On the vagaries of offense

Over at Discover blogs I posted on a new paper on the emergence of clothing lice in humans. To illustrate the shift from hairy, to naked hairless, to clothed hairless, I slapped together a montage which included Kemal Ataturk in a top hat. Why Ataturk? Because his was the first full body shot in a top hat in Wikipedia’s entry, and it was public domain. Didn’t even recognize the great man initially, just looked like a guy in a top hat.

Well, that got the Turks very offended. More specifically, some Turks. Here’s a representative comment:

Do you aware of you’ve been using a photo of the founder of Turkey?
And do you think this revilement will not be punished?
I would like to inform you the answar is “NO”.

razib khan or whatever, from pakistan, from a country that we’re helping for the flood disaster. is that your appreciation? Seems you’ve forgotten who’d deigned your lifes.

razib khan, I’m sincerely informing and underlining that will not be forgotten, also your name too.

If you like take it as a threat, because it is.


Keep paging down.

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9 Responses to On the vagaries of offense

  1. Apathy Curve says:

    My wife and I have switched to ground turkey. I’ve found that if you flavor it correctly, it can pass for ground beef in most casseroles, and it has almost no fat in it. Quite tasty, really.

    Oh… Or were you speaking of that propped-up, Third World shithole north of Iraq?

  2. Alex Poterack says:

    As a Greek, I am not surprised… :-p

  3. Wade Nichols says:

    Maybe if you used this picture to illustrate someone in a top hat:


    You’d only have to deal with angry fans of mid 80’s one hit wonder Taco Ockerse! (“Puttin’ On the Ritz”)

    I can’t imagine any of them would threaten you!

  4. Susan says:

    Well, Wade, there’s always that marvelous scene from Young Frankenstein during which Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle cavort in top hats and tails to the strains of “Puttin’ on the Ritz.” That’s a twofer.

  5. Mike H says:

    If the person in clothing had been Obama in a suit however, it would likely have caused very little offense in Turkey but a sh#tstorm of it in America. Offense can indeed be very relative.

  6. panglos says:

    “Cossacks Responding to Threat by Turks”


    (This response was written post mortem – the Sultan’s head is on a pike, thus the light hearted hubris)

  7. Wm Jas says:

    Now I’m thinking I shouldn’t have let my students name the class teddy bear Kemal…

  8. Anthony says:

    How many American creationists would have gotten offended if you’d used this photoshop? http://www.themoderndaypirates.com/pirates/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/abraham-lincoln-monkey.jpg

  9. Chuck says:

    Offenses like this are not just passive. Groups defend (and extend)ideas and language, just like they defend territories. Whether it’s Jews and discussions of the Holocaust, Turkish nationalists and images of Ataturk, Muslims and treatment of the Koran, or liberals and thoughts about genetic egalitarianism — groups aggressively patrol their social and conceptual territories.

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