The image of hypocrisy

By HARVEY SILVERGLATE  |  March 29, 2006

Nor is it that the Mohammed cartoons are any less newsworthy than the image of Nussenzweig. Compared with any number of ways the Times’ editors could have illustrated its story on Nussenzweig’s lawsuit, the newsworthiness of those particular Mohammed cartoons is without question. As Greg Lukianoff, president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (disclosure: on whose board I serve), has noted, these “cartoons are almost certainly the most relevant and newsworthy cartoons in history. One would be hard-pressed to come up with other cartoons or even images that have resulted in so much controversy, death, and international strife.”

Nussenzweig’s civil suit was properly dismissed last month on First Amendment grounds, since a citizen in a free society must be prepared to give up some privacy while walking on a public street. But the fact that the Times had the constitutional right to publish did not require the newspaper to deviate from what its editorial referred to as its policy of avoiding “gratuitous assaults on religious symbols.”

When the Boston Phoenix decided not to republish the cartoons, it admitted candidly that it was taking that highly unusual (for this paper) step out of fear of provoking violence against its staff (see Editorial, News and Features, February 10). Either the Times engages in a double standard as to whom it will or will not insult gratuitously, or it has been less than candid about the real reason it refrained from publishing the cartoons.                  

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