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February 08, 2006

THREATS TO PRESS FREEDOM ON BOTH COASTS

Cartoon_mohammed_1 The global controversy over the Danish caricatures of Mohammed  (one of which is at left) has claimed its first U.S. victims in the American press -- the weekly New York Press's editor in chief Harry Siegel and three of his colleagues (two editors and a reporter) resigned in protest after the paper's new Ny_press_logo management pulled this week's front page, which carried an editorial attacking those who refused to publish the cartoons, and reproduced some of the cartoons themselves. You can find the full resignation statement of Siegel and his comrades in this week's New York Observer.  You can read my own view of this international attack on the right to publish the cartoons in an article I wrote for the excellent London-based 'zine on issues, Open Democracy, entitled "The Right to Caricature God -- and His Prophets." Bravo to Siegel and his colleagues for standing up for principle and being willing to pay the price.

Out on the West Coast, my L.A. Weekly colleague Marc CooperMarc_cooper_2_2 (right) is under attack by a threatened lawsuit from the United Farm Workers union, which has been on a long downhill slide -- in ethics, politics, and membership -- since the Cesar_chavez days when it was lead by the late Cesar Chavez (left). Cooper's crime was penning a stinging dissection last August, "Sour Grapes: California farm workers' endless struggle 40 years later." In a blatant attempt to silence critics of the union for its organizing stasis, its collecting monies supposedly destined for the farmworkers but which finance the nest-feathering, incestuous construction of a skein of agencies by its morally spavined leadership, the UFW has targeted not only l'ami Cooper, but also the L.A. Times -- which has been targeted for a similar lawsuit for its four-part investigative series on the UFW -- and the Bakersfield Californian. Of these multiple law suits, Cooper writes:

"The union...has responded [to critics] in the worst way possible. Instead of taking any of the very valid press criticism to heart and conducting some minimal good-faith re-examination of its own work, it has, instead, bunkered in and lashed out Howard_berman wildly at its critics. The UFW has enlisted Hollywood publicist Steve Rivers, as well as local Congressman Howard Berman (left), in its defensive PR campaign. Berman, to his credit, is an original co-author of landmark state agricultural-labor-protection legislation, and his tight relationship with the UFW dates back decades. But Berman and the UFW are also integral political partners, and union cash was a primary lubricant of the legendary Waxman-Berman political machine. No wonder, then, that the UFW has called in its chits in hiring Berman andMickey_kantor  other prominent Democrats — like former Clinton cabinet secretary Mickey Kantor (below right)— to run offense against the press.

"The chilling tactics now being employed by the UFW are those it has learned from its abusive employers. Simultaneously threatening a number of news agencies and reporters with expensive lawsuits smells suspiciously similar to the corporate strategy of pressing so-called SLAPP suits against public critics. These suits are never intended to seek any real redress — only to inflict punishment. In this case, their collateral effect would be to shut down media scrutiny of the UFW...." Read Cooper's full account of all this, and his reply to the UFW, by clicking here. Hang tough, Brother Marc, UFW deserved every shot you gave them.

And Wayne Besen reports on his blog that, "A Northern Virginia radio show that caters Chad_larson to a younger gay audience received threats this week to shut down, or else. E-mails from right wing yahoos hinted at violence if Chad Larson (left), host of The Edge Show , did not cancel his program.....'The penalty for homosexuality is death. Humans are not allowed to kill,' one e-mail stated. 'That's why God sent AIDS. When Chad Larson is lying on his death bed from this incurable illness, he will wish he had of turned to us for help....'" Read the full story by clicking here.

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Comments

Howard Hughes:

The other story to compare with Melvin Dummars' at www.mymrhughes.com. You decide which one is more plausible.

Thanks

Jack

Posted by: Jack | Jul 11, 2006 9:12:29 PM

Doug, I read your column in Opendemocracy and I could not agree with you more. I quote your concluding para: "The western media outlets that have refused to reproduce any of the cartoons – especially those in the United States – have just handed the theocratic primitives a victory, and thus increased their power. Instead, let's hear a loud cheer for irreverence – the intelligent person's response to the mad fantasies of all revealed religions."

I will quote you in my future posts on the series "The Freedom to be Offended" which can be found at http://www.deeshaa.org/2006/02/07/the-freedom-to-be-offended-part-3/

Posted by: Atanu Dey | Feb 16, 2006 11:57:00 PM

I completely agree with hollowentry. Our freedoms should not be taken for granted by publishing hateful things. Bottom line is we have a choice as human beings to respect each other or destroy each other. A stone was tossed by drawing those cartoons and publishing them, or in this case a match into a poweder keg. The behaviour on both sides is deplorable.

Posted by: Whitfield | Feb 12, 2006 3:27:49 PM

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