It’s hard to believe, but every once in a while, the New York Times does something right. Last week, for example, the Times’s website stopped carrying the cartoons of Ted Rall (thanks to Instapundit for linking this first). Rall’s cartoons have managed to offend just about everyone, but his particular targets have been the loved ones of the 3,000 Americans murdered by terrorists on September 11, 2001.
Indeed, Rall is most famous for his Terror Widows strip of March 2002, in which he mocked the women who had lost their husbands in those ghastly events (Thanks to Freespeech.com for the link). In the same strip, he also took a potshot at Marianne Pearl, the journalist whose husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, was decapitated by terrorists in Pakistan in the fall of 2001 for the crime of being Jewish. Marianne Pearl was pregnant at the time, and Rall thought there was something gravely immoral, hilariously funny, or both, about her poignant statement that one of things she would miss about her husband would be watching the Winter Olympics’ figure-skating competitions on television with him.
Rall’s post-9/11 strips, continuing in this vein, were so offensive that the Times website found itself declining to run them on a regular basis. Finally the website dropped Rall altogether, and site editor Len Apcar issued this statement (available on the page of Times ombudsman Dan Okrent):
“While NYTimes.com and its parent company support the right of free expression, we also recognize an obligation to assure our users that what we publish, no matter what its origin, does not offend the reasonable sensibilities of our audience.”
Apcar cited three particularly revolting Rall cartoon strips that the Times had refused to run over the past few months. One was another nasty dig at the 9/ll tragedy. The second included a tasteless and gratuitous jibe at Condoleezza Rice. Rall seems to have a problem about women, and also with pregnancy. The third strip wasn’t political. It was just plain disgusting, and with no discernible comic point. Rall seems to have other problems and fixations. (Warning to the squeamish: Don’t click onto any of these links if you are easily offended.)
In response, Rall has turned his own website into Whine Central, devoting nearly all of last week to one long moan about “censorship” at the Times and blaming Apcar’s decision on pressure from right-wingers:
“If the usual pattern prevails, the New York Times website can rest assured that their cowardly and lazy decision to drop my cartoons as the result of a concerted right-wing blogger email campaign will go unpunished….
“The Times has the right to cancel cartoons or columns for taste reasons, even for politics. But they admit that they’re responding directly to specific complaints of right-wing readers (probably non-readers, but whatever). Kowtowing to a special interest group sets a dangerous precedent.”
Rall, although born in 1963, has long fancied himself a spokesman for the younger set. Last fall he threw Howard Dean’s campaign into a tizzy by endorsing the good doctor for president–which sent the Deaniacs into a frenzied scramble to distance themselves from him.