By Dominique Blain
A week ago, the University of Prince Edward Island’s student newspaper was pulled before it made it to the racks:
The editorial staff of the Cadre had decided to run the Danish political comics that have inflamed the Muslim world, so university administration ordered the removal of the issue.
Ray Keating, editor-in-chief of the Cadre, told Canadian University Press that “we decided that it would be a disservice to our readers if we didn’t run it with the editorial we wrote on the subject.”
What’s wrong with that? I could waste my word count describing the illustrations to you and you wouldn’t care. But if I were to publish the illustrations… you’d finally understand the implications of what I was talking about. The comics are easy to find online; moreover, you’d have to live under a rock (I’ll let you know when the coast is clear) to not know what they depict.
But the fact of the matter is, despite the Eyeopener‘s “illustrious” past as a shit-disturber, no one here ever considered running the cartoons. They’re just not worthy. They’re not witty; they’re not funny. They don’t fuel public discourse in any constructive manner ?– every time I see the one of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb strapped to his turban, I ask myself: What’s the message here? I just don’t know.
Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper that originally printed the comics, has effectively proven that it needs a more politically astute cartoonist and that its editorial board doesn’t really understand social commentary. Turning the lacklustre job of a Danish cartoonist into an international attack on freedom of speech is the only “comical” issue here.
How dare a group threaten the rest of us over one newspaper’s mistake in an attempt to make us cower back to medieval laws on discourse? At least this lame attempt at political commentary has accidentally been useful. It has highlighted three issues that have clearly not been significantly discussed before — it has highlighted ignorance, which is one of the main arguments for freedom of speech.
Firstly, western editorial boards need to remember their role within the realm of freedom of speech. Having the freedom to do something does not preclude the possibility of making a mistake and as such demands a higher critical thought. If anything, all freedoms leave the grounds wide open as to just how many mistakes each one of us can make. That’s the point. To be able to make mistakes without getting hanged for them. That being said, freedom of speech does not equal freedom to be racist and antagonistic.
Secondly, people need to learn how to use their words! Isn’t this something fathers repeat to their four-year-olds? Free speech applies to all: Use it instead of your fists and firecrackers. The western world does not respond well to riotous violence as a method of communication.
Finally, it has been yet another reminder that most of us just don’t understand each other.
I’m delighted to see that Toronto and Ryerson have gone the educated route and that groups are coming together to discuss, rather than dismiss, each other’s values.