Wednesday, October 27

Why is the Norwegian media not showing the drawing for which Lars Vilks became known?

  • Anki Gerhardsen
    Anki Gerhardsen

    Journalist and critic

The way the press has chosen to relate to the death of Lars Vilk leaves a sad message, writes Anki Gerhardsen.

The absence of the drawing says something about the age in which we live.

This is a discussion post. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.

To most people, the Swedish artist Lars Vilks is known for one thing: a simple drawing of the Prophet Muhammad. It hit a trend in Sweden in 2007, where various street performers made so-called patrol dogs. Or indirect dogs, as it would be called in Norwegian.

But Vilks used his patrol dog for cartoons and religious criticism.

He put the head of the prophet on the body of the dog, and so all hell broke loose. Vilks became a terrorist target for extremist Islamists and lived the rest of his life with death threats, assassination attempts, assassinations, and also a complete loss of freedom.

Now he is dead, and all the newspapers that have covered the tragic event write about what I have written so far.

There is only one thing missing, and that is the drawing of the patrol dog.

No cartoon to see

Art historian Lars Elton writes well about the provocative artist in Dagsavisen and puts great emphasis on the cartoon he drew. But no caricature is seen.

Designer Roar Hagen writes well and meaningfully about man and art in VG. The newspaper devotes six pages to articles on Vilks. But without the Vilks drawing.

Class struggles it has two sides. No drawing. NRK, Nettavisen, Dagbladet: No drawing.

Only Aftenposten prints a modest version in relation to Frank Rossavik’s comment about an artist who was let down by his people and left to himself, to the security guards and a lonely fight for freedom of expression.

What are the media afraid of?

The editors understandably refuse. Making humor about Islam has proven to be life threatening.

The massacre in the French satire magazine Charlie hebdo is the worst example, but also the media that have shown cartoons as part of their ongoing news coverage, have entered the radar of the extremists. It is no wonder that an editorial choice that could endanger the lives of employees is not easy.

The strange thing is the silence.

The editors understandably refuse. Making humor about Islam has proven to be life threatening.

That editors don’t explain to their readers why they don’t show what Lars Vilks is best known for. How they qualify. What they fear.

The strange thing is that there is no debate on Dagsnytt 18. On the absence of the patrol dog when the artist’s life is summarized in the columns. And what this absence says, both of drawing and of problematization, about the time in which we live.

For the absence seems to have become a matter of routine that hardly needs to be discussed. It is as if everyone who cannot be bored has done just that.

Leave a sad message

Lars Vilks clung to the role of art as creepy, provocative, outward, difficult, and dangerous for the authorities. The way the press has chosen to deal with this man’s death leaves a sad message.

Not just for a freedom loving society, but for all the people who think differently, think differently, are excited and frustrated, and want to create change. No more crude religious criticism, please. No more stalking satire.

Have we seen our latest cartoon of the mighty world of the gods? I think so.

Lars Vilks is dead. And with him also dies a large part of the struggle for inappropriate art. And inappropriate humor. It has been happening over time, but it has something definitive when the press does not believe that there is anything else to fight for.

The media review is a regular column for media criticism. The columnists are Kjersti Thorbjørnsrud, Jan Arild Snoen and Anki Gerhardsen.

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