Publish and be damned

Tom Flynn writes: This Cartoon Cost a Jordanian Blogger His Life.

On September 25, a gunman shot dead Nahed Hattar, fifty-six, a prominent Christian blogger, as he was about to enter a courthouse in Amman, Jordan, to face charges that a cartoon he had shared online was offensive to Islam. Hattar had been arrested on August 13 after he shared the cartoon on Facebook. The cartoon—ostensibly the work of an anonymous cartoonist known only as “M80”—showed a man in a tent lying in bed between two women while smoking a cigarette, asking Allah to get him some refreshments. Jordanian authorities deemed the cartoon offensive to Islam. Though Hattar apologized and removed the cartoon, by the time of his court date he had received some two hundred death threats.

Western media gave modest coverage to Hattar’s death and funeral. But they followed a familiar pattern in refusing to republish the cartoon at the center of the story. Users of social media could locate the image with varying degrees of difficulty, but consumers of mainstream print and broadcast media were, once again, limited in their ability to form a full understanding of the story because the image at its heart had been suppressed.

That’s why I posted it here, of course. But here is here, it’s not the mainstream print and broadcast media.

For that reason, Free Inquiry has done what it did twice before when cartoons with Islamic themes led to violence and death: publish the offending image(s) so that readers and website visitors can see for themselves. This commentary will also appear in Free Inquiry’s December 2016/January 2017 issue, published on or about November 7, 2016.

I have a column in that issue. I’m very happy it’s in that issue, along with the Offending Image. I’m very glad to keep it company.

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