On the Garland cartoon show attack

Much can and will be said about the attack in Texas and its aftermath, but here is what came to mind for me. On current trends, many outspoken Americans will soon be living in hiding or under guard. To me that’s a bigger story than whether I find their views unsavory. And of course it’s going to happen to many whose views I don’t find at all unsavory. That’s the lesson of Salman Rushdie and his translators, the Danish cartoonists etc. And even when many respectables are living in hiding, under guard, or dead, a large bloc of polite opinion will still look the other way. Something is wrong in that.

As for what can be done, as a writer, I naturally think in terms of what writers and editors can do. The PEN gala award was a good example of a positive step that deserves our applause. It would be a positive step if Yale University Press had printed the (very tame) Danish Mohammed cartoons when it published a book on that episode. It would be a positive step if CNN and other networks did not black out or crop out even very tame cartoons when covering the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Danish Jyllands-Posten episode, or the winning Garland contest entry. When there is no solidarity, the minority of publications that remain uncowed stick out more, and so are in more danger.

The threats are nothing new: mobs ransacked newspaper offices and lynched editors in the Nineteenth Century, 21 died when unionists bombed the L.A. Times in 1910, and so forth. Somehow it didn’t shut them up, and I hope we have the resolve not to let it shut us up either.


  • More: Eugene Volokh on “speech as defiance.” On the other hand, the New York Times’s editorial, which at pains to distinguish “hate speech” from “free speech” as if the former could not be included within the latter, set me to humming the tango from the soundtrack to “Chicago.”

  • Based on your analysis, with which I agree, it seems imperative that EVERYONE wear a Motoon T shirt or fly anti islamic messages. They can’t kill us all.

    ????? ????

  • South Park ran an episode years ago featuring Muhammad. He was right there in the cartoon with Jesus. The backlash for them was not the original airing, but years afterward when it became fashionable to believe Muhammad cartoons are off limits

  • In deciding how to evaluate the NYT’s editorial, is it ignorance on their part, or dishonesty by the editorial board in failing to note that there are huge numbers of Islamic paintings, tapestries and other art, from the late Middle Ages forward, in which Mohammad is shown? Some pieces are fairly realistic, other are highly stylized and could be categorized as cartoons. Only a small minority of Moslems belong to sects that believe that it is blasphemy to depict Mohammad, and even fewer believe that sharia supports death for those who do (and, most Moslems who believe that sharia governs their lives also believe that non-Moslems are not governed by sharia, so its penalties do not apply to non-Moslems). The NYT editors appear to be giving in to the ultimate hecklers’ veto – if you say something to offend me, I have the right to murder you. I suppose that they do not feel safe even in their guarded offices and gated communities any more, and so move to quickly condemn those who refuse to be cowed by jihadists, so that the NYT editors hope that they will not be targeted like journalists in Europe have been.

  • Will you republish the winning cartoons on this blog.

  • wfjag

    I think this is more the Assassin’s Veto rather than heckler.

    Also, the “but only a tiny minority” meme is just a variation of the True Scotsman fallacy.

    We can start with that 22% of the world’s countries have actual laws against apostasy and blasphemy with punishments from fines to death.

    Ben Shapiro — here — presents the results of several surveys that further belies the “tiny minority” claim.

    We shouldn’t overstate the threat, but neither should we dismiss it out-of-hand as “junior varsity”.

  • Thanks, Mr. Olson. The cartoon is brilliant.