Danish Muslim Cartoons: Blogger Hypocrisy?
Anne Applebaum has an interesting look at the cultural subplots that have unfolded vis-a-vis the Danish cartoons of Mohammad and the subsequent violence in the Muslim world. The one sure to get the most attention in the blogosphere, since it focuses on the blogosphere, is this passage:
Hypocrisy of the right-wing blogosphere. Remember the controversy over Newsweek and the Koran? Last year Newsweek printed an allegation about mistreatment of the Koran at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base that — although strikingly similar to interrogation techniques actually used to intimidate Muslims at Guantanamo — was not substantiated by an official government investigation. It hardly mattered: Abroad, Muslim politicians and clerics promoted and exaggerated the Koran story, just as they are now promoting and exaggerating the Danish cartoon story. The result was rioting and violence on a scale similar to the rioting and violence of the past week.
But although that controversy was every bit as manipulated as this one, self-styled U.S. “conservatives” blamed not cynical politicians and clerics but Newsweek for (accidentally) inciting violence in the Muslim world: “Newsweek lied, people died.” Worse, much of the commentary implied that Newsweek was not only wrong to make a mistake (which it was) but also that the magazine was wrong to investigate the alleged misconduct of U.S. soldiers. Logically, the bloggers should now be attacking the Danish newspaper for (less accidentally) inciting violence in the Muslim world. Oddly enough, though, I’ve heard no cries of “Jyllands-Posten insulted, people died.” The moral is: We defend press freedom if it means Danish cartoonists’ right to caricature Muhammad; we don’t defend press freedom if it means the mainstream media’s right to investigate the U.S. government.
While I was not one that blamed Newsweek for the rioting–I have been rather consistent in blaming terrorists for terrorism and criminals for crime– I nonetheless believe the comparison inapt. For the most part, Newsweek was being criticized for rushing to print a story damaging to U.S. interests before checking the facts because it confirmed the suspicion among many that the dominant press loves to paint America and the American government as a bad actor.
The Danish cartoons, on the other hand, were simply the expression of an editorial page. While publishing them demonstrably did not help Danish-Muslim relations, it is simply a different animal. Conservative bloggers are dumbfounded that a newspaper publishing some cartoons could spark rioting, arson, and murder.
Update: Austin Bay has a similar, although better stated, reaction. His commenters have some interesting insights as well.
Ditto John Hinderaker, who is also more succinct: “So, were we more critical of false charges leveled by an American magazine against the American armed forces than of a dozen innocuous drawings in a Danish newspaper? Guilty as charged. We were.”