Press Intimidated by Islamist Radicals

Bill Bennett and Alan Dershowitz join Christopher Hitchens and most of the blogosphere in condemning the refusal of most of the mainstream American press to publish the cartoons at the heart of the controversy embroiling much of the world.

We two come from different political and philosophical perspectives, but on this we agree: Over the past few weeks, the press has betrayed not only its duties but its responsibilities. To our knowledge, only three print newspapers have followed their true calling: the Austin American-Statesman, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Sun. What have they done? They simply printed cartoons that were at the center of widespread turmoil among Muslims over depictions of the prophet Muhammad. These papers did their duty.

Since the war on terrorism began, the mainstream press has had no problem printing stories and pictures that challenged the administration and, in the view of some, compromised our war and peace efforts. The manifold images of abuse at Abu Ghraib come to mind — images that struck at our effort to win support from Arab governments and peoples, and that pierced the heart of the Muslim world as well as the U.S. military. The press has had no problem with breaking a story using classified information on detention centers for captured terrorists and suspects — stories that could harm our allies. And it disclosed a surveillance program so highly classified that most members of Congress were unaware of it. In its zeal to publish stories critical of our nation’s efforts — and clearly upsetting to enemies and allies alike — the press has printed some articles that turned out to be inaccurate. The Guantanamo Bay flushing of the Koran comes to mind.

But for the past month, the Islamist street has been on an intifada over cartoons depicting Muhammad that were first published months ago in a Danish newspaper. Protests in London — never mind Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iran and other countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles — included signs that read, “Behead those who insult Islam.” The mainstream U.S. media have covered this worldwide uprising; it is, after all, a glimpse into the sentiments of our enemy and its allies. And yet it has refused, with but a few exceptions, to show the cartoons that purportedly caused all the outrage.

The Boston Globe, speaking for many other outlets, editorialized: “[N]ewspapers ought to refrain from publishing offensive caricatures of Mohammed in the name of the ultimate Enlightenment value: tolerance.” But as for caricatures depicting Jews in the most medievally horrific stereotypes, or Christians as fanatics on any given issue, the mainstream press seems to hold no such value. And in the matter of disclosing classified information in wartime, the press competes for the scoop when it believes the public interest warrants it.

What has happened? To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists — their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus.

That’s harsh–yet accurate.

Austin Bay, TigerHawk, and Ed Morrisey agree.

Mark Tapscott dissents: He believes it not nearly harsh enough.

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Danish Muslim Cartoons - Click to enlarge

See these cartoons in full size here.

Previous stories on the Danish Muslim cartoons below the fold.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Herb says:

    I would bet that if the press could put the blame for the cartoons on Bush, they would have the cartoons splashed on every front page.

  2. Legal Lady says:

    Seriously, I’m so sick of Christians, conservatives, Jews, Catholics, etc. being mocked openly, and they are not supposed to do anything about it…but be “tolerant.” But, yet, they won’t even SHOW us these cartoons? I agree-they are afraid of what will happen to the U.S. if we join in.