Manufactured outrage

About Jytte Klausen’s book and the cartoons and other images of Mohammed that have been removed on the advice of various people who gave that advice.

Director of Yale Press John Donatich made the decision after consulting with a “couple dozen” diplomats, intelligence and academic experts. “I didn’t feel this was a censorship issue,” Donatich told AFP. “It had become a security issue,” he said, adding he was concerned for the safety of Yale Press employees.

Well, like it or not, it decidedly is a censorship issue, even if the motivation for the censorship is concern for security. The two can’t be separated when things are being removed from books because of real or perceived threats of violence. That is some heavy-duty censorship.

I listened to the BBC’s World Have Your Say on the subject on Monday, and Jytte Klausen there said that the people who gave their advice were all security experts or diplomats and they always advise against taking any risks. Apparently the advice Yale University Press got was distorted by the kind of people they decided to ask.

Klausen disputes the grounds for cutting out the cartoons. “Security experts were asked to provide advice without having the manuscript, without having the context in which these illustrations were going to be reprinted,” she said. “I think it’s very serious to suppress illustrations when not a single Muslim has protested the book and there were some Muslim reviewers.”

Exactly. This was what seemed to be about to happen with Does God Hate Women? – worries about projected Muslim reactions when not a single Muslim had protested the book – anticipatory silencing. Fortunately our publishers are stalwart and sensible, and the book went ahead, and no protests materialized – unless we count a laughable little Facebook group, which we don’t, any more than we count a Facebook group about Pluto.

Mona Eltahawy knows what’s what.

The controversy that many might recall as “Danish newspaper publishes cartoons of the prophet; Muslim world goes berserk” was actually much more complex. What occurred across many Muslim-majority countries in 2006 was a clear exercise in manufacturing outrage.

And now we’re stuck with it. What a horrible joke.

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