Frank Miller, the man who wrote some of my favorite comic stories ever, has a new graphic novel called “Holy Terror“. If you’re familiar with his previous work “300” and his politics, you’ll not be too surprised that this new book is about super-heroes going up against jihadists. Spencer Ackerman has reviewed it negatively (understandably) for Wired. Toward the end of the review, Ackerman explains:
And following 9/11, Miller himself had a sophisticated, complex reaction, intolerant of anyone’s easy pieties. As David Brothers at Comic Alliance reminds, Miller contributed to a volume called 9-11 Artists Respond by offering a scathing, stark series of captions — “I’m sick of flags. I’m sick of God. I’ve seen the power of faith.” — over a haunting illustration of the World Trade Center wreckage.
But it wasn’t God who knocked down the Towers. It was fanatics who believed themselves to have deciphered His true message. Miller doesn’t realize that by portraying them as true disciples of Islam, he’s giving the murderers what they want most. That’s the real terror of Holy Terror, the real lie, and the real naïveté.
Absolutely right. However, Ackerman glosses over the real truth behind what brought those towers down. Here’s the comment I left on the review:
I never read “300″ but I saw the movie and found it to be racist, xenophobic and very much a reflection of Bush-era foreign policy. So, Ackerman’s take on “Holy Terror” doesn’t surprise me at all. But I think it’s an important thing to note, that, while a Believer would defend God and say “God didn’t knock down those towers, it was fanatics,” an atheist would point out that it’s the belief in that god, itself, that did it. Of course, then you put every major religious belief system on the hook (which is why you never see it taken that far). We can’t challenge all religions everywhere, now, can we?
But I don’t think planet-wide atheism would solve things, either. Fear-mongering isn’t always about religion. Sure, it was for the Crusades, the Inquisition, the colonization of North and South America (“Convert or die” was the option given to many natives), but often it’s about whatever the fear-mongers can get their hands on. The Soviets were, according to President Reagan, literally, “The Evil Empire” when 30 seconds of thought would have reminded us that they have spouses and children and homes and hopes and dreams *just like us*. And we all know that the human tendency toward the fear of “The Other” goes back much further than the Soviets and so does said fear’s exploitation by humanity’s “great” leaders.
That’s really what brought the Towers down ten years ago–fear. Those extremists were terrified of what would happen to their culture, their beliefs, their loved ones if America wasn’t stopped. Likewise, Frank Miller is terrified what will happen to his culture if Islam isn’t stopped. What’s worse is that it seems like he wants us all to feel that way, too. And that is really really sad and kind of scary.
Sorry for the long comment.
I’m just glad Frank Miller has an outlet for his fears! After watching Thomas P.M. Barnett’s “The Pentagon’s New Map” seminar on C-SPAN a couple times, I think I truly understand why terrorism happens. In that seminar Barnett concludes that the majority of the violence in the world comes from regions of low connectivity. In other words, the people committing the violence don’t feel connected to the world around them. They feel powerless and out of control. Connected people feel that their voice is heard. Frank Miller’s voice is heard by a lot of people. I wonder what he would do if suddenly his audience and book deals vanished. As a writer, myself, I know firsthand that it takes an impossible amount of passion and belief in/for a story to see it through to the end. Now imagine all that passion and belief with no where to go.
As much as I wish Miller would stop writing, I’d definitely prefer literary terrorism to the literal kind. Then again, he could just get a blog like the rest of us.
That seminar from Barnett is really quite excellent. I highly recommend you watch it either at the Google Video link above or here on C-SPAN.
Someone commented on the above-mentioned Wired article and basically put forth the idea that some of Miller’s fears are true, saying in part:
Certainly many Muslims and Arabs are very much the peace loving types that Bush espoused, and that you seem to think all non-Al Qaeda-card-carrying Muslims are — but it’s telling that a few cartoons will get Muslims protesting in the streets about offending Islam, while the bombings carried out in the name of their prophet around the world seem to mostly go unmentioned. The “Not in our name” protests are far and few between.
Ugh… I hate this kind of disguised racism, so I had to say something:
I don’t think anyone is saying Islam is a perfect religion with believers who are flawed, just like the rest of us. I think the point is that painting them *all* (or even most of them) as violent people willing to kill for their beliefs is unfair and a mistake. The “connections” you describe are pretty tenuous. I have a good friend who is Muslim and I dated a Muslim, as well. I’m an atheist. They both knew this and they never tried to kill me. Not once! I even had my friend play Jesus in a web video I shot. Does it sound like they have connections to terrorism? Are they acting like extremist Muslims? I don’t think so.
As for moderate Muslims not speaking out against extremist Islam, I agree, but then again, how many moderate Christians do we hear speaking out against the extremist Christianity that denies global warming, hates gay soldiers and is somehow simultaneously both pro-life and pro-war at the same time? Hell, while we’re at it, I’d love to hear from moderate Jews who are against the occupation of Palestine. However, I also understand why it doesn’t happen. How would you like it if I asked you to prove you’re not an ethnocentric, paranoid racist? Wouldn’t you mind me demanding that you prove your innocence to me?
That’s the key, by the way, to know whether you’re being unfair to someone else. Point your judgment or accusations back on yourself. Do they fit? Or not? And why?
In this commenter’s case, he was demanding Muslims prove they aren’t supporters of terrorists and aren’t terrorists themselves. But when a similar question is put to him, how would he like it? He’d probably make excuses about how no group he is affiliated with is responsible for the death of thousands. To which I would say: “Oh, you’re not American then? Because they killed A LOT of people–half-a-million in Iraq, alone! Probably billions if you go back to the Native Americans during the time of western expansion! So, go ahead, prove you’re not a genocidal maniac like so many other Americans throughout history. Or maybe you don’t like someone demanding you prove you’re not like other people of your kind since you’re pretty sure you’re not.”