Saturday, February 11, 2006

Reenergize - and galvanize

So, I started a new job and I had to quit my job as a freelance writer because of conflicts of interest. I was fine with that - and will dutifully obey. Still, it's hard not to want to be in the game during times like this. Specifically, the controversy over the publication of offensive political cartoons published in a Danish newspaper. The Philadelphia Inquirer was one of the only major U.S. newspapers to publish these comics. Their act deserves to be lauded by newspapers not only in the U.S., but across the world.

The Times Watch (whose usual agenda, I'm not a huge fan of) did a decent summation of the double-standard by most newspapers. It's ironic that newspapers, in general, felt free to publish controversial artwork including Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" and Chris Olfini's "The Holy Virgin Mary", because both pieces triggered protests. Their art became news. However, the protests did not spark the death and destruction caused by the comics produced in the Danish newspaper. As an editor, I may have not published the comics when they first came out because they were offensive. However, the protests and violence sparked by many fundamentalist Muslims have inadvertently made these comics a news item. Most readers want to know what would cause such an outrage. Not publishing these photos is doing a disservice to the general reading audience. I understand the offense that register with many Muslims because of these comics. But taking into account the offense of a segment of the population, I believe these photos need to be published to bring greater insight on this story.

The majority of the United States is Christian. Still, many news editors published the images of the "Piss Christ" because they were using sound journalism judgment. Many ran disclaimers that stated the images on such-and-such page may be offensive for readers. Editors constantly have to weigh not offending religious groups, but in general, if it's newsworthy, many editors publish possibly offensive material. It's sad that fewer mainstream newspapers other than the Philadelphia Inquirer owned up to their responsibility for providing news to readers.

On a side note, the late comic Bill Hicks would have loved this. It's irony in its truest form: A group protests the depiction of their group appearing to be bloodthirsty terrorists... by killing people and setting fire to embassies. File this right up there with pro-lifers murdering abortion doctors.


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