During the heyday of the cartoons featuring a terrorist prophet of Islam, with a turban in the form of a bomb, we were told free speech was necessary even if it upset the sensitivities of people; in order to live in a more perfect union it was necessary to uphold the principles on which this country were founded than it was to address people’s feelings. Yes, I know that the cartoons of the Prophet of Islam were featured in a Danish newspaper, but even they the Danish were seen as a bulwark against giving in to terrorism and they had the right as we do here in America to freedom of speech and should not be intimidated from or waive that right. Yeah…that’s what we were told when it came to dealing with Muslims’ reactions to news they might not deem pleasant.
However, such openness to free speech is not seen in much the same positive or necessary light when it comes to speech or criticism about the state of Israel, as the editors and owners of The Berkeley Daily Planet have found out. A quick look at the website for the paper, http://www.berkeleydaily.org/issue/2009-11-28, reveals a paper that seems interested in its local affairs, from the closing of a post office location to citizen displeasure at the response of the local university to the financial crisis, but some people, notably Jim Sinkinson of Infocom Group, a media relations company and John Gertz of dpwatchdog.com seem to think the paper should please the Jewish citizens of the Bay area by printing stories they consider non-offensive towards the state of Israel. Not exactly the definition of freedom of speech, nor the role of a publication. In fact almost every group in the world would make that demand, that any publication should print only those items that meet the emotional needs of that particular group and at the same time not offend group sensitivities. Usually the answer to such a request is simply “nuts”, a free press means it reports what it wants to report and it the media outlet determines what is responsible and reasonable as it pertains to its readership/viewers/listeners and their values. Fortunately, the editor of the Daily Planet, Becky O’Malley, has said essentially the same thing when defending her paper against the charges leveled by the two who want to limit her papers’ right to publish articles or columns critical of Israel. In fact, the classiest response I’ve seen to date to her critics is quintessentially free speech in nature, ‘they (her detractors) could start their own paper.’ That alone should be enough to silence her critics, for in throwing down that challenge O’Malley has defended her right to free speech and a free press and encouraged them to do the same even in opposition to her.
The European press likes to rattle the nerves of semites, Arab, Israeli, Jew, or Muslim. We all know how the Dannish cartoons of the Prophet of God caused a big reaction in the Muslim world at a cost of world wide derision because for some reason or another people aren’t supposed to get upset about the insults hurled at their religious figures especially when done by members of the press. The publication of the cartoons was done twice for maximum exposure to the Muslim world and the expected ridicule which they faced because of actions of their world wide protests. However, the international community was told how what the Danish newspaper did was a free press issue and in order to be citizens of the 21st century this is the kind of exposure one should expect by a press whose job it is to reveal and expose issues to its readers no matter how inflammatory they may be or who gets upset in the process.
Well that pesky European press is at it again, and this time the Israeli semites are in its cross hairs and they are as mad as the Muslims ever were. In fact, so mad they claim the article in question ‘shames Swedish democracy and the entire Swedish press’. Interesting reference to “democracy” wouldn’t you say? I wonder what does Ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor mean when he says an article in a free press Swedish newspaper “shames democracy”? Ignoring the story, the Israeli government’s reaction has been to call the offending paper names and refer to a centuries old stereotype of Gentile blood sacrifice at the hands of Jews….dark blood libels from medieval times is how it was put by the Israeli spokesman, and perhaps they have a right to be angry, but where are all the calls for a free and independent media whose job it is to assess information and report it whether you like it or not. What about the old saying, ‘where there’s smoke there’s fire’, and there’s plenty of smoke surrounding the sale of organs at the hands of Jews and Israeli-Americans who claim to have organ donors from Israel.
Responsible journalism is a lot different from a free press. The latter sometimes is a double edged sword as the Israelis have come to find out but it is the very basis of journalism. Responsible press is the epitome of journalism and a lot harder to find; we should insist on it, but not count on it. The Israelis are now complaining against the very thing which they have relied on for so long to forward their disinformation, or yellow journalism, and which during the Danish cartoon fiasco they so highly touted. Israeli hypocrisy can be seen from a mile away. Despite their protestations, like everybody else, they’re gonna’ have to sit and bear it and see if the market place of ideas is their enemy or their friend. Welcome to the world of European journalism; a must in today’s world. Now, take that!
I received a letter from a friend which said the editor of the Danish newspaper who published the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist died in a fire. While there was no rejoicing about the matter on the part of my friend, he did seem to indicate that’s what happens to people who abuse religious figures, an act of retribution from God Almighty and that he was satisfied, not rejoicing, with what he thought was the end of this editor’s life. I had to break the news to him that it was just a rumor and that no one associated with the cartoon fiasco had died a terrible death; indeed it appears no one at the newspaper, Jyllands-Posten , had died at all. I think he’ll get over his disappointment, but I began to wonder about that whole issue of the cartoons for it was meant to trigger an emotional response from people in order to highlight an already preconceived notion the editors and owner of the paper had about Muslims. Unfortunately, some Muslims reinforced the stereotypes brewing in the heads of the folks at JP, but what happened at that newspaper also underscores the terrible hypocrisy employed by them and their martyrdom complex of freedom of speech.
It must be noted the newspaper published this set of 12 cartoon panels about the Prophet twice, in late 2005 and again in 2008. It’s kind of interesting the publications occurred during campaigning season for American elections, but it took almost six months for the controversy to come to a boiling point and become an international issue after the first cartoons were published in ’05. The Muslims in Denmark handled it quite well for the most part, organizing and holding peaceful protests to make their feelings known on an issue of importance to them, but with regards to all things dealing in religion, anti-religious forces came into play and distorted what is a very real issue. The newspaper said it was a free speech issue, but it wasn’t. Earlier the paper had declined to publish a cartoon about Jesus, the son of Mary, offering as an “excuse” the quality of the cartoon wasn’t good enough for their paper. (Shouldn’t that have been up to the readers of the paper to decide?)
Fleming Rose, the cultural editor of the paper at the time of the publication of the caricatures of Islam’s prophet, went on to say later his paper would publish Holocaust denial cartoons in conjunction with an Iranian newspaper, but that idea too was nixed by the editor in chief of Jyllands-Posten, although they did go on to publish the winning and runner up submissions of the “contest” sponsored by the Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri. Quite naturally, this opened up the newspaper to accusations of a double standard, it is, and hypocrisy on freedom of speech, which again it is. Of course the editors of the paper don’t see it that way, and they never will. That Muslim groups were not given the right to edit or decide what should have been printed in the paper about their religion should be given the say weight as it was given to Christian and Jewish groups, otherwise talk of freedom of press and or freedom of an editor to decide what he/she puts in their newspaper is only lies. Europe is awash in anti-social behavior from religions and religious extremists across all divides; hyping one group’s extremists while ignoring another’s is demagoguery at its finest and all at the hands of an active, partisan press. That said, I’ve found the perfect cartoon to express all the 600 plus words of this post. Enjoy.