Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Freedom vs Intelligence

I will be the first to argue free speech and have one many occasions. I do, however, agree with the Globe and other Canadian newspapers in their decision not to reprint the cartoons. I too will not post the cartoons - you want to see there; they are out there go find them.

The University Prince Edward Island's student newspaper, the Cadre, has decided to run the cartoon in defense of free speech. It is their right. It lacks good judgment, but it is their right.

I was impressed by the comment from the Muslim Student Association and thought it showed good judgment:

Association head Mian Ali, says he's not particularly upset and would not have asked to have the paper removed from campus.

"To me it's just a cartoon. People are free to express their opinions. I can't control what people print, but freedom comes with a responsibility. If people want to abuse that responsibility and freedom it's up to them," says Ali.

Good on the new Harper government for condemning the violent protests that have erupted following the publication of drawings of the Prophet Mohammed and for commending Canadians for acting responsible. The protests are further proof that two wrongs don't make a right. Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay also insisted, however, that freedom of expression must be exercised responsibly, noting that the cartoons have caused offence to both Muslims and non-Muslims in Canada and around the world.

“Freedom of expression is a legally enshrined principle in Canada, but it must be exercised responsibly. We commend those Canadians who have acted appropriately,” he said in a statement.

Unlike Ezra at the Western Standard, I think MacKay is earning points. I am sure he (and many other Conservative supporters) would have liked to see Stockwell Day at the mic waxing poetic. Already Harper's judgment proves correct.

Jon Stewart brings some levity to the situation.

Finally, there is a professor who - after displaying the cartoons on his office door - is going to bring them to his class. His right to do so. Bad judgement, but his right. Don't be surprised if things are a little loud on Robie Street tomorrow.

Why does publishing them lack good judgement. If in Canada people want to see what the hub-bub is all about, why can't media show the masses? Because it would spoil our delicate sensibilities?

The reason the Danish newspaper printed those reasons was not to see how big a provocation they might be, not to make an editorial statement. The result wasn't an immediate backlash in Denmark, but rather imams taking the cartoons, adding a couple more, and then inciting the masses in the Middle East and elsewhere towards violence.

It was a revealing experiment and a worthy story worth investigating.

If a Canadian paper wishes to cover that story, don't you think having an example of the cartoons within would bring clarity to it?

To be honest, I believe that talking about it without presenting the cartoons is actually irresponsible journalism.
Check out the editorial published in the National Post on 9 Feb 2006, entitled "Support Freedom: Buy Danish." Here's an excerpt:

"Meanwhile at the University of P.E.I., editors at the student newspaper reprinted the cartoons. But before the press run could be distributed, university security guards invaded their offices and seized all available copies. It was a shameful act of censorship that would have done the censors of Tehran and Damascus proud."
You are both correct. The right to free speech and a free press is fundamental to any democracy.

It is 100% wrong for people to firebombing government buildings and threaten Denmark or any other country where the press has run the cartoons.

I simply agree with decision to not print the cartoons by most Canadian media. If an outlet did choose to print them, why not run some anti-Judo Christian cartoons? Or some anti-Semitic cartoons?

The student papers can choose to print whatever they want. The university is wrong to seize the publications.
I too agree with the comments above. As a University student, I believe that dialogue is important no matter what the topic. I believe that freedom of speech and press are fundamental to our democracy and human rights. Although this topic is sensitive, I still believe that a University paper should be allowed to print off a cartoon picture to educate students on what and why everyone is becoming aggressive. Those who are in disagreement with the cartoon in the paper have the choice not to look at it.
For an excellent discussion of the censorship of the UPEI Cadre in the context of the history of freedom of speech, see:

Here's an excerpt:

In seizing issues of a student publication containing those cartoons, Wade MacLauchlan, President of the University of Prince Edward Island, explained: "We see it [the publication of the cartoons] as a reckless invitation to public disorder and humiliation." Wade MacLauchlan needs a refresher course in freedom of speech. He needs to read Milton's Areopagitica. He needs to learn about John Peter Zenger. He needs to read "Freedom of the Mind in Human History." He needs to understand that a recognized right which can no longer be exercised out of fear of a violent response by those who not only claim to be offended, but do not recognize such a general right in their own, quite different world -- a world where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has no place -- is a right that no longer exists.
Furthermore . . . I wonder if anyone else was as shocked as I was by the eagerness of UPEI students to insist, in these letters to the Cadre, that their student newspaper had no right to freedom of speech, freedom of the press?

And see this CBC story, "Human rights lawyer calls on media to print Muhammad cartoons": 060208.html
In the current issue of US News and World Report, columnist John Leo has this to say about the "cartoon controversy" at UPEI:

• After the student newspaper at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada decided to publish the Danish cartoons, University President Wade MacLauchlan stepped in and announced that "it was decided not to permit the distribution" of the issue on campus. In fact, he thought the campus environment was better for halting publication of the cartoons. He wrote: "Why should we choose to repeat an act that had caused so much offense and trouble around the world?"

The president of the student union, which owns the campus paper, fell in line with a mealy mouthed statement: "I guess it is a fine line that we are looking at on a very complex issue ... . Freedom of the press is not absolute ... . There is also a responsibility to balance it with justice, to portray things properly."

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