Society for Professional Journalists: Mostly Mum on Molly Norris, and Trashing the Journalists Who Pointed That Out

On Sept. 15, it was announced that Molly Norris, the Seattle-based alt-weekly cartoonist who suggested, then eventually backed away from and repudiated, the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day" protest against Comedy Central censoring bits of a South Park episode, had gone into hiding with the FBI's assistance so as to hopefully avoid being murdered by Islamic assassins. It was a dark, dark day for American journalism and the freedom of expression. On Sept. 20, the Washington Examiner newspaper wrote an editorial criticizing the professional journalism/free speech community for its comparative silence on the issue. Excerpt from that:

When The Examiner asked the American Society of News Editors for a statement on the issue, none was forthcoming. This despite the fact that the first sentence of ASNE's Web site describes its mission as supporting "the First Amendment at home and free speech around the world." We got a similar response from the Society of Professional Journalists, despite its dedication "to the perpetuation of the free press as the cornerstone of our nation and liberty."

After the Examiner piece got picked up nationwide, according to the paper's Mark Tapscott, the SPJ began telling people that the editorial wasn't "factual":

[A] week after our editorial appeared, I was shocked to learn that SPJ was circulating to inquiring journalists a statement claiming "the Examiner did not accept SPJ Headquarters' contact information for the Societ's Washington Pro chapter, nor for our National President, so that the Examiner could pursue any legitimate information or stand point from us. It is important to note that their article was not a legitimate news piece with factual sources, but opinion focused."

The only problem with that statement? The Examiner's Mark Hemingway "recorded his Sept. 19 conversation with SPJ spokesman Scott Leadingham." From the transcript:

Hemingway: I called because I was wondering if you guys have issued any statement or comment, are you familiar with the the Molly Norris situation?

Scott Leadingham, SPJ: No, sorry could you bring me up to speed?

Hemingway: She is the cartoonist with the Seattle Weekly newspaper in Seattle that started the "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day." She's now gone into hiding with the help of the FBI.

Scott Leadingham, SPJ: Oh wow, I didn't know that. Ok.

Hemingway: I was just wondering if you guys had said anything. I'm guessing the answer is no.

Scott Leadingham, SPJ: That is correct. We haven't officially. I'm not aware if our chapter in Western Washington in Seattle did. Sometimes our chapters kind of act autonomously, especially responding to kind of local situations, so you might check in with them, but I can tell you no emphatically that from a national perspective we have not."

To date, the only public mention of the issue by the SPJ that I could find when searching its site and the Internet at large was this Sept. 29 tidbit near the bottom of a news-roundup column:

SUPPORTING OUR CARTOONISTS. In support of Molly Norris, the Seattle Weekly cartoonist threatened and now in hiding, and the free speech rights of cartoonists, Signe Wilkinson and Ann Telnase organized a petition expressing support for these rights and all cartoonists who have been threatened. If you want to help in their cause, the online petition can be found by following this link.

I don't expect journalism organizations to share my priorities. But I do expect them to do more than raise an eyebrow when a cartoonist goes into hiding after being threatened with death, then act all bitchy when someone calls them out on it.

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  • Old Mexican||

    The only problem with that statement? The Examiner's Mark Hemingway "recorded his Sept. 19 conversation with SPJ spokesman Scott Leadingham."

    "Those pesky recordings - there ought to be a law [that protects our God-given right to lie]!"

  • ||

    "Those pesky recordings - there ought to be a law [that protects our God-given right to lie]!"

    There is for me.

  • ||

    Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness.

  • ||

    Only the guilty have reason to fear? Sounds familiar.

  • ||

    If it were a government agent doing the recording you would switch sides on a dime.

  • cynical||

    Recording a conversation that they were part of, or recording what was reasonably expected to be a private conversation between two other people? Because there is sort of a difference.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Mark Steyn had the definitive headline on this story: "Mollifying Muslims and Muslifying Mollies."

    SPJ and ASNE are desperately working to look like they're standing on principle and not just pissing themselves over the prospect of irritating the sensibilities of people who will blow your newroom up if so vexed.

  • NPR||

    That's because they're RACISTS!

  • Jeff P.||

    Yes, the way to respond to "assassins" is to go into hiding.

    Mohommend was a prancing cunt.

    There. Now somebody please try to kill me so maybe then we'll catch one of these threatening pricks.

  • Radical Islam||

    You posted anonymously. Give us a legitimate email, and we'll go from there.

  • ||

    President@whitehouse.gov

    (Hey, you didn't say whose legitimate email we had to post!)

  • ||

    I don't think Matt Welch and/or Nick Gillespie -- the arbiters of the official Draw Mohammed contest -- are in hiding. Your bite seems considerably less bad than your bark.

  • ||

    Or should I say, the bark that neocons and religious bigots would like to ascribe to you.

  • Jim Treacher||

    Right, the neocons did it. "Fatwa" isn't even a real word, they just thought it sounded Muslimy.

  • NPR||

    Molly Norris is obviously a paranoid bigot.

  • Joe M||

    What's the bigger influence? Fear or political correctness?

  • ||

    I'm thinking the latter. It's now well-established on the left that Islamophobia is a right-wing thing, so acknowledging Muslim threats would cause too much cognitive dissonance.

  • ||

    I understand Norris going into hiding; nobody needs some scumbag Muslim zealot stabbing them in the chest in the street out of nowhere. But these journalist organizations are fucking pussies. Issuing a simple statement condemning intimidation and supporting her isn't going to get any of them killed. But they're such pants-wetters, they can't even do that. And they know they're cowards, which is why they react so defensively.

  • Keyboard Commando||

    It makes you wonder how many of these principled wads would be willing to go to jail to protect a source if they were sent, to say, Abu Graib rather than Club Fed.

  • mr simple||

    Right,expecting anything other than cowardice from these people was Matt's first mistake. See editorials on Cali's prop 19 for corroborating evidence.

  • ||

    Now, now, Epi. They've taken the bold step of starting a petition expressing their support. That takes major cajones. Of course, I'm willing to bet the petition is going to be internal and is not to be released to the public.

    I've got a better way to support her. Full front-page depictions of Mohammed on every newspaper in America.

    Aw, fuck it. I'm gonna promote a Everybody Really Draw Mohammed Day. I'd like for the FBI to give me a new life as well. Anybody know a good web hosting site that won't censor me trying this (since FB does)?

  • ||

    They have lots of courage. If this woman were being threatened by the KKK, they would be all over it. And they would risk their lives over it. I really think they would. But what they won't do is attack any group that is considered an oppressed minority. That they cannot do.

  • Jeffersonian||

    It's not the oppressed minority status that makes southpaws dewy in the dungarees for Mohammedans, but the fact that their religion is so unabashedly totalitarian. They're kindred spirits, really.

  • hmm||

    Spineless fucktards. This industry needs to die in a fire and be reborn. It could use a good old fashion pillage and burn purging.

  • Shit.||

    I could not agree more. What a despicable bunch of politically-correct bastards and cunts. Handmaidens of horror.

  • Raven Nation||

    "I do expect them to do more than raise an eyebrow when a cartoonist goes into hiding after being threatened with death":

    Why would you have that expectation given the way the profession conducts itself?

  • Stoddard||

    "Scott Leadingham, SPJ: Oh wow, I didn't know that. Ok."

    The fact that a SPJ journalist was unaware of this story is shameful itself.

  • Warty||

  • ||

    Didn't somebody (was it you, Warty?) just predict yesterday that he would respond exactly thus?

    You know someone's a complete fucking hack when their responses can be predicted with nearly 100% accuracy.

  • Warty||

    Wasn't me. I wish I had those powers, not that it's terribly hard to predict what Pauly's going to say.

  • Warty||

    Are you thinking of JW?

  • ||

    He is really deranged. There seems to be no amount of debt or spending he thinks is unsustainable and unwise.

    And remember, this is the man who told us in 2004 that George Bush's deficits were unsustainable.

  • Warty||

    This is my favorite paragraph:

    Both the new British budget announced on Wednesday and the rhetoric that accompanied the announcement might have come straight from the desk of Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary who told President Herbert Hoover to fight the Depression by liquidating the farmers, liquidating the workers, and driving down wages. Or if you prefer more British precedents, it echoes the Snowden budget of 1931, which tried to restore confidence but ended up deepening the economic crisis.

    He means the Treasury secretary whose advice was ignored, of course. Did Journolist2 instruct its minions to start spreading this Andrew Mellon meme?

  • ||

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10.....odayspaper

    Check out this. The Europeans have pretty much given up on Keynesian economics. Liberals, who have spent the last 40 years telling us how much smarter Europeans are than us, heads' must be exploding over this.

  • Warty||

    Those are just the racist immigrant-hating Europeans, John. Don't you know anything?

  • Paul||

    George Bush's deficits weren't sustainable. Obama's are.

    Get it?

  • Pauly Krugnuts||

    Fuck you and your memory, prick! I'm a fucking Nobel Laureate so I'm entitled to my selective memory you fucking pissant!

  • shrike||

    *sigh* What a wonderful man you are, Paul!

  • Pauly Krugnuts||

    You're damn right I'm a wonderful man...just ask me!

    I'm trying to save the world from economic meltdown and we aren't digging a hole to China fast enough.

    I'm also trying to save the world from man made global warming and these fucktard libertarians who have not one Nobel prize amongst them are poking fun at me for my munificently wonderful advice.

  • hmm||

    He's basically the comics section of opinion articles. All that's missing is the puzzles under his articles.

  • Tony||

    What's wrong with what Krugman said?

  • shrike||

    Krugman is a wonderful man, unlike everyone right-of-center, all of whom are Christ-fag Limbaugh-worshipers.

    Oh, and I'm all for the health-care mandate.

  • Paul||

    Thank you for talking about this Matt. It's appreciated.

  • Sarah's Little Helper||

    repudiated refudiated
    ftfy

  • Number 2||

    But you know they would be all over any media person who dared to utter that he feels concern when he sees someone in Muslim garb sitting on an airplane.

  • ||

    I think if she were hiding from domestic trailer-trash neo-nazi pipe-bombers she'd be a national hero w/ every editorial committee + TV jock queuing up to offer firm, uncompromising support.

  • Paul||

    With editorials across the nation condemning the Tea Party and the atmosphere of hate.

  • ¢||

    Why would you have that expectation given the way the profession conducts itself?

    Welch is a fellow pro. It's hard to regard people we think of as somehow ourselves as assholes.

    It's like realizing that your sister's a stupid bitch. You'll resist knowing that, and you'll indefensibly defend her against anyone who says she's a stupid bitch, unless and until you can't.

    Or not. Freud, e.g., would say you're more likely to just become a stupid bitch yourself, because that's less self-image-injuring to do.

    In this case one would do that by, like, censoring Mohammed stuff.

  • Suki||

    Nothing about the crazy truck driver who attacked a cartoon of Mohammed giving oral pleasure to Jesus? Maybe not closely related enough.

  • Joy Behar||

    I'm walking off the stage if you bring this up on MY show! I am outraged.

  • Jeffersonian||

    That's one way to improve that unwatchable freak show.

  • Mean Boy||

    Who knew potatoes could walk and talk?

  • Tanya||

    So, based on so many journalists, authors, and cartoonist going into hiding because of extremist Muslims, how exactly is Juan Williams off base for expressing the fact he's scared to see people in full Muslim garb? Sounds to me like a perfectly biological fight-or-flight response.

  • ||

    Yeah. I'm confused. Juan Williams gets canned for exaggerating the danger and threat from peaceful Muslims. But Molly Norris has to go into hiding because...Muslims are dangerous and threatening?

  • Publius Prerequesiticus||

    You must be educated to get the dialectic.

  • ||

    For an animal or a feral child, yes, it's perfectly understandable.

    For a civilized human being? No way.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I'm puzzled as to whether Juan will wind up on a radical Muslim kill-list after all this. Should have happened by now.

    Have Farrakhan and The Justice Brothers weighed in on their traitorous former-brother Uncle Tom yet?

  • jtuf||

    The general public is equally mum about Molly Noris's fate. I started a Facebook group to support Molly Noris. Facebook has about 500 million users the last time I heard. Only about 25 joined the group.

  • Warty||

    "You have 0 friends."

  • ||

    I started a Facebook group to support Molly Noris.

    I think you probably got the 25 who spell her name that way.

  • jtuf||

    I spelled it "Molly Norris" on Facebook but mistyped it in the post above. Good catch, R C Dean.

  • ||

    You want a statement?

    Molly Norris is a coward. She did her little stunt expressly because of the fact that others had been threatened. Her "fate" of going into hiding is entirely self-chosen.

    Don't try to be a hero unless you're ready to actually be a hero, rather than slinking off into the dark at the first anonymous death threat.

  • ||

    That's a weird spin to put on things. The heroic act here was defying the Muslim-imposed moratorium on Mohammed images.

    Heroism isn't the same as martyrdom. Heroes are allowed to defend themselves. They can wear armor, or block fists, or wield shields. There may be other reasons that Norris is not a hero, but protecting her body from attack is not one of them.

  • ||

    Defending yourself is one thing. Hiding (and demanding sympathy for choosing to do so) is quite another.

  • roystgnr||

    Damn straight. You put your bright red coat on, you stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a line, and you hope your muskets do more damage than the other guy's. These self-proclaimed "heroes" hiding behind every rock and tree are nothing of the sort.

  • ||

    Defending yourself is one thing. Hiding (and demanding sympathy for choosing to do so) is quite another.

    I'm missing something in your logic chain, I think. (I may even be missing some context or piece of information from the Norris story itself.)

    Let's put aside the semantics-of-"heroism" thing for a moment. I think maybe the problem is that you're trying applying a hero/coward paradigm at all in the first place. Why is that the relevant paradigm? Why does Norris have to be a hero or a coward in this situation?

    She's just some person who thinks human beings should be able to draw whatever images they want. She's also a person who doesn't want to die. What's the conflict?

  • ||

    She started EDMD as an act of defiance in the face of the radicals issuing death threats. She knew what she was getting into, or else she is too stupid to live.

  • ||

    I will say that I don't get this teapot-tempest about "what did SPB say and when did they say it. Who cares? The SPJ is a nothingburger. I know lots and lots of professional journalists, and I don't know any who give the SPJ a second thought, let alone presume SBJ speaks for them.

  • ||

    GodDAMMIT, I wish there were a way to edit posts here. Fuck.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Tulpa, haven't you considered that the *real* problem might be that anyone would issue death threats over a fucking drawing of a long-dead man?

  • ||

    Well, obviously, those people are the real problem, and should be caught and prosecuted if possible.

    My problem is when the usual anti-Muslim suspects start waving Norris' bloody shirt to justify their bigotry.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I guess I'm just not seeing that much ACTUAL bigotry here. Kind of like when liberals cry "raaaaciiist" one too many times.

    Yelling "n----r" and MEANING it, now that is one thing. It's disgusting, too.

  • d||

    Now if only there wasn't a 'Norris bloody shirt' to discomfort you.

  • Jeffersonian||

    I don't see her predicament any differently from that of Salman Rushdie back in 1990 or so, and no one suggested he was a coward.

  • ||

    This attitude from the SPJ is quite understandable considering the starting position of left-leaning journalists -- namely, a position of hypocrisy.

    Freedom of speech and religious sensitivity are mutually exclusive ideals. Any person or group that attempts to defend both will inevitably be shown for the lame-ass hypocrites they are.

    (Yes, I know, there are equally annoying issues on the right, but I'm trying to stick to the subject here.)

  • ||

    Molly Norris is a coward. She did her little stunt expressly because of the fact that others had been threatened. Her "fate" of going into hiding is entirely self-chosen.

    Showing solidarity with those who have been threatened with violence is cowardice?

    Going into hiding because those who have arrogated to themselves the authority for public safety have failed in their duties, and because too many in the society that you live in are indifferent to threats such as this, is cowardice?

    Then I guess everyone who has ever opposed repression by any means other than kicking down doors, guns blazing, is a coward.

  • ||

    Bullshit. Did Martin Luther King go into hiding, or flee Alabama, because of the numerous, credible death threats he received? And he was surrounded by an ACTIVELY hostile society, not merely an insufficiently adulatory journalism industry as Mr Moynihan bemoans.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    In retrospect, King should have gone into hiding. He might not have been rendered toes-up as soon as it did wind up happening.

  • ||

    If King goes into hiding the civil rights movement would have been irreparably hobbled. Especially since all the death-threateners would have learned that any charismatic black leader could be dispensed with by making threats.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    He could have fought longer, though. But, no, he had to insist on making himself a human target.

    There is a parallel, though, between those who wanted to harm/kill King and those who go apeshit over a fucking cartoon of Mohammed... both examples being fuckheadedly insane.

  • Shit.||

    King had a big set of balls. The difference was that even though he was surrounded by threats, he had many friends and supporters around him. The group of people that should have been supporting and encouraging Molly were AWOL and continue to be absent with scarcely a word of support -- this should be a major news story, not a back-page gossip item. The fucking FBI told her she should hide! How active does that make the threats? This is more about her colleagues than Molly. Come on now!

  • ||

    Dude, King was under threat from the government -- both federal, state, and local, depending on the time period. The friends who surrounded him were relatively powerless (as SPJ would be) to protect him.

    I'm no King hagiographer but even to compare this woman's self-chosen inconvenience with King's travails is vomitous in the extreme.

  • Shit.||

    Tulpa made the comparison. You are Tulpa and not a Clone?

  • ||

    I did not compare. I contrasted.

  • ||

    Of course the FBI told her to hide. Not only does it cover their asses in the unlikely event that something does happen to her, but also it reinforces the atmosphere of fear that is so conducive to statism.

  • PVBLIVS ANTITHEOCRACITVS||

    Will the next step be from going under FBI protection to going into FBI custody?

  • Muslim Sister'n'Brotherhood||

    Allah willing. Sharia law is coming. FBI will mean Full Burka Imperative.

  • Fuck!||

    Since 'moderate' Muslims refuse to, would some journalist with integrity please point out the fact the verse about not depicting Mohamed only applies to Muslims. Sheeeeeeeeesh!

  • d||

    Ahh! You have hit on the issue of our time.

    Refusing to depict Mohamed is a religious act. An act of worship.

  • ||

    Per the Koran (52:24, 56:17, and 76:19) we could have a "Everybody Draw Mohammed Buggering Little Boys" Day--would that take the pressure off Molly Norris? And if any Moslems want to takeit up with me personally, they can recognize my house by the NRA stickers in the window.

  • NAMBLA||

    Art project! We LOVE this idea!

  • ||

    It's a ridiculous notion that a coward like Molly Norris is deserving of any recognition. The ASNE protects those who USE THEIR FREE SPEECH, not those who backpedal at the slightest notion they may have "offended" someone. First, Norris tried to stop the movement she started, and now she's hiding anyway, making all that backpedling and submitting to the will of the warriors of Allah a worthless gesture. Double win for the terrorists and enemies of free speech, courtesy of the Coward Molly Norris, an enemy of free speech herself.

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