Print Free or Die
By Michael Graham
"Who ever heard of a jury anywhere convicting anyone of killing a newspaper man?" There was a time when being a newspaper editor took guts.
During the Civil War, there were newspapers in my home state of South Carolina that opposed secession and yet continued printing even as the war (and the mobs outside their buildings) raged. In 1924, the editor of the Charleston Daily News faced what historians euphemistically call "a violent physical encounter" in his newsroom after editorializing against the race-baiting politics of Gov. Cole Blease and his local ally, Charleston mayor John P. Grace.
In the '60s, the editor of the North Augusta Star faced economic boycotts, violent crowds and threats from the police after uncovering wrongdoing by the police chief. He never backed down, and eventually the town government reformed. And then there's the famous case of N.G. Gonzales, one of the founders of The (Columbia, SC) State newspaper, who was gunned down in broad daylight at the corner of Main Street in 1903 by Lt. Governor James Tillman. Tillman was the nephew of the most powerful politician in the state, US Sen. "Pitchfork Ben" Tillman, but Gonzales didn't care. He wrote paint-stripping editorials and merciless news stories that helped kill Jim Tillman's campaign for governor. When Tillman shot the unarmed editor, Gonzales didn't complain. He looked the Lt. Governor in the eye an offered one last editorial comment: "Shoot me again, you coward."
Gonzales died. The well-connected Lt. Governor was acquitted. One of the pro-Tillman jurors who heard the case offered the quote above as a defense for letting a murderer go free. But it was H. L. Mencken who gave us the most lasting quote from the political assassination of N. G. Gonzales: "He was the last editor of The State worth shooting." Just over 100 years ago, a newspaper editor was willing to risk his life defending his principles. Today, the fight for freedom can't even make the news pages of most American papers.
You've seen the news coverage of angry Muslims around the world demanding the beheading of newspaper cartoonists who drew images of Mohammed. You've heard the US State Department's shamefully weasel-esque response, condemning the artists. Perhaps you've seen the signs held by "moderate" Muslims in London reading "Freedom. Go To Hell!" and "He Who Offends The Prophet Must Die!" What you haven't seen - except in a handful of American papers - are the actual cartoons.
In their defense, it should be noted that most American media outlets are just as cowardly as the lions of the press. NBC has (as of this writing) refused to show its viewers the cartoons that launched a thousand jihads. CNN has chosen to show the pictures but blur them to make the images unrecognizable, like a stripper's private parts in a documentary on pole dancing. At CNN, "news" and "porn" are practically indistinguishable.
And what about the big papers? The courageous New York Times? Nope. The Washington Post? Refuses to publish them because, according to their editor, the cartoons violate the standards of "good taste." This from the same paper that just ran an editorial cartoon featuring an American soldier with his arms and legs blown off being mocked by Defense Secretary Don Rumseld.
The Boston Globe goes one step further, blaming the editorialists instead of the Islamists. Rather than denouncing the kind of irrational thugs who would cut off your head over a cartoon, the Globe wrote: "Depicting Mohammed wearing a turban in the form of a bomb with a sputtering fuse is no less hurtful to most Muslims than Nazi caricatures of Jews or Ku Klux Klan caricatures of blacks are to those victims of intolerance. [emphasis added] That is why the Danish cartoons will not be reproduced on these pages."
I see: The guys supporting free speech and tolerance are the Nazis, and the violent anti-Semites who want to butcher them are the victims of Nazi horror. Yeah, right. There are two reasons why every paper in America should print these cartoons immediately. The first - and extremely obvious - answer is: They're news! As the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer said when her paper published one of the drawings: "You run it because there's a news reason to run it. The controversy does not appear to have died down. It's still a news issue." Wow - there's a crazy idea for a "news" paper. Let's use it to print the news!
There's an even better reason why every newspaper in the free world should print these cartoons on their front page: To do your part to defend free speech...for a change. The American press ran every photo it could find from Abu Ghraib, knowing as it did that the reaction would hurt the war effort and put our soldiers at risk. The American media didn't hesitate to run with illegally leaked documents about ongoing surveillance of Al Qaeda suspects and their communications into the US, even though breaking that story has absolutely aided the terrorists who want to kill us.
I'm not saying that the press made the wrong decision in either case. But I am pointing out that, for the most part, the typical reporter has been riding in the "free press" wagon, not pushing it. Well, guys, it's time to get out and push. The threat against free speech from real-life religious zealots has arrived. Filmmakers have been shot. Writers have been stabbed. Cartoonists are forced underground in fear for their lives. Now's your chance to affirm the power of the press and reject the threats of thuggery by printing just one of these cartoons on your front page, with a note explaining that you are supporting the principle, not the message.
But that's not going to happen because the current crop of journalists just don't have the guts. It's easy to write editorials mocking Christians protesting naughty books because you know those Christians won't be blowing up your parking garage. Attacking evangelicals is no big deal. What's the worst they will do - Slip a bootleg Jimmy Swaggart CD under your car windshield? Our brave, principled journalists are ready to stand and fight against any threat...that doesn't actually exist. But now that speaking out really matters, our "defenders of free speech" suddenly have nothing to say.
Feb. 9, 2006
- Muslims March over Cartoons of the Prophet
- Cartoon jihad is not about hate censorship but Islam
- Cartoons and Islamic Imperialism
- The Clash to End All Clashes? Making sense of the cartoon jihad
- 2006 is shaping up to be the 'Year of Speaking Dangerously'
- The Protests At Mecca Meeting, Cartoon Outrage Crystallized
- Fury over Islam cartoons, calls for restraint
- Print Free or Die
- Sympathy for those who draw Anne Frank in bed with Hitler?
- Today it's some Mohammed cartoons; tomorrow it is you they will silence
- Curse of the Muslim moderates
- Western wimps missing chance to teach important lesson
- Submission is all in your dhimmitude
- International Religious Freedom Report 2004: Denmark
- Denmark Is Unlikely Front in Islam-West Culture War
- Dane Defends Press Freedom as Muslims Protest Cartoons
- More European Papers Print Cartoons of Muhammad, Fueling Dispute With Muslims
- Lebanon Protesters Set Embassy Afire
- Beirut Mob Burns Danish Mission Over Cartoons
- U.S. Says It Also Finds Cartoons of Muhammad Offensive
- Faces of Islam?? Main page
- Debunking Islamophobia
- Europeans Victims of (Muslim) Colonialism
- Deist Examination of Islamic Trinity
- Mohammed the Man as Islamic Ideology
- Why Muslims Can't Build a Lightbulb
- Bacon is not a Hate Crime
- Pedophilia Surrounds Afghan-Muslim Culture
- Myth of Early Islam
- Multiculturalism - Self-Liquidation of Europe
- Press Tries to Cover Up Muslim Violence
- Murdering Mother Hidden Face of Honor Killing
- Book Review Tom Kratman's Caliphate
- Who did what for Israel in 1948? America Did Nothing
- Original Sin an Overview
- Gnosticism as Explained by Bishop N. T. Wright
- Deist Critique of the Gospel of Mark
- Religious Syncretism and Christianity
- Biblical Monotheism an Overview
- Jesus was not Zoroaster or Buddha
- Judaism Versus Zoroastrianism
- What are we to believe?
- The Devil
- Hellenism Meets Judaism
- Zoroastrianism Sources