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Yale University Press Caves In

09 Sep

censored2Yale University Press has removed from an upcoming book, The Cartoons That Shook the World, twelve cartoons that Muslim extremists deemed offensive.* Some of you may recall that, just over a year ago, Random House elected not to publish a book entitled, Jewel of the Medina, because they feared Muslim backlash. That book was published by Beaufort Books, a small publisher that proved to have a much stronger spine than the big boy on the bookseller’s block. Is it too much to hope that a small publishing house will publish a supplement to Cartoons that actually includes, you know, the cartoons?

These decisions disappoint and infuriate me. They disappoint me because publishers, particularly a university press, should have the balls to stand up for free speech and a free press. If nothing else, it’s in their own self-interests to do so – no need to worry about censors if one is willing to censor oneself. They infuriate me because decisions like these tell extremists that, if they throw temper tantrums and get violently nasty, then the rest of humankind will accede to their demands, no matter how unreasonable or oppressive those demands may be.

We in the west like to talk big about what we’ve fought for and how much we’ve accomplished. If we stop fighting for things that are worth fighting for – like freedom of expression – then we will lose those things to extremists who are willing to fight and die for nonsense. And, once we lose those freedoms, the chances are that it won’t be long before we’re not accomplishing anything worthwhile anymore. censoredThe USA is supposedly fighting terrorism and extremism in the Middle East, at least in part, to protect our freedoms (unless I missed the latest pronouncement about what we’re trying to accomplish over there this week). I’ve got news for the people who continue to waste precious financial, material and human resources in those wars, and to those who continue to justify that waste: if we willingly surrender our freedoms right here at home, just because some people may be offended by what we say or do, then we’ve already lost those wars. There’s no need to fight “them” over there, because “they” won’t have to bother coming here – they’ve already beaten us. Or, to be more precise, we’ve beaten ourselves.

**********

* If nothing else, this seems to be a marketing fiasco: who in her right mind is going to read a book about controversial cartoons and their effects, yet settle for not seeing firsthand what all the brouhaha was about?

– the chaplain

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14 Comments

Posted by on September 9, 2009 in censorship, literature, religion, society

 

14 responses to “Yale University Press Caves In

  1. Nightcap

    September 9, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    A little terrorism goes a long way. If the world does not respect fanatical Muslims, at least it has learned to fear them. That’s almost as good.

     
  2. Lorena

    September 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    The problem is that the little guys usually have to pay when push comes to shove. If the terrorists were to bomb the printing office, innocent lives may be lost. It’s a tough decision to make, I think, to publish controversial material.

     
  3. the chaplain

    September 9, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Nightcap:

    A little terrorism goes a long way.

    That’s exactly what terrorists count on. Once they’ve made good on a few threats, additional threats, sans action, are all they need to get people to fall into line.

    Lorena:
    I agree that it’s a tough decision, and it’s easy for me to pontificate in my armchair (or on the beach, as the case may be 8) ), but someone, somewhere has to stand up for what’s right. There’s no question that I’d feel like shit if innocent lives were lost over a book, but I also feel like shit when innocent lives are lost without any specific provocation, just because someone feels like being a jerk. Acquiescence to brutes is no guarantee against further brutality. If anything, acquiescence encourages brutality.

     
  4. BlackSun

    September 9, 2009 at 5:33 pm

    Terror is used because it’s effective. Asymmetrical warfare has always been the weapon of the weak. Now fear of it has trumped several hundred years of liberal intellectual tradition.

    When I think about it on a personal level, though, I might choose self-preservation rather than walking down the street with a t-shirt with those cartoons on it. Yes, I’d be making a statement, but I also might get shot.

    We have to think long and hard about the idea that democracy can successfully stand up to barbarism. I’m not so sure. We may be fighting the Taliban, but look at the US and Europe’s inability to stand up to Islam ideologically. Seems like we all caved in a New York minute.

     
  5. cl

    September 9, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Is it too much to hope that a small publishing house will publish a supplement to Cartoons that actually includes, you know, the cartoons?

    I like that idea.. lemme run it ‘cross a few folks. Good post, BTW.

     
  6. the chaplain

    September 9, 2009 at 5:57 pm

    Black Sun:

    We have to think long and hard about the idea that democracy can successfully stand up to barbarism. I’m not so sure. We may be fighting the Taliban, but look at the US and Europe’s inability to stand up to Islam ideologically.

    We’re good at fighting with conventional weapons, but we seem to have forgotten how to fight with ideas. We’d better re-learn fast or we’ll all be back in the dark ages.

     
  7. PhillyChief

    September 9, 2009 at 11:46 pm

    Despicable and comical at the same time. Amazing!

     
  8. OzAtheist

    September 10, 2009 at 12:56 am

    It’s a pity that governments and global organisations, like the UN, kowtow to the ‘terrorists’ as well. The fact that blasphemy laws exist anywhere in this world is a sad indictment and one of the reasons that the religious ‘terrorists’ know they can get away with threatening to do something, such that a company wont publish a few cartoons.

     
  9. Sean the Blogonaut

    September 10, 2009 at 2:00 am

    Yes you’d think being an Amercian University you’d think they’d have some balls sticking up for liberty and freedom of speech, what’s next Creationism 101

     
  10. Neal O

    September 27, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    Spineless.

    Give me the text with pictures and I’ll set my ink-jet going! Orders anyone?

     
  11. Roy Kruckenberg

    June 11, 2010 at 11:26 am

    I wrote a similar blog about this subject but you did a better job :)

     

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