Atrios, TBOGG -- I love you guys, you have great blogs, you post links to my blog (for which I'm undyingly grateful) ... but I have to disagree with you (and with several people quoted in this Washington Post article) about the November 10 "B.C." comic strip: No, I don't think it's meant as an attack on Islam.
Yes, "B.C." cartoonist Johnny Hart produced this my-God-is-bigger-than-yours strip about Judaism and Christianity. But the recent strip in question is a classic (if not at all funny) outhouse joke. The moon on the door is a crescent moon not because the crescent moon symbolizes Islam, but because the outhouse door with a crescent moon carved into it is a cartoon cliche. The moon outside is a crescent because, well, otherwise how would you know it's night? That's a less common cliche -- going to the outhouse in the middle of the night. The word SLAM appears not, I think, as a reference to Islam, but because otherwise you wouldn't know where the guy in the first panel went. (Trust me on this. Years ago I tried doing some collaborative cartooning -- I devised the gags, artists drew them -- and we'd frequently show the works-in-progress to people. We couldn't believe the way people misread what we produced -- they'd get stuck on the most bizarre misreadings, unless we made what was going on utterly unambiguous by idiot-proofing the cartoons with cliched visual cues.) And the joke, such as it is, is just a play on "Is it hot in here or is it me?"
It's odd that this is happening at a time when movie theaters are screening The Human Stain, which turns on an innocuous remark misinterpreted as a racial slur. It's also happening at a time when right-wingers, led by Rush Limbaugh and his brother, are trying to stir up trouble by insisting that Ted Kennedy's statement about ultra-right Bush judicial nominees ("Democrats will 'continue to resist any Neanderthal that is nominated by this president' for the federal courts, said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram) was a racial slur. The Limbaugh situation and this one aren't at all comparable, obviously -- Atrios and TBOGG are bloggers, while Rush has a massive radio audience and his brother is a New York Times bestselling writer and (in this case) a Washington Times op-ed writer; more important, Atrios and TBOGG are sincere, while the Limbaughs are, I think, being deeply cynical (they know perfectly well that Kennedy was referring to several white nominees as well as the black Janice Rodgers Brown and Hispanic Miguel Estrada; they also know that "Neanderthal" is a well-established ideological slur used against right-wingers, although someone younger than the aging Senator Kennedy would probably say "paleoconservative" instead). But there's a lot of parsing going around that, I think, leads nowhere. I think we should move on.