Posts tagged as:

Danish cartoons

Murder in Paris, cont’d

by Walter Olson on January 8, 2015

Time magazine invited me to write an opinion piece on yesterday’s lethal Islamist attack on the offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie-Hebdo. (earlier here). Excerpt:

If you defend freedom of speech today, realize that “blasphemy” is its front line, in Paris and the world. …

Most of the prestige Western press dodged the running of the [Danish Mohammed] cartoons, and beneath the talk of sensitivity was often simple fear. As journalist Josh Barro noted today on Twitter, “Islamists have by and large succeeded in intimidating western media out of publishing images of Muhammad.” …

[On the modern European rise of laws against "defamation of religion" and related offenses]: One way we can honor Charb, Cabu, Wolinski, Tignous, and the others who were killed Wednesday is by lifting legal constraints on what their successors tomorrow can draw and write.

Also recommended, this thoughtful Ross Douthat column on blasphemy and religious offense. Douthat is not enthusiastic about blasphemy generally, but makes an exception for instances where it is done in defiance of grave dangers. “If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said … it’s precisely the violence that justifies the inflammatory content. … if publishing something might get you slaughtered and you publish it anyway, by definition you *are* striking a blow for freedom, and that’s precisely the context when you need your fellow citizens to set aside their squeamishness and rise to your defense.”

“So many of Charb’s fellow journalists have long been aware of these threats, and have said nothing,” writes Mark Hemingway in the Weekly Standard. Jytte Klausen, author of a book on the Danish cartoon episode, in Time: “Over the past five years, [the editors of Charlie-Hebdo] have been left alone standing in defense of press freedom.” And Alex Massie at The Spectator:

[The 1989 fatwa against Salman Rushdie] was a test too many people failed back then. We have learned a lot since then but in many ways we have also learned nothing at all.

In 2012, Rushdie wondered if any publisher would have the courage to endorse The Satanic Verses if it were written then. To ask the question was to sense the depressing answer. They would not.

As for the present day, CNN, NYT, AP, NBC, ABC, the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, and the CBC, will *not* be running Charlie-Hebdo cartoons, though a number of American publications did so, including Daily Beast, Vox, and Bloomberg. No UK paper on Thursday morning runs the cartoons on its cover — though the Berliner-Zeitung in Germany publishes a full spread of them.

23 cartoonists respond [BuzzFeed]. Claire Berlinski’s firsthand account of the attack scene, and Charb’s now-famous “die standing” vow. Andrew Stuttaford at Secular Right on whether anything will now change in Europe’s slow constriction of free speech: he fears not (& Hans Bader, CEI).

{ 8 comments }

Murder at Charlie-Hebdo

by Walter Olson on January 7, 2015

JeSuisCharlie2

Had there been any doubt that the freedom of speech and expression of the West is under siege from violent Islamism, it ended in the scene at Paris satirical magazine Charlie-Hebdo, assaulted by Islamist gunmen in a siege that has left twelve dead. Early reports indicate careful planning: the attack took place during a morning staff meeting at which top talent had gathered, and the murderers are said to have been equipped with a list of artists whose work they deemed disrespectful of Islam. At least four leading French cartoonists were killed.

It is one of the darkest days of the new century so far for the cause of free expression. But it is far from an unexpected day. The portents have been building for years: in the way the Danish Jyllands-Posten cartoonists, like author Salman Rushdie before them, had to go into hiding over supposed blasphemy; in the 2011 firebombing of Charlie-Hebdo, covered by the Weekly Standard here; in the way the French government had repeatedly pressured Charlie-Hebdo not to, well, go so far in giving offense [The Guardian]. Even after today’s events, many Western broadcasters and publishers continue to pixilate or blur out the Charlie-Hebdo images — not the images of slaughter in Paris streets, but mere cartoon images of men in Middle Eastern garb.

And yes, fear has shaped the actions of publishers in the United States too. Where Charlie-Hebdo was courageous on the Mohammed cartoons, Yale University Press was oh so craven, as the late Christopher Hitchens pointed out in Slate [more: Guardian; note also the history of the online, mostly U.S.-originated "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day"]
TyrannyOfSilence
In a new Cato Institute book entitled The Tyranny of Silence: How One Cartoon Ignited a Global Debate on the Future of Free Speech, discussed at more length by Kat Murti at Cato at Liberty, Danish journalist Flemming Rose, who was at the center of the Motoons controversy, traces the grim aftermath of that controversy in the self-silencing of Western opinion. [more coverage here, as well as a Law and Liberty podcast]

The danger now is not that there will be no outpouring of solidarity and grief and indignation in coming days, in France and around the West. Of course there will. The danger is that after the Charlie-Hebdo story passes from the headlines and other stories take its place, writers and publishers and artists and thinkers in the West will adjust to a new reality of fear, stifling the output of their minds and pens and keyboards for fear of giving provocation. If they don’t adjust, there are legal, insurance, and risk advisors at publications and universities who will be willing to do it for them.

And maybe lawmakers as well. Already, blasphemy laws are back on the march in Europe, after many years in which it was assumed they were a relic of the past. They must go no further. The best way to show resolution is to remove, not add, legal penalties for speech that offends (some) religious sensibilities.

From journalist David Jack on Twitter:

A comment of mine, also on Twitter:

{ 5 comments }

March 25 roundup

by Walter Olson on March 25, 2008

  • Speaking of patients who act against medical advice and sue anyway: doctor who advised against home birth is cleared by Ohio jury in $13 million suit [Plain Dealer and earlier via KevinMD]
  • UK: “A feud over a 4ft-wide strip of land has seen neighbours rack up £300,000 in lawyers’ bills, and left one family effectively homeless.” [Telegraph]
  • Last of the Scruggs judicial bribery defendants without a plea deal, Dickie’s son Zack, takes one [Folo]
  • By reader acclaim: securities trader sues over injury from lap dancer’s attentions [AP/NY Sun]
  • Amid the talk of FISA and retroactive telecom immunity, it would be nice to hear more about the actual lawsuits [Obbie]
  • Australian worker loses suit over firing despite a doctor’s note vouching that stress of worrying about upcoming football game made it medically necessary for him to take day off to go see it [Stumblng Tumblr]
  • Megan McArdle and Tyler Cowen toss around the question of federal FDA pre-emption of drug liability suits, as raised by Medtronic;
  • Should Coughlin Stoia have bought those stolen Coke documents? For one lawprof, question’s a real head-scratcher [David McGowan (San Diego), Legal Ethics Forum] And WSJ news side is oddly unskeptical of trial lawyers’ line that the affair just proves their power to go on fishing expeditions should never have been curtailed [Jones/Slater]
  • Dashboard-cam caught Tennessee cops red-handed planting marijuana on suspect, or so Jonathan Turley suggests — but could it be a little more complicated than that? [WSMV, AP/WATE] (& Greenfield)
  • “Heck Baptists don’t even sue you for disagreeing with them,” though no doubt there are exceptions [Instapundit; NYT on Danish cartoons; Ezra Levant with more on those Canadian speech tribunals]
  • Bestselling authors who sue their critics [four years ago on Overlawyered]

{ 1 comment }

February 14 roundup

by Walter Olson on February 14, 2008

  • Examiner newspaper begins series on how Milberg Weiss used nonprofit foundation to project its clout among judges, academics, influentials [Institute for Law & Economic Policy, three-parter]
  • Judge Canute, or just reporter’s awkward wording? Australian jurist with great eyeglasses bans screening of TV drama in state of Victoria; “Under the order, all internet material relating to the series is also banned.” [Herald Sun] (More explanation on the court order: The Australian).
  • Times Square’s Naked Cowboy sues over M & M candy ad playing off his image [NY Post]
  • Bite mark testimony makes another chapter in catalogue of dubious prosecutorial forensics [Folo's NMC on two Mississippi Innocence Project cases]
  • Update: Pennsylvania court upholds disputed fees in Kia-brake class action [Legal Intelligencer; earlier]
  • Best not take McCain too literally when he says he’d demand that judicial nominees have a proven record on Constitutional interpretation [Beldar]
  • Expert witness coaching …. by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals? [Nordberg; earlier]
  • For some reason many Boston residents feel menaced by city’s plan for police to go door to door asking “voluntary,” “friendly” permission to search premises for guns [Globe]
  • Lots and lots of publications print Mohammed cartoon in solidarity with mohammed_cartoon_bomb.jpg Danish cartoonist and assassination-plot target Kurt Westergaard [CNN; Malkin]
  • Calgary Muslim leader withdraws official complaint against Ezra Levant over his publication of Mohammed cartoons [National Post; earlier]
  • Steyn, relatedly: critics dragging my book before Canadian tribunals wish not to “start a debate”, but to cut one off [National Post]

{ 5 comments }

January 22 roundup

by Walter Olson on January 22, 2008

  • “Woman who ‘lost count after drinking 14 vodkas’ awarded £7,000 over New Year fall from bridge” [The Scotsman]
  • Bar committee recommends disbarment for Beverly Hills lawyer who “played the courts like a bully in a child’s game of dodgeball” [Blogonaut (with response by attorney) via ABA Journal]
  • Shot and paralyzed in parking lot of South Florida strip club, cared for back home in Tunisia, Sami Barrak is now $26 million richer by way of his negligent-security suit [Sun-Sentinel] Earlier Florida negligent-security here, here, and here.
  • Canadian government orders airlines to stop charging the severely obese the price of a second seat [Winnipeg Free Press; earlier]
  • Study of head-injury victims in Spain finds “nearly half of the people who go to court feign psycho-cognitive disorders with the objective of profiting from this in some way.” [Science Daily]
  • Federal judge vacates $1.75 million verdict, questions reliability of expert testimony in Nebraska recovered-memory sex abuse case [Lincoln Journal-Star, AP/Sioux City Journal]
  • Confess your thoughts, citizen: Ezra Levant on his interrogation by official panel in Canada for publishing Mohammed cartoons [Globe & Mail; earlier]
  • Class-action lawyers continue to hop on glitches with Xbox Live, Halo 3 and related Microsoft gaming systems [Ars Technica, News.com; earlier here and here]
  • Bay Area proposal to ban much burning of wood in fireplaces and stoves (Nov. 30, etc.) draws strong reactions both ways [SF Chronicle]
  • Harder to get into Ringling Bros.’s Clown College than law school, says man who attended both [six years ago on Overlawyered]
P.S. Whoops, that’s what I get for posting while drowsy: earlier roundups by Ted already had the Scottish-tippler and obese-flyer items.

{ 4 comments }

“A Danish court has dismissed a lawsuit filed by Muslim groups against the newspaper that first published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered protests across the world this year.” (AlJazeera.net, Oct. 27; Volokh, Oct. 26). Syrian legislator Mohammed Habash, who heads the Islamic Studies Center in Damascus and is apparently deaf to ironic overtones, charged the Danish court with “[wanting] to impose their way of thinking on all other nations.” (“Arab dismay at cartoons verdict”, Irish Examiner, Oct. 26). Earlier: Mar. 19, Mar. 31, etc. SupportDenmarkSmall3EN.png

Following up on earlier threats (Feb. 14, Mar. 19), Syed Soharwardy has brought a complaint against the Western Standard before the Alberta Human Rights Commission over its publication of the Mohammed cartoons. Ezra Levant, publisher of the Western Standard, explains (Mar. 29) that defendants in the “human rights” tribunal do not benefit from the protection that the loser-pays principle affords most defendants in Canada against groundless or nuisance litigation:

even if we are successful in the human rights commission, we will not be compensated for our legal fees. It’s not like a real court [! -- W.O.], where an unsuccessful plaintiff would be ordered to pay a successful defendant’s costs. So even if we win, we lose — the process is the penalty. Worse than that, the radical imam who is suing us doesn’t have to put up a dime — the commission uses tax dollars to pay lawyers and other inquisitors to go at us directly. Human rights tribunals themselves are illiberal institutions.

More: A. Alan Borovoy, “Hearing complaint alters rights body’s mandate”, Calgary Herald, Mar. 16 (PDF).

In other cartoon-jihad news, it appears that giant book retailers Borders and Waldenbooks have been Boston-Phoenix-ized (see Feb. 10); they say they won’t carry the April-May issue of the magazine Free Inquiry, which reprints Mohammed cartoons, for fear of Islamist violence against their employees and customers (Carolyn Thompson, “Borders, Waldenbooks Won’t Carry Magazine”, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Mar. 29). Free Inquiry is actually worth subscribing to quite aside from this episode; you can do that here.

P.S. Eugene Volokh has a thread discussing the extent to which Borders/Walden might be subject to later tort liability if its sale of the magazine led to violence that harmed customers (Mar. 30). SupportDenmarkSmall3EN.png

Sammenhold

by Walter Olson on March 4, 2006

It means “solidarity” in Danish, and specifically solidarity with the endangered liberties of Denmark, where some of the “Mohammed” cartoonists live in hiding after threats to their lives. (Michelle Malkin, Mar. 3, complete with “Lego My Free Speech” rally sign; Flemming Rose, “Why I Published Those Cartoons”, Washington Post, Feb. 19). More here and here. SupportDenmarkSmall3EN.png

{ 6 comments }

“The head of Calgary’s Muslim community is considering a civil lawsuit against two local publishers for reprinting controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad — images that have sparked deadly riots overseas. “Syed Soharwardy, president of the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada, said he would consult lawyers to see whether it was possible to sue the Jewish Free Press and conservative Western Standard, which have published the cartoons; the general-circulation Calgary Herald has not. More: Feb. 10, etc. (Emma Poole, Calgary Herald/National Post, Feb. 13).

{ 2 comments }

The Boston Phoenix (“World of Pain”, Feb. 9) tells readers that “frankly, the primary reason” it isn’t going to run the Danish Muhammed cartoons:

Out of fear of retaliation from the international brotherhood of radical and bloodthirsty Islamists who seek to impose their will on those who do not believe as they do. …Simply stated, we are being terrorized, and as deeply as we believe in the principles of free speech and a free press, we could not in good conscience place the men and women who work at the Phoenix and its related companies in physical jeopardy. As we feel forced, literally, to bend to maniacal pressure, this may be the darkest moment in our 40-year publishing history.

Somewhere there’s probably an issue of vicarious/employer liability lurking in here — if printing the cartoons did lead to violence, the Phoenix’s owners might well end up having to pay. But of course the venerable alt-weekly’s stance is practically a profile in courage compared with that of editors, publishers, governments and university officials in many other places, including South Africa (bans publication of images), Sweden (reported to have shut down website carrying them), Canada’s Prince Edward Island (university confiscates student newspaper, edict forbids weblog comments) and so on (Michelle Malkin roundup, Feb. 9). Commentaries worth reading: Krauthammer, Kinsley, and, from a different perspective, a commenter at Andrew Sullivan’s. (More on the cartoons here and here.)

{ 4 comments }

Danish flags

by Walter Olson on February 7, 2006

How did Middle East protesters lay their hands on so many of them? Turns out it was just the free market at work.
SupportDenmarkSmall3EN.png
Seriously, remember to support Denmark in the principle of free speech — if only so that our own U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington isn’t next.

{ 1 comment }

Support Denmark

by Walter Olson on February 1, 2006

Today it’s their freedom of speech and the press under attack; tomorrow it could be ours. (SupportDenmark.com; Malkin, Jan. 30 and Jan. 31; Andrew Sullivan, and again; Brussels Journal; Judith Apter Klinghoffer; Stephen Pollard, Daily Telegraph; Stuttaford; Althouse; Danish food shop).

{ 27 comments }