Daily Illini Ex-Editor Acton H. Gorton took a principled stand, and achieved the lifelong dream of every two-bit college newspaper editor. Having run the Mohammed with a bomb hat in the Daily Illini, he provoked a Freedom of Speech battle that plastered his aristocratic name all over the NYT. Acton Gorton sleeps the rest reserved to those who live on principle (read: those whose trust fund supports their inevitible unemployment). On the other side of the coin is spineless Shira Weissman, whose post-cartoon apologetics echoed the cowardice of an Ayn Rand antagonist. She'll spend the night fitfully tossing; having stabbed her editor in the back, thus losing the respect of anyone with an ounce of self-dignity.
The Mohammed Bomb-Hat picture, which this meaningless rag has no problem publishing, set up a battle of the absolutes. Libertarians claim Freedom of Speech is unviolable; the culturally sensitive hate to see people frown. Absolutes can often co-exist, until the violation of one leads to the violation of the other. The irresponsible, blasphemeously unsensitive publication of a bomb-wielding prophet leads his bomb-wielding followers to blow stuff up. Transilation: this shit is NEWS! But when a culturally insensitive event leads to news, how does one straddle two absolutist causes? Further complicating the matter; how does a globalized press respect the cultural diversity of nations in which the "Freedom of Speech" is subservient to the rules of their autocratic leader and autocratic faith?
The Economist asked this same question, demanding to know where the slippery slope of politeness eventually muzzled freedom of the press. US & British presses did the brave thing in response to the cartoons: namely, nothing at all. French, Polish, Danish and Swiss presses ran the photos repeatedly in the name of freedom. Perhaps those of us never occupied by Soviets and Nazis should ask ourselves: have we enjoyed our freedoms for so long that we are willing to contemplate shackling speech in the name of something as arcane as polite society? Shira Weissman will happily lay down her pen for diversity's sake: too bad there are so many like her willfully sleeping the regretful, guilt-ridden rest of a coward.