The Yale University Press and a Book About Cartoons
The Yale University Press is dedicated to principles of independence, academic freedom and scholarship; it adheres steadfastly to those principles without fear or favor; without regard to whether its actions cause anger, adverse comment or praise. Its honorable decision to publish The Cartoons That Shook the World minus a reproduction of the actual cartoons demonstrates YUP’s fearless adherence to its principles.
YUP is to be commended for its willingness to court popular criticism. Few publishers of significance would be willing to risk outrage of the sort engendered by publication of only a bowdlerized version of the cartoon book. In an August 14, 2009 press release
announcing its decision, YUP modestly declined to acknowledge that its courageous goal was to stimulate such criticism and thereby to encourage the sort of freedom of expression it well knew would be directed against it. Instead, it took the much-disputed position that its decision was made to promote public safety.
After careful consideration, the Press has declined to reproduce the September 30, 2005, Jyllands-Posten newspaper page that included the cartoons, as well as other depictions of the Prophet Muhammad that the author proposed to include.
The original publication in 2005 of the cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad led to a series of violent incidents, and repeated violent acts have followed republication as recently as June 2008, when a car bomb exploded outside the Danish embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing eight people and injuring at least thirty. The next day Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the bombing, calling it revenge for the “insulting drawings.”
Republication of the cartoons—not just the original printing of them in Denmark—has repeatedly resulted in violence around the world. More than two hundred lives have been lost, and hundreds more have been injured. It is noteworthy that, at the time of the initial crisis over the cartoons in 2005–2006, the New York Times, Washington Post, and Boston Globe declined to print them, as did every major newspaper in the United Kingdom.
Despite this self-effacing explanation, it should be obvious that YUP’s motivation had nothing to do with public safety; the chances of violent attacks against YUP, or even Yale University as a whole, resulting from publication of the already widely seen three year old cartoons in a scholarly volume, likely to be read by few, are laughably remote. Any suggestion that the copious free publicity for YUP certain to result from its decision was a motivating factor must also be rejected. YUP does not need publicity, good or bad. It is already one of the top thousand or so academic book publishing companies in the United States and would be shocked at the prospect of massive demand for one of its learned books. YUP fears the publication of a bestseller as the gods fear Sarah Palin. Even more ludicrous is the mean-spirited charge that Yale University was motivated by a desire for financial assistance from such Islamic countries as Saudi Arabia. YUP doubtless has plenty of money, and the thought that Yale University might stoop to such mercenary thoughts is unthinkable.