So we’re all Rushdies now, like it or not? Perhaps. If one cannot draw Muhammad without editors fearing the mob in the lobby, then it’s only a matter of time before the idea seeps into the heads of cartoonists everywhere. It’s simply not worth it; who needs the aggravation? Who needs the meetings with the community groups, the mandatory sensitivity training, the sinking feeling of finding your picture on a placard in a London protest, next to the sign that says “BEHEAD THOSE WHO ACCUSE US OF BEHEADING.”
It will all blow over. The press will get its nerve back, and start investigating whether Jack Abramoff bought Cheney a beer in 1997 and thus impaired his aim in 2006, or something. They’ll return to their old brave role: Questioning Authority. Unless it’s located in Mecca.
– James Lileks
William Bennett and Alan Derchowitz, as odd a tag team as ever assembled, come together to to announce the surrender of the free press.
We two come from different political and philosophical perspectives, but on this we agree: Over the past few weeks, the press has betrayed not only its duties but its responsibilities. To our knowledge, only three print newspapers have followed their true calling: the Austin American-Statesman, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Sun. What have they done? They simply printed cartoons that were at the center of widespread turmoil among Muslims over depictions of the prophet Muhammad. These papers did their duty.
UPDATE I: Jeff at Protein Wisdom has one fantastic piece up on the failures of the press – it’s an absolute MUST READ. Here he comments on the Boston Globe’s statement that “[N]ewspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance.”
“…nothing in that (rather strained) definition suggests that the freedom for others to hold a particular position dictates that the rest of us must avert our eyes and ears at their command. In fact, the only philosophical explanation for the Globe, et al’s actions is that it has redefined Enlightenment by way of that term’s (now pedestrian) deconstruction, and having done so, it has somehow managed to then shoehorn it into multiculturalist / Orientalist creed preached as gospel by Humanities departments for the last quarter century—namely, that the only persons fit to criticize or “offend” the Other is some “authentic” member of that group.
The layers of irony here are almost too thick to hack through…what is being advocated for here in the name of Enlightenment is so pernicious to classical western liberalism and its attendant elevation of the individual that it needs repeating again and again: when we surrender (to borrow the Bennett/Dershowitz characterization) those things—freedom of expression, freedom of religion, a truly free press—that set our philosophical system apart from other systems that have shown themselves amenable to manipulation by interested groups who will themselves to power on the shoulders of a muscular sophistry that guards the structural heart of collectivist philosophies (here, defined as those that privilege the rights of the “group” over the rights of the individual), we surrender, albeit not always consciously, our capacity to defend ourselves and our way of life.
And nothing makes that more clear than this frankly stunning admission by the Globe and its major media allies that tolerance is the “ultimate Englightenment value,” especially when “tolerance” has clearly become, to the press’ way of thinking (and this thinking now permeates the academy and has insinuated itself into vast swatches of public policy), an unwillingness to offend those whom they believe they have no right, as cultural outsiders, to offend.
UPDATE II: Ed Morrissey gives a headsup that seems almost too much like parody. Now, newspapers should not draw cartoons about the cartoon war! You can’t make this stuff up.