Today’s arrest of two men suspected of planning to kill cartoonist Kurt Westergaard and Jyllands-Posten editor Flemming Rose, and to bomb the newspaper’s headquarters — apparently dubbed the ‘Mickey Mouse plot’ by their peers — all for the publication of those twelve dumb cartoons is a disquieting reminder that the madness continues.
It is also interesting to see how free speech fatigue is creeping in. In contrast to the last time a murder plot against Westergaard was apparently uncovered, in Februrary 2008, the major Danish newspapers have agreed not to republish any of the cartoons. This, naturally, is immediately being framed as a free-speech issue, which I guess is understandable with Yale University Press’ recent academic censorship in mind, but also somewhat tiring.
In February 2008 seemingly everyone in Denmark, including the Metabunker (although we quickly recanted), published the Bomb in the Turban, more as an act of solidarity with the beleaguered cartoonist than as documentation. This happened immediately, before anyone could be sure that there was anything to the plot alleged by PET, the Danish intelligence services (come to think of it, it seems we still cannot be sure to what extent the three men arrested posed a threat to Westergaard, since PET has kept pretty mum about the whole affair). In other words an understandable and to an extent sympathetic, if rash reaction.
The decision not to republish this time around is also understandable, even commendable, and should not be compared with YUP’s shameful decision. The cartoons have already been published ad nauseam and there seems little point in continuing to do so every time the case takes a new, exasperating development. Responsible free speech is also knowing when to speak.