Two sets of pictures have been the focus of major attention these last couple of weeks, and it’s rather enlightening to see how the major media outlets have handled them.
Across the globe, Muslims are rioting, killing, and burning over a series of 12 cartoons (and 3 forged ones, perpetuated by a group of Danish Muslims) depicting their prophet Mohammed with various degrees of irreverance. And a series of photos from the Abu Ghraib Prison abuse incident have been made public.
The Big Boys of the mainstream media (New York Times, CNN, Boston Globe) have treated these two sets of images very differently. In the Mohammed cartoon case, they have deferred publishing. In the Abu Ghraib case, they have been given prominent play.
The stated reasoning for not publishing the Mohammed pictures is thus: any representation of Mohammed is supposed to be blasphemy to Muslims (a fairly recent development in their theology), so the cartoons are being withheld out of respect for Muslim sensibilities. But the Abu Ghraib photos — the actions there were perpetrated by American service members, and the public has a right to know what was being done in their name.
I, personally, can see compelling reasons for just the opposite determination.
In the Mohammed cartoons case, I think the public has a right to see for itself just how offensive the cartoons are and make their own judgment if it is that offensive. Further, it would expose those faked cartoons as the frauds they are, and bring exposure to those Danish Imams (led by Abu Lanam) for their fraud.
In the Abu Ghraib case, there is no compelling reason for publishing them beyond sensationalism. They were taken about 3 years ago, and all the involved parties have been tried. There is nothing “new” about them; they shed no new light on just who was involved or of any complicity by highers-up. All they do is revive the incident, re-hashing what we already know and have already dealt with.
But it is the unspoken reasoning that is the most compelling here, and that is this:
In both cases, there will be an aggrieved party. But the Bush administration is considerably less likely to burn down or blow up your offices, behead your staff, and demand the execution of your entire family.
Great message you’re sending, MSM. Just like when CNN cooperated with Saddam in the 90’s, trading spiked stories for “access,” the signal is clear: we can be cowed, we can be intimidated, we will cheerfully suppress the truth if you threaten us enough.