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Saturday, February 18, 2006


Thirteen publications are closed following their Danish cartoon displays. At least twelve journalists face charges. Seven are in prison:

Reporters Without Borders calls on everyone to take a stand in support of the imprisoned journalists, who were simply doing their job and passing on news that made headlines around the world.

Most media organisations have taken a stand by boldly running away. Which is odd, considering how hot for tales of repression the media has been during these blighted years of the Illegal Smirkler Regime (dissidents jailed! Mao-reading students probed!). Actually, the media is still hot for repression sagas, of a particular type. The latest involves a hideous 18-hour delay for information on Dick Cheney’s Texas-wide murder spree. About which, here’s Mark Steyn:

Given that the media’s spent the last two weeks telling the public why they don’t need to see these Danish cartoons, it’s hard to take them seriously as sudden converts to the public’s right to know every detail, if only when it comes to minor hunting accidents.

Journalists can spend entire careers mouthing off about their commitment to free speech without ever having the chance to properly demonstrate it. I once had a theory that the lack of repression in modern democracies drove journalists to invent McCathyesque threats, so much did they crave an opportunity to stare down those who would silence them. Their ideal imagined foes (I’m guessing): brutish religious fundamentalists opposed to progressive notions on women’s rights, homosexuality, art, and education.

Problem is, those imagined foes were always named Falwell or Robertson or Nile (or John Paul II). Faced with fundamentalist religious demands from people bearing less familiar titles, however, the media froze. Missed your chance, journalists! (Many of them know it, too; I’ve got an e-pile of e-mail from journalists supporting this site’s posting of the dreaded Motoons, most regretting they were unable to do the same. Happily, lots of support from the left.)

Hey; I’m wrong. That chance is still available. What with the closure of those publications and the arrest and imprisonment of journalists and editors not averse to running the odd Motoon, not to mention continued deadly rioting, several news angles still exist that would justify publishing one or all of the Danish Dozen. So post or publish, if you already haven’t. Don’t care to follow the example of a right-wing idiot like me? Fine; do it in support of Mohammed al-Asaadi, editor-in-chief of the Yemen Observer, currently in a basement cell awaiting trial:

Newsweek: Do you regret now the decision to run the cartoons, however censored, given the climate?  There are plenty of religious fanatics in Yemen, even if they’re a minority.
al-Asaadi: We had a meeting to discuss this before we published them, so it wasn’t an accident.  And we felt that these cartoons had already been shown on Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabiya and millions of Muslims had seen them.  And I personally believe these cartoons should be published.  If we make it unlawful to look at them, we give them an importance they don’t deserve, as if there’s something holy or special about them. We should be able to discuss them openly, which is what we did.

Newsweek: Some hard-line preachers at Friday prayers called for your execution; some even suggested death by beheading or immolation.  Aren’t you afraid for your future, in or out of jail?

al-Asaadi: Of course I’m afraid. I’ll have to take precautions when I go to and from my office and travel around in the future. But  Yemenis as a whole are very moderate, and I know I can persuade any reasonable person that I did nothing wrong.  And I believe in God. What I did was in defense of the Prophet, and I don’t think God will let me down for doing that.

Compared to al-Asaadi, most of us will face barely any retribution at all for hitting the publish button. Consider it.

UPDATE. The New York Times reports from outside the UN:

A few men from a group called the Islamic Thinkers Society roamed around the plaza carrying signs, including one with photographs of President Bush and Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the Danish paper, with targets placed on their foreheads.

Australia’s Michael Leunig also appeared in the Thinkers Society’s posters, following a process that might have gone something like this:

* Leading Islamic Thinker receives word that Leunig is involved in some kind of controversy about cartoons and such.

* Islamic Thinker thinks: “It’s pretty obvious what this must be about; the Leunig fellow has clearly defamed the Prophet.”

* Islamic Thinker puts two and two together and comes up with DEATH TO INFIDEL! It’s a default setting.

UPDATE II. Pakistani cleric Mohammed Yousaf Qureshi, who has announced a $1 million bounty on the devilish Danish drawers, doesn’t know much about the cartoons in question:

Qureshi did not name any cartoonist in his announcement and did not appear aware 12 different people had drawn the pictures.

Qureshi isn’t the only guy who has failed to work that out:

The publication of cartoons of Prophet Mohammad in European newspapers was “a mistake,” former US President Bill Clinton, who is on a visit to Pakistan, said ...

”We live in societies where people are free to say the wrong things and right things. But I would not be surprised if the person who drew those cartoons and the newspaper which decided to print them may not even know that it was considered blasphemous to have any kind of personal depiction of the Prophet,” he said.

The multiplicity of illustrators would be obvious, even to Clinton, if more newspapers had simply published the cartoons.

UPDATE. It gets worse: 15 dead in Nigerian cartoon riots.

Posted by Tim B. on 02/18/2006 at 02:15 PM
(180) CommentsPermalink