Accuracy in Media

The New York Times reported on Wednesday that police in Sweden and Denmark arrested five men suspected of plotting an “imminent” attack against a Danish newspaper that published cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in 2005. The Times has nothing to fear, however, for it was one of several major American newspapers that cowardly refused to publish the cartoons out of fear of offending Muslim extremists.

The papers that did not publish the cartoons, in addition to the Times, were The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune.

The Times story about the arrests seemed almost to justify the proposed terrorist attacks, saying, “The images initially published in 2005 by Jyllands-Posten were seen as blasphemous by many Muslims and a deliberate provocation by a conservative newspaper.”

A “deliberate provocation” by a “conservative” newspaper? The Times is certainly not conservative, but wouldn’t an alternative explanation be that the paper was exercising its right of freedom of the press? And that it was protesting self-censorship by those willing to pander to and appease Islamic terrorism? And shouldn’t the violent reaction be blamed on the dangerous ideology that inspires a murder plot based on something published in a paper?

A later version of the Times story changed the wording to: “The cartoons of Muhammad were seen as blasphemous by many Muslims and a deliberate provocation.”

AP noted that there have been at least four planned or actual attacks on Jyllands-Posten or Kurt Westergaard, the artist who drew the “most contentious” of 12 cartoons. It depicted Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with a lit fuse.

In a February 7, 2006, editorial, The New York Times had a somewhat different view of the controversy, noting that the paper that first published the cartoons “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.” It added, “If that sounds juvenile, Americans still recognize it as within the speech protected by our First Amendment.” However, the Times said that, from its perspective, it was a “reasonable choice” to refuse to print the cartoons since they are “so easy to describe in words.”

“All the News That’s Fit to Print” is the motto for the Times, which is willing to provoke and offend a “conservative newspaper” but not Muslim extremists.

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