Wednesday, February 15, 2006

CBC and their nonsense reasons for not showing cartoons

The ed-in-chief of the CBC has a ridiculous explanation of why they didn't print the cartoons up on their website. His explanation for why the CBC didn't show the cartoons is that it served no purpose to cause pain and offense to a group of people by showing the cartoons. People, after all, could just find the cartoons on the internet themselves, so no one really needs to show them.

There are at least three things to say about this. For one, and I've made this point in a rather hotly-worded comment to Scythian Princess on Simon Pole's blog (although the Princess and I seem to have made up after I took some serious offense to a suggestion of hers... go read the comments if you want the details), there is some confusion about just what the Western Standard is doing, and what justification it has for showing the cartoons. The justification runs like this: The cartoons are news. This is obvious to everyone. It is the job of a news organization to give the full story. The full story requires the showing of the cartoons. Thus it follows from my premises that a news source is not doing its job if it fails to show the cartoons. End of that argument.

So that's the justification for why a news source must show the cartoons. It is a separate question of what, if anything, allows or permits them to do this. Freedom of speech and expression addresses this second, separate concern. It is not freedom of speech that is the justification or the reason for showing the cartoons, that is addressed by appeal to what a news source's job is. Freedom of speech and expression means that they had the option, or choice, to print these cartoons. This is what permits them to do this. Charging them with a hate crime is the denial of this particular choice or option, thereby undermining freedom of speech with respect to this.

To sum up, a justification has the following form: A should do x in virtue of y. Where 'A' is the news source, 'x' is the printing of the cartoons, and 'y' is the appeal to an interpretation of what a news source's job is. Meanwhile, the second bit has this form: A is permitted to do x in virtue of y. Where 'A' is the news source, 'x' is the printing of the cartoons, and 'y' is an appeal to freedom of speech.

The Western Standard, unlike (with the exception of Le Devoir and the Jewish Free Press and the PEI campus newspaper) every other news source in Canada, did its job and upheld journalistic integrity. Everyone else failed, and is quite possibly an embarrassment to the profession. In the (maybe very) long run, this will be clear to most sensible observers.

So let's return to the CBC's eds comments. It's clear that they have failed to do their job. What reasons do they give for this failure? I want to pull out two in particular, mentioned above. 1. The cartoons are available on the internet, so people can get them if they want to. 2. Why cause hurt to a group of people if it is not absolutely necessary?

The first reason does the precise opposite of what they intend. This is not an argument for not showing the cartoons, but an argument precisely for showing them. If they are readily available somewhere, and the images are not hidden from anyone who cares to look, then there is no reason not to show them. They are, in a sense, public. So this argument fails (and miserably).

The second reason is a daft exercise in bullshittery and the vilest form of hypocrisy. Here is a task I put to someone other than myself. Go through the CBC archive and find every instance of them showing an image (we'll deal strictly with images) of things that are clearly offensive to some identifiable group. What's that? They do this *all the time*? You mean they showed the image of pisschrist (or whatever that thing was called)? They showed holocaust-era cartoons that satirized the Jews? They showed some modern art that is offensive to some? Yes, yes, and yes. Meaning, in short, that they "unnecessarily" (according to their lights, not mine) showed images that caused offense to some identifiable group.

As for the concern that this might incite violence, the identical claim can be made with respect to showing the images of Abu Ghraib prisoners being tortured by American and British soldiers. The parallels between that, and this cartoon issue, are obvious and unmistakable. So what justifies that, and not this?

In my opinion, all of the images mentioned above, from Piss Christ to Abu Ghraib to the cartoons, should have been published. All of them. That's the job of the media. And they should do their job.


Blogger mostlyfree said...

I don't really have a big problem with a news source choosing not to publish the cartoon because the people in charge find them (or anything else they choose not to publish) offensive... they just shouldn't bitch about it when people speak with their wallets and go elsewhere (the Western Standard) for the news.

IMHO, as usual the main problem with the CBC is that it's publicly owned. They don't have to provide the news that people want to see to stay afloat, and in this case they won't. So, in the truly Canadian way, you're forced to pay for something you don't want or support because it's in the arbitrarily chosen "best interests of the country."

This just isn't getting me too worked up... now if one of these publications gets charged with a hate crime, I'll be all over any protest anyone organizes.

Until then, I'll just wait for my WS.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Chris Dainton said...

I just pissed myself reading your response to Scythian Princess - yet another reason to leave all the heavy philosophical lifting to you! I agree with your perspective on this in its entirety.

9:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


8:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nice :]

8:47 AM  

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