Partially inspired by my seeing “Syriana” (good movie, but has basically nothing to do with Syria) tonight and thinking about the Mideast: today’s Guardian, “Cartoons and their context”
”...The right to freedom of speech which allows newspapers to publish such provocative cartoons has been hard won, is inextricably essential to liberty, must be robustly defended….
But that is not the end of the matter. There are limits and boundaries – of taste, law, convention, principle or judgment. ...In any case, the right to publish does not imply any obligation to do so. ...It would not be appropriate, for instance, to publish an anti-semitic cartoon of the sort that was commonplace in Nazi Germany. Nor would we publish one which depicted black people in the way a Victorian caricature might have done. Every newspaper in the country regularly carries stories about child pornography, yet none has yet reproduced examples of such pornography as part of their coverage.
...Context matters very much in the case of the cartoons of Muhammad too. It is one thing to assert the right to publish an image of the prophet. ...But it is another thing to put that right to the test, especially when to do so inevitably causes offence to many Muslims and, even more so, when there is currently such a powerful need to craft a more inclusive public culture which can embrace them and their faith. ...There has to be a very good reason for giving gratuitous offence of this kind. ...What is the message that is being sent…by insisting on publishing such images? ...”
In any case, we can (I hope) agree that a free press is good, but a free press with some taste and dignity is even better.
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