Dear Aunt Sophie,
I’m a journalist. I’ve always enjoyed my profession and I’m proud of what I do. After all, how many professions give you the opportunity to change the world? Even medicine only gives you the chance to save lives.
We journalists have to follow a very strict code of ethics. I remember my professor of journalistic ethics so well – he made it clear to us that no matter how much we might hate Bush we should avoid words like “baby-killer”. And we should never compare him to Hitler, but leave it to politicians, washed-up civil rights activists and superannuated calypso singers. That way we could just quote them and still get the point across. So you see I grew up, professionally speaking, with the ideal of absolute neutrality.
Of course it’s different when you write opinion pieces or draw cartoons. They’re supposed to express your point of view. The only thing you have to worry about is whether you’ll be considered offensive and if so, whom you’ll be offending. But it’s not as hard as it sounds. Oh, I know, we all make a fuss about freedom of the press and how we can write whatever we want and be protected by the First Amendment, but you have to use your head. For example, most of us figured out a long time ago that you should never offend people who build bombs. It’s basic. If they make bombs in their basements you leave them alone. But if their idea of a good time is home-schooling their kids, hey, what have you got to lose? Why do you suppose nobody ever thinks twice about offending Jews? Who ever heard of Jews blowing up a consulate? And you can offend groups that have a small following like the KKK. But Moslems?
You’d have thought they made their point pretty well when Johnny Hart had to apologize to them for having put the letters “s-l-a-m” in an “I” formation next to the drawing of an outhouse with a slamming door. It was quite a stretch, but as I said, you have to use your head about these things.
The Danes apparently didn’t get it. It’s enough to make you wonder what they’re teaching in their J-schools.
So now half the world is on fire and apparently we have to blame some of my fellow journalists (whom I’ve never met – Osama, I hope you heard that, heh, heh).
I don’t like having to second guess myself all the time. How can we get back to normal?
Joseph Pulitzer (not my real name, but you can’t be too careful.)
When you say “normal” I assume you’re referring to the days when it was still legal to eat a ham sandwich within 500 miles of a mosque.
Before life can return to normal you’ll have to accept the idea that occasionally someone, maybe even you, will be offended. Begin by toughening your own hide. Every morning when you get up, force a smile in the mirror as you rehearse a journalist joke. There are plenty of them with good punch lines like “there are some things even a jackal won’t eat”.
Of course, how you define “normal” depends on where you live. In France, for example, where automotive arson is a spectator sport, it’s considered normal these days to advise Jewish men to wear baseball caps on the street instead of yarmulkes, but in England it means forbidding savings institutions to offer piggy banks to children. In Germany and Italy it merely involves releasing murderous terrorists from prison, while in Spain it’s voting for the candidate who, until yesterday, you’d hoped wouldn’t win. In the Moslem universe, it’s apparently considered normal to call in sick so you can attend an embassy-burning.
As you and your colleagues have been telling us for years, normal is a relative concept, so be careful what you wish for. Would you really want to live in the kind of society where children had one father and one mother, where nearly everyone could read, write and speak the same language and where child molesters stayed in prison until they were too old to get out of bed by themselves? Do you think you could survive in an environment where sages like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were treated like the caricatures they are, or, Allah forbid, where even liberals understood that it’s a good thing to win a war?
Just hamstring Bush on the wiretaps, leak information about secret interrogations of our enemies, get rid of the Patriot Act, elect a French-speaking ski bum as Commander-in-Chief and life will pretty much return to normal – if you don’t mind how your wife looks in a burqa.
Good luck and God bless.
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