The Corner

Yale and Censorship

The Yale Daily News has posted the full text of a letter from Yale alumni criticizing the Yale administration and Yale University Press’s partial censorship of a book exploring the Danish cartoon crisis.

Yale has argued that its decision against republishing not only the Muhammad cartoons at the center of the crisis, but also historical (including Islamic) depictions of Muhammad was rooted in fear of violence.

But the violence surrounding the Danish cartoons was never spontaneous. It was carefully planned and coordinated, as this article by a Danish reporter shows.

The award for intellectual cowardice, however, goes to Yale Corporation member Fareed Zakaria. In a February 28, 2009 Newsweek essay, Zakaria wrote, “We should mount a spirited defense of our views and values.” And yet, he opined in favor of the book’s censorship, telling the Associated Press, “As a journalist and public commentator, I believe deeply in the First Amendment and academic freedom. But in this instance Yale Press was confronted with a clear threat of violence and loss of life.” How should we explain the discrepancy between Zakaria the preacher and Zakaria the practitioner?

As David Frum quipped (I’m paraphasing), “It’s a good thing Galileo didn’t try to publish at Yale.”

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

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