For those who haven’t heard, The Washington Post, home newspaper of Berkeley Breathed’s “Opus” comic strip, has refused to run two installments of the popular comic in its print editions because of a bandwagon-crazy character who becomes a radical Islamist as her latest fad. Several other newspapers have joined the Post in banning the two strips, although some (the Post included) are distributing them on their websites.
Besides the obvious censorship concerns that banning the strip brings up, there is a second, perhaps even more important, issue at sake–inconsistent, unequal application of said censorship. Christianity in general and Catholicism in specific (with regards to the Church child molestation scandals) are frequently raked over the coals in comic strips and newspapers in general. By not running these Opus strips, the Washington Post is in effect saying it is okay to poke fun of Christianity but not to do the same of Islam. Quite a double-standard.
I seriously doubt the Post is pro-Islam and anti-Christianity. But such extreme inconsistency raises great concern over the papers’ potential biases in running other stories. If they are willing to censor these comics strips, what more important information may they withhold for unspoken reasons?
I’m sure no one believes that a paper should censor any and all material that some subgroup might find offensive. Besides being a moral and ethical quagmire, doing so goes against the very tenets of free speech. That leaves as the only fair solution (and perhaps the only one in true accord with the US Constitution) running all comic strips and articles no matter whom is the target of humor or criticism.