Yale's Cartoon Controversy
Washington Post Thursday, August 27, 2009
The Aug. 23 editorial "Self-Muzzled at Yale" criticized Yale University Press for its decision to exclude controversial Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad from a forthcoming book. We found this to be a curious opinion given The Post's own decision not to publish the cartoons. This very fact validates Yale Press's decision.
We were two of the many experts in diplomacy, national security and academia asked by Yale Press to assess the likelihood of violence if the cartoons and other images of the prophet Muhammad were published in a book about the cartoon controversy. We advised Yale Press that publishing these images was very likely to result in violence, as there was a clear record of violence following their publication. More than 200 innocent people have been killed, and hundreds more injured, as recently as June 2008.
We who counseled Yale understand the book is a balanced, scholarly work. However, experience shows the book's purpose and tenor would not mitigate the risk of violence. In choosing not to print the cartoons, The Post made that very same judgment.
JOSEPH VERNER REED
The right of free speech guarantees that we may speak the truth without fear of government reprisal. This precious right is not compromised in any way by the Yale University Press deciding not to publish cartoons that would needlessly offend the sensitivities of large numbers of people. Even The Post editorial, which describes some of the cartoons, illustrates that publication of the cartoons was not necessary to make a point -- although inclusion of the offensive material would undoubtedly improve sales.