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The NY Press and the Cartoons
February 8th, 2006

One of the disputed cartoons

Last night, the editorial staff of the New York Press resigned after management blocked their plans to reprint the controversial Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad. Today, the blogosphere is full of praise for the four men and criticism of city publications that have not run the cartoons.

In an e-mail to The Politicker, now former editor-in-chief Harry Siegel explained the decision by him, Azi Paybarah, Tim Marchman and Jonathan Leaf. “It would have been nakedly hypocritical to avoid the same cartoons we’d criticized others for not running, cartoons that however absurdly have inspired arson, kidnapping and murder and forced cartoonists in at least two continents to go into hiding,” Siegel wrote. “We have no illusions about the power of the Press (NY Press, we mean), but even on the far margins of the world-historical stage, we are not willing to side with the enemies of the values we hold dear, a free press not least among them.”

“Talk about principle, courage, and guts, on behalf of Free Speech!” writes Kiril Kundurazieff in his Sneakeasy’s Joint blog.

Others contrasted the actions of Siegel et al with those of the mainstream press. “While I admire the courage of these individuals, I am disgusted by the abject cowardice of the supposedly ‘free’ press of this nation,” said Live Journal. “Shame on the NYT and the NYP (and many others) for being afraid to print the cartoons,” writes fnrd in a Politicker comment.

The Times explained its stand in an editorial yesterday, saying the Danish paper that first published the drawings “did so as an experiment to see whether political satirists were capable of being as harsh to Islam as they are to other organized religions.” While this is protected speech, the Times is not willing to partake of it. The paper said, “The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation’s news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”

But reader Michael Podmaniczsky wrote that that misses the point: “Printing them would show solidarity with the Danes and the other European newspapers that have already published them in a show of support. I am very disappointed that The New York Times does not have the courage to do likewise.”

The Sun, which has assailed what it sees as anti-Semitism in universities and elsewhere, did publish the cartoons. It also featured a commentary by Daniel Pipes, asking “Will Westerners accede to a double standard by which Muslims are free to insult Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism, while Muhammad, Islam, and Muslims enjoy immunity from insults?” To show how murky things can get, Pipes himself once criticized President George W. Bush for characterizing Islam as “peaceful” religion and has been assailed for his own allegedly anti-Muslim views.

Confronting all this, Ben Wheeler, writing from Tbilisi, Georgia, in the Ben and Alice blog he shares with New Yorker Alice Boone, tried to strike a middle ground: “I believe that the papers that have printed the cartoons, and the people of Denmark and Norway, deserve solidarity. And the issue of free speech as a universal value, not a subjective one, needs to be pushed. But is running the Muhammad cartoons, which are beyond the point of having any value in and of themselves as material, a smart way to do this?”

By on February 8, 2006, 10:02 am
In category: Civil Rights,Gotham City | 3 Comments »

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3 Responses to “The NY Press and the Cartoons”

  1. Reza Says:
    February 9th, 2006 at 8:50 pm

    The publication and the ensuing protests have raised unsettling questions: Was the whole issue a bait designed to prove a null hypothesis that Muslims, moderate and/or fanatic, are intrinsically violent? What’s the line between justified anger and irrational rage? Would the next big war be fought on resources, as experts foresee, or among religions? How can we define and safeguard local values in an increasingly globalized world? How others can respect those values without fear of submission? And who can set possible punishments for trespassers?

  2. Liquid Says:
    February 9th, 2006 at 10:08 pm

    These violent responses to these cartoons are just another ploy to duct tape the mouth of free speech. If the liberal papers thought for one minute that these cartoons would hurt Bush in any way, they would be plastered all over…but since it doesn’t…they are not going to stick their necks out because it doesn’t flame their agenda. They have selective courage when it gains them bush bashing points. ie the abu prison leaks and photos.

    The world better wake up because if we lose our free speech and right to scrutinize then we lose our right to think out loud and in print. This is the goal of Islam…is to hold freedom of thought and speech hostage! Everyone should ask themselves, “Do I live under sharia law?”
    HELL NO we don’t…so if anyone wants that kind of dictatorship laws and punishment then they should go live in those countries that have it…but the west should and will stay free! Too much blood was shed for us to have the right to think and say what we want to. Freedom of speech and press is one of those things our heros have died for. Give us liberty or give us death is ringing throughout the world today. So how much do you want to keep your right to free speech? How important is it really to you?

  3. Kiril, The Mad Macedonian Says:
    February 14th, 2006 at 3:13 am

    Thanks for the mention Gail!

    [ It truly DOES pay to check ones Stat Counter on occasion. You'd be suprised who checks yer little Bloggie Kingdom out :-D ]

    I, and many others in America, and elsewhere have been reporting, and opinionating, on the Danish Cartoons, or Muhammad Cartoons, as some are calling them.

    However, it is the Bloggers on the ground in the Middle East who are Muslim and have the most to win, or lose, by expressing their opinions on this subject, who are making good, and important points.

    The Link in my Name shares news of one such fascinating essay for anyone interested.

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