Rushdie and the Rush to Die

(#15, 1989)

"The world should be with [Salman Rushdie] and not permit harm to come to him. If you kill him, you have only begun -- you will have to kill us all." James Carroll.
"Elsewhere in the U.S. writers famous and obscure rallied in support of Rushdie, with some daring Iran to kill them along with the author of 'The Satanic Verses.' " Newspaper account.

It is of course outrageous and unacceptable that Khomeini has put a multimillion dollar price on Rushdie's head for writing The Satanic Verses, and we are fully in favor of protecting the safety of the author, his family and his publishers from Iran's holy headhunters. We are fully in favor of strongly condemning Iran, or any country, group or person that would assassinate its "enemies." And we admire the intent of all the people (in the "West," in America, here in Ann Arbor) who are organizing -- even as this is being written and duplicated for distribution -- protests against both the price tag on Rushdie's head and the American bookstore chains that have pulled his book from their shelves "for fear of the safety of our employees."

But there is something alarming about what the justly outraged people (the writers, publishers and book store owners) are doing in reaction to the current situation. In particular, we are alarmed by the suddenness, the near-religious dogmatism and the broad-based appeal of the protests. It is as if we are all positively relieved that, finally, there's a situation somewhere in the "world" in which there are sharply defined BAD GUYS (Iranian extremists) against whom we can ALL unite, arrogant in our confidence that we are RIGHT and they are WRONG. The relief is apparently so great that some of us are willing to march around in the streets, carrying signs that claim "I AM RUSHDIE," in front of the television cameras. Is this what it means, as a citizen of a "free country," to have freedom of speech? The freedom to pretend to say to a distant enemy, "kill me, kill me now, kill me if you dare"?

Meanwhile, Lt. Colonel Oliver North is on trial for illegally selling weapons to "moderate elements" in Iran (of all places!) so that unlimited funding would still be available for the CIA's illegal and undeclared war against Nicaragua. Today is 23 February 1989, the day federal prosecutor Walsh agreed to drop conspiracy charges against North. It is clear that the intent of all parties involved in the litigation is to suppress information that might suggest, not to mention prove, just how deeply ex-President Reagan and President Bush were involved in this subversion of the Constitution.

What are you folks doing out here? Where are the protests against the Iran/Contra scandal? Nowhere. They are nowhere. Blink.

Go ahead, folks, feel victorious that B. Dalton has decided to put The Satanic Verses back on its shelves. Hurray for American democracy! And all we had to do was make a little spectacle of our willingness to sacrifice ourselves utterly in the name of freedom of expression. Now, at long last, we'll be able to buy a copy of this revolutionary book, which -- at $19.95 per copy (hardcover only) -- is a great bargain! Rush right out and get one now! And show that Ayatollah Khomeini just how much we Americans value our right to free speech.



To Contact Us:
ISSN 1084-7340.
Snail mail: POB 1115, Stuyvesant Station, New York City 10009-9998