Publisher says showing controversial Muhammad cartoons is 'gratuitous' but publishing book about them is not

Posted by andreaitis on August 13, 2009

What follows is a real-life account of a typical morning at True/Slant.

The players: Coates and me

The scene:  sitting at our desks in our inexpensive and yet uncomfortable chairs

The action: commenting on various news stories of the day; actually, I usually comment and Coates humors me with a random ‘uh huh’ or ‘mm-hmm’


Coates:  Did you see the story on Yale University Press?  They’re publishing a book about that Danish  Muhammad cartoon cartoons that shook the worldcontroversy but not including any of the cartoons.

Me: So, they’re not including the actual cartoons that the book is about?

Coates:  Nope. And no pictures of Muhammad, either.  Afraid of backlash I guess.

Me:  How can they publish a book about the cartoons and not include any of the cartoons?

Coates:  [shrugs]

Me: [smirking] They’ll probably say people who want to see them can find them online.

****90 minutes later****

Coates: Remember when you were joking earlier about people finding the Muhammad cartoons online?

He pings me a Gawker story.

To reiterate: this book, entitled The Cartoons That Shook the World, is about this cartoon controversy. But Yale told the author that it was banning not only images of the cartoons themselves, but also three other classical representations of Muhammad which were to be included. This is their reasoning, according to the NYT:

John Donatich, the director of Yale University Press, said by telephone that the decision was difficult, but the recommendation to withdraw the images, including the historical ones of Muhammad, was “overwhelming and unanimous.” The cartoons are freely available on the Internet and can be accurately described in words, Mr. Donatich said, so reprinting them could be interpreted easily as gratuitous.

via Yale Press Sides With Religious Fanatics Over Own Author – Books – Gawker

The decision was “overwhelming and unanimous.”

The cartoons are freely available on the Internet.

Reprinting them could be interpreted as gratuitous.

But publishing a book about them is NOT gratuitous??

Congratulations, John Donatich. You’re right up there for stupidest quote of 2009.

Meanwhile, if you have 26 minutes and 11 seconds to spare, you can watch and listen to Yale University Press director John Donatich talk about why books still matter.  Except, I guess, when the book doesn’t tell the whole story and you have to go to the Internet to see what it’s really about.

[youtubevid id=”KGyulN5BOvk”]

Oh, and you can see the 12 cartoons in question here.


2 Responses to “Publisher says showing controversial Muhammad cartoons is 'gratuitous' but publishing book about them is not”

  1. The terrorists win.

  2. andreaitis said

    Guess there’s a new book editor in town.

    BTW, their mission statement includes this line: Yale University Press aids in the discovery and dissemination of light and truth…

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