The New York Times’ stance on just when to be religiously offensive proves they’re hypocritical cowards.
This past week, The New York Times boldly – you could say shockingly – posted a picture of a supposed work of art that depicted the prophet Muhammad covered in elephant dung, superimposed with dozens of images of buttocks cut out from pornographic magazines.
No, of course not! The NYT would never do something like that. In fact, even back during the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, they totally refused to depict the Muhammad cover images that made their fellow journalists at the French magazine a target for utterly unjustifiable violence. The publication stated: “Under Times standards, we do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities. After careful consideration, Times editors decided that describing the cartoons in question would give readers sufficient information to understand today’s story.” So they’d never ever post a picture of a religious figure venerated by millions covered in elephant dung and surrounded by anuses, right?
LOL. Got you again. Of course they did! It just wasn’t Muhammad, of course. You see, what the NYT really meant with their statement above was more along the lines of “We’re complete moral cowards, spineless pieces of garbage who are willing to completely sell out our journalistic principles to avoid being the target of fanatical religious extremists. We here at the Times do not have any meaningful religious convictions but we do tremendously value our narcissistic self-serving lives, so we will not publish images or any other material meant to offend the religious sensibilities of people highly likely to murder us for doing so. But after careful consideration, we’re TOTALLY COOL with publishing images of other religions we despise.” I can surmise that this has to be what they really intended to say with their original statement because, in spite of their smug and self-righteous and simultaneously cowardly cowering behind some kind of pseudo-journalistic commitment not to ‘offend’, they didn’t blink an eye or skip so much as a beat before posting an image of the portrait ironically entitled “The Holy Virgin Mary.” The image – which depicts that religious figure (venerated and respected by millions of Catholics, and other Christians) covered in elephant dung and surrounded by butts – was published without the slightest hesitation in the May 28th edition, in the “Arts” section.
Well guess what, NYT? You done f*cked up! Apparently, y’all don’t have any religious-studies grads working at your little rag, otherwise you might have heard that Mary is also venerated and respected by Muslims! Mary is one of only eight people who actually has a chapter of the Holy Quran NAMED after her. Muslims, like Christians, believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus, and Mary is held up in the Islamic faith as one of the highest exemplars of a “righteous woman” – that is, a model for how Muslim women ought to behave. So hilariously, you have totally – inadvertently in your callous fervor to piss off millions of Christians you smugly despise – managed to potentially piss off all those millions of Muslims you also probably despise but are too scared to offend. Let’s hope no one retweets this to the Islamic State, huh?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the NYT should not have shown this image of “Dung Mary.” Just like I don’t think they should have censored themselves in failing to show the Charlie Hebdo and other Muhammad images. The problem here is the HYPOCRISY. Not just the lesser hypocrisy of expressing a bias that attempts to mollycoddle the sensibilities of Muslims while attempting to flagrantly insult Christians, but rather the more significant hypocrisy (for an institution that alleges to be one of the world’s foremost newspapers) of allowing these biases to decide what news is selectively censored.
It is not the job of reporters to avoid being offensive. Their job is to tell the truth. Does this mean that they absolutely must present available images to the public? Not necessarily, but journalistic integrity would demand that they be objectively consistent in what they maintain as their policy. The crime here is in allowing a personal editorial bias to influence them to hypocritically present some images of a type (for example, religiously offensive images) and not others of the exact same type. And then, especially, LYING about it while trying to put up a self-righteous face on what is clearly just ethical bankruptcy and moral cowardice.
Clearly, the Muhammad cartoons of Charlie Hebdo were offensive. The “Dung Mary” is offensive. The “Draw Muhammad” contest that was the intended target of Islamist gunmen in Texas was offensive. The “Piss Christ” sculpture (of a crucifix suspended in a tank of urine) that The New York Times absolutely adored and defended editorially on several occasions was also very clearly meant to offend. And the “protest” held in Phoenix this week right outside a local mosque, that had ‘anti-Muslim’ protesters holding up offensive placards and stepping or standing on copies of the Holy Quran, was very clearly meant to be offensive.
All of these things are expressions of the absolute right of Free Speech. Where some may differ from the others is not in the intent of offense but whether the agents of these various offensive uses of free speech are actually themselves truly advocates of Free Speech. We can be sure that the real journalists of Charlie Hebdo were genuine defenders of free speech; the people who were murdered in the Hebdo offices would have fought for the right of free expression that was ‘offensive’ to Christians (we know this of course because the satirical magazine made the Catholic Church at least as frequent a target of its satirical attacks as it did Islam), and freedom of expression in general. We also know that many of the perpetrators of the “Draw Muhammad” event and the Phoenix Mosque Protest are NOT true advocates of free speech. The “anti-Muslim” activists like to crow about “free speech” for THEIR right to draw offensive and stupid cartoons, but want to ban the religious expression of Islam. And likewise the redneck biker who was standing on the Holy Quran would likely throw a fit if some hippie “performance artist” were to stomp on a Holy Bible. I don’t know the ‘artists’ who made Piss Christ or Dung Mary well enough to be able to say whether they would defend the right of some other artist to insult and offend like they did (for example, just where they’d stand on the Charlie Hebdo cartoons).
One thing is definitely clear: by refusing to publish the Hebdo cartoons while gleefully publishing the dung-covered “Holy Virgin Mary,” The New York Times has firmly placed themselves on the anti-Free-Speech side. They have taken the exact same side of the “ban Islam” crowd or the Arizona Quran-stomping rednecks. As alleged journalists, they should be ashamed.
Kasimir Urbanski doesn’t write on a specific subject; he’s EveryJoe’s resident maniac-at-large. A recovering Humanities academic and world-traveler, he now lives in South America and is a researcher of fringe religion, eastern philosophy, and esoteric consciousness-expansion. In his spare time he writes tabletop RPGs, and blogs about them at therpgpundit.blogspot.com.
Read more from Urbanski by clicking through the gallery below.
Gun ControlRead about what other countries can teach us about the gun control debate.
Photo by Elrepho385/Getty Images
Election 2016Find out about how Trump's fake Christianity might help him win the election.
Photo by Branden Camp/Getty Images
CensorshipBelieve it or not, millennials are begging the government to censor them, and all of us.
Photo by Ferenc Gerak / Getty Images
Climate ChangeFind out more about the history of climate change and what you can REALLY learn from it.
Photo by Getty Images
SocialismA primer on how to rate your socialist craphole.
Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images
Right vs LeftNever mind why the Right stands up against censorship, why doesn't the Left?
Photo by Nomadsoul1 / Getty Images
CensorshipFundamentally, the claim that only government can censor is a cheap way to weasel out of admitting that you’re pro-censorship.
Photo by StockWithMe / Getty Images
ComedyLiberals claim they are funnier than their conservative counterparts, but is that really true?
Photo by Brad Barket / Getty Images