Monday, January 4th, 2010

Kurt Westergaard And The Panic Room

I'm more than a little troubled/confused by the story of Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who survived an attack this Friday from an axe-wielding critic by hiding in a semi-fortified panic room. (Westergaard drew one of the controversial Muhammad cartoons in 2005). I mean, there are any number of complexities about the story, but here's the one that I'm most perplexed by.

At the time, Westergaard was looking after his five-year-old granddaughter, Stephanie. He was confronted with a terrible choice: risk being killed in front of his granddaughter, or trust that the PET, Denmark's security and intelligence service, knew what they were talking about when they had told him terrorists usually don't harm family members but stick to their target.

Westergaard chose to escape into his bathroom, which had been specially fortified as a "panic room", while Stephanie was left sitting in the living room. From the bathroom he alerted the police as his assailant reportedly battered the reinforced door with the axe, shouting, "We will get our revenge!"

Both survived unscathed, although God knows how a 5-year-old processes something like that, and you've got to imagine her folks aren't going to be letting Grandpa babysit again anytime soon. Still, how does one even make that choice? Was it really a rational process, as implied above? I could not even begin to say. Or judge. But the article ends with a statement Westergaard made before the attack:

I do not see myself as a particularly brave man. If the country was occupied, I don't think I would be running around doing sabotage; I would probably be sitting somewhere doing my drawings. But in this situation I got angry. It is not right that you are threatened in your own country just for doing your job. That's an absurdity that I have actually benefited from, because it grants me a certain defiance and stubbornness. I won't stand for it. And that really reduces the fear a great deal.

Which puts me in mind of nothing so much as another cartoon by a different artist. Human potential indeed.

26 Comments / Post A Comment

dado (#102)

"I could better direct rescue operations from the shore" stated the Captain.

Bittersweet (#765)

I'd like to think that I'd take the 5-year-old with me into the panic room instead of being a pansy-ass, but I've never been confronted by an axe-wielding terrorist.

And the idea that a cartoonist even needs a panic room to hide from terrorists is pretty fucking pathetic.

mathnet (#27)

I think it makes sense that he, the target, kept himself separated from her. What intrigues me is that he put himself, not her, in the bathroom. If his wife was there, too, he might have expected her to be able to run with the little girl, I guess.

mathnet (#27)

Jesus. But I'm confused. The first article says his wife was there, too, during the break-in. (Which would make it a different story for the granddaughter.)

It's interesting? That he didn't throw the five-year-old in the bathroom.

In conclusion, I'm ashamed to say that I'll be referring to the bathroom as the Panic Room for at least two days.

HiredGoons (#603)

At least he had options while he was shitting himself.

Bittersweet (#765)

If Grandma was there I guess it's a bit different, but still. Glad my dad isn't a cartoonist.

Dr. Spaceman (#1,211)

Yeah, some network evening news showed the "panic room" – it was a bathroom with a lock. And not a small bathroom. Since police response time was reported at two minutes, surely one could overcome the awkwardness of sharing a bathroom with a relative for 120 seconds?

Antonia Capet (#2,372)

It was probably more about cowardice than boundary issues.

kneetoe (#1,881)

If the house is like a fortress without a moat, then it's time to dig the moat.

I still don't see why taking all three into the bathroom wouldn't be the best move, if there was time to do that.

HiredGoons (#603)

Perhaps his granddaughter was safely ensconced in his dungeon-basement?

Flashman (#418)

Why didn't the girl go for help? Children can be just so useless.

mathnet (#27)

I mean. People freak out about dropping off their kids at the grandparents' because of, like, baby-proofing worries or too much sugar! YOUR FATHER/-IN-LAW IS UNDER CONSTANT THREAT OF MURDER. I'm glad you still want your daughter to have a relationship with him, but maybe invite Grandpa over to your own (presumably safer) house instead?

–reporting LIVE from the other side of the edge

kneetoe (#1,881)

Or, like, that undisclosed hideout where Cheney used to hang.

@kneetoe: Right; worst comes to worst, you just head straight for the man-sized safe!

HiredGoons (#603)

Clearly this man never saw 'The Shining.'

Hobbesian (#255)

The Danes! Always so coldly logical. I'm sure there were several bicycles nearby on which the girl could flee.

mathnet (#27)

Excellent point! Plus a row of unaccompanied prams. Those people. So happy.

Antonia Capet (#2,372)

If only he were in the Netherlands, she could have run out and hung on to the blades of a windmill.

Neal (#2,594)

Wasn't aware of that detail.

For a man with the yarbles to rile up zealots of the world's second largest religion, it sure is cowardly to NOT HAUL YOUR GRANDDAUGHTER INTO THE "PANIC ROOM" WHEN AN AXE-WIELDING MANIAC COMES IN.

Of course, I may be missing some crucial portion of this story. In which case, I take it back. But probably not.

Antonia Capet (#2,372)

Which leaves us with the disturbing possibility that maybe he's not really about principle in cartooning or death-avoidance, he's just out for himself! Could it be?!

cherrispryte (#444)

Needs more Jodie Foster?

Dr. Spaceman (#1,211)

Needs more Dwight Yoakam!

Cartoonists can afford panic rooms?

iplaudius (#1,066)

Delightful that the weapon of choice was an axe. Perplexing that the Mohammedans are still pursuing him.

Atencio (#399)

The attacker was Somali? Is it possible then that he merely confused the old man for a container ship?

yasdui (#244,930)

For a man with the yarbles to rile up zealots of the world's second largest religion, it sure is cowardly to NOT HAUL YOUR GRANDDAUGHTER INTO THE "PANIC ROOM

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