Siegel: “Press” Owner Was Afraid

The newspapers who haven’t published those controversial Danish cartoons typically cite appropriateness and editorial judgement. Only a few, notably the Boston Phoenix, have added the obvious: Fear of violent retaliation is a consideration — and not, as John Podhoretz notes, an illegitmate one, as long as you’re honest about it.

New York Press, unpolished, ramshackle place that it is, proved a pretty transparent labrotory for how this happens. The publisher’s statment was the usual boilerplate: “We came to the same conclusion as many other responsible newspapers and media outlets that have chosen to not run the Danish cartoons. We felt the images were not critical for the editorial content to have merit, would not hinder our readers from making an informed opinion and only served to further fan the flame of a volatile situation.”

But, says former editor-in-chief Harry Siegel, that’s not what he was told.

“The owner of the paper [David Unger] was talking to me about his fear that things would get blown up,” he said today. “This was expressed to us directly: ‘I’m not putting lives in danger. We’re not getting things blown up.'”

Harry (full disclosure: he’s a former colleague, and current neighbor) said he’s been shocked at how this story has unrolled in the American media.

“I honestly thought on Friday that 70% of the newspapers in America would run the cartoons by Monday,” he said.

“There’s this whole attitude that we can’t upset the armed barbarian children who will react to cartoons this way,” he said, arguing that it’s an insult to moderate Muslims. “New Yorkers of all people should know about rent-a-mobs.”

Siegel: “Press” Owner Was Afraid