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February 21, 2006

Editorial Decisions.

The lesson from the Cold War is: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants. -Flemming Rose

Re-read that: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants.


It's also the lesson of 1939.

Let's examine two looks at editorial responsibility, an issue of interest around here what with L'Affaire Schlussel, etc.

Flemming Rose - the editor who chose to publish the cartoons that have caused people to kill people and to threaten to do so some more killing - hell, *demand* some killing, on why he did it.

Childish. Irresponsible. Hate speech. A provocation just for the sake of provocation. A PR stunt. Critics of 12 cartoons of the prophet Muhammad I decided to publish in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten have not minced their words. They say that freedom of expression does not imply an endorsement of insulting people's religious feelings, and besides, they add, the media censor themselves every day. So, please do not teach us a lesson about limitless freedom of speech.

That's what it comes down to, isn't it. Speech, free or sensitive to the person with the most exposed nerve.

The best defense against speech you abhor is... more speech. It can get ridiculous, but that was the essence of the Swift Boat Veterans fight with John Kerry, wasn't it? Speech, counter-speech, counter-counter speech, both sides getting bruised and battered, yes. Decorum often falls to the wayside, especially for deeply-held beliefs. But did anyone in that fight seriously (aside from the stray Moonbat-with-a-grudge-hearing-voices-scenario) *truly* fear for the lives? No. Their livelihoods, certainly, but not their lives. And we all got more information about an era most of us really were ignorant of. And what wasn't said (or released) was as important as what was said and released. And people made decisions about that, which ultimately helped decide who subsequently sat in the White House for four years. But while a flag or two may have gone up in flames, I don't recall any buildings doing so. Or people dying. Or bounties being named.

Therein lies the crux of the problem.

Rose notes this:

At the end of September, a Danish standup comedian said in an interview with Jyllands-Posten that he had no problem urinating on the Bible in front of a camera, but he dared not do the same thing with the Koran.

Hmmm. Wonder why *that* is? Those rampaging Christians? Um, no. Salman Rushdie and Theo Van Gogh, maybe...?

On occasion, Jyllands-Posten has refused to print satirical cartoons of Jesus, but not because it applies a double standard. In fact, the same cartoonist who drew the image of Muhammed with a bomb in his turban drew a cartoon with Jesus on the cross having dollar notes in his eyes and another with the star of David attached to a bomb fuse. There were, however, no embassy burnings or death threats when we published those.

It comes down to this:

Has Jyllands-Posten insulted and disrespected Islam? It certainly didn't intend to. But what does respect mean? When I visit a mosque, I show my respect by taking off my shoes. I follow the customs, just as I do in a church, synagogue or other holy place. But if a believer demands that I, as a nonbeliever, observe his taboos in the public domain, he is not asking for my respect, but for my submission. And that is incompatible with a secular democracy. [emphasis mine]

Exactly. Exactly. As CDR Salamander observes - a point the Norwegians missed entirely.

And given the fact that people who otherwise send money to the ACLU seem to think that Muslims should get some special consideration, while evangelical Christians should be suppressed and driven from the public square would do well to look deep into their souls at the inherent contradiction of that stance.

Rose continues,

As a former correspondent in the Soviet Union, I am sensitive about calls for censorship on the grounds of insult. This is a popular trick of totalitarian movements: Label any critique or call for debate as an insult and punish the offenders. That is what happened to human rights activists and writers such as Andrei Sakharov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Natan Sharansky, Boris Pasternak. The regime accused them of anti-Soviet propaganda, just as some Muslims are labeling 12 cartoons in a Danish newspaper anti-Islamic.

The lesson from the Cold War is: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants.

Re-read that: If you give in to totalitarian impulses once, new demands follow. The West prevailed in the Cold War because we stood by our fundamental values and did not appease totalitarian tyrants.

It is also the lesson of 1939.

And a message that will not be preached from the pulpit of the Cathedral in Riyadh any time soon, either.