Much ado about something

It’s amazing to watch how quickly newspapers will rally to the defence of any perceived slight against a free press, especially when so many are so silent on other rights abuses. I remember reading many editorials throughout the ongoing security-certificate debate that asserted that there are natural limits on every freedom. A fair point, even if I don’t agree that it applies in this case.

Which is why I’m a little dumbfounded by the uproar over the cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper back in September. Not by the uproar in the Muslim world, but in the seeminly-universal opinion among editorialists in the Western world that the papers had every right to print the cartoons and damn the Muslims who got upset.

Did they have the right to print them? Sure they did. Do the Muslims have the right to be pissed? Of course they do. I don’t think they should be threatening the lives of European citizens but to pretend they don’t have a legitimate grievance is disingenuous, to say the least.

When the first paper decided to print those cartoons, they had a decision to make. Was it worth offending thousands (millions?) of people to make their editorial point? (Speaking of which, what was their editorial point? That seems to have been lost in the coverage of the whole thing). Sure they had the right to print the cartoons, but there needs to be a balance.

The freedom of the press is something I hold very dear but I also recognize that with that freedom comes a sense of responsibility. What you have a right to do and what you have a responsiblity to do are two very different things.

Anyway, reading back over this post I don’t think I’ve made my points as lucidly as I’d hoped. But check out this web-exclusive comment from the Globe, written by an editorial cartoonist. He says what I’m trying to say in a much better way:

As a cartoonist, I understand and support the editor of the Jyllands-Posten and his action in promoting the fundamental importance of free speech. Democracy has always been a messy business and mistakes in judgment are a constant risk. If there was any error in judgment, perhaps it lies in the fact that the artists were asked to comment on the validity of a specific religion’s taboos. Under the rules of a free press, it’s fair game – but to what end?


  1. I think you make a good point. There really doesn’t seem to be much information out there on why these pictures went out on the first place.
    But if you’re looking for a example of an editorial cartoon that is posing a clear point go to

    (I don’t know how to insert links)

    The funny thing about this story is that it seems the U.S. army’s is trying to grab a hold of this tide of anger against editorial cartoons. For those who didn’t read the story, the cartoon showed a heavily bandaged soldier with no arms or legs. At his side, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, dressed as a doctor, says: “I’m listing your condition as battle-hardened.”

    According to the letter published in the Post from Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, “The Post and Mr. Toles have done a disservice to readers and to The Post’s reputation by using such a callous depiction of those who volunteered to defend this nation and, as a result, suffered traumatic and life-altering wounds.”

    One hates to see the Post simply making fun of soldier’s injuries. And insinuating that Donald Rumsfeldt has nothing but contempt for these soldiers.

    Damn liberal media.

  2. Oh and another thing…

    If anyone is looking for a good source for news and commentary on Canadian and international military and foreign affairs issues go to the news site for the Canadian Forces College. Each day they post the top stories dealing with Canada and the world.
    Yesterday they linked to an intriguing piece in Foreign Policy that looked into the common perceptions of what causes terrorism.


    Canadian Forces College News

    The other article about terrorism…


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