
9.27.2006 3:53pm
wb (mail):

The Berlin Opera event is just one more example of how foolish Bush and the neo-con mafia were to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein. As the cartoons plus response to the Pope plus this incident shows, "jihadists don't need democracy, they need the yoke."
9.27.2006 3:56pm
rarango (mail):
"Oh, you're so cute when you're fundamentally dishonest!" as a neutral observer in this historical discussion, it seems to me Mr. Frissell specifically excluded North Africa—third party list also includes the smaller countries of the levant, and what used to be called the trucial states. I think Mr. F's point still stands when one considers the percent of population controlled by the ottomans, and where violence in fact occurs. Recall it was the Ottomans who executed the founder of the Wahabi sect when KSA was a province of the Ottoman empire. Advantage: Mr. F

And "colonialism" is SUCH a dated explanation for the failure of the third world.
9.27.2006 4:05pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):


And "colonialism" is SUCH a dated explanation for the failure of the third world.

Colonialism, I would guess, is more a result - a symptom - of the third world's failure, than a cause of it.
9.27.2006 4:15pm
nn489:
Has anyone reflected on the irony of protesting the violence of religion by dramatically decapitating religious leaders? Perhaps the director, or whoever made that artistic decision, feels his point about the violence of religion has been proven, but I'd feel a whole lot more sympathetic towards him if he hadn't brought his own ideology down to the level of the ones he was protesting.
9.27.2006 4:22pm
Arbusto Spectrum (mail):

Colonialism, I would guess, is more a result - a symptom - of the third world's failure, than a cause of it.


I'm not sure I follow that one.
9.27.2006 4:23pm
Mike BUSL07 (mail) (www):
...Meaning that the third world's vulnerability to colonization revealed precisely how undeveloped it was its societies were industrially, economically, militarily, etc.
9.27.2006 4:25pm
Mongoose388:
"The disputed scene...In it, the king of Crete, Idomeneo, carries the heads of Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha and Poseidon, god of the sea, onto the stage, placing each on a stool... "
Interesting that they weren't worried about inflaming Hindu's , Christians, and worshippers of Greek mythology into violence. That alone is an indictment of modern day Islamic extremists.
9.27.2006 4:42pm
SeaLawyer:

But I think that institutions which benefit from artistic freedom or free speech (such as an opera house or Borders, to refer back to an earlier controversy), which can likely get reliable protection from police, and which can afford to hire extra security, should be held to a higher standard than a typical individual.


Everyone has to sleep sometime. Plus the director just isn't worried about herself she also has to worry about the cast and family members of the cast.
I think the real issue is how do we get back to being able to have an opera like this, without worrying about people getting killed.
9.27.2006 4:55pm
Malvolio:

"What were those? The 'Middle East' was completely controlled by the Ottoman Turks until 1922."

Oh, you're so cute when you're fundamentally dishonest!

Algeria: To France in 1830
Tunisia: To France in 1881
Morocco: To France in 1905
Libya: To Italy in 1911
Egypt: British/French council begins running country in 1882, British protectorate in 1914 (Sudan - same)

Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan are in Africa, not the Middle East (sometimes Egypt, which is adjacent to the Middle East is considered part of it, but the rest not even that).

if you simply delete the word "artistic" [in "artistic freedom"] from this sentence, you could apply it equally well to the shameful actions of the current Administration (and Congress) on detainee torture and on domestic surveillance.
No, neither torture or surveillance is an issue of "freedom".

Surveillance is an issue of privacy, and while privacy is both pleasant in itself and useful in restricting the growth of government, it isn't essential the way a freedom (like speech or press) is.

Torture is a matter of humane treatment -- I don't want my government to torture because I don't want people tortured, not because it affects governance.
9.27.2006 4:55pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
By Third Party Beneficiary's own questionable dates regarding the commencement of European control of the Middle East, the Ottoman Empire ruled the Middle East for approximately three centuries.
9.27.2006 5:01pm
MnZ (mail):
Compromising freedom of expression sends one of the worst possible messages to the Islamic world. Freedom of expression is one of the West's most deeply held values. If we are willing to compromise on freedom of expression, we must be willing to compromise on pretty much anything.
9.27.2006 5:04pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
I'm wondering when the breaking point will come for Europe. According to the LA Times, 92% of Germans oppose the cancellation. At some point the Muslim community(s) will make unacceptable demands, and one or more European countries will undertake drastic measures. One needs to appreciate that the European Muslims have explicitly stated numerous times that their first allegiance is to Islam, not the national state in which they reside. For example, right after 9/11 the Muslim Council in Britain made the statement: "We are not British Muslims. We are Muslims living in Britain." A poll commissioned by the London Times got the following response:


* 13% of British Muslims think that the four men who carried out the London Tube and bus bombings of July 7, 2005, should be regarded as "martyrs"

* 7% agree that suicide attacks on civilians in the UK can be justified in some circumstances, rising to 16 per cent for a military target

* 16% of British Muslims say that while the attacks may have been wrong, the cause was right

* 2% would be proud if a family member decided to join al-Qaeda. Sixteen per cent would be "indifferent"



At some point the kissing has to stop.
9.27.2006 5:04pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Violence in the name of religion is nothing new to human history. In fact, for those who take the Bible literally, the first murder was committed in relation to a religious practice. Neverthless, for those who do not take the Bible literally, a secular survey of Near Eastern civilizations indicates that wars were often waged in the name of pagan gods, Yahweh, Allah, etc. For those of us in the West, we forget that disputes between Catholics and Protestants were quite bloody. Hence, I submit it was with such history in mind that the Founding Fathers created a federal form of government dividing governmental authority between the federal government and state governments and further dividing the federal government into three relative co-equal branches. Accordingly, the Founding Fathers sought to make it difficult, if not impossible, for a faction, religious or otherwise, to control the entire government apparatus.
9.27.2006 5:14pm
DeezRightWingNutz:
I fail to see how logicnazi's analogy is apt. The goal of implied threats of violence, actual threats of violence, or actual violence in response to this opera or the Danish cartoons was to prevent the performance/publication of the offending artwork. Giving in to those making the threats or committing the violence gives them an incentive to repeat their behavior. What is the goal of those committing violence in a bad neighborhood? Usually it isn't keeping the victim out, unless it is a rival gang. If you avoid the neighborhood, I fail to see how you have helped the perpetrators of violence achieve their goals. If anything, you probably helped frustrate a mugger or carjacker. If I go to a classy joint in another neighborhood, there is probably little or no cost to me.
9.27.2006 5:18pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
There was a threat of violence. The recent history of Muslim reactions to perceived slights is the threat.

Note that there was no explicit threat of violence in the US about the Motoons. Yet the fear was there, due to history.

Note, also, that no US Muslim complained about being implicitly stereotyped as potentially violent.
9.27.2006 5:25pm
JSinger (mail):
I, too, intuitively feel that the situations are different, but I am having a helluva time articulating why.

One obvious difference (I'll leave it to you to recast it in the form of your analogy) is that the opera house went looking for confrontation to begin with. The whole point of the new scene (if anyone has a legitimate grievance here, it's Mozart) is to denigrate various religions -- until the director realized that one of those religions was going to respond with more than just free publicity.

If you're going to make principle out of offensiveness, that carries additional obligation to stand up to the offended.
9.27.2006 5:26pm
MnZ (mail):
Colonization is a funny thing. Some of the richest countries in the world are former colonies, likewise some of the poorest countries in the world are former colonies. Some colonies were radically altered by their colonizers while other colonies were virtually left alone.

Nevertheless, it is somehow obvious that colonization is responsible for poverty around the world.
9.27.2006 5:29pm
SeaLawyer:
Here is what the German Chancellor has to say
9.27.2006 5:42pm
Arbusto Spectrum (mail):

Some of the richest countries in the world are former colonies

Here's a list of the 20 wealthiest countries in the world, as measured by GDP per capita:

Rank Country GDP - per capita
1 Luxembourg $ 55,100
2 Norway $ 37,800
3 United States $ 37,800
4 San Marino $ 34,600
5 Switzerland $ 32,700
6 Denmark $ 31,100
7 Iceland $ 30,900
8 Austria $ 30,000
9 Canada $ 29,800
10 Ireland $ 29,600
11 Belgium $ 29,100
12 Australia $ 29,000
13 Netherlands $ 28,600
14 Japan $ 28,200
15 United Kingdom $ 27,700
16 France $ 27,600
17 Germany $ 27,600
18 Finland $ 27,400
19 Monaco $ 27,000
20 Sweden $ 26,800

Now you might argue that the US and Canada were colonies, but it is hard to argue that the Native American population has benefited equally (other than those lucky enough to have a casino).
9.27.2006 5:46pm
Arbusto Spectrum (mail):
A question for the crowd:
Assuming the opera house had decided not to cancel the performance, but their insurance carrier threatened to drop coverage unless they undertook extensive security precautions. Should the cost of those precautions be borne by the producers (or more realistically, ticket purchasers) or the state?
9.27.2006 5:51pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
The very richest countries are mostly in Europe, which was mostly not "colonized" in a traditional sense. But even on that list of 20, Ireland and Finland are notable examples of countries that had been -- not that long ago -- under foreign imperial rule (in Ireland's case, a very much resented foreign imperial rule) and yet are very prosperous. (I express no opinion about MnZ's broader point, but I thought I'd note these specific facts. I also assume that "colony" means "colony" in the "colonialism" sense of having been under foreign government, rather than in the sense of being a place where many foreigners had settled, though Ireland would qualify under either standard.)

If you look at the following 20 countries (see this list, though I don't want to get into purchasing power parity vs. nominal GDP debate here), you'll also see Singapore, Taiwan, Brunei, Israel, Bahrain, Cyprus, South Korea, The Bahamas, Malta, Barbados, and Oman; I exclude here the Austro-Hungarian imperial subjects, and Greece, which was governed by Turkey until the early 1800s. Naturally, the colonial and postcolonial experiences of the countries were quite different; but they were indeed countries governed by foreign empires, and they are now indeed quite prosperous.
9.27.2006 5:58pm
amliebsch:
Has anyone reflected on the irony of protesting the violence of religion by dramatically decapitating religious leaders?

Just to be clear, they're not actually decapitating religious leaders. It's symbolism condemning actual violence. I'm certain that if zealots symbolically beheaded infidels and burned effigies of churches, we could all get along.
9.27.2006 6:00pm
MnZ (mail):
Arbusto,

Don't forget Australia and Iceland. They are former colonies too. Anyway, 21 through 40 has several colonies such as Hong Kong and Kuwait. Notably, former Communist countries tend to be 50 or higher (e.g., Russia is around #75).
9.27.2006 6:13pm
MnZ (mail):
I posted and then saw Eugene's post. Russia was #62 on his list.
9.27.2006 6:20pm
hey (mail):
And as to the "Imperial" control of middle east, one should note that controlling a port is a rather dramatically different excercise than controlling the country. The ports were specifically there for trading purposes, with no desire to control territory.

If one looks at the experience in India and China, you'll note that when possible control was limited to ports, but that when the ports were threatened due to instability or local enmity that more territory must be controlled. India is wiedly acknowledged to have become a colony by accident, where the Brits' realpolitik moves to provide for continued trade and punish aggressors ended up with them controlling the entire region. China was a mostly unified territory, where a port could be established and limited warfare was sufficient to gain the acquiescene of the local power to port concessions.

Arab ports were controlled on a concessional basis as far as possible, and a similar motivation was behind the control of Egypt. The nature of the Suez canal required greater control than a simple port, exacerbated by the security needs of the East African colonies.

Blaming colonialism is trite, when poverty is truly caused by a lack of, or the subversion of, free markets and the rule of law. One can see this in France, Spain, Corn Law era Ireland and Scotland, China, as well as Zimbabwe, Jordan, and Iran . One should note that many African states (especially former British colonies) have had dramatic losses in GDP since the end of colonialism, thanks to the overthrow of market economies and impartial justice. Zimbabwe is the best example, as it was fairly successful for years after its decolonisation thanks to the maintenance of the existing economic and judicial order. Comrade Bob's late in life destruction of this has resulted in massive poverty and the destruction of the country's infrastructure.

As to the opera: surrender simply encourages more violence, whether bullying in school or terrorism.
9.27.2006 7:20pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
This is a bit of an odd situation. On the one hand, I don't think that the Deutsche Oper should have caved in after the director had decided on this staging. On the other, the staging itself is not only at least arguably offensive but inarguably inauthentic, inasmuch as Idomeneo (Idomeneus in the Iliad) was a king of Crete who fought in the Trojan War, which took place approximately a millennium before Jesus walked the earth, approximately 1,500 years before Mohammed was born, and a good five hundred years or so before Gautama Buddha was born. There is no doubt that Mozart and his librettist were writing about this Idomeneo. Of course, opera-goers like me who want authenticity pose no threat of violence - that's the difference, whether there was any explicit threat of violence or not.
9.27.2006 7:25pm
KeithK (mail):
It's not that we're all Danes now. We're all paying the Danegeld now.
9.27.2006 7:38pm
David Walser:

I would just make the small point that it requires no special legal expertise to comment on the moral acceptability of torture, no matter what name it goes under. - Alex R.


No, anyone is qualified to comment on the moral acceptability of torture. However, it does seem to require some expertise to understand what constitutes torture, no matter what name it goes under. Most people do not think our military tortures its own people, yet the standard survival training given our pilots involves "water boarding", "sleep depravation", and the other aggressive questioning techniques reported to have been used on terrorists. Does this constitute torture? My wife thinks so, but then she thinks what goes on at most high school football practices constitutes torture. Personally, if it's something that might be done on Fear Factor or Survivor, I doubt it rises to the level of torture. Until we can agree what is and is not torture, I doubt a conversation about the morality of the practice will be beneficial.
9.27.2006 8:20pm
KG:
"What were those? The "Middle East" was completely controlled by the Ottoman Turks until 1922. Britain and France (under a League of Nations Mandate) administered Palistine, Transjordan, The Lebanon, and Iraq for 10 to 20 years thereafter. This was not Western Imperialism since the L of N included non-Western states and was meant to be temporary."

If you do some research, you'll realize that's not true. Also, in certain situations (e.g., Britain's and Russia's assistance in the overthrow of the constitutional gov't in Iran in the early 1900's and Britain and US's overthrow of a democratically elected prime minister in Iran in 1953), the imperialistic tendencies of the West did not lead to direct control over a government but rather influence over it.

"The US occupied none of the Middle East save Iraq for 2 years."

I guess residents of the ME are pretty weak minded if 10 years of Mandate Occupation can completely break them.

Nice generalization. It really shows your innate understanding of the situation in the Middle East.

"BTW, North Africa is not the ME. There was more 'Western Imperialism' there."

DummydaDhimmi said "Muslims" in his initial post that, I should have responded Muslims instead of Middle East. Plus, the Middle East is not a static region, but a military term that the British came up with. North Africa is often considered part of the Middle East (in academic studies and other situations), and it's not at all clear whether they can be separated.

Note that 700+ years of 'Eastern Imperialism' was not enough to break the spirit of the Spanish. They built a major empire themselves and didn't wimp out until the 21st Century.

Who said anything about the spirits of Muslims being broken? Maybe if ytou give themt some more time, they'll resurrect another major empire. They were super powers from the 800s-late 1600s, maybe it will happen again.

"Some guys get it. Some guys never will."

Give me a break with this ridiculous quote. It is clear that most of you know little about the region.
9.27.2006 8:59pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
It's over, over there.
9.27.2006 10:41pm
NY (mail):
As to the whole colonization is bad thing: if you go back far enough, can't you say that all of Europe was colonized and got over it? You people need to go back to university and ask for refunds from your ancient history professors if they didn't tell you about Goths, Vandals, Huns, etc.

Maybe if you give them some more time, they'll resurrect another major empire. They were super powers from the 800s-late 1600s, maybe it will happen again.

I hope so, I look forward to this sharia thing people are always harping about. Nothing like a good stoning to keep the other rape victims in line.
9.27.2006 10:50pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
NY. Whatever. As long as Bush and the neocons lose.
9.27.2006 11:25pm
Truth Seeker:

Some of the richest countries in the world are former colonies

Here's a list of the 20 wealthiest countries in the world, as measured by GDP per capita:

Rank Country GDP - per capita
1 Luxembourg $ 55,100
2 Norway $ 37,800
3 United States $ 37,800
4 San Marino $ 34,600
5 Switzerland $ 32,700
6 Denmark $ 31,100
7 Iceland $ 30,900
8 Austria $ 30,000
9 Canada $ 29,800
10 Ireland $ 29,600
11 Belgium $ 29,100
12 Australia $ 29,000
13 Netherlands $ 28,600
14 Japan $ 28,200
15 United Kingdom $ 27,700
16 France $ 27,600
17 Germany $ 27,600
18 Finland $ 27,400
19 Monaco $ 27,000
20 Sweden $ 26,800

Now you might argue that the US and Canada were colonies, but it is hard to argue that the Native American population has benefited equally (other than those lucky enough to have a casino).


Arbusto Spectrum, more than the US and Canada on your list were colonies. Australia and Ireland were British colonies. I think Denmark was a Swedish colony or vice versa, I think Finland was a colony of Russia. Maybe a few others. (Any world history buffs?)
9.28.2006 1:13am
Peter Wimsey:
As others have pointed out, the US and Canada aren't really part of an apples-to-apples comparison of other colonized states because the native population (i.e., the population that in other colonies would be "colonized") largely died out, was killed, or was driven away. Zimbabwe would be in a much different situation if the natives were all driven out by Europeans and the country was now run by descendants of the original colonists plus more recent European immigrants.
9.28.2006 1:54am
Truth Seeker:
Some colonies have resorted to barbarisn after the colonialists left, which would indicate that maybe the colonialism was an improvement.
9.28.2006 2:04am
MnZ (mail):
Peter,

The term "colonization" covers a broad spectrum of activities. In some cases, a large population of colonizers migrated into the colony. In other cases, the in-migration was virtually nil. Similar contrasts apply to the involvement of the colonizers in local affairs. If one wants to categorize types of colonization, they are more than welcome.

Regardless, determining the effects of colonization should be at least a partially empirical matter. If one's hypothesis about the effects of colonization are contradicted by the actual experiences of former colonies, then he or she should provide an explanation or update his or her hypotheses.

Actually, the example of Ireland is rather interesting. Very few colonies experienced as much oppression, interference, and hostile in-migration. Yet, Ireland overcame the long-term and pernicious effects of colonization.
9.28.2006 11:22am
Joshua:
Prof. Volokh wrote:
But I think that institutions which benefit from artistic freedom or free speech (such as an opera house or Borders, to refer back to an earlier controversy), which can likely get reliable protection from police, and which can afford to hire extra security, should be held to a higher standard than a typical individual.

And SeaLawyer responded:
Everyone has to sleep sometime. Plus the director just isn't worried about herself she also has to worry about the cast and family members of the cast.
I think the real issue is how do we get back to being able to have an opera like this, without worrying about people getting killed.

Not to mention any number of other innocents anywhere in the world. How much of the violence over the Danish cartoons actually took place in Denmark, much less actually targeted the newspaper that published the cartoons? Only a tiny fraction.

Was this violence the fault of the cartoonists or publishers? Intellectually the answer is plainly no; the violent protestors are responsible for their own actions. Nonetheless, that distinction between action and response does tend to ring a bit hollow when the bottom line remains that people are dead who would still be alive if not for the cartoons.

It seems to me that this same line of moral reasoning is at work at Deutsche Oper. If the opera were to go forward and lead to deadly violence (in Germany or elsewhere), that the primary blame for the violence is assigned to the protestors and not Deutsche Oper doesn't make the victims any less dead, and it doesn't change the fact that the victims would not have died had the opera not been performed. In short, it's still the stuff of bad PR and guilty consciences for Deutsche Oper officials.

Since these officials know they can't control the response to the opera once it goes forward, they're simply acting based on what they've learned from the Mohammed cartoon protests - and on factors they can control, such as whether or not the opera goes forward in the first place. Cancel the controversial opera, and they remove the target for protest, meaning no one gets hurt or dies as a result of the nonexistent protests, and also no lawsuits, bad PR or soiled consciences as a result of the nonexistent injuries and deaths. Granted, they may (rightly) get bad PR for caving in to thuggery and perceived threats of violence, but that sort of thing is evidently a lot easier to live with.
9.28.2006 1:13pm
Silicon Valley Jim:
Nice piece over at opinionjournal.com by Roger Kimball about this today.
9.28.2006 1:26pm