By contrast, in a spectacular exercise of self-censorship, almost every major newspaper in this country is refraining from publishing the controversial Danish cartoons, even though they are at the center of a major news story that these papers cover at length every day. An editorial in the Times on Wednesday said that not publishing the cartoons was “a reasonable choice” because they would offend many people and “are so easy to describe in words.” As I write I am looking at a front-page photo in today’s Times of Mariah Carey singing into a microphone. Words do it justice, I think.
The mob has turned this into a test case for freedom of speech in the West. The German, French and Italian newspapers that republished these cartoons did so not to inform but to defy — to declare that they will not be intimidated by the mob.
What is at issue is fear. The unspoken reason many newspapers do not want to republish is not sensitivity but simple fear. They know what happened to Theo van Gogh, who made a film about the Islamic treatment of women and got a knife through the chest with an Islamist manifesto attached.
You should probably read both columns. You can even find them in the same place – the Washington Post’s Friday op-ed page. It’s interesting that the Post is one of those many, many American papers who won’t publish the cartoons. It’s even more interesting that Kinsley is the paper’s most reliable liberal columnist, and Krauthammer is the fiercest neocon. Yet here they are today in perfect harmony.
Now if only the editors of the Washington Post were half as brave as two of their diametrically opposed columnists.