There are countless angles one can cover when they’re writing on the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack that left 12 people dead, including the paper’s editor. The instinct is to focus in on the attackers, but in this case the real story is that the so-called defenders of free speech are in many cases hanging up their capes. They’re like Superman, if Superman saw a house on fire and said, “There might be Kryptonite in there. I can’t take that chance. Hopefully the fire will go out on its own.”
Buzzfeed reported Wednesday:
[T]he New York Times explained their decision not to show the images in an email from a spokesperson: “Under Times standards, we do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities. After careful consideration, Times editors decided that describing the cartoons in question would give readers sufficient information to understand today’s story.”
Other outlets made more subtle choices to censor the images, with some using cropped photos that do not include the actual image of Muhammad. Three images of Charb were released on the Associated Press wire after the shooting, and none of them included a photo of the cover itself.
AP spokesman Paul Colford told BuzzFeed News, “You’re correct: None of the images distributed by AP showed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. It’s been our policy for years that we refrain from moving deliberately provocative images.”
Was that a policy that was in place for “years” or “minutes”? Gawker reported that AP was willing to sell images of the infamous “Piss Christ” up until …. yesterday afternoon.
Free speech has taken a beating in the last few months. First there was Sony Pictures Entertainment, which had to be dragged kicking and screaming to do the right thing after it was hacked by the “Guardians of Peace,” and now major news outlets are giving credence to idea that content should be censored if it is deemed blasphemous.
Any western newspaper that goes out of its way not to offend the kind of people who would burst into an office shouting “Allahu Akbar!” while armed to the teeth is a newspaper that is not living up to its responsibility to defend free speech. If an individual works at a major newspaper and his mentality is, “Hey, I’m just the guy who manages the Twitter account — I didn’t sign up for defending free speech,” then that is not an individual who should be employed at said major newspaper.
If western media outlets are still clueless as to what they are up against, then they should spend more time listening to the words of Britain’s radical Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary: “If freedom of expression can be sacrificed for criminalising [sic] incitement & hatred, Why not for insulting the Prophet of Allah?”
Lace up your boots and put on your capes, free speech superheroes. You have work to do. It’s embarrassing that such a thing even needs to be said.