The shame of a nation
Coverage of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris this month may be about spun out, but questions regarding media censorship of the attacks, the cover of Charlie Hebdo, and Obama’s absence from the Paris unity march rage on.
On Meet the Press this weekend, Chuck Todd spoke with the new editor of Charlie Hebdo, Gerard Biard, about American media outlets’ decision to blur out the cover of the satirical magazine.
“Listen,” Briard replied, “we cannot blame newspapers that already suffer much difficulty in getting published and distributed in totalitarian regimes for not publishing a cartoon that could get them at best jail, at worst death.”
“But,” he said, “I’m quite critical of newspapers published in democratic countries. This cartoon is not just a little figure — a little Muhammad — it’s a symbol of freedom of speech, of freedom of religion, of freedom of democracy and secularism. It is this symbol that they refuse to publish.”
“What they must understand,” Briard continued, “is that when they blur it out — when they decline to publish it — they blur out democracy, secularism, freedom of religion, and they insult the citizenship.”
Not every journalist shares the sentiments of those who chose to censor their reporting. Last week, Jake Tapper rocked everyone’s world when he said that he was ashamed by the absence of U.S. leaders from the Paris rallies; he called out not only the Obama administration, but also current Congressional leadership and potential candidates for president.
Why? I hope it’s not American arrogance, a belief that everyone should express shock when something bad happens to us but that our presence at an international rally is worth less than a ticket to the Green Bay game when the victims speak in accents we don’t understand.
I suppose there’s always the risk that coming to an event like this as an American leader and getting stuck in the third row could be embarrassing or could lead to accusations that you’re trying to capitalize on a tragedy.
But that’s not how it would have been interpreted in France.
People here are happy that Americans care. They’re eager and appreciative of any evidence of that. And I know it exists — although American Twitter seemed much more focused on the Golden Globes than anything else Sunday night.
I only wish our leaders had done a better job of showing solidarity with the passion for the freedoms exemplified by the rally.
On Fox News today, a panel discussed the phenomenon of the media’s reluctance to cover the absence of an American delegation to the Paris unity rallies, and emphasized just how much influence cable networks and the new media earned by not shying away from the story—and the real reason behind the attacks.
Tapper is right, and so is Gerard Biard. What happened in the American media was mirrored by the actions of the Obama Administration (or, it could be the other way around.) By failing to fully cover what happened in Paris, the American media revealed its weak spot—the sensibilities of a small but vocal group of readers. Similarly, the Obama Administration revealed its weakness when it not only failed to send a delegation to Paris to join the rally, but then walked back their actions and admitted to making the wrong call.
In both cases, there’s no standard. There’s no standard for what’s fit to print, and there’s no standard for what’s fit to stand beside and stand against.
“Standardless” may not be the most dangerous mindset for the leaders of the free, democratic world to adhere to, but it’s certainly the weakest.DONATE
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