Legality is not morality

The editor of Denmark's Jyllands-Posten has decided to print Iran's Holocaust cartoons:

February 8, 2006 (NEW YORK) - The Danish editor behind the publication of caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that ignited deadly riots in the Muslim world said Wednesday he's trying to coordinate with an Iranian paper soliciting cartoons on the Holocaust.

"My newspaper is trying to establish a contact with the Iranian newspaper, and we would run the cartoons the same day as they publish them," Flemming Rose said Wednesday in an interview on CNN's "American Morning."

The Iranian newspaper Hamshahri said Tuesday it would hold the competition to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

I have a question: would your average American newspaper be more willing to publish Iran's Holocaust cartoons than the Danish Muhammad cartoons?

I think so, and I think so would many bloggers. Once again, I think it's primarily because of fear.

While most bloggers who might publish Iran's Holocaust cartoons would be doing so as a way of expressing disgust and disagreement, the fact is, they wouldn't be afraid of publishing them. In the case of the Danish cartoons, whether they're published in order to express disagreement isn't considered relevant; the general idea seems to be whether or not they dare to be published.

In my earlier discussion of Iran's Holocaust cartoon festival, I didn't mean to suggest any moral equivalency between Holocaust cartoons and the Danish caricatures of Muhammad or logical relationship between the subject material of the cartoons; only that they're both forms of speech. (Legally, at least in the United States, both types of cartoons are protected by the First Amendment, which is generally blind to the moral implications of free speech.) Meryl Yourish has a lot more on the merits and the moral implications, pointing out not only that there isn't any logical relationship between the Holocaust cartoons and the Muhammad cartoons, but that the moral context is completely different:

Jews had absolutely nothing to do with the publication of the cartoons. The fact that the Iranians plan to hold a Holocaust cartoon contest is utterly irrelevant to the issues at hand. But not to the AP, which will turn itself into pretzels trying to explain how the issues are similar.

They use the phrase “in a new turn” to describe this ridiculous notion. This is not a new turn to the story, it is an attempt by the Iranians to turn Muslim protests of the Western values of freedom of speech into something hateful about Jews. The fact that many European nations have laws against Holocaust denial is not hypocrisy; some of these same nations have laws against “defaming” a religion. This also ignores the context of exactly why European nations — the nations that conducted the Holocaust — have laws against Holocaust denial. It is because these nations saw firsthand the destruction of European Jewry — were, in fact, a willing part of it — and laws were enacted to prevent it from happening again.

This is the context that the AP ignores, as well as the simple fact that cartoons about the Holocaust and cartoons showing Mohammed are two completely different issues. Look how the Islamists conflate the two: They pretend to raise the Holocaust to the level of religion (in spite of the fact that they insist it never happened), and if Western newspapers don’t reprint the cartoons, it doesn’t matter — the Islamists will claim that there is no free speech, only anti-Muslim sentiment, and the media will parrot their claims without context.

(Via Glenn Reynolds.)

They are presented without context, and the context is of course vital to understanding the moral implications. The European laws against Holocaust denial (which I disagree with) were enacted to prevent a resurgence in Nazi activities, and it isn't fair to compare them to purely religious laws.

I think the reason they're getting away with it is because of an open season on Jews. There's nothing to fear.

In logic, Holocaust denial is about as relevant to depictions of Muhammad as would be pornography. The only thing it has in common is that both touch on the applicability of laws regulating speech. But suppose the Iranian mullahs held a "child rape cartoon contest," and then dared the Western press to print the results lest they be guilty of "hypocrisy." Wouldn't that be dismissed out of hand as an irrelevant and ridiculous argument? I suspect it would.

(Now that I think about it, that hypothetical is not so far from the mark, as I'd be willing to bet that the Iranian cartoons will include the old blood libel about Jews murdering children to drink their blood. Which means, I guess, that the hypothetical would only be seen as ridiculous if non-Jews were depicted as the rapists. Violence against Jews, of course, is usually given a pass. "That's just part of the Arab culture. We have to be understanding.")

The First Amendment does protect free speech, of course, which includes the right to insult the prophet, deny the Holocaust, and maintain the earth is flat.

That's a far cry from saying these things are the same.

What about that great religious leader, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem?

He visited the death camps, and obviously thought Hitler was doing God's work. [Or would that have been Muhammad's?] Here he is, meeting with Adolf Hitler:



Maybe the Iranians are unwittingly making a moral equivalency argument after all.

MORE: Via Pajamas Media and Solomonia, I see that an Egyptian Newspaper published the cartoons! In October -- and not a word of protest.

Talk about manufactured outrage!

Here's one of them:


Almost feel like saying "Heh."

Rarely have I seen such rank hypocrisy.

The Grand Mufti would be proud.

UPDATE: In what's starting to seem like a bizarre comedy, now it's no Iranian Holocaust cartoons! The Culture Editor has been overruled by the Editor in chief of Jyllands-Posten:

The top editor of the Danish newspaper whose caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad sparked rage throughout the Islamic world said Wednesday the daily would not reprint Holocaust cartoons being solicited by an Iranian newspaper.

Editor-in-Chief Carsten Juste said his newspaper Jyllands-Posten "in no circumstances will publish Holocaust cartoons from an Iranian newspaper."

A prominent Iranian newspaper has said it would hold a competition for cartoons on the Holocaust to test whether the West extends the principle of freedom of expression to the Nazi genocide as it did to the Muhammad caricatures.

Earlier, culture editor Flemming Rose said of the Iranian cartoons: "We would consider publishing them, but we will not make a decision before we have seen the cartoons."

"I have committed an error," Rose said later in an interview with Danish television. "I am 100 percent with the newspaper's line and Carsten Juste in this case."

It's looking like just about everyone has been had in one way or another in what Austin Bay correctly spotted as an information war operation.

I'm glad they're showing some spine.

posted by Eric on 02.08.06 at 05:29 PM


Sadly, many interpret the "right" to do something as a statement by the Gov't that the something is a Good. In other words, they illogically conclude that because governments prohibit things that are bad, things that are not, or cannot be, prohibited by the Gov't must be good.

rodander   ·  February 8, 2006 6:06 PM

While I agree with rodander, the Good in this case is exposing those who would slit our throats for simply disagreeing with them, while there still may be a chance to stop them from doing so.

gus3   ·  February 8, 2006 7:50 PM

While we're talking about the fears that silence the MSM, let's be clear on one thing: the MSM here are not merely afraid for their employees' lives; they're afraid of being blamed for any violence against US troops in response to cartoons printed in the US. And they are, in fact, right to be afraid; remember the Newweek fiasco? If anything bad happens in Iraq, Bush and his supporters will jump at any excuse to resort to their default-position: "Everything is the fault of our traitorous librul MSM!!"

Raging Bee   ·  February 9, 2006 10:30 AM

Oops, that's "Newsweek," not "Newweek." Sorry...

Raging Bee   ·  February 9, 2006 10:31 AM

The Newsweek "Koran flushing" story is very different, as the facts were at issue, whereas these cartoons are opinion and speak for themselves.

Austin Bay adressed this earlier today.

Eric Scheie   ·  February 9, 2006 7:52 PM

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