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I’ve never been more ashamed of our newspaper industry
Posted by: Billy Hollis on Sunday, August 26, 2007

In the past, I’ve tried to give some benefit of the doubt to the Washington Post. Compared to the New York Times, I consider the folks at the Post downright sane.

Sane, however, clearly doesn’t mean brave. The Post and a large number of other newspapers self-censored this comic by Berke Breathed, the cartoonist famous for Bloom County. I urge you to go read it before continuing. It’s only mildly funny, but that’s not the point.

It’s an article of faith among journalists that they are brave defenders of our freedom. In the case of the these newspapers, this action shows that attitude to be the height of self-deception.

I am slack-jawed with amazement that any “brave defender of freedom” would censor that comic. If ironic humor that mild is no longer to be considered by the Post to be appropriate for publication, then I never want to hear a Post reporter or columnist use the phrase “speak truth to power” again. They have exposed themselves as complete and utter cowards. They have voluntarily handed over their own freedom to publish to the over-reactive sensitivities of medieval fanatics.

They should be ashamed. They won’t be, but they should be.
 
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Previous Comments to this Post 

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Fore!!! Par for the course.
 
Written By: Paden Cash
URL: http://
Par for the course, indeed.
I see you’re starting to catch on to just how bad things have been, Billy. Welcome to the club.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
No excuse for this, I agree completely.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
I think I’ve written the most improbable post in the history of QandO. Scott Erb and Bithead are in complete agreement on it.
 
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Not really. I’ve seen this day coming for some time. Then again, the situation is and all that hard to see through; only one of us is trying to "pass" . Guess which one.
 
Written By: Bithead
URL: http://bitsblog.florack.us
A mere handful of regional US newspapers carried any of the Mohammed cartoons when they were smoking hot news, worldwide, back in early 2006. The AP wouldn’t even distribute them to its member papers.

It seems like what’s happened with this Opus cartoon today is that the WaPo editors have merely re-"exposed themselves as complete and utter cowards."

I think it’s like a signal that must be given periodically to re-affirm solidarity with the members of one’s panicked herd. Retreat from the defense of freedom has to be carefully coordinated and there’s just no time for shame.
 
Written By: Linda Morgan
URL: http://
A mere handful of regional US newspapers carried any of the Mohammed cartoons when they were smoking hot news, worldwide, back in early 2006. The AP wouldn’t even distribute them to its member papers.
More to the point really, the NYTimes ran an article explaining the issue about them, illustrated not with the cartoons themselves- but with a picture of the dung-painted Virgin Mary that was controversial.

If Christian and Jewish groups targeted news orgs with death and bomb threats, maybe things would be different.

Maybe they should start.
 
Written By: shark
URL: http://
As usual I’ll have to rely on the internet to see these so called questionable cartoons.

The only way I see the liberal press will getting interested in this is if conservative white heterosexual males start embrasing Islamic values, as pertaining to women....then they’ll be all over it.
 
Written By: Bob
URL: http://
The media is always quick to congratulate itself, brows furrowed and lips bitten, on fulfilling their solemn duty of speaking truth to power and confronting those who would abuse their power. It seems that solemn duty only requires them to do so only if it doesn’t involve risking any actual bad consequences.
 
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
I totally agree. They hid when the satirical Islamic cartoons were printed about Mohammedan and now this. They keep revealing that they are cowards and admitting what they really believe; that the pen IS NOT mightier than the sword.
 
Written By: AMR
URL: http://
I saw the point raised about whether this was censorship or not because those paper are private enterprises and its only censorship when the hand of the government is involve.

My definition is a little broader than that. But the point is moot. News agencies often pretend to be objective and give you the ’real story’. When they don’t they are falling down on their claims and deserve to be subjected to scrutiny for it.
 
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
This is a couple of steps ahead of Tom Friedman’s latest contribution; He inquires why are we losing popularity contest with Bin Laden & AQ. He really
should look around his Op Ed pen. Has Kristof the resident Arabist and Darfur pleader rebuked those who would slay 500 innocents; Has Krugman stopped his "Bring Out your (Financial) Dead routine to comment on the savagery of our enemy. Bob Herbert; always counting every dead or injured soldier; until its time to declare the crime rate a greater hecatomb has he spoken out, Has Maureen Do. . .you get the idea. Clark Hoyt, the public editor who apprenticed evasion at Knight Ridder; eludes the commonality between AQ’s NorthWest frontier camp and its Mesopotamian branch office.
 
Written By: narciso
URL: http://
More to the point really, the NYTimes ran an article explaining the issue about them, illustrated not with the cartoons themselves- but with a picture of the dung-painted Virgin Mary that was controversial.

If Christian and Jewish groups targeted news orgs with death and bomb threats, maybe things would be different.

Maybe they should start.
Nah, I doubt having Islamic extremists as role models will lead anywhere good.

But there is a kind of culural cowardness at work here. I’ve many times defended Islam from attacks of Islamophobes or whatever you call them, noting that the religion is at base one with a multitude of possibilities, and not what the extremists (few of whom are really religious clerics) claim, and not at all necessarily what the conservative traditions of the ulama and their interpretation of the Hadith claim.

So I’m coming at this with respect for Islam. But just as Jerry Falwell can be lampooned in (what was it, Penthouse?), so can Islamic extremists be made fun of. If we refuse to do that, then we’re creating a double standard out of fear. Individuals can do that if they want, but major media outlets should not. Cut it out of the Riyadh edition, if you wish, but print it! (Plus, next to "Calvin and Hobbes, I consider "Bloom County" the greatest comic strip in history).
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
Boris Erb, an ignoramus in the main, writes:
I’ve many times defended Islam from attacks of Islamophobes or whatever you call them, noting that the religion is at base one with a multitude of possibilities, and not what the extremists (few of whom are really religious clerics) claim,
Yet another subject that Boris appears to know nothing about.

Start with "bloody borders," Boris, and work your way back to the theology. I know you can’t do it, intellectually, but the challenge is out there.

And pity your poor students.

As Bernard Lewis points out in "What Went Wrong?", the perennial solution that Islam comes up with for the problems of Islam is more Islam.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Of course, on the other hand, if the paper had printed the comic and if it had inflamed and offended Muslims, wouldn’t the paper be criticized for being irresponsible (for printing something it knew would offend without achieving any constructive end)? It seems like a no-win situation either way to me. I know Ralph Peters criticized European papers for circulating the infamous Muhammad cartoons for interpreting "free press" as "free to be irresponsible press" (granted, part of Peter’s bemusment came from the irony of ’tolerant Europe’ v ’anti-Islamic comic.’ However, if liberal newspapers here had circulated this comic, would they not also be susceptible to charges of hypocrisy?)
 
Written By: James O
URL: http://
James, you have a point, but I think the problem is deeper — we are becoming afraid of offending anyone. That’s not healthy. Being offended is a self-inflicted wound. Feeling stung by an insult is a self-inflicted wound, it’s giving another person power over ones emotional state. But now people love to flaunt that they are "offended" or "insulted" and demand that the other side be punished. This is a negative response to multiculturalism in that it promotes a sense of victimhood and entitlement, rather than mutual communication and learning.

There was a bloom county strip about this once, where everyone was getting offended and Opus said something about being offensivity. I’ll have to try to find it.
 
Written By: Scott Erb
URL: http://faculty.umf.maine.edu/~erb/blog.htm
JamesO writes:
Of course, on the other hand, if the paper had printed the comic and if it had inflamed and offended Muslims, wouldn’t the paper be criticized for being irresponsible (for printing something it knew would offend without achieving any constructive end)?
Whenever a group responds to criticism by rioting, issuing death threats, and actually killing people (such as Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn in the Netherlands), then the only appropriate response is to ramp up the criticism, not to quell it. Otherwise, the next thing you know, their reasons for rioting, issuing death threats, and actually killing people will be triggered by virtually anything that they hold to be offensive, even things not directed at them, per se, such as serving pork at the fire department BBQ.

That’s the way appeasement, political or cultural, works.
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
Boris Erb writes:
Feeling stung by an insult is a self-inflicted wound, it’s giving another person power over ones emotional state.
Nurse! Nurse! Quickly! There’s a man here in need of self-estemm therapy! Is Stuart Smalley available?
 
Written By: Martin McPhillips
URL: http://mcphillips.blogspot.com/
The strip ran in the Raleigh North Carolina News and Observer just fine.
 
Written By: Michael Patton
URL: http://

 
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