Thanks to a little birdy, I was made aware of morals czar Bill Bennett's op-ed in today's Wash Post. Improbably writing with torture zealot Alan Dershowitz, everybody's favorite slots maniac discoursed thusly:
For the past month, the Islamist street has been on an intifada over cartoons depicting Muhammad that were first published months ago in a Danish newspaper. Protests in London—never mind Jordan, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Iran and other countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles—included signs that read, "Behead those who insult Islam." The mainstream U.S. media have covered this worldwide uprising; it is, after all, a glimpse into the sentiments of our enemy and its allies. And yet it has refused, with but a few exceptions, to show the cartoons that purportedly caused all the outrage.
BB and the Dersh rightly label the media's general unwillingness to post the pics as "a failure of the press" and note that "radical Islamists…have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons." Whole bit here. I agree with Bennett and Dershowitz's general point that the media in the U.S. tends to goes softer in the clinches than Gerry Cooney in an undercard bout.
Fair enough. As Reason's own Tim Cavanaugh put it just the other day, "American newspapers have sped up their mad dash to irrelevance by declining to show the most newsworthy images of the past six months."
But speaking of newsworthy images that got little pictoral play in the mainstream media back in the day, I'm curious to know whether Bennett felt the same way about Andres Serrano much-declaimed, little-viewed "Piss Christ" or Chris Ofili's "Holy Virgin Mary", to mention two controversial works that offended the Bennetts of the world? Did he push to have those images disseminated so that people could fully understand what was at stake?
Indeed, how many papers ran shots of those works, I wonder (as do others in the press)? I don't remember seeing them in the pages of many papers. While I think newspapers have been craven this time around, that's nothing new, really. Seriously, who looks for newspapers–or most large circulation glossies–to actually be a place where possible offense is given? For every graphic shot of Abu Ghraib (and we were "spared" the very worst shots by the MSM, weren't we?) or marshmallow-friendly Buddhist monks in Life, there are dozens of omissions, dodges, and euphemisms. (One of my more recent-favorites of the latter category came in a dreadful Washington Post Magazine story about Jessica Cutler, a.k.a. dirty blogger Washingtonienne: One of her amours, the Post reported, "wanted a kind of sex that physically hurt Jessica.")
Few things are more annoying the media's ongoing love affair with itself as the bulwark of American freedom–a pose that falls apart whenever the going gets tough at all. But it's a mug's game to think that's going to change any time soon.