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Was money the reason Yale University Press didn’t publish Danish cartoons?

One scholar suggests that perhaps money, not fear, was the reason Yale University Press decided not to publish the Danish cartoons in the book The Cartoons That Shook the World.

Can you imagine a better way to set the stage for a major Alwaleed gift? Hosting for a semester the very person who structured the Harvard and Georgetown gifts, and who now directs Alwaleedâ??s charitable foundation? A stroke of genius.

Imagine, thenâ??and weâ??re just imaginingâ??that someone in the Yale administration, perhaps in President Levinâ??s office, gets wind of the fact that Yale University Press is about to publish a book on the Danish cartoonsâ??The Cartoons That Shook the World. The book is going to include the Danish cartoons, plus earlier depictions of the Prophet Muhammad tormented in Danteâ??s Inferno, and who-knows-what-else. Whooah! Good luck explaining to people like Prince Alwaleed that Yale University and Yale University Press are two different shops. The university canâ??t interfere in editorial matters, so whatâ??s to be done? Summon some â??experts,â? whoâ??ll be smart enough to know just what to say. Yale will be accused of surrendering to an imagined threat by extremists. So be it: self-censorship to spare bloodshed in Nigeria or Indonesia still sounds a lot nobler than self-censorship to keep a Saudi prince on the line for $20 million.

Community Comments

#1 Ted Rall
September/5/2009
@ 7:11 am

It’s possible, though this is based largely on supposition. What is more obvious is that YUP decided not to rock the boat in a more general sense.

I see this less as an issue about censorship than an issue about cowardice and lousy editorial judgment. Any prose discussion about a cartoon is incomplete without seeing the cartoon in question. Or, to put it another way, you wouldn’t get much out of an article about a photo without running said photo with the article.

YUP would have done better not to have published the book at all.

#2 Donna Barstow
September/7/2009
@ 10:01 pm

Am I understanding this news correctly? Yale published an entire BOOK about these cartoons, and didn’t include any of them?! That’s insane.

I disagree, Ted – no reputable and half-way decent editor would publish a book about any particular work or works of art and not include images of them! But they certainly are cowards. I always thought University Presses were the NPR of publishers. Guess not.

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