Monday, February 13, 2006

I received a letter at work from Edward J. Spellacy Jr., of East Longmeadow and wanted to share it with you..

“I'm writing to say that, as a member of the media in a free society, you have a RESPONSIBILITY to publish the controversial cartoons on Islamofascism.

“I can understand the indignation of having your religion, and your religious leaders, portrayed in unflattering, even blasphemous, ways by secularists in the mainstream media. It happens to Christians ALL THE TIME in America and Europe.

“But indignation is NEVER an excuse for violence. And threats of violence need to be resisted in free nations. And the best form of resistance to Islamofascist threats here? PUBLISH THE CARTOONS.

“As freedom-loving people, we need to resist the Islamofascists on ALL fronts. In solidarity with the people of free Europe and in support of the concept of freedom of the press, you need to PUBLISH the Danish cartoons.

“Thank you.”

While I appreciate Mr. Spellacy’s concerns, I’m not going to reproduce the cartoons here and these are my reasons:

• I don’t believe that sacred religious figures such as the Prophet Muhammad should be the subjects of such type of criticism. That includes Jesus, Buddha, the Hindu gods, etc.

Now, contemporary human beings acting in the name of faith are completely fair game for cartoons. Ministers, priests, and rabbis who are in the news are fodder for the opinion mill.

• I believe the Danish newspapers were irresponsible in publishing something any decent newspaper person would have understood had a good chance of inciting violence. If news reports are correct there has been one death associated with the violence the cartoons caused. That is a tragedy. The message of the cartoons could have been portrayed in a different but less offensive way.

• The audience for our four weeklies includes American Muslims who are not in support of the terrorists who kill in the name of religion. There is no reason to publish the cartoons locally. They provide no relevant commentary. They would only insult good and loyal citizens and there is no reason to do that.

I support freedom of speech, but I also support common sense.


SRBissette said...

Good thing I'm no longer doing TABOO -- the temptation to reprint, with a broader context of historical cartoons, new work, etc. -- would be to great to resist.

What's being distorted constantly here is the CONTEXT in which those Danish cartoons appeared. They were published in response to TWO articles which appeared within less than four weeks in competing papers, concerning self-censorship in Denmark over fear of Muslim outrage. That provides a clear context for these cartoons to have been drawn and published (also ignored and/or misunderstood is the Danish context of some of the toons themselves, specifically referencing Danish turns of phrase that are meaningless outside of Denmark).

Though this doesn't necessarily justify what was published (that is something up to everyone to wrestle with on their own), it does provide a meaningful context -- just as the fact that the cartoons were published on a single page accompanied by an article specifically citing the self-censorship debate as the reason for the one-page showcase of cartoons -- which has not been noted in most of the US reporting or discussion of this matter.

Also, note we may not have yet seen the incendiary imagery -- according to some sources, the cartoons were PART of a "binder" the Danish Islamists prepared and presented to Egyptian Islamic scholars. Last week, the AP reported that ONE of the images in that binder was the 'hog squealing' AP photo from a European carnival-like event that had nothing whatsoever to do with Mohammed, Islam, or anything relevent to this firestorm. There are rumors of more explicit bestiality imagery (which may be apocryphal) -- the point is, WHAT was/is in that binder? What is fomenting all this outrage? It sounds more and more like it's NOT the 12 cartoons, or just the 12 cartoons -- sounds to me like the old censor game is afoot, recontextualizing images (even unrelated images) to foment greater outrage, just in case the catalytic imagery being cited isn't offensive enough.

Josh said...

mike --

i agree entirely with your take: the right to free expression does not equal the responsibility to do something stupid.

there's a great thread going on at NYCO which you should all read.

i've said what i need to say over there, but basically: it's not just the cartoons that caused the riots. the cartoons were the match thrown at a people who'd already been piled with wood and doused with gasoline.

Marky Mark said...

From Editor and Publisher:

In an e-mail to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Doonesbury" creator Garry Trudeau declared he would never use images of Muhammad.
"Nor will I be using any imagery that mocks Jesus Christ....I may not agree with their reasons for dropping any particular strip, in fact, I usually don't, but I will defend their right and responsibility to delete material that they feel is inappropriate for their readership," he said.

"It's not censorship, it's editing. Just because a society has almost unlimited freedom of expression doesn't mean we should ever stop thinking about its consequences in the real world."

Help me out. I may be mistaken, but I doubt if Trudeau has always considered it editing and responsibility. I dunno, I am asking - Is he (and others who say this) being a little disengenuous here? (I always feel like Greg Baisden when I use that word, but it is such a perfect word.)

I agree with Mike - why print the cartoons just to show you can, just to give them wascally muslims a taste of their own medicine? Steve makes a good point too, and I am proud to see him sticking to his guns about freedom of speech, and common sense, and context being ignored by most reporters. Why should the Danes "edit" if there was context?

I am lucky to have such level-headed friends. Blessed Kwanzaa!

Mike Dobbs said...

Thanks Josh for that link.

Steve... would you really want to risk your life and property by printing soemthing just because it's taboo? The people who are reacting violently to these cartoons are not people who are going to appreciate a literary analysis.

I would aks Mark to join me in a self-publishing intervention!

Mark, I'm proud that you're proud.