Fine, explain the context »« The sacred tradition of cutting off bits

As we are sure you can appreciate

The National Secular Society shares the form letter it got in response to its open letter to Channel 4 about its wretched decision to paste a black egg over Mo when it reported on the childish fuss over Maajid Nawaz and Jesus & Mo.

The letter, from Steve Reynolds of Channel 4 Viewer Enquiries, reads:

As we are sure you can appreciate, this is a very sensitive subject for many viewers. Channel 4 News editorial staff gave great consideration to the issues involved and believe that they reached a fair and balanced judgement, weighing up the potential for offence to some viewers by showing the depiction of the Prophet Mohammed and the necessity of showing the cartoon in full.

But I don’t appreciate. I don’t think the “sensitivity” is legitimate, just as I don’t think the potential “hurt sentiments” of people in Bangladesh who might possibly maybe perhaps not like Taslima Nasrin’s tv serial were legitimate. By creasing their brows over the “potential for offence to some viewers” they gave in to emotional blackmail and encouraged more of it in the future, while also cutting the ground out from under Maajid Nawaz. I think that’s pathetic.

Whilst we acknowledge your views, we believe that on balance this was the correct decision and as a rule, where we consider the likelihood of significant offence to our audience, we will attempt to mitigate against that. As to not pixelating the image of Jesus, it was not felt that the same level of offence was likely to be provoked as the image is commonly depicted in cartoon form.

Aaaaaaaaaand there’s your problem right there.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, commented: “The claim that showing the entire illustration was ‘not integral to the story’ is ludicrous. It was the story. The truth is that Channel 4, like so many others, is intimidated and afraid of the reaction from violent extremists. Such extremists have got this country in a fearful stranglehold that is gradually destroying our commitment to freedom of speech. We may have abolished the blasphemy law, but who needs it when the same effect can be achieved by terrorising people?”

Mr Sanderson said that Channel 4 should be ashamed of itself for capitulating in this way to supposed ‘sensitivities’ that it does not respect in any other context. “Channel 4 does not hesitate to create controversy and offence in its other output, indeed it prides itself on doing so.”

Meanwhile, the Muslim Association of Britain is now attempting to work this controversy up into a similar level as the Danish cartoon controversy by issuing a condemnation of the cartoon.

Well of course they are. Look at all the encouragement they’re getting from the great and the good in UK media. Why wouldn’t they try to work the controversy up? It’s all good from their point of view.

 

Comments

  1. gheathen says

    Yep. I had exactly the same email which I posted on Twitter earlier today – and with exactly the same comments. Except more briefly, obviously. Pusillanimity at its finest.

  2. Silentbob says

    As to not pixelating the image of Jesus, it was not felt that the same level of offence was likely to be provoked as the image is commonly depicted in cartoon form.

    Aaaaaaaaaand there’s your problem right there.

    Hah! Excellent pickup on circular reasoning. :-)

  3. Minnow says

    There was an interesting parallel story from not very long ago too, that doesn’t reflect well on Channel 4 and the BBC’s mealy-mouthedness here. When the ‘Piss Christ’ sculpture was in the news being a deliberately provocative, even offensive, artwork that had predictably scandalised and outraged thousands of Christians and others, there was no hesitation in showing the piece on the TV because, well, the piece was the story and viewers should be able to make up their own mind. So what was the difference here?

    Here is just one BBC story about Piss Christ. It also appeared on TV news and Newsnight if I remember correctly. No black-eggery in evidence. I wonder why.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13124769

  4. Argle Bargle says

    Shorter Channel 4: We don’t want to upset Muslims because they can be nasty. Christians aren’t as nasty as Muslims (we hope).

  5. says

    When the Danish cartoon debacle first started, I was of the opinion that they shouldn’t have been published. It seemed to me unnecessarily offensive; a pointless insult, serving no purpose.

    Since then the violent, fanatical reactions have caused me to change my mind on that. If people can get that unhinged over this, then it’s an issue that needs to be raised and pushed in their faces. Refraining from publishing such images out of respect would be okay, but that’s not why it’s done. It’s fear and it’s not acceptable.

    Retreating and compromising is only going to make things worse. It’s going to let the fanatics know that, despite all our bluster to the contrary, we will in fact negotiate with terrorists.

  6. kbplayer says

    “When the Danish cartoon debacle first started, I was of the opinion that they shouldn’t have been published. It seemed to me unnecessarily offensive; a pointless insult, serving no purpose.

    Since then the violent, fanatical reactions have caused me to change my mind on that. If people can get that unhinged over this, then it’s an issue that needs to be raised and pushed in their faces. Refraining from publishing such images out of respect would be okay, but that’s not why it’s done. It’s fear and it’s not acceptable. ”

    Me too. I don’t really want to piss off ordinary mosque goers and church goers for no good reason. However, the cynical politicising of these issues then makes a good reason in itself. I don’t want to piss off an ordinary guy going to a mosque. But I do want to piss off Mohammad Shafiq, George Galloway and all the repellent Islamists who run with this and make capital out of it, exacerbating bad relations between Muslims and the rest. I know that Mo Shaf et al will see censorship by the broadcasters as a victory – so fuck ‘em.

  7. Doubting Thomas says

    The other place you see those black blobs, rectangles, etc is to cover tat-tas and hoo-has. So they are equating Mo with those?

  8. b. - Order of Lagomorpha says

    Since when did, “not being offended” become a right? I find Christianity offensive, so are they going to stop accepting advertising dollars from churches and cut off programming from televangelists? (In the interest of full disclosure, I find all religions equally repugnant, but Christianity seems to get pushed the most on TV.)

  9. FresnoBob says

    It’s simple – if you’re faced with the choice of doing something or not based on the potential to cause offence the only thing that should guide your decision is, “is this offensive?”

    It applies to everything really – we might end up unknowingly causing offence by our actions as a matter of everyday discourse. But when someone claims offence the first thing we do is consider the reasonableness of that claim.

    If it’s reasonable, we apologise. If not, we don’t. We say, “get over it.”

    To apologise is to agree. To choose not to do something because we know others will claim offence is to give credence to those claims.

    Channel 4′s decision does all that and more – they might dress it up as being considerate of peoples’ feelings but in the context of the report it effectively says that the offence is actually justified.

    If more public figures and agencies were prepared to exercise this degree of honesty then those that claim offence would be compelled to give reasons rather than death threats and tantrums.

  10. Scr... Archivist says

    I’m not sure, but I have to wonder if this obsession with preventing images of Mohammed has turned into some kind of inverted idolatry. It’s like it’s the same thing as idolatry, but upside-down, or with the colors reversed.

    Have any Muslims pointed this out?

  11. rnilsson says

    @ 11: I think that’s an astute observation.

    We are told the most holy spot in Islam is where the Meteorite from Heaven is hidden.

    So every year millions of believers come to not see it. It’s a small rock inside a huge black cube of a building, and the hoards of people mill around it on foot many times, and every year some are crushed underfoot or simply expire in all the heat and exaltation.

    Black egg should have been square.

    No, black egg should not have been there at all. Very bad move, Channel4.

  12. quixote says

    I’ve thought the same as Archivist @11. The over-the-top and determined frenzy smacks of something more than and different from offense.

    As for the offense itself, I can see not wanting to offend people. I hate it when someone gets in my face with, for instance, sexist bullshit and tells me to wear it. But here’s the thing. All I want is to not know about it. They can spout crap to their buddies at home or in their church if they want.

    So if Ch4 was desperate not to offend they could have followed the convention for very graphic news images of violence. “Viewer discretion is advised.” And then gone on with the actual reporting, minus censorship.

    If offense was really the only problem, then everybody would be okay. Right? Right?

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