Wednesday, January 14, 2015

This Is What The Bottom Of The Slippery Slope Looks Like

censored pigs in a Malaysian edition of the New York Times - the future...
The New York Times, The Daily Mail and the paper I write for The Melbourne Age all refused to show the new cover of Charlie Hedbo magazine because they were afraid it might offend some (a very small minority I reckon) of their Muslim readers. It's just a drawing of the Prophet Mohammed crying, that's all, but apparently that's considered offensive by some people and so the Mail, the Times and the Age all decided not to publish the cover despite the Hedbo image being the most important news story of the day. The Mail is the biggest newspaper site in the world, the Times is America's paper of record and the Age is my employer. I expect better of them and I think they've gone down a very slippery slope. (Here's a good list of those media outlets on the side of freedom and those on the side of cowardice.) 
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Over the last 5 years I've happened to travel to Malaysia quite a lot. Beautiful country Malaysia, nice people, great food, but maybe not the place I'd go to to look for the future of free speech. The pic above is from a Malaysian edition of The New York Times where showing the image of a pig is considered offensive by some people. Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state with no laws about showing or not showing pigs in newspapers, but in recent years various Imams have demanded that images of pigs and pork products be pulled from newspapers and advertisements because they are against Islam. Government agencies while not banning pigs have warned printers and publishers about showing images of pigs. It's no surprise to learn that the movie 'Babe' was pulled from cinemas in Malaysia. 
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A fortiori...In what is apparently not an April Fool's story (because it's January) it has been reported in the Evening Standard and Daily Telegraph that Oxford University Press will avoid showing images of pigs in their children's literature. This from the Telegraph version of the story: 

The Oxford University Press has warned its writers not to mention pigs, sausages or pork-related words in children's books. The existence of the publisher's guidelines emerged after a radio discussion on free speech in the wake of the Paris attacks. Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, presenter Jim Naughtie said: "I've got a letter here that was sent out by OUP to an author doing something for young people."Among the things prohibited in the text that was commissioned by OUP was the following: Pigs plus sausages, or anything else which could be perceived as pork.

The OUP later admitted that the report was true. The New York Times, Mail and Age have taken the first steps down the slippery slope along with the OUP (another one of my former employers) to the blacked out image of porkies above. Hope you enjoyed this doleful glimpse of our censored future...