Mohammed cartoons tend to strongly provoke Islamist fundamentalists. In a similar vein, Christian fundamentalists are highly provoked by some artistic depictions of Jesus (e.g. Jesus as a gay person or Jesus submerged in urine). I have no idea how orthodox Jews would react to an analogous pictographic treatment of Moses, but I suspect that their reaction would be comparable.

This is common knowledge. What is truly interesting, however, is that the Middle Eastern rioters who set fire to Danish flags and Danish embassies (in response to the Mohammed cartoons published by Jyllands-Posten in Denmark) had never set eyes on the cartoons themselves. They acted on the words of their religious leaders, who in turn acted on hearsay. The same is true of the Jesus-rioters elsewhere – they never did see (or didn’t want to see) the offending art.

So actually seeing provocative pictures seems not to be a necessary condition for being strongly provoked by them. If this is the case, then virtual pictures (i.e. depictions that are solely imagined) should do the job of eliciting fiery riots just as well as anything on paper or canvas. This is of course just a hypothesis, for now. First it needs to be tested empirically.

I’m now soliciting your help in carrying out the necessary empirical test. Below you can imagine three illustrious religious figures – Jesus, Mohammed and Moses – depicted as certain ‘unclean’ creatures of God (see table below).


Empirical test of virtual pictorial blasphemy



Imagine the following mental pictures – as vividly as you can – and be as offended as you please:

Jesus as a PIG Jesus as a DOG Jesus as a COCKROACH

Mohammed as a PIG Mohammed as a DOG Mohammed as a COCKROACH

Moses as a PIG Moses as a DOG Moses as a COCKROACH

Next, tell about these virtual cases of blasphemy (committed by a virtual entity called 'User montecarlo') to a priest/mullah/rabbi near you. Ask him to convey the information to his parishioners, preferably by means of a fiery sermon, damning said 'User montecarlo' to hell and calling for public demonstrations in the streets.



The cleric's parishioners will hopefully set fire to a tire (or two) and burn 'User montecarlo' in effigy in their respective neighbourhoods. E2 being global, it’s not entirely clear which flags might be burnt. But I guess the UN flag is likely to be among them.

All of this will of course only happen in the case of a positive outcome of this sociological experiment. So please inform me of any burning flags, tires or effigies in your neighborhood during the next few months. Thank you!

Here is a clever refinement of the experimental procedure:

spiregrain says: It might be better to actually commission the nine blasphemous works, get them on canvas, publicise their existance, invite folks to imagine them, but keep them hidden from public view.

This writeup is inspired by the recent serious attempt by a group of people (among them an American woman called “Jihad Jane”) to kill a Swedish artist, who in 2007 made a drawing of Mohammed as a roundabout dog.

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