Violent Muslim religious nuts have won another battle against liberty and free speech, and this time they didn’t even have to do anything. Just because some ignorant, violent, backwards religious nuts might protest over a picture of the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, Yale University Press has decided not to publish a picture of the cartoons in a book about the…controversy over the Danish cartoons of Muhammad. Brandeis University professor Jytte Klausen’s The Cartoons that Shook the World won’t contain the images that the book is about. Go, Yale!
I’ve been reading up on this story since a kind reader sent it to me. Lately I’ve been trying to avoid reading the news because much of it is so annoying, but fortunately I have readers to drag me back into the world. The story was all over the place in the last week, so you’ve probably already noticed it. Though the press claimed to have consulted many "experts" who unanimously thought publishing the cartoons might incite violence, most of the literate, liberal democratic, civilized, academic world seems appalled by the decision. The American Association of University Professors was not amused, and issued a statement claiming the decision abridges academic freedom. In this case, I think they’re right.
One might think the ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom would issue a statement on this. Surely, if one Christian religious nut in East Dungheap , GA complaining that her library has a book that doesn’t make fun of gay people is "censorship," then an untold number of potentially violent Muslim religious nuts around the world causing a formerly respectable university press from publishing some cartoons is "censorship." It’s certainly an assault against our intellectual freedom.
It always seems to be the case that before some cowardly or hypocritical group suppresses free expression, they begin by howling that they are an "institution deeply committed to free expression." That’s what Yale claims, anyway. They’re so deeply committed that they suppress the free expression of their own authors and cower in fear at the sight of nonexistent protesters because of the advice of mostly unnamed "experts." According to the NY Post, "Adding insult to injury, the Yale Press’s director, John Donatich, only allowed Klausen to read a summary of the experts’ recommendations if she signed a gag order that barred her from discussing them." Go Yale!
And who are these "experts"? According to the Yale Daily News, "One of the experts, Ibrahim Gabmari, Under-Secretary General of the United Nations and Senior Adviser to the Secretary General, said in a statement provided by Yale that ‘You can count on violence if any illustration of the Prophet is published. It will cause riots I predict from Indonesia to Nigeria.’" Um, okay.
Even if Gabmari isn’t an idiot, why should Yale U Press care about some riots in places like Indonesia and Nigeria? It’s not like all Muslims turn violent. Only ignorant savages turn violent if a picture is published. If ignorant savages in Indonesia and Nigeria want to protest, then let them. If they want to turn violent and foul their own nest, then let them. Since when do scholars cater to the whims of ignorant savages?
Of course, it should be obvious even to "experts" that if a bunch of ignorant religious nuts in Nigeria or Indonesia protest over the publication of cartoons in this book, it’s not exactly a spontaneous uprising from concerned Muslims. None of the alleged potential protesters in those countries will have even seen this book, and neither will the alleged potential savage demagogues who will lead these alleged potential protests. Yale is suppressing academic freedom and free expression because of the potential of mob violence halfway around the world. These wouldn’t even be ignorant mobs yelling and burning their stupid signs through the streets of New Haven.
There is some conspiratorial talk, though, that Yale isn’t afraid of some ignorant savages in Indonesia killing each other. Instead, the rumor is that Yale doesn’t want to endanger its investments in the Middle East. I’m not sure if it’s better to sacrifice intellectual freedom because of hypocritical cowardice or money, but I don’t see that it matters either way.
I’m sure no library group will protest this. I’ve been writing about this issue off and on for a while, and too often I’ve gotten the same cowardly, hypocritical response from librarians as Yale has offered. Usually the librarians try to be nice about it, though. Of course they’re dedicated to free expression and intellectual freedom and all that claptrap, but one has to be "sensitive" and not offend Islam, as if anyone is responsible for violent Muslims protesting except the violent Muslims themselves.
It’s the terrorist logic one sees all the time in movie plots. The terrorist says, "do this or I kill people, and the blood will be on your hands!" That’s complete bunk, as any reasonable and intelligent person will spot immediately, but these violent fanatics aren’t reasonable or intelligent. Reasonable and intelligent people don’t become fundamentalists, since fundamentalism is the abandonment of reason.
If you kill someone protesting, the blood is on your hands, moron, not Yale’s. It should be clear that Yale U Press publishing these cartoons wouldn’t be the cause of any violence. If there were any protests and any violence, it would be the fault of the ignorant, irrational savages protesting.
I don’t know why I’m bothering to comment on this. Probably no library organization is going to protest Yale’s decision. Whether it’s through cowardice, hypocrisy, or terrorist logic, groups from the ALA to the SRRT to the PLG will either remain silent or condone Yale’s decision. When writing about the cartoons years ago, I recall the position of one nitwit regressive librarian who didn’t think the cartoons should be protected because they were deliberately published to offend Muslims. The commitment to intellectual freedom too often stops just after someone says, "I am committed to intellectual freedom."
Maybe ACRL will step up to the plate. Academic librarians at least should be completely appalled by this, and surely academic and intellectual freedom and the integrity of scholarly work is more important than Catcher in the Rye.
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