On NPR, More of the Sentiment That Satire of Islam Abuses Press Freedom

At the tail end of  the second hour of the Diane Rehm Show on many NPR stations Friday, defense reporter James Kitfield of the National Journal broke out his outrage about the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, which was firebombed this week. Like Time's Bruce Crumley, Kitfield saved his outrage for the "irresponsible" satirists and all his sensitivity for the Muslims of France.

In the Huffington Post, French journalist Romina Ruiz-Goiriena complained that while "For many, the publication has been an iconic soapbox for the far French left since its creation in 1960," it failed to achieve what freedom should: "The issue was not thought-provoking; it simply contributed to burgeoning anti-Muslim sentiment. What it should have been doing was pushing the conversation forward to confront the seemingly dormant but rampant institutional bigotry. After all, is that not the point of having a free press tradition in the first place?"

Kitfield felt the pain of Muslims that do not want their religious prophet depicted in any way. Like many journalists, he displays no sensitivity for the satirized Christian in France or anywhere, and somehow fails to be upset by a firebombed newspaper:

JAMES KITFIELD: I mean, that was very, very objectionable to, you know, a majority of Muslims to see their religious leader depicted in any way, but certainly not in sort of a satirical, laughable fashion. You know, I heard a comment from a French Muslim who I think got it exactly right, which is that just because you can do this thing because you have a First Amendment right or you have a right to free expression in Western societies doesn't mean you should do them. So I think I would hope we get to a place where we condemn this constant provocation. Why these provocations to a vast minority group inside of France? I think it's irresponsible.

KATTY KAY, guest host: Particularly when you already have tensions with those...

KITFIELD: Right, and people can die. I think it's irresponsible, but, you know, I would defend to the last straw to do it. I just hope we get to a place where the people who do do this get condemned by society for constantly provoking crises that we don't need right now.

This being NPR, Kay could only agree, and not ask how satire is irresponsible and "provokes crises" and violent Islamists are somehow not responsible for what they do at all.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis