Last week, Britain's Sky News shamefully cut away from a surviving Charlie Hebdo journalist who held up a copy of the magazine's new cover during a live interview, in violation of the network's "sensitivity" policy. The publication's new editor-in-chief didn't go quite that far on Meet the Press Sunday morning, but he did give host Chuck Todd a piece of his mind over NBC's decision to censor the image. Todd asked Gerard Biard for his reaction to the many media outlet that "have chosen not to show your cover:"
"Listen, we can not blame newspapers that already suffer much difficulty in getting published and distributed [under] totalitarian regimes for not publishing a cartoon which could cost them at best jail, and at worst, death. On the other hand, I am quite critical of newspapers which are published in democratic countries. This cartoon is not just a little figure, a little Mohammad drawn by us. It's a symbol. It's the symbol of freedom of speech, of freedom of religion, of democracy, and secularism. It is this symbol that these newspapers refuse to publish. This is what they must understand: When they refuse to publish this cartoon, when they blur it out…they blur out democracy…"
Todd lets the comments stand; he neither reacts, nor pursues the line of inquiry. Biard draws a distinction between journalists in repressed societies and those who operate in free ones -- understandably reserving his scorn for the latter group. New York Times columnist David Brooks, who wrote an excellent piece on the stifling of free expression shortly after the Paris massacre, told PBS viewers over the weekend that he's changed his mind and now supports his newspaper's decision not to show the Charlie Hebdo cover:
"When you actually look at the actual cartoons, some of them involve sodomy, some of them involve things that violate every standard of decency which we have. And so my view is that our standards of what represents decent behavior and civic conversation are more important in this case."
That might be a persuasive case against showing the more indecent depictions, such as the sodomy example he raises, but this specific image is neither obscene nor lacks news value:
Refusing to show that cover isn't about principle, defending decency or fostering civic conversation; it's about fear, intimidation and political correctness. It seems as though the Times' dissembling, unprofessional executive editor got to Brooks, and tallied another point for the ridiculous "journalists is about not offending the audience" lie. One Western Islamist (the man who penned this revealing screed in USA Today) has called the above cover an "act of war," and many of his fellow radicals (extremists?) clearly agree: The cartoon has sparked deadly riots and invited official condemnation from a wide array of Islamic leaders. I'll leave you with some refreshingly straight talk from a Congresswoman named Tulsi Gabbard. The Hawaii Democrat is an Iraq War veteran, the only Hindu in Congress, and decidedly unimpressed with the Obama administration's craven, denialist rhetorical posture on radical Islam:
What is so frustrating now as we look at the situation there, our administration refuses to recognize who our enemy is. And unless and until that happens, then it's impossible to come up with a strategy to defeat that enemy. We have to recognize that this is about radical Islam. This is as much a military war as it is an ideological war, and we've got to understand what that ideology is and challenge it, understand it so that we can defeat it and protect our citizens, protect the American people. That's something that has to be done in order for us to look at places like Iraq, places like Syria and places, really, in different parts of the world -- North Africa, Nigeria. This is not just about one group called ISIS or another group called al Qaeda. This is about an overall threat posed by this radical Islamic extremist agenda that exists all around the world as we are seeing, unfortunately, most recently in Paris and in Europe.
Wow. Bravo and thank you, Congresswoman Gabbard.