“A dagger at the heart” of a free press

Maybe we need to start worrying about those black helicopters after all.  The Obama administration keeps confirming the alarms over intrusive government and the violation of civil liberties.  In an effort to track down the source of leaks, the justice department has secretly subpoened and seized two months of phone records of the Associated Press.  David Schultz, lawyer for the AP, calls this crackdown on confidential sources a “dagger at the heart” of reporters’ ability to get the news.

Whether or not you are sympathetic to the plight of journalists here (and we must not let our dislike of the media distract from the First Amendment issues), this possible government overreach may have an unintended consequence:  What if it turns the press against the Obama administration?  Who knows what else they may dig up? [Read more...]

Now a French magazine ridicules Mohammad

First an American puts up a YouTube video inflaming the Muslim world and now a French magazine has published cartoon inflaming the already inflamed Muslim world.

A French magazine ridiculed the Prophet Mohammad on Wednesday by portraying him naked in cartoons, threatening to fuel the anger of Muslims around the world who are already incensed by a film depiction of him as a lecherous fool.

The drawings in satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo risked exacerbating a crisis that has seen the storming of U.S. and other Western embassies, the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and a deadly suicide bombing in Afghanistan.

Riot police were deployed to protect the magazine’s Paris offices after it hit the news stands with a cover showing an Orthodox Jew pushing the turbaned figure of Mohammad in a wheelchair.

On the inside pages, several caricatures of the Prophet showed him naked. One, entitled “Mohammad: a star is born”, depicted a bearded figure crouching over to display his buttocks and genitals.

The French government, which had urged the weekly not to print the cartoons, said it was temporarily shutting down premises including embassies and schools in 20 countries on Friday, when protests sometimes break out after Muslim prayers.

via Cartoons in French weekly fuel Mohammad furor – Yahoo! News Canada.

So is this freedom of the press or religious bigotry?  Or both?  Is there a point at which religious bigotry can become an infringement of freedom of religion?  Are elements in the West–France, no less!  and what’s been coming out from the ultra-tolerant Danes and the Dutch! — coming together in an anti-Islamic reaction?

Banning Dante

One of the greatest works of literature ever written, Dante’s Divine Comedy, is attracting the attention of censors:

The classic work should be removed from school curricula, according to Gherush 92, a human rights organisation which acts as a consultant to UN bodies on racism and discrimination.

Dante’s epic is “offensive and discriminatory” and has no place in a modern classroom, said Valentina Sereni, the group’s president. . . .

It represents Islam as a heresy and Mohammed as a schismatic and refers to Jews as greedy, scheming moneylenders and traitors, Miss Sereni told the Adnkronos news agency.

“The Prophet Mohammed was subjected to a horrific punishment – his body was split from end to end so that his entrails dangled out, an image that offends Islamic culture,” she said.

Homosexuals are damned by the work as being “against nature” and condemned to an eternal rain of fire in Hell.

“We do not advocate censorship or the burning of books, but we would like it acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, that in the Divine Comedy there is racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic content. Art cannot be above criticism,” Miss Sereni said.

Schoolchildren and university students who studied the work lacked “the filters” to appreciate its historical context and were being fed a poisonous diet of anti-Semitism and racism, the group said.

It called for the Divine Comedy to be removed from schools and universities or at least have its more offensive sections fully explained.

via Dante’s Divine Comedy ‘offensive and should be banned’ – Telegraph.

Dante has already disappeared from a number of college courses for these very reasons.  It’s odd that conservatives are often accused of censorship–for objecting to pornography and the like–but the ones who want to censor actual ideas and great works of literature are more often from the Left.  (See Gherush 92′s website.)  And, as Milton pointed out, the book that is most censored of them all–even today–is the Bible.

HT:  Shane Ayer

China’s decree to journalists & bloggers

We have posted about the conflict between still-communist China and Google.  The “Washington Post” has obtained a translation of the instructions from the Chinese government to its web journalists and bloggers, explaining what they will not be allowed to talk about. From China’s instructions on reporting on Google:

All chief editors and managers:

Google has officially announced its withdrawal from the China market. This is a high-impact incident. It has triggered netizens' discussions which are not limited to a commercial level. Therefore please pay strict attention to the following content requirements during this period:

A. News section:

1. Only use Central Government main media (website) content; do not use content from other sources.

2. Reposting must not change title.

3. News recommendations should refer to Central government main media websites.

4. Do not produce relevant topic pages; do not set discussion sessions; do not conduct related investigative reporting.

5. Online programs with experts and scholars on this matter must apply for permission ahead of time. This type of self-initiated program production is strictly forbidden.

6. Carefully manage the commentary posts under news items.

B. Forums, blogs and other interactive media sections:

1. It is not permitted to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic.

2. Interactive sections do not recommend this topic, do not place this topic and related comments at the top.

3. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which attack the Party, State, government agencies, Internet policies with the excuse of this event.

4. All websites please clean up text, images and sound and videos which support Google, dedicate flowers to Google, ask Google to stay, cheer for Google and others have a different tune from government policy.

5. On topics related to Google, carefully manage the information in exchanges, comments and other interactive sessions.

6. Chief managers in different regions please assign specific manpower to monitor Google-related information; if there is information about mass incidents, please report it in a timely manner.

We ask the Monitoring and Control Group to immediately follow up monitoring and control actions along the above directions; once any problems are discovered, please communicate with respected sessions in a timely manner.

This is what it means to live in a totalitarian country, one that recognizes none of the rights that we take for granted here.


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