We bet the American embassy in Beirut was glad that U.S. newspapers were not the first to publish cartoons of Islamic Prophet Muhammad that caused protest. The Danish weren’t so lucky as their embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, was torched in protest of Jyllands-Posten’s, a Danish daily, decision to publish the cartoons.
After seeing what happened in Europe, one would think American newspapers would know better than to want to erupt the same kind of hatred that followed after the cartoon’s first appearance.
Some American dailies, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, decided to republish the offensive cartoons. The Inquirer chose to uphold freedom of speech in printing the cartoons, disregarding the fact that the cartoons offended a sect of its readers. Some Philadelphia Muslims gathered in front of the Inquirer in protest.
According to the Inquirer, not printing the cartoons would equal press censorship. Yet, would the Inquirer and others who chose to republish the cartoons be so anti-censorship if the subject of the cartoons were not Muslims, but Jews or Christians and they deemed the cartoons offensive?
Press censorship is not the motive here. Neither is censorship of speech.
The motivation instead is media responsibility – an attribute that is often absent from most media around the world and especially in America. It is not about allowing another culture to dictate the American way of life or infringing on American freedoms. It’s simple as black and white. It’s just about common sense. Not just one person was offended; thousands of Muslims were offended about how those cartoons poked fun at their beliefs. That’s what publications that decided to republish the cartoons should’ve thought about. For example, on Saturday Nigerian Muslims protested the cartoons, attacked Christians and burned churches. At least 15 people were killed – all because of a cartoon.
As offensive as the cartoons were, we think it was safe to say that it should’ve remained in Jyllands-Posten and not be reprinted. What could have been the purpose or motive in reprinting the cartoons?
Perhaps it was to stick it to radical Muslim leaders who often try to censor the press. Who knows? There is a political motive behind every controversy. This is no different. Could radical Muslims around the world benefit from blowing out of proportion the publication of those cartoons and furthering the divide between “civilizations?” Absolutely.
Yet, it is important to note that such radicals are in the minority and do not realistically have as much political clout as the majority. By republishing the cartoon, publications such as the Inquirer acted irresponsibly. They added fuel to the fire.
Media is sometimes like economics. For most things in economics, a cost-benefit analysis is key. Clearly, the Inquirer may have done one, but may have underestimated. There was nothing to prove by publishing those cartoons. If it was to uphold freedom of the press, that’s fine. But the press often censors itself at times, so what’s different now? Bottom line? The freedom to publish, which is guaranteed by the freedom of press, does not mean you have to publish everything.