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Erik Wemple: The Week That Cable News Failed Free Expression

duck-and-cover-top

“There’s no justification for violence. But…”

“I’m a First Amendment absolutist. But…”

“You have every right to do what you did. But…”

imrs-1.phpErik Wemple writes: Though perhaps not verbatim, those are the sentiments that have spilled from cable airwaves — and, for that matter, non-cable airwaves — in the days since Sunday’s violent incident in Garland, Texas. Two gunmen were shot dead by a police officer as they attempted to mount a terrorist attack on a “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest — an event whose by-product is offensive to many Muslims. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for targeting the contest, which was organized by Pamela Geller of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI).

“And who’s being treated as the public enemy on cable? The woman who organized a cartoon contest.”

Authorities are investigating ISIS’s claim of responsibility; they’re checking the electronic communication histories of the attackers, Elton Simpson and Nadir Soofi; the White House has called the episode an “attempted terrorist attack.

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/Getty Images)

“This is problematic to me, because I wonder whether this group that held this event down there to basically disparage and make fun of the prophet Mohammed doesn’t in some way cause these events.”

— MSNBC’s Chris Matthews

And who’s being treated as the public enemy on cable? The woman who organized a cartoon contest.

[Read the full text here, at The Washington Post]

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, in speaking with a guest: “This is problematic to me, because I wonder whether this group that held this event down there to basically disparage and make fun of the prophet Mohammed doesn’t in some way cause these events. Well, not the word ‘causing’ — how about provoking, how about taunting, how about daring? How do you see the causality factor here?” (Taunting is a form of expression)

Kelly reading a tweet from punditfromanotherplanet right before she goes on the air.

Kelly reading a tweet from punditfromanotherplanet right before she goes on the air.

“To her enduring credit, Fox News’s Megyn Kelly has been screaming all week about the folly of the ‘too-provocative’ crowd.”

Donald Trump on Fox & Friends: “What is she doing drawing Mohammed?…What are they doing drawing Muhammad. Isn’t there something else they can draw?…I’m the one who believes in free speech probably more than she does, but what’s the purpose of this?” (Must protected speech have a Trump-approved purpose?)

pam-geller-wapo

“The American media folded into a crouch of cowardice and rationalization. The Associated Press’s statement said it would ‘refrain from moving deliberately provocative images.’”

Comedy Central’s Larry Wilmore: “You know another thing that’s horrific, Pamela Geller? Intentionally putting innocent, unarmed security guards in danger so you can make some bull[—-] free speech argument.” (A bad moment: When comedians are rating others’ free-speech arguments)

duck-and-cover

“Nothing justifies the attack, the violent attack. There is no
justification, but…”

— CNN’s Jake Tapper to Geller

greta-pam-geller

“It’s one thing for someone to stand up for the First Amendment and put his own you-know-what on the line, but…”

— Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren

Fox News host Martha MacCallum to Geller: “I absolutely get where you’re coming street-girlsfrom. I’m not sure you went about it the right way.” (Let the government decide on the “right way”!)

“A judgment has emerged that preaches compliance with the notion that this particular form of expression means you’re asking for it.”

CNN host Alisyn Camerota to Geller: “And nobody is saying that this warrants the violence that you saw. I mean I haven’t heard anyone in the media saying that it’s okay for gunmen to show up at an event like this. But what people are saying is that there’s always this fine line, you know, between freedom of speech and being intentionally incendiary and provocative.” (Provocative — we surely wouldn’t accuse Camerota of such a crime.)

…Charlie Hebdo ran a magazine in the name of satire and criticism and the magazine continues to attack every religion, every political party, all sorts of leaders….(read more)

The Washington Post

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.

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