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Get ready for a wave of pro-Muslim censorship, both voluntary and involuntary.
• After protests by Muslim students at Oregon State University, editors of the student newspaper decided to give Muslims the right to editorial approval over articles that affect them. A February 8 column in the Daily Barometer had accused some Muslims of acting barbarously in reaction to publication of the Danish cartoons. Muslim and Arab students held a vigil in protest, and a blizzard of complaining E-mails swept in. DD Bixby, editor of the paper, at first spoke for freedom of the press.
"For me," she wrote, "it would be journalistically irresponsible to only print columns with which no one disagreed." But as protests increased, she began to sing a different song. "The pain that [the column] caused ... did not subside with time. It just kind of festered," she said. So she and her editors began letting Muslim students check the paper's copy, and on February 28, they deleted a paragraph from a piece to be published the next day.
On his blog, Clayton Cramer wrote: "If the Christian Student Association were given editorial control over offensive articles, the ACLU would be filing suit immediately. But if it offends Muslims, liberals fall all over themselves trying to make them happy."
• After the student newspaper at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada decided to publish the Danish cartoons, University President Wade MacLauchlan stepped in and announced that "it was decided not to permit the distribution" of the issue on campus. In fact, he thought the campus environment was better for halting publication of the cartoons. He wrote: "Why should we choose to repeat an act that had caused so much offense and trouble around the world?"
The president of the student union, which owns the campus paper, fell in line with a mealy mouthed statement: "I guess it is a fine line that we are looking at on a very complex issue ... . Freedom of the press is not absolute ... . There is also a responsibility to balance it with justice, to portray things properly."
• The University of Chicago threatened a student with punishment for posting on a door a crude cartoon that said, "Mo' Mohammed, Mo' Problems." After complaints, the student took the picture down and apologized. The student handbook contains a ringing endorsement of free speech, stating that the university does "not attempt to shield people from ideas that they may find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even offensive." Nevertheless, the student was placed under investigation and, according to a fellow student, was told that he might be kicked out of university housing.
That was his status two weeks ago. A database check showed no articles on his case since.
Do we get all the news that's fit to print?
In conversation yesterday, a friend expressed surprise when I mentioned the three fake cartoons about Muhammad that were used by imams as they toured the Middle East stirring up anger over the cartoons published in Denmark. One of the fake cartoons, supposedly picturing Muhammad as a pig, was adapted from a photo of a man with a snout performing in a French hog-calling contest. It had nothing to do with Muhammad or Denmark. News of the fake cartoons was all over the Internet. So were the photo of the French hog-caller and the crude cartoon adapted from it.
But news of the fakes was harder to find in American newspapers, which was why my well-read friend hadn't known about them. Any check of a database for news coverage has a built-in flaw: AP or UPI stories are usually listed only once or twice, though dozens or even hundreds of papers might have used the copy. Still, the articles I did find were few, with the references to the fakes brief, well down in the copy, and well inside the paper. Nobody seems to have conducted any examination of who might have produced the fakes and how responsible they might have been for the uproar and carnage that followed.
Are stories that put Muslims in a bad light being downplayed? In City Journal Online, Stefan Kanfer writes about the horrendous torture-murder of a young French Jew by a group of mostly Islamic males. The New York Times didn't mention the case for 10 days, long after it had begun to convulse French public opinion. Even then, it was a cursory story. Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old cellphone salesman, was abducted and horribly tortured for three weeks.
As Kanfer writes, "From time to time, neighbors entered the apartment where the young man was captive, either to watch him being tortured, or to participate in the mutilation. Many in the area knew of the crime; no one said a word to the gendarmes." After three weeks, he was deposited, naked and dying, near a train station, his fingers and ears missing, covered with burns, stab wounds, and acid marks.
At first, the French government was approximately as uninterested in the story as the New York Times. When howls of protest arose, the government decided to take the murder seriously and cracked the case quickly. The ringleader was a Muslim from the Ivory Coast. The Times finally weighed in with an account of decent length, three weeks late, on Page 4. You would think this story might have been as newsworthy, say, as a that of a vacationing blond missing on Aruba.