Home About

Mohammed and the Timid Press

Ralph Lee



The printing of the infamous Mohammed cartoons in the Dominion Post and the seemingly never-ending debate and punditry has left me with two choices: write a piece about Canada or enter the fray with an angle I believe has yet to be covered (if that’s possible). Ever mindful of the saying ‘if you can’t beat em join em’, I now hypocritically offer a new spin on a hopefully dying debate. The Dominion Post claimed that the printing of the Mohammed cartoons was in solidarity with the great principles of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. This is complete rubbish. The Dominion Post does not hold a grain of moral authority to even suggest that they are defending the interests of free speech and the press. Such claims are pathetically risible for a number of reasons that will hopefully become clearer over the next 500 words.
The Dominion Post and the corporate media in general do not print anything which challenges or offends the so called ‘common wisdom’ of the ruling classes. The status quo is never challenged in any serious way and journalists on a daily basis painstakingly self-censor themselves in favour of a decent paycheque and retirement plan. This self-censorship and defending of the status quo is reflected everyday in articles relating to political issues worldwide. One of the most obvious examples are pieces relating to the Middle East and the so called ‘War on Terror’. When has the Dominion Post called George W. Bush a war criminal for illegally invading Iraq? When has it Post referred to Ariel Sharon as a murderer for ordering the bulldozing of Palestinian homes filled with women and children? The answer: Never. The reasons why the corporate press steers clear of offending established ‘truths’ and deferring to the status quo is complex, but in a nutshell is a result of the economic (read: advertising) forces which own and sustain the media business. This being said it is difficult to take seriously the self-righteous claims of the Dominion Post that they are unafraid to offend and will do so in the name of freedom of the press. The real reason the Post printed the cartoons was because they were able to do so without offending their political and economic masters. The post 9-11 world is one in which Arabs and Muslims have been continuously demonised and attacked by the corporate press in what is shamefully reminiscent of the anti-Semitism of the 1920s and 1930s. As an easy and ‘acceptable’ target the usually timid and deferential corporate press have re-printed the Mohammed cartoons knowing full well that the offended will simply have to take it on the chin and get on with living in a racist society. The Post was unafraid of the backlash because they knew there would not be one. More importantly they probably knew that their readers would largely sympathize with their decision. The so called courage of the Dominion Post to print the cartoons in the name of freedom of the press must be viewed for what it is: shameful hypocrisy.