Clemens Wergen at Die Welt has some home truths for the American media on this matter of refusing to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, even the new cover cartoon.
Today the French newspaper Libération published the new cover of Charlie Hebdo which will be on the newsstands on Wednesday. Yes, it is Muhammad again. He is shedding a big tear and holding a poster like so many people did in these days that reads “I am Charlie”. The title of the cover says “All is forgiven”. I can only imagine what amount of self conquest the surviving members of the Charlie Hebdo team had to muster to come up with a cover of such melancholic sweetness after they have lost 8 people, their most important editors and cartoonists among them. Anyone would have understood if they had had put all their rage and mourning into a biting and unforgiving cover. Except that they didn’t. They came up with a cover that speaks of the enlightened humanism Charlie Hebdo embodies, despite its at times scathing style.
Exactly. It’s a shatteringly moving cartoon because of that, and the failure to publish it spits in the faces of the people at CH.
And what did leading American media companies like NBC, CNN, the New York Times and others do? They again refused to show the cover. A disgrace to the surviving editorial staff of Charlie Hebdo just as well as its dead members. It is a disgusting and morally appalling refusal to let Charlie Hebdo speak in its own distinctive voice.
It is not that I don’t understand where you, my American colleagues, come from. You are not fans of the iconoclastic, anti-clerical tradition of Europe where fighting against the church during many centuries meant fighting against power or fighting against the legitimizing force allied to the absolute power of kings and emperors.
I am! Over here! And I’m not the only one. Don’t go thinking we’re all pious about the very idea of religion, because we’re not.
But way too damn many of us are. Still.
You didn’t need to, because your many and diverse faiths never were accomplices to the abuse of power in the way the old faiths of Europe were.
Never? That’s too strong. Slavery for instance got a lot of support from religion.
On the day after the attack the New York Times ran a story with two small covers of Charlie Hebdo as illustration. In order not to offend its Muslim readers, they didn’t print any of the Muhammad cartoons. “Under Times standards, we do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities”, the Times said in a statement.
Good grief – what a pathetic “standard” for a newspaper to hold. And it’s a stupid and mindless description of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, too, in fact it’s yet another example of finger-pointing victim-blaming. Their chief purpose was not “to offend religious sensibilities” – it was to undermine the taboo on treating religion like any other subject, and to mock it and have fun with it and sell the paper by doing that. They knew religious sensibilities would be offended, but that’s not the same as deliberately intending to do so.
“After careful consideration, Times editors decided that describing the cartoons in question would give readers sufficient information to understand today’s story.” This “sufficient information” consisted among other things of two small covers of Charlie Hebdo that illustrated the Time’s story on the attack, one critical of socialist French President Francois Hollande and one critical of Marie Le Pen’s right wing Front National. That was absurd because the attackers, which were most probably sent by al-Qaida in Yemen, didn’t shoot Charlie Hebdo’s editors and cartoonists because their socialist or right wing feelings had been hurt. They went on a killing spree because Charlie Hebdo had ridiculed their prophet. And the Times and others basically conceded that they had a right to feel offended.
Maybe they were just afraid, Wergen concedes. Understandable if somewhat silly.
But would you please spare us in the future all this journalist bullshit about speaking truth to power? It is easy speaking truth to power if you criticize and ridicule you own democratic government which won’t kill you or put you in jail for speaking your mind or publishing unfriendly or over-the-top cartoons. But when you are ready to be intimidated by the new Fascist thugs in the world even in those little things and in such a crucial moment you’d better stop all that self-aggrandizing talk about the bravery of the free press. It is striking that the much maligned “new media” had much less inhibition to inform its readers about the issue at hand than traditional news outlets had.
That’s us. He means us. We’re new media. Good job, us.
Myself and a good number of my European colleagues stood with you and all Americans when you suffered the catastrophic attack of 9/11. Now, my dear American colleagues, I feel that many of you have betrayed your European colleagues in what can only be descibed as the 9/11 of European journalism which was perpetrated under the same misguided understanding of Islam that has attacked the American homeland 13 years ago. Where has your moral compass gone?
Ouch, that stings. But I can’t deny it. Hang your heads, New York Times, NPR, NBC. Stand up Wall Street Journal, USA Today, BuzzFeed.