The Washington Examiner reports that, just five months after the New York Times refused to show Charlie Hebdo’s Muhammad cartoons, the paper published an image on Monday of Niki Johnson’s “Eggs Benedict,” a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI made entirely out of condoms.
But hey, don’t compare the two because her condom-Pope masterpiece is “not hate-based,” as Johnson told the Times, but is merely a “critique” of Benedict’s views on sex and contraception “while raising awareness about public health.” Apparently the Muhammad cartoons, which prompted a bloody massacre at the Hebdo offices at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, weren’t critiques of Islamic violent intolerance – they were simply “hate.”
The Times‘ executive editor Dean Baquet had said at the time that the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons were simply too offensive for publication:
[W]e still have standards, and they involve not running offensive material. And they don’t meet our standards. They are provocative on purpose. They show religious figures in sexual positions. We do not show those.
[L]et’s not forget the Muslim family in Brooklyn who read us and is offended by any depiction of what he sees as his prophet. I don’t give a damn about the head of [the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria] but I do care about that family and it is arrogant to ignore them.
The Times‘ associate managing editor for standards Phil Corbett said,
There’s no simple, unwavering formula we can apply in situations like this. We really don’t want to gratuitously offend anyone’s deeply held beliefs. That said, it’s probably impossible to avoid ever offending anyone. We have to make these judgments all the time. Reasonable people might disagree about any one of them.
And unreasonable people will kill you over it, which is the real reason the New York Times and most other mainstream news outlets avoid offending Muslims.
I don’t think these situations – the Milwaukee artwork and the various Muhammad caricatures – are really equivalent. For one thing, many people might disagree, but museum officials clearly consider this Johnson piece to be a significant artwork.
Also, there’s no indication that the primary intent of the portrait is to offend or blaspheme (the artist and the museum both say that it is not intended to offend people but to raise a social question about the fight against AIDS). And finally, the very different reactions bears this out. Hundreds of thousands of people protested worldwide, for instance, after the Danish cartoons were published some years ago. While some people might genuinely dislike this Milwaukee work, there doesn’t seem to be any comparable level of outrage.
There’s not a comparable level of outrage because Jews and Christians don’t go on rioting, murdering, rampages at any offense, real or imagined, whereas some Muslims will mark you for death. And the Times and everyone else knows that.
As the Washington Examiner reports,
In May, the Times‘ editorial board published a scathing op-ed criticizing activist Pamela Geller for hosting an intentionally controversial “Draw Muhammad” event in Garland, Texas.
“[T]he Muhammad Art Exhibit and Contest…was not really about free speech. It was an exercise in bigotry and hatred posing as a blow for freedom,” the editorial board wrote, pillorying the group that hosted the event, the American Freedom Defense Initiative, and Geller. “As for the Garland event, to pretend that it was motivated by anything other than hate is simply hogwash.”
In 1999, for example, the Times published Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary,” a painting of Christ’s mother fashioned entirely out of feces and adorned with cutouts of genitalia from pornographic magazines.
When artists and the mainstream media want to bash Jews and Christians, it’s defended as socially responsible art. But criticisms of Islam are simply “hate-based.”