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Friday, October 22, 2010

"I think he can *hear* you, Ray."

Juan Williams' sin was simply in voicing NPR's own fears out loud.

In the end, NPR did not post the cartoon, although it is readily available around the Internet. Many listeners wrote to say that they were disappointed with that decision.

. . .

Listeners who are strong First Amendment advocates say NPR's response is insufficient. Many have written asking that NPR join with other American media and stand up to extremism and intimidation. But NPR also has, in my opinion, an obligation not to exacerbate the tensions that already inflame relations between Muslims and non-Muslims. Would posting the cartoon help or hinder the goals of free speech and a free press in the Muslim world?

To put in another way — would NPR post racist or anti-Semitic cartoons on its Web site in the name of free speech? Or do the values of public radio demand another, more measured response?

NPR may have a special role in this: In radio, the shock of the visual can be avoided by clearly describing why the cartoon is considered offensive. This does not compound the offense by re-publishing it. There is a value in euphemism, even though the temptation to poke radicals in the eye is strong.

NPR resisted that temptation, much to the dismay of some listeners who want NPR to use the cartoon as a weapon against radical Islam. In reporting this story, NPR has been clear, but not provocative. It's been a tough call all around, but I think that NPR did the right thing.

Translation: we submit--don't behead us.

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