A Few Other Thoughts on Danish Cartoons

I am running a three-day off-site for my managers this week, so I am pretty tied up.  I do, however,  want to take a second to observe that the NY Times should be embarrassed by their stance on these cartoons.  Their lame-ass explanation that the immediate cause for a wave of world-wide violence and rioting is not really newsworthy is so transparently bullshit as to be unbelievable. 

And to argue that the cartoons are somehow too inflammatory is just pathetic.  As I posted earlier, these cartoons are nothing.  Hell, check out stuff like this, syndicated by the NY Times.  Clearly the cartoon shown is inflammatory against the US military (as is their right under the 1st amendment), so the issue of being inflammatory is a dodge too.  Hell, the NY Times has run multi-part series designed specifically to inflame people against the rich and successful, or more recently to inflame people against oil companies.  To to say they avoid being inflammatory as a policy is a bald-faced lie.  The fact is that there is an unwritten code today among the intelligentsia as to who it is "OK" to be inflammatory against and who it is not.  It is OK under the code accepted by the NY Times to be inflammatory against rich and successful people, white males, women and minorities who are not Democrats, Christians, the military, and the US in general.  It is not OK to be inflammatory against Muslims, suicide bombers, women's groups, most academics, advocacy groups, or the leader of the NAACP.  In the case of the cartoons above, it is OK to blame Islamic terrorism on the US military, but not OK to blame Islamic terrorism on the teachings of Islam.

This is a symptom of the same disease that inhabits politically correct speech codes at universities.  Specifically, institutions are increasingly banning speech that is "insulting" or "degrading" or "offensive", and then allowing some (but not all groups) of listeners to set the definition of when they consider themselves offended.  Muslims argue that these cartoons are hateful - so the Times reaction is "oh, we are so sorry, we won't publish them."   Can you imagine the NY Times giving executives at Exxon the same ability to define certain speech as insulting to them and therefore out of bounds of publication?  Sure.

I got several emails to my first post that boiled down to the following, "Coyote, what you don't understand is that we in America may not think there is anything out of bounds with those cartoons, but Muslims really are offended by them."  This is exactly my point - what other groups do we allow to effectively get a veto on the press coverage they receive?  Do we give the military the right to say "gee, that cartoon is hurtful to us, don't publish it".  No, and in fact this was just proved recently with the Tom Toles cartoon.  We give military leaders the right to say the first part, that they think is wrong for such and such reason, but we don't give them a veto over publication.  Nor, of course, should we give such a veto to anyone.  So why do we make an exception for people whose idea of political discourse is to burn down some embassies, kill a few priests, and set off a few bombs?  I would love to see the WaPo explain why it published (I think rightly) the Toles cartoon in the face of vociferous objects from the Pentagon and American veterans, but won't publish the Danish cartoons in the face of vociferous objections from violent Islamic totalitarian extremists.  Especially when the Muslim reaction to the cartoons is only serving to demonstrate exactly those qualities of Islam that the cartoons were meant to highlight.

At the end of the day, this whole episode I think will be very useful, in finally putting to the forefront the bizarre speech code many of America's intelligentsia have explicitly adopted, a code that absurdly defines exactly the same speech as alternately "healthy" or "offensive" depending on what specific groups are the target of such criticism. 

Earth to Muslims:  Grow up.
Earth to the NY Times:  The time is long overdue for a serious self-awareness episode.

Postscript: Another bit of irony:  The media often criticizes the administration as being the enemy of free speech, when the very fact of the frequent publication of this criticism without any government intervention tends to blunt the force of the argument.  On the other hand, when the group being criticized actually does respond with violence meant to suppress publication, the media decides that the targeted group is not really worthy of criticism.

Update: Here is a compiled excuse page from major US newspapers as to why they are not publishing.  Read it to enjoy the spectacle of supposedly smart and principled people twisting themselves into ethical pretzels.

Update #2:  Those of you who mainly rely on the TV and print media for news probably haven't seen the actual cartoons.  Here they are.  Internet to the rescue again, printing the news that the NY Times deems not fit to print.


  1. Alina:

    Just one more note, it is Muslims who are not allowed to draw representations of Muhamed, not non-Muslims.

    A perfect parrallel is that Jews are not allowed to draw representations of G-d (in fact, they are not even allowed to write His name, hence the dash), but every time "The Simpsons" shows their (clearly Old Testement, beard and all diety), I have yet to hear of riots in the streets...

  2. Ann:

    Repression is the cause of terrorism. No human can withstand repression forever - humans were made to express themselves. Even the ancient cultures who had no written language expressed themselves in their art. The Muslim world has been repressed by their governments and by their religion. Eventually, their unexpressed emotions and thoughts either implode with a civil war, or explode with violence on others.

  3. Max Lybbert:

    Here's some news to me (from http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2006_02_05-2006_02_11.shtml#1139372115 ):

    "Several seemingly reputable press accounts (NPR, New York Times, and The Observer (U.K.)) report that, when the 12 Danish cartoons depicting Mohammed were distributed in many Muslim countries, they were distributed alongside three other cartoons that were much more offensive. One of the extra cartoons showed Mohammed as a pedophile demon, another showing him with a pig snout, and a third apparently showing a praying Muslim being sexually mounted by a dog. The accounts report that the cartoons were in a packet distributed by some radical Danish Muslim imams, who are apparently not saying where they got the cartoons."

    I've been looking for these extra three pictures all day. Apparently they are much different than the twelve that we've been looking at recently. I have found one at http://www.neandernews.com/?p=54%20. (the link includes the final period), and that page shows it's a forgery. Strangely, the Muslim Imams who distributed this picture have only said they got them from "some guys." I'm only being a little sarcastic (the real quote is "Akkari claimed he does not know the origin of the three pictures. He said they had been sent anonymously to Danish Muslims. However, when Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet asked if it could talk to these Muslims, Akkari refused to reveal their identity.").

  4. bob P:

    As Mark Steyn said:

    "When Tony-winning author Terence McNally writes a Broadway play in which Jesus has gay sex with Judas, the New York Times and Co. rush to garland him with praise for how "brave" and "challenging" he is. The rule for "brave" "transgressive" artists is a simple one: If you're going to be provocative, it's best to do it with people who can't be provoked."

  5. dearieme:

    "Repression is the cause of terrorism": oh come now. Terrorism often takes place when people without inhibitions against it reckon that it is their route to power - which they will often then employ in the cause of repressing their enemies.

  6. BobH:

    Here's more info on the three fake pictures. One is a picture of a guy in a pig snout, taken at a French pig festival -- the imams put a caption under it like "Here's a picture of Muhammed."


  7. BobH:

    That trackback doesn't seem to work. Here's Malkin's main page -- the post is headed: "THE LYING DANISH IMAMS".


  8. Matt:

    "So why do we make an exception for people whose idea of political discourse is to burn down some embassies, kill a few priests, and set off a few bombs?"

    Um...because we think that if they're willing to burn embassies and kill priests, they might be equally willing to burn newspaper offices and kill editors?

    The folks the elite media are unafraid to offend are the ones it costs them nothing to offend...that is, those who are unlikely to commit violence against the media, and who are either already non-customers (middle American Christians), or else so institutionally addicted to news that kicking the habit is not a consideration (conservative politicians and military leaders).

    It's easy to "stand on principle" when everyone who might ever think of being your friend agrees with the principle, and everyone who disagrees with it has foresworn physical violence as a means of moral argumentation.

  9. Bread:

    The Other Side of the Cartoon Argument

    Justifying one's action by pointing out that someone else has done worse things is not logical.

    "The road to hell is paved with good intentions". The intent of the cartoons is academic. A reasonable person would apologise if they have offended someone.

    If one truly believes in freedom of speech then they should respect others who have a rule that says we do not allow anyone to say “whatever it is” in our country. It is not as if they don’t allow anyone to say anything at all.

    Freedom of speech is not the same thing as having the freedom to offend people.