Mohammed Cartoon Update: The New York Times (Sort of) Defends Free Speech

After its puzzling failure to defend the Mohammad cartoons and free speech in a Sunday news report, the Times recovers, if only slightly, in its Tuesday editorial, “Those Danish Cartoons.”

Although the Times didn’t join the Philadelphia Inquirer in actually publishing the most controversial cartoon (Mohammad with a bomb for a turban), its tentative stand for free speech is nonetheless braver than the editorial page of the NYT Co.’s subsidiary paper, The Boston Globe.

In a Saturday editorial, “Forms of Intolerance,” the Globe made this bizarre comparison:

“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. That is why the Danish cartoons will not be reproduced on these pages.”

The Times, by contrast, brings up the First Amendment, albeit in a humdrum fashion:

“The pictures, one of which showed the prophet with a bomb on top of his head in place of a turban, violate a common belief among Muslims that any depiction of Muhammad is sacrilege. The paper that first published them did so as an experiment to see whether political satirists were capable of being as harsh to Islam as they are to other organized religions. If that sounds juvenile, Americans still recognize it as within the speech protected by our First Amendment.

The New York Times and much of the rest of the nation's news media have reported on the cartoons but refrained from showing them. That seems a reasonable choice for news organizations that usually refrain from gratuitous assaults on religious symbols, especially since the cartoons are so easy to describe in words.”

The Times didn’t (and wouldn't have) mentioned whether its decision was also affected by the threat of protests similar to those visited upon the Philadelphia Inquirer.

For more examples of New York Times bias, visit TimesWatch.

Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center . Read more: http://archive.newsbusters.org/bios/clay-waters.html#ixzz3CdgxLFgQ