greg (grysar) wrote,

A defense by the cutural editor of the Danish newspaper that published the cartoons on Mohammad.

Key passage:
"So, over two weeks we witnessed a half-dozen cases of self-censorship, pitting freedom of speech against the fear of confronting issues about Islam. This was a legitimate news story to cover, and Jyllands-Posten decided to do it by adopting the well-known journalistic principle: Show, don't tell. I wrote to members of the association of Danish cartoonists asking them "to draw Muhammad as you see him." We certainly did not ask them to make fun of the prophet. Twelve out of 25 active members responded."

I was already supporting the decision to republish the cartoons, but I think this lends credence to the decision to publish in the first place. The fact that 12 of 12 submitted cartoons were published, including one directly critical of the newspaper, lends credibility to the editor's account. Nonetheless, I don't buy the editor's interpretation of the bomb cartoon:

" One cartoon -- depicting the prophet with a bomb in his turban -- has drawn the harshest criticism. Angry voices claim the cartoon is saying that the prophet is a terrorist or that every Muslim is a terrorist. I read it differently: Some individuals have taken the religion of Islam hostage by committing terrorist acts in the name of the prophet. They are the ones who have given the religion a bad name. The cartoon also plays into the fairy tale about Aladdin and the orange that fell into his turban and made his fortune. This suggests that the bomb comes from the outside world and is not an inherent characteristic of the prophet. "

The face of Mohammed drawn isn't the face of a guy surprised and dismayed to have a bomb fall in his turban. I personally wouldn't have published it in my hypothetical newspaper, but it seems reasonably consistent with the newspaper's past policies:

"On occasion, Jyllands-Posten has refused to print satirical cartoons of Jesus, but not because it applies a double standard. In fact, the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those."

So, while I've always stood by the republishers, I'm now willing to stand by the original newspaper. I think its apology for the most offensive of the cartoons was appropriate, but now that apology is in the past. Condemnation of the violent protesters goes without saying. Those protesters employing threats of violence are a dicier free speech issue, but at very least they've bought themselves legitimate government observation. Protesters and leaders avoiding violence but calling for government censorship have a right to do so. Free countries and all. But since they are free countries the proper response is to suggest that the would be censors write out their suggestions in great detail and then shove it up their collective asses. Rights often conflict, but free speech trumps respect, they aren't nearly of the same importance.

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