The Intoonfada: US Media Accused of Cowardice Again


As loyal readers of Reason Online well know, web editor Tim Cavanaugh has been indefatigably and brilliantly reporting and commenting on the global flap over Danish cartoons depicting Muhammad. In the meantime, the mainstream media in the United States have been all but missing in action in defending against this attack on freedom of expression. However, some leading newspapers are suffering from enough bad conscience to allow others to criticize them on their own op/ed pages.

One such superb critique by William Bennett and Alan Dershowitz is running in today's Washington Post. They point out:

To put it simply, radical Islamists have won a war of intimidation. They have cowed the major news media from showing these cartoons. The mainstream press has capitulated to the Islamists—their threats more than their sensibilities. One did not see Catholics claiming the right to mayhem in the wake of the republished depiction of the Virgin Mary covered in cow dung, any more than one saw a rejuvenated Jewish Defense League take to the street or blow up an office when Ariel Sharon was depicted as Hitler or when the Israeli army was depicted as murdering the baby Jesus…

When we were attacked on Sept. 11, we knew the main reason for the attack was that Islamists hated our way of life, our virtues, our freedoms. What we never imagined was that the free press—an institution at the heart of those virtues and freedoms—would be among the first to surrender.

It would be inspiring if Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr., New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, Los Angeles Times editor Dean Baquet, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams, CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer, and other leading American journalists had prices on their heads because of their defense of free speech.