The New York Times has published their own ode to Independence Day—a Declaration of Surrender to Islamic terror—while freely offending a billion Catholics who don’t shoot journalists for publishing offensive art.
Roundly criticized for publishing a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI made entirely of 17,000 colored (non-lubricated) condoms after refusing to publish the cartoon from the cover of Charlie Hebdo last January, the Times standards editor Philip B. Corbett committed torture upon the English language in a futile attempt to justify the obvious double standard.
I don’t think these situations — the Milwaukee artwork and the various Muhammad caricatures — are really equivalent. For one thing, many people might disagree, but museum officials clearly consider this Johnson piece to be a significant artwork. Also, there’s no indication that the primary intent of the portrait is to offend or blaspheme (the artist and the museum both say that it is not intended to offend people but to raise a social question about the fight against AIDS). And finally, the very different reactions bear this out. Hundreds of thousands of people protested worldwide, for instance, after the Danish cartoons were published some years ago. While some people might genuinely dislike this Milwaukee work, there doesn’t seem to be any comparable level of outrage.
John Sexton at Breitbart demolished Corbett’s illogical approach to the TImes’ decision with the precision of a surgeon’s blade.
You really have to think this through a bit. Corbett is not saying, apologetically, that the heckler’s veto works because the NY Times is afraid to make itself the next target. That would be cowardly, but at least it would be honest. Instead, he is saying the fact that no one has died over the Pope-condom art proves the Times was right to publish it. And so, conversely, the fact that the Charlie Hebdo staff was massacred by outraged Islamists seeking to avenge their prophet’s honor proves the Times was right not to run the Mohammed cartoons.
In reality, as streiff would say, the heckler’s veto works like hell. The Times is admitting abject cowardice in the face of even the most etherial possibility of a threat from Islamic extremists, who can whip up protests around the globe over any issue they choose—real or made up. This, by definition, makes those items more newsworthy than a piece of offensive artwork in a Milwaukee museum (or Piss Christ, or any of the other blasphemous and patently offensive art works that the Times thinks are A-OK to publish).
As for the newsworthiness of the Hebdo cartoons vs. the Pope-condom art, that also plays against Corbett’s argument. One could argue (and to be fair to her, Margaret Sullivan does say this) that if outrage does anything at all, it’s to give a greater reason to publish. Clearly the massacre in Paris generated vastly more news. But, curiously, Corbett is arguing too much outrage is evidence something should not be in the news. That’s a very strange standard for one of the nation’s leading newspapers to hold.
I don’t think avoiding outrage is even close to the reason the Times makes its editorial decisions. They simply know that Catholics, and in general all Christians, don’t vent their outrage through the barrel of an AK-47.
This gives a whole new meaning to the term “yellow journalism.”
(crossposted from sgberman.com)