Here is the response of Yale President Richard Levin to Michael W. Steinberg, a founder of the Yale Committee for a Free Press, the alumni group that has called on Yale, the Yale Corporation and the Yale University Press to restore the imagery of Mohammed, including the Danish Mohammed cartoons, to the recent Yale book about the Danish Mohammed cartoons.
Dear Mr. Steinberg,
On behalf of the Yale Corporation we thank those alumni/alumnae who joined you in writing to us about the decision of the Yale Press this summer not to publish images of the Prophet Mohammad in the book by Jytte Klausen.
Guess what my first quibble is? (And I'm giving the Yale prez a pass on the PC but ungrammatical Latin.)
Yup. Levin's written presentation of "the Prophet Muhammad" -- definite article "the," capital P-Prophet, Muhammad. My trusty AP Style book, copyright 1988, stipulates just "Mohammed" as being the preferred way to refer to "the founder of the Islamic religion." If you must describe him as a prophet, he is a small-p prophet, as in: the Islamic prophet Mohammed. Whether intentional, Levin's formulation implies acceptance of Mohammed as "The Prophet." This is probably something he has gotten used to while fund-raising in the Middle East. Back to the letter:
Your correspondence gives us the opportunity to underscore the importance attached to free speech both by the Press and the University and to share the Press' motivations for this highly unusual action.
Right. Next 'graph.
The attached statement expresses the thinking of John Donatich, the Director of the Press. This was not an easy decision for someone who has been courageous throughout his career in publishing very controversial authors and subjects. As he writes, it was the real record of violence -- not some hypothetical prospect -- that governed his decision.
In either case, President Levin, Yale is yielding to blackmail. Although, as I have written before, there i$ likely more to Yale'$ concern$ than violence. Levin continues:
In the attachment, he explains that actual violence ensued following the republication of the cartoons on a number of occasions. I am sure you know that even before the record of violence was so clear, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe and every regional paper in this country except one decllined to publish the cartoons. And while some newspapers and magazines have criticized the Press, not one of them chose to reproduce the cartoons, presumably exercising the same restraint for which they criticized the Press.
I love this seeking validation in the capitulation of others. But it gets worse.
This summer, at Mr. Donatich's request, we (President Levin and Vice President Linda Lorimer) approached very highly placed experts in the inteliigence and diplomatic services for their assessment of whether the climate remained so volatile that publication of the cartoons would be likely to generate violence once again.
We were especially concerned about violence directed at Yale students, faculty, or staff here or overseas, but we were also concerned to avoid injury to innocent bystanders.
Funny how he strips Yale bystanders of their innocence. Must be related to underlying feelings of white Western male guilt.
Those whom we consulted advised that there remained a very considerable risk of violence if the Yale Press published the images. Faced with this very real prospect, Mr. Donatich decided, with our concurrence and strong support, not to publish the cartoons. In response to your letter, we have reviewed the matter with the full Corporation and they have decided not to intervene and reverse his decision.
Now to make the case, as promised above, that Yale President Levin has a lot of gall.
A development related to this matter, however, has offered an opportunity to reinforce Yale's commitment to free expression -- the recent invitation by a residential college master to one of the cartoonists, Kurt Westergaard, to speak on campus.
Readers familiar with this blog will know that Yale had nothing to do with this "development." it so happens that I, as a VP of the IFPS, approached the residential college master in question when IFPS was arranging Westergaard's US tour timed to coincide with the September 30 anniversary of the Danish Motoons. (Here is an excellent overview of Westergaard's travels by my IFPS colleague, Belgian journalist Paul Belien.) In other words, President Levin has co-opted this happenstance to burnish Yale's free speech credentials. That takes a lot of gall. He goes on:
There were many at Yale who were, and remain, distressed that a faculty member would invite Mr. Westergaard and that the University would support arrangements to ensure he would have a safe forum to speak.
This line fits in nicely with the group hate thrown on Westergaard before, during and after his visit, noted here and here, for instance.
The enclosed statement by Sterling Professor Tony Kronman, former dean of the Law Shcool, distinguishes the decision of the Yale Press from the decision to support Mr. Westergaard's visit to campus.
Kronman, too, covers Yale in unearned glory, writing: "It is not surprising that Yale Press' decision not to publish the Danish Cartoons should be followed, in short order, by a visit of one of the cartoonists to the Yale campus...."
In fact., it is surprising, professor. And it is no jewel in Yale's crown.
We recognize that some individuals who signed your letter may not agree with the Press' decision, but we hope the decision by the University to protect the right of Mr. Westergaard to speak on campus gives them some comfort about Yale's continuing support for the rights of those who wish to express controversial views on our campus. ...
Sincerely yours, etc.