Thursday, June 5, 2008

"Calm and Collected" Responses to Violent Fanaticism

Danish journalist Jakob Illeborg, wringing his hands over what's to be done with those offensively un-Islamic cartoons:

Most of us agree that the Danish newspapers have the right to print/reprint the cartoons, but they don't have an obligation to do so. As I suggested in my thread on Cif the other day, a calm and collected response might have been a better option ...
Huh? The Danish newspapers only have an obligation to print the offending cartoons at the center of this ongoing story if they believe they operate under an obligation to inform their reading public. If they're just publishing a newspaper to mollify religious fanatics or use up spare ink or while away the hours, then I suppose I can agree there's no obligation worth mentioning, and they might as well devote their journalistic resources to reprinting the telephone directory.

What would the "calm and collected" approach be? Obviously, according to Jakob Illeborg, it would not be reportage of the facts -- death threats and public demonstrations in response to cartoons deemed offensive to the rioters -- so what would it be? Page after page of groveling apologies to the offended?

Sarcasm aside, here's as far as any civilized person or society should be willing to concede toward "calm and collected" news reporting on this matter and other matters like it: the newspaper will report the relevant facts, including the cartoons themselves. Those offended by the cartoons reprinted in the course of this reporting can stop reading the newspaper and/or send letters to the editor expressing the profundity of the offense taken. The editor can choose to print or not print the letters, knowing that people are offended every day by all kinds of things and that the letters section would quickly become pointless and unreadable if it carried every such letter.

Offended readers should meanwhile step back for a moment and reflect on whether the riots and death threats are granting the cartoons more publicity and relevance than they deserve. In the absence of violence and caterwauling, perhaps the cartoons would cease to be relevant to news items and would become, at most, offensive curiosities. I say there's quite a bit to this notion.

If none of this -- stopping reading the paper, writing letters to the editor, urging fellow believers to stop turning the cartoons into news items -- succeeds in relieving the burden of offense, this might be taken as a clarion signal that the believer will never be happy or fulfilled in a free society. In which case, the believer should pack up and get the fuck out, as by purchasing one-way passage to a land featuring less discommoding news reporting.

David Thompson has a more thorough evisceration of this hack nonsense.

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