Tony Blankley

In Czechoslovakia, under communism, it was common to see signs that read "Workers of the world, unite" in the windows of fruit and vegetable stores. Vaclav Havel, in his book "Living In Truth," discerned the significance of those signs.

As elaborated by Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics at Duke Divinity School, Mr. Havel believed the shopkeeper does not believe the sign. He puts it up because it was "delivered from the headquarters along with the onions." The grocer thinks nothing is at stake because he understands that no one really believes the slogan. The real message, according to Havel is "I'm behaving myself … I am obedient, and therefore I have the right to be left in peace."

But Mr. Havel shrewdly points out that even a modest shopkeeper would be ashamed to put up a sign that literally read "I am afraid and therefore unquestioningly obedient." He is, after all, a human being with some sense of dignity. Havel concludes that the display of the sign "workers of the world, unite" allows the green grocer "to conceal from himself the low foundations of his obedience, at the same time concealing the low foundations of power." (As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German Christian theologian hanged by the Nazis for conspiring to try to kill Hitler observed: The failure of the people to speak small truths leads to the victory of the big lie.)

I would argue that this Czechoslovakian parable of the self-deceiving green grocer goes a long way to explaining the decision of most American news outlets not to re-publish the Danish cartoons currently stirring up so much of Islam.

As of yesterday afternoon, the following is, I believe, a complete list of major U.S. daily newspapers that have republished any of those cartoons: The Philadelphia Inquirer.

There has been intense debate in the blogs and elsewhere on whether newspapers and television networks should republish or not. The quite plausible, expressed argument against re-publishing is that: 1) just because one has the right to speak doesn't mean one must, 2) restraint is often exercised, particularly when being respectful of other religions or cultures, 3) tensions are particularly high amongst Muslims now, 4) only a madman or, if there is a difference, those who want to instigate the "clash of civilizations" would pour gasoline on that already raging fire.

That argument would be not only plausible, but persuasive, if the cause of the violent Muslim reaction to the cartoons was merely a transitory phenomenon -- a brief, spontaneous, bizarre overreaction.


Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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