Nick Cohen points out the very important difference between saying you are not showing a cartoon character named Mo out of respect, and saying you are not showing a cartoon character named Mo because you are afraid to.
When the BBC interviewed the artist behind Jesus and Mo, its editors told him privately they could not show his drawing of Jesus saying “Hey” and Mo saying “How ya’ doin’?” because jihadis might murder the corporation’s correspondents in Pakistan.
That’s a reason, but what a pity they didn’t say that during the interview. What a pity Jeremy Paxman did the very opposite, and insinuated that the cartoonist had done a bad wrong thing in drawing such a cartoon at all. What a lousy crappy rotten thing to do, Jeremy Paxman.
Fear may not be a noble reason for censoring, but it can be an honest one if you admit its existence. If I worked at the BBC and my colleagues told me that showing a bland cartoon might endanger lives in Pakistan, I wouldn’t broadcast it. If I worked at Channel 4 or edited a national newspaper, I wouldn’t put my colleagues’ safety at risk either. But I would also tell the viewers or readers that I was censoring out of fear: not respect or cultural sensitivity but pure fear. I would make it clear to them that freedom and secularism were in danger in Britain. I would say that the people who provoked the fear deserved no more true respect than a gangster did.
Instead of what the BBC and Channel 4 did, which was to make it seem as if the cartoonist and Maajid Nawaz are in the wrong, and the people threatening them are in the right. It’s dishonest and contemptible.
Not one editor has dared admit that he or she is afraid. The editor of Newsnight did not mention threats to his colleagues’ lives when he talked to the Independent about the Nawaz case. Rather he implied that he was a responsible journalist, while his critics, rather than, say, potential terrorists, were macho maniacs. “A lot of the people disappointed with us for not using it really wanted a demonstration of liberal virility rather than more informative journalism,” he said.
Cognitive dissonance anyone? It can’t be that the wonderful people at Newsnight hid the cartoon out of fear, therefore it must be that their critics wanted “a demonstration of liberal virility.”
If you admit to being afraid, you are acknowledging the scale of suppression. And it is only when you acknowledge that suppression exists that you can begin a campaign to challenge it. As it is, editors and senior journalists in the British media are not prepared to destroy their self-congratulatory image of brave “speakers of truth to power” by saying they are scared. The results are pernicious whichever way you cut them.
Quite: cognitive dissonance playing out as sheer vanity.
The liberal mainstream has abandoned liberal Muslims.
What is Maajid Nawaz meant to think? He says on a public platform that a bland cartoon is not offensive. He has rejected Koranic literalism, endorsed tolerance, and done everything the mainstream wants an integrated Muslim to do. And look at how the mainstream treats him. It agrees with his persecutors by ruling that the image is so shocking no national newspaper or broadcaster can show it. Meanwhile editors’ failure to level with their audience and admit that they are censoring because of a fear of violence, has the added malign consequence of diminishing the real threat that Nawaz and others face.