Cowardice Masquerades As Principle at the New York Times

The New York Times, unlike many other newspapers, refuses to publish any of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The cartoons obviously have news value, as they were the occasion for the murder of twelve people in Paris, and readers may want to know what the murderers thought they were avenging. But the overriding concern, executive editor Dean Baquet tells us, is that the Times must not offend:

Ultimately, he decided against it, he said, because he had to consider foremost the sensibilities of Times readers, especially its Muslim readers. To many of them, he said, depictions of the prophet Muhammad are sacrilegious; those that are meant to mock even more so. “We have a standard that is long held and that serves us well: that there is a line between gratuitous insult and satire. Most of these are gratuitous insult.”

So the Times won’t print anything that is mocking and sacrilegious, so as to offend religious sensibilities? Well, no, that isn’t quite true. Not if the religion in question is Christianity. Politico points out that on September 28, 1999, the Times ran a story–a flattering puff piece–on an artist named Chris Ofili, who created a picture of the Virgin Mary that featured “a clump of elephant dung on one breast and cutouts of genitalia from pornographic magazines in the background.” Sacrilegious? Offensive? Well, yeah. But the Times didn’t hesitate to run a photo of the painting (or whatever it is), having no fear that Christians would mount an attack on the New York Times building:


At the link, Politico notes other instances where the Times has violated the “long held standard” that Paquet announced today. No doubt there will be similar instances in the future, but we can be sure that those who are offended will not be Muslims.