Jillian C. York

Jillian C. York is a writer and activist.

Month: May 2010 (page 1 of 2)

The “Draw Mohammad Day” Brouhaha

When I first saw the poster for “Draw Mohammad Day,” I admit, I was amused. In reaction to Comedy Central’s decision to censor South Park, Seattle-based cartoonist Molly Norris had drawn up a poster asking people to draw the Prophet; the poster, below, was humorous and whimsical, with the Prophet depicted as a toaster or a teacup rather than a turban-wearing bomber (such as in the famous Danish cartoons).

Since the initial campaign, a Facebook group and blog have been created, seemingly without Norris on board.  Following Pakistan’s block on Facebook today, I decided to take a look at the blog to see what the reaction was.

Front and center, on the blog‘s header was that now-infamous depiction of Mohammad wearing a turban-shaped bomb.  The Facebook group was full of nastiness: depictions of the Prophet as a dog, slurs about Muslims and Islam, etc.

Now, in the case of the Mohammad cartoons, four years ago when it happened up till now, I will defend the cartoonists’ right to draw what they please, no matter how repulsive I personally find it.  In that same vein, I defended Iran’s Holocaust cartoon competition.

With that in mind, I’m incredibly disappointed with this new campaign.  Rather than calmly and peacefully defend free speech by whimsically portraying the Prophet as a teddy bear or a toaster, the group and blog’s admins have chosen to provoke, thus alienating plenty of supporters of free speech who might otherwise have backed them.  The project is a work of immature Americans who feel that asserting their right to free speech–by any means necessary–is more important than showing an ounce of respect (and for that matter, dignity) by finding a middle ground.

Draw Mohammad Day is May 20.  I will not be participating.

Facebook Deactivations: No Appeals

I was CC’d on an e-mail this morning regarding a deleted account on Facebook. In fact, over the past 24 hours, I’ve been sent a lot of e-mails about deleted accounts. Whether it’s a glitch this time or not I can’t say, but here’s something alarming: Two of the people who contacted me CC’d me on e-mails complaints to “abuse@facebook.com” and here’s the automated message they received in response:


Your account was disabled because it was in violation of Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. Nudity, sexually explicit, and other graphic content is not permitted on Facebook, nor is any content that contains self harm, depicts violence, or attacks an individual or group. In addition, harassing others through unsolicited friend requests or messages is prohibited.

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to reactivate your account or respond to your email directly. This decision is final and cannot be appealed. You can visit the Warnings section of the Help Center for more information:


Thank you for contacting Facebook,

The Facebook Team

This decision is final and can’t be appealed.

Strong, unspecific, impersonal. Exactly the opposite of how Facebook attempts to portray itself in the media.

On Street Art

As a (very) amateur photographer with a too-cool-for-words camera, one of my favorite pastimes is tracking down, and photographing, graffiti and street art.  The habit started in Senegal, where even the interiors of some university buildings were subject to spray-painted political slogans, and continued during my years in Morocco, where straight-up graffiti was less common but local-government-sanctioned murals reign supreme.  On recent trips to Syria and Chile, I’ve enjoyed finding unique and sometimes downright strange pieces.

One of the stranger pieces of street art I found in Damascus

I wish that I had read this great series by Mexican GV Author Issa Villareal before traveling to Chile; if so, I would’ve known the significance of this beautiful piece of organized street art I captured on Ave. Tucapel Jimenez in Santiago:

This incredible piece of street art is by Chilean artist Grin

In general, Chilean street art was pretty fantastical, encompassing huge spaces and playing off the local architecture and colors.  The Bellavista neighborhood in Santiago in particular had some incredible examples, including this one:

Found in Bellavista, Santiago de Chile

Of course, I don’t miss opportunities to photograph beautiful street art in my own country.  Though the only times I’ve come across Banksy’s work has been late at night, sans camera, I’ve certainly spotted other beauts, like this mural in San Francisco, that I’m sure was done with some sort of official sanction:

Beautiful piece between SF's Mission and Castro districts

Another favorite, from Central Square in Cambridge:

Central Square, Cambridge, MA

Graffiti and street art, no matter where you find it, and though it varies widely in style, has certain commonalities: It is usually fly-by-night and unsanctioned by local governments (with few exceptions).  And its ties to hip hop are visible all over the world…

An homage to hip hop, Damascus, Syria

Happy tagging!

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