My column in Human Events this morning:
Several years ago, in a key defeat for free speech, newspapers cowered before Muslim rage and refused to run cartoons of Muhammad. Now at the Washington Post they’re going one better, and refusing to run cartoons that don’t depict Muhammad–again, believe it or not, for fear of enraging Muslims. And once again, one of the nation’s most influential mainstream media outlets fails to see the free-speech implications of their cowardice and enabling of Islamic supremacism.
Last Sunday’s “Non Sequitur,” a single-panel comic strip that runs in around 800 newspapers, did not appear in the venerable WaPo: editors decided that the panel, which depicted a scene of busy activity with the caption “Where’s Muhammad?,” might, in the words of Post ombudsman, “offend and provoke some Post readers, especially Muslims.” This despite the fact that Muhammad isn’t actually depicted in the strip at all.
“Non Sequitur” artist Wiley Miller was apparently not informed of the Post’s decision to drop his drawing: “I have absolutely no information on why any of the editors chose not to run it,” he said. But he did note the irony: he said that he intended his cartoon to poke fun at “the insanity of an entire group of people rioting and putting out a hit list over cartoons,” and at the “media cowering in fear of printing any cartoon that contains the word ‘Muhammad.'”
Miller added: “All I can do is surmise that the irony of their being afraid to run a cartoon that satirizes media’s knee-jerk reaction to anything involving Islam bounced right of their foreheads. So what they’ve actually accomplished is, sadly, [to] validate the point.”
Miller is right. So is a Post reader, John D. Stackpole, who wrote in to the paper to call their editorial staff cowards, which they manifestly are, and added: “The wonderful irony [is that] great newspapers like the Washington Post, that took on Nixon–run in fear of this very tame cartoon, thus validating the accuracy of the satire.”
If any person or group is considered off-limits for critical examination and even ridicule, that person or group has been given a privileged position in society, and has a free hand to do what it wishes. That’s why the freedom of speech is an indispensable bulwark against tyranny: It prevents authoritarian rulers from arrogating to themselves and exercising unfettered power….