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The Value of the Internet:

"Possibly the Most Newsworthy Cartoons in History", Greg Lukianoff (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) correctly calls the twelve Danish Mohammed cartoons. Without seeing the cartoons, one can't really understand the controversy, partly because a good editorial cartoon is the sort of thing to which words don't really do justice. Fortunately, even though very few prominent American newspapers have printed the cartoons, interested Americans can pretty easily find them on the Internet.

But imagine what things would have been like if the Internet hadn't been invented, or hadn't become as pervasive. If you wanted to know just what people were finding so offensive, how would you be able to do that? I suppose some newspapers might have concluded that they had to run the cartoons precisely because the cartoons weren't available online -- but would most have done that? And if you lived in a city in which the newspapers and TV stations chose not to run the cartoons, what could you do (since without the Internet, you couldn't even easily access most out-of-town newspapers, much less amateur media)?

This whole controversy makes me glad that we're no longer quite as captive to professional news judgment as we once were.

Taimyoboi:
"I suppose some newspapers might have concluded that they had to run the cartoons precisely because the cartoons weren't available online -- but would most have done that?"

Probably not; if the internet has not been invented, the professionals can't then conclude that they should run the cartoons because they aren't being posted on something that doesn't exist to begin with...
3.20.2006 5:34pm
jc:
If the counterfactual had never been invented, we wouldn't have been able to speculate about what our speculation would have been like if it had.
3.20.2006 5:42pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
Eugene, you have a typing error in your last sentence.

Here, let me fix that for you (changes in bold):

This whole controversy makes me glad that we're no longer quite as captive to "professional" news judgment as we once were.

There - that's much more accurate. ;-p
3.20.2006 6:02pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
Barbara: I appreciate the elaboration, but I had been hoping our readers can fill in the scare quotes themselves (as you did).
3.20.2006 6:04pm
dunno:

captive to professional news judgment

I'm sorry, it doesn't really bother me. I—like my father and my grandfather before me—am significantly less captive to the judgments of professional newsmen than I am to those of in the legal profession or the medical profession or any other such profession. Trusting the results of market-driven job specialization does not really bother me. I'd hate to depend on a society of jacks-of-all-trades,-masters-of-none for anything.
3.20.2006 6:42pm
SenatorX (mail):
The internet is distributing enough information that it is getting harder for traditional frauds to continue unchanged. Good stuff.

On a completely different subject : why no comments for the Scientology blogs?
3.20.2006 7:47pm
sbw (mail) (www):
Funny, I thought I didn't need pictures to convey the idea that people were threatening murder to stifle ideas.

Ideas is ideas. Rushdie is Rushdie. Threats is threats. Don't get distracted.
3.20.2006 8:00pm
DK:
Would the cartoons have been newsworthy, if the Internet weren't available to assist radicals in circulating the cartoons and thus fanning the flames?
3.20.2006 8:16pm
Mark Draughn (mail) (www):
I remember the whole Piss Christ controversy back in the late '80s. All that controversy about a photograph, and I can't remember ever seeing a picture of it. It's nice to be able to see what we're talking about.
3.21.2006 4:04pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
"I had been hoping our readers can fill in the scare quotes themselves"

I'm sure most of them did, Eugene. Just pulling your chain.

We non-lawyers have to contribute to the debate where we can. ;-p
3.21.2006 4:52pm