I want a refund . . .

. . . from my alma mater. Last week, the campus newspaper (the Daily Illini - contact them here) had published six of the infamous Danish cartoons. By Monday, the paper was already backing down from the decision. the original page is gone (but cached here), and, according to the AP (via the Chicago Tribute - registration required, avoid it via bugmenot), the editor in chief and the opinions editor have been suspended (read: fired in all but name) while an internal investigation is underway.

Yesterday, I wrote them a letter:

To whom it may concern,
I was originally planning on writing you a letter praising your decisionto run the controversial cartoons. Instead, I find myself writing on with the opposite message.

In today's editorial, you stated that, "We value freedom of the press,speech and expression. But we acknowledge that in certain instances, suchas the publishing of these offensive cartoons, there are issues that mustbe considered." That "but" is the most important part of your quote. The"but" is admitting, albeit tacitly, that the desires of the Muslimcommunity outweigh the need for an informed populace.

It is true that Muslims consider the cartoons to be offensive andblasphemous. Yet I do not recall any similar journalistic restraint whenit came to Kanye West depicting Christ on a recent cover of Rolling Stone,or Ofili's "The Holy Virgin Mary," or Serrano's "Piss Christ." ManyChristians would consider those images offensive or blasphemous, yet themedia had no problems showing those images.

Part of living in a pluralistic society is the acknowledgement that noteveryone will share the same beliefs as you. Being offended becausesomeone drew a cartoon, painting a picture, or shot a movie which offendedyou does not give you license to demand that society change in order toaccommodate your beliefs. Freedom of speech means the ability to drawtasteless cartoons, paint offensive pictures, and lampoon political orreligious figures. It might be crude, it might be tasteless, but thatfreedom of speech, and of the press, is American.

(me), alumnus

I am tempted to send a differerent one, asking if the remaining staff knows of any place where I can learn Arabic quickly. Freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom of safe or unoffensive speech. I'd like to think that the ACLU will step in and defend the two editors, but I'm betting that, in the name of "multi-cultural sensitivity," they're going to pass.

* Found via Michelle Malkin, though I had been reading the DI online since before the controversy started.


Blogger runr53 said...

I sort of agree with what you have said, and then I sort of don't. Let me explain. One of the things that has always bothered me, when the free speech discussion starts, has been the leaving out in all discussions of the responsibility that comes with freedom of speech. When I was growing up we were taught that if your "free" speech was going to offend someone else then you had the responsibility to either moderate your comments or something and if you decided not to do so then you had better plan on taking the flack resulting from those comments. I'll climb down off my soapbox now and go back to lurking, hehe!

11:04 PM  
Blogger Garou said...

Aw, I can use all the comments I get. I understand your point about free speech; it seems awfully close to the idea that "your freedom ends where my rights begin," which is perfectly understandable.

If the cartoons were done solely for the point of causing offense, then I agree that there is no purpose gained by their publication, and nothing was served by it. But, considering that the majority of US media outlets are refusing to show the images which have sparked a global controversy is almost a dereliction of journalistic duty.

After all, especially investigative journalism must, by its nature, cause offense to at least one party. In this case, I think that much good was done by allowing people to see the cartoons - if nothing else, people can then understand what all the fuss is about.

11:19 PM  
Blogger runr53 said...

oh wait! I did not even address my personal thoughts about the cartoons or the mess their publication has been used as an excuse to cause! I having spent a full career in the US Navy have quite a few, hehe, opinions on all sorts of "dribbles" If you want one on this particular item, I personally would print millions of the cartoons and drop them over all the so called offended countries and have them attributed to each other, then sit back and watch the melee begin! You asked! hehe!

11:42 PM  
Blogger runr53 said...

PS, since your from Michigan, you have been linked!

12:09 AM  
Blogger Ben, aka BadBen said...

Nothing stirs people up more than talking about religion (or the lack of belief in deities).

The fringe-belief people are always the loudest and most aggressive with their response to claimed "blasphemy", etc. They are also the ones most intent on limiting the rights of women and imprisoning or destroying anyone who doesn't believe as they do.

Yes, I'm talking about the hate-mongers on the fringe of the Christian, Islamic, Judea, Hindi, etc. world. They would all gladly de-humanize anyone who doesn't believe the way they do, and setup a Theocracy to re-start the Crusades of the past.

10:59 AM  
Blogger The Squire said...

Yes, investigative journalism does offend people by nature, but that's not what happened here. There were no stories putting cartoons in context, interviews with local Muslim leaders, free speech activists, etc, running with them. It was just "Here's these offensive cartoons! We're printing them!" which, as far as I can tell, isn't real journalism at all.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Garou said...

Squire - true, but it was also on the opinion page. The point was to say (and, I believe, expressed in the editorial) that "There has been a lot of rioting over some cartoons, that many people in the US have not seen. Here they are." so that Americans could see what the issue was.

My main problem (and it's not getting any better) is that, while there is this great talk about "restraint" and "concern for the religious sensitivities" from the media. it only applies to one religion. Iran called for anti-Semitic cartoons, and they got air-time. Kanye West dressed up as Christ got air time.

It's not that Muslims are asking people to respect their beliefs that the Prophet not be depicted; it is that some Muslims are demanding that people not draw the Prophet, because it is offensive. It is forcing (at the point of the mob) people to abide by Islamic tenets.

I find it incomprehensible that liberals, who would bristle at the thought of backing down to avoid Christian sensibilities are so quick to avoid offending Muslim ones.

9:42 PM  

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