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The deafening silence of support for Molly Norris

Ever since it was reported that Molly Norris has had to move and change identities, the story has spread out through the internet and into the main stream media. What hasn’t spread is a chorus of support, or even outrage that in America – the birthplace of codified free speech – a cartoonist has had to go into hiding and presumably give up her livelihood after a declared fatwa. Her elected officials have turned their back on her according to an article on

After more than a month, neither U.S. senator from Washington nor the governor nor Molly Norris’s member of Congress, Rep. Jim McDermott, has contacted her. No elected official has issued a press release or posted a statement. As Sen. Maria Cantwell’s press secretary, John Diamond, said, “We have nothing to say about that.”

The Washington Examiner took up the case and asked two leading journalistic organizations for a statement on Molly’s situation.

When The Examiner asked the American Society of News Editors for a statement on the issue, none was forthcoming. This despite the fact that the first sentence of ASNE’s Web site describes its mission as supporting “the First Amendment at home and free speech around the world.” We got a similar response from the Society of Professional Journalists, despite its dedication “to the perpetuation of the free press as the cornerstone of our nation and liberty.”

Perhaps the best description of what should be the outrage was penned by Aaron Goldstein writing on the conservative blog Intellectual Conservative:

Now one can the make the case that it is easy to say she should have stood her ground when one’s life has not been threatened by the man who is arguably the most dangerous Muslim cleric in the world, and being told by the FBI it is in your best interest to suddenly change your identity. But to what kind of life can Molly Norris now look forward? She can no longer call herself by her real name. She has very likely been forever cut off from family and friends. And while she might be able to draw in the privacy of her own home she can surely never submit her drawings for publication for fear that her works will be recognized. In short, the artist formerly known as Molly Norris is being deprived of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. (Emphasis added)

Contrast Molly’s situation with Kurt Westergaard who drew a much more “offensive” drawing of Mohammad. He is protected by police security, has received several awards for free speech and is invited to speak on the topic.

It should be noted that there are pockets of support – mostly from cartoonists. Back in May, 19 Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonists signed a petition supporting freedom of expression. Today, Michael Cavna talked to Signe Wilkinson of the Philadelphia Daily News. She’s published a cartoon this week in support of Molly.

“If cartoonists don’t stick up for our own right to draw what we think is true and right, no one else will,” Wilkinson tells Comic Riffs of her response to the fatwa against Norris. “We need to point out over and and over again that cartoons don’t kill people. Fundamentalist religious fanatics with zero sense of humor kill people.”

Signe is also quoted as saying, “I support the entire First Amendment — freedom of speech and religion.”

UPDATE: I have received word from The Society of Professional Journalists. Contrary to the Washington Examiner article, SPJ has released a statement of support for Molly and her first amendment rights. It is as follows:

“SPJ has always stood behind First Amendment rights of expression whether they originate with the the press, a group or from individuals. Most citizens in our country understand that free speech has protection, even if it is offensive to some segments of society. Editorial commentary, even in the form of cartoons, has long been a staple of the American press. It can engage and enrage people as it provokes thought and fosters debate. That’s it’s purpose. Cartoonists know that better than anyone. Add Norris’ name to the long list of journalists who agitate in order to make a statement. She should have protection and she has our support.”

Community Comments

#1 Adam Casalino
@ 1:38 pm

This issue has really infuriated me. It’s total injustice that she had to go into hiding–for standing up for freedom of speech.

I think government officials have offered little support is because it was the FBI that insisted she go into hiding. It could be conjectured then that the federal government, as represented by the FBI, is in agreement with her going into hiding.

That hasn’t stopped individuals officials from speaking out in the past on issues, though. It’s really quite tragic and terrible.

#2 Adam Casalino
@ 1:44 pm

As a follow up, how can we–as a community and individually–show support? There’s got to be a way for those of us with websites and blogs to at least mention this situation, to raise awareness.

#3 RR Anderson
@ 2:11 pm

We’re having a very interesting Molly Norris discussion on our comics here:

#4 Jerry Zee
@ 2:20 pm

I think there?s an excellent point being made here. Aside from TDC, I have heard or seen NOTHING from the media regarding the persecution of Molly Norris. And that is what it is?persecution. One of the main reasons we even have a country today, independent from Great Britain, and one of the first democracies in the world, is because of a free and vigorous press. The press, and this includes those who draw as well as write, must have the ability to comment, uncensored, on ANY topic. Ms. Norris is the victim of organized persecution. This fatwa is not the ravings of an individual nut, cloistered in his basement. It?s a formal religious declaration by a Muslim cleric ? an official decree ? threatening this woman?s life because she dared to encourage others to draw pictures that ?might? be offensive to a particular religion. This is totally unacceptable in America, and Molly Norris should not have to hide. Instead, our government should issue ?fatwas? against those who would threaten the lives and livelihoods of our free citizens. Every time we give into these extremist threats, a little bit of America dies.

#5 Matt Bors
@ 3:03 pm

That a cartoonist in America would feel the need to go into hiding, or that that FBI would need to recommend or facilitate it, is outrageous and should be a bigger story.

The only thing surprising about the CrossCut article is that anyone who isn’t a lobbyist handing out cash would expect their Governor, Senator or Congressman to get back to them about their rights.

#6 Tom Wood
@ 3:38 pm

The ‘cleric’ who issued the death threat is an American-Yemini with the dubious distinction of being the first American citizen to be on a presidentially approved hit list.

By April 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama approved the targeted killing of al-Awlaki, as officials explained such a step was appropriate for individuals who posed an imminent danger to national security. That step required the consent of the United States National Security Council, and made al-Awlaki the first U.S. citizen ever to be placed on the CIA targeted kill list.

So it’s not like our own government isn’t doing anything. I suspect that they think her murder would be seen by the nuts as evidence of the nutter’s power and influence around the globe. So they might be playing a higher level game here and trying to deny the nuts their trophy.

#7 Jesse Cline
@ 3:39 pm

the story had a little more legs here in Seattle.

It even made the cover of the Times the day the news first broke.

#8 Stacy Curtis
@ 4:24 pm

The difference between Molly Norris and Kurt Westergaard?
Kurt Westergaard was making a point and stood his ground.
Molly Norris said she was only throwing a flaming bag of dog poop on the steps of the Muslim religion.

When a Danish cartoonist is severely threatened after drawing Mohammed, the smartest thing to do is NOT pretend to organize a “Draw Mohammed Day.”

She was stupid and now she’s paying the price.

She should go marry Kurt Westergaard and enjoy his government protection.

Not that I support someone putting her on a hit list.
It’s an effed-up world when people walk around doing that sort of thing, especially in the name of religion. Whatever happened to Bart Simpson getting kicked in the arse by a guy with a large shoe?

#9 Ted Rall
@ 4:46 pm

It had to happen: I agree with Stacy.

For me, the big difference between Molly and Kurt Westergaard is that the latter didn’t shy away from his act of provocation.

As someone who has been known to say things that some people don’t like now and then, I find it hard to rally to the support of a coward. Remember: she didn’t HAVE to go into hiding. It was a choice. A wimpy, and probably overreacting, choice. Kurt Westergaard is still around; he makes public appearances.

All that said, yes it obviously sucks that anyone would ever receive a death threat merely because she chose to exercise her human right to free speech.

P.S. I doubt that Obama’s assassination order is going to mellow this dude out.

#10 RR Anderson
@ 5:46 pm

Didn’t Kurt Westergaard get the luxury of his government backing him up? Yes, Ms. Norris isn’t the sharpest lightbulb in the toolbox, but she got NO SUPPORT from our fearless leaders except the FBI telling her to run for her life.

whoopsie daisy

#11 Adam Casalino
@ 6:59 pm

@Ted and Stacy it’s easy to say those things from the comfort of your computer, but what would you do in that situation? When the FBI isn’t offering protection, but to tell you to go and hide. On top of this, no one from the government is offering support for you of any kind.

Your work may get criticized and you may get angry emails. But show us you bravery when radical extremists threaten your life.

If there really is a cartoonist community, the least we should do is offer some sort of support for our fellows, especially when their rights and lives are threatened.

#12 Ted Rall
@ 7:39 pm

“@Ted and Stacy it?s easy to say those things from the comfort of your computer, but what would you do in that situation?”


#13 Ted Rall
@ 7:41 pm

Without getting into details for security reasons, suffice it to say that I have received highly credible death threats.

So have most editorial cartoonists.

#14 Carl Moore
@ 7:43 pm

Isn’t it interesting how this works? You can burn an American flag, no problem. You can burn the Bible, no problem. You can even put a crucifix in a vat of urine and have it called “art.” But draw a cartoon of Mohammad? You’re put on a hit list, baby, by the wonderful adherents of the religion of peace. The result? Criticism of Islam is verboten. All other religions are fair game in the land of the First Amendment… It’s shameful.

#15 Pete Murphey
@ 8:24 pm

“She was stupid and now she?s paying the price.”

If you only defend free speech that you deem as enlightened
then you are not defending free speech. You are just defending your own tastes and opinions, which may also become muzzled
at some point if you attack people like Molly Norris rather than the bastards and the twisted ideology that threatened her.

#16 Tom Racine
@ 9:14 pm

I don’t always agree with Mr. Rall, but the man just spent some weeks deep in Afghanistan, literally at/over/on/behind enemy lines. I’m not sure saying he says things “from the safety of his computer” really applies here.

#17 Dave Stephens
@ 10:21 pm

Ted is certainly brave – he left America, a land of emailed and spoken death threats – He is now wandering Afghanistan, land of ACTUAL death…

#18 Stacy Curtis
@ 10:55 pm

“It?s easy to say those things from the comfort of your computer, but what would you do in that situation?”

That was my point. I wouldn’t be STUPID enough to put myself in that situation. A two-year-old would have known better than to antagonize Muslims with a “Draw Mohammed Day” prank.

As an editorial cartoonist, I was threatened, received hate mail, etc., but the cartoons I drew were no prank. Unlike Molly, I meant the criticism in my cartoons.

Again, I’m not defending the Muslim religion, but to think anyone is going to change their rule of not depicting Mohammed is like trying to convince a Christian how ridiculous Noah’s ark, parting the Red Sea, feeding masses of people with fish and bread, walking on water, etc. is.

She’s lucky our wasteful government was more than happy to spend taxpayers’ dollars to protect someone who pulled a stupid prank.

Good luck, Molly …. wherever you are!

#19 Ed Power
@ 12:08 am

One thing that really worries me is that people seems to be using Muslims to mean terrorists.

Molly isn’t in hiding from Muslims. She’s in hiding from extemists wo have corrupted the Muslim faith.

I resepect people’s religious beliefs, but am not religious, so not drawing one prophet to me seems just as resonable as turning wine into blood, but who am I to judge anyone?

Anyway, Muslin terrorist are to normal Muslims as the Klan is to Christians. If I make fun of Jesus, the Christian church may not like me, but they won’t have me killed. The KKK might, so sadly you have to think twice before taking them on.

It’s the same thing with the normal Muslims and Muslim terrorists.

I pass 2 mosques on my way to work and my local mechanic is closed once a day ao the owner can pray/bow to Mecca. Molly isn’t hding from those people. She’s hiding from fanatics and murderous zealots.

#20 Dave Stephens
@ 2:06 am

Religions are NOT the same. The rules proscribed to Christians are NOT the same as the rules proscribed to Muslims.

When a Christian murders, he or she is going directly against their professed faith. It is really stated quite simply: Thou shalt not kill. I am unaware of any exceptions to that described in the

However, when a Muslim murders, according to the Koran, it is NOT so simple… Many kinds of murder are not allowed, but also conversely, many kinds of murder are supported and recommended by the Koran.

The wealth of confusing and conflicting advice on murder in the Koran practically guarantees situations like this current ongoing tragedy.

#21 Mike Peterson
@ 4:32 am

Dave, the Bible says you should stone a kid to death if he doesn’t obey his parents. Like the Koran, you just have to look for the parts you want to find and ignore the parts you didn’t want to see.

On to the larger question — Westergaard drew his cartoon in protest to a particular situation, which was that radicals made it impossible to illustrate a children’s biography of the Prophet. As I recall the story, the author seeking an illustrator was in Denmark, making it a local issue, but, if it wasn’t within the borders, it was within the region. He drew the cartoon for a Danish publication that doesn’t particularly like immigrants anyway, so it wasn’t a breakthrough project. And, while the offense was intentional, it was not expected to be global and it did address a specific situation. The explosion came later, and only when the cartoons were bundled with some more offensive materials in a discussion of how Islam was being treated overseas.

By contrast, “Draw Muhammed Day” was hatched after it became clear how dangerous the radicals are, and it was launched on a platform with international reach. Rather than “how dare they stifle illustrations here?” its apparent intent was “let’s really piss them off and show them we can’t be intimidated!”

I realize she didn’t expect to draw the attention she did. And, yes, I realize that she didn’t break any laws in this country. But I honestly don’t see why she should get round-the-clock protection when, “Why don’t you just lay low for awhile?” is, IMHO, pretty good advice.

#22 Ted Rall
@ 5:58 am

In my view Molly’s real offense was to forget the ethical cartoonist’s duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Here in the U.S., where she presumably still lives, Muslims are a beleaguered minority. They are discriminated against in the street and in the workplace. After 9/11 thousands of them were rounded up by the government and “disappeared,” never to be heard from again.

Airline passengers arriving at U.S. airports since 9/11 have been subjected to additional security checks and other insults, including retina scans. (This stands in sharp contrast to Iran, where Matt, Steven and I were repeatedly waived past bag scanners when we displayed our passports. In Iran, it is considered rude to subject foreigners to the same treatment as their own citizens?even foreigners from a country without diplomatic relations. But I digress.)

Of course there is lots to criticize about Islam. It is a religion, and thus a giant mass of lies and absurdities. The point is, an American cartoonist should be focusing on the lies and absurdities of her own country and religion first, since they are dominant and far more pervasive. After 9/11, making fun of Muslims became inherently tasteless.

#23 Tom Wood
@ 6:34 am

Of course there is lots to criticize about Islam. It is a religion, and thus a giant mass of lies and absurdities.

Islam is a good bit more than just a religion. It’s a social-political system that attempts to push itself into every facet of daily life, all the while to enrich the clergy and spread their influence.

In my view Molly?s real offense was to forget the ethical cartoonist?s duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

Which is exactly what she did, afflict the comfortable position of the clerics who insist on everyone abiding by their ridiculous rules. Their response – death to anyone who opposes them.

Religion really does poison everything.

#24 Stephanie McMillan
@ 6:59 am

Dave says, “When a Christian murders, he or she is going directly against their professed faith. It is really stated quite simply: Thou shalt not kill. I am unaware of any exceptions to that described in the Bible.”

I guess you’ve never read the Bible.

“… because they have rebelled against their God. They will fall by the sword; their little ones will be dashed to the ground, their pregnant women ripped open.” — Hosea 13:16

“O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.” — Psalm 137:8-9

“For it was the LORD himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that [Joshua] might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the LORD had commanded Moses.” — Joshua 11:20

Three examples of many.

#25 Ed Power
@ 7:04 am

“Dave, the Bible says you should stone a kid to death if he doesn?t obey his parents. Like the Koran, you just have to look for the parts you want to find and ignore the parts you didn?t want to see.”

Right, and that’s what all resonable (i.e not extremist) religious people do.

Heck, I covet Ben Affleck’s wife everytime my wife re-watches her Alias DVD’s. And if that’s not allowed in heaven, see ya in hell. :D :D :D

“It?s a social-political system that attempts to push itself into every facet of daily life, all the while to enrich the clergy and spread their influence.”

Again…I’m coming at his as an outsider and don’t mean this to be offensive, but isn’t that how most religions work/prosper?

“Religion really does poison everything.”

I don’t know. A lot of good has come from religions too.

#26 Anne Hambrock
@ 7:58 am

A central function of organized religion is to unify a large group of people and turn them into a culture with similar values.

This power can be used for good – outreach to the poor and disenfranchised, love your neighbor, etc. – or bad – “my neighbor is pissing me off, dispatch him for me.”.

It all depends on who is using the religion and for what. I’ve never seen an organized religion that was immune from this duality.

#27 Gar Molloy
@ 8:17 am

@Mr Power: Yeah, but Ben Affleck’s not your neighbour, so it’s all good.

It’s a shame everyone’s so terrified of Muslims, I can kind of see a (…quick Google search…) Tenth Crusade coming in the not-too-distant future.

#28 August J. Pollak
@ 8:25 am

Molly Norris’ rights to free speech have been violated by thousands of angry Muslims clicking the little red thumb button to suppress her comments.

#29 Joe Sutliff
@ 8:32 am

Religion, and fighting for or against it, is problematic because by definition there is no empirical evidence to support any argument. Perhaps people who draw Mohamed and burn Korans SHOULD be killed, just at you have to fast for 30 days if you let the Torah touch the ground or not eat meat on Fridays. You or I might say this is stupid or ignorant, but how can you prove that to someone who believes it? You can’t.

Aztecs and Mayans kept their gods happy by cutting out hearts on a regular basis, but I don’t see anybody offering first amendment protection to these religions. “Those were false religions based on ignorance” you say? Go to Machu Picchu and argue ignorance, or lack of culture. These people suffered tremendous oppression at the hands of Europeans who ruthlessly wiped out their culture and imposed their own beliefs on a conquered people. So where’s the “new Church of Quetzacotal” starting up? They need volunteers for the sacrifice list.

You CAN’T KILL PEOPLE because they don’t like your religious beliefs. You CAN’T KILL PEOPLE because you don’t like theirs. You CAN’T KILL ANYBODY because God or gods or the talking cat on the corner told you to. We all know that, but this keeps getting lost in the “respect for other religions” argument.

Please, let’s have a louder outcry from Muslims that this “die for defiling” thing has gotten out of hand, and no more defense, either direct or indirect, supporting religious homicide.

And DON’T get me started on celibacy…

#30 Josh McDonald
@ 8:33 am

@ Anne: “I?ve never seen an organized religion that was immune from this duality.”

No need to single out religion here. Is there any organized gathering that is immune from this duality?

#31 Alan Gardner
@ 8:46 am

Just a friendly warning. I will not permit the bashing of religions. No matter how asine you believe a religion to be, others may hold that same religion as a central piece of their lives. Please be respectful.

#32 Joe Sutliff
@ 8:55 am

Sorry – my apologies to all the Quetzacotalians out there. I’m a big fan, really.

#33 Terry LaBan
@ 9:09 am

As a matter of fact, in Hebrew the 10 Commandments do not say “Thou shalt not kill”. They say “Thou shalt not murder”. As has been pointed out to numerous times in these threads, the Bible sanctions killing in many instances. And, by the way, regarding the commandment about parents being able to kill rebellious sons–the rabbis, who actually judged these cases, set the bar of proof so high that Jewish tradition holds that the punishment was never actually carried out.
As for poor Molly–I have to say, I agree with Ted and Stacy on this one. “Draw Muhammad Day” was launched IN RESPONSE to the death threats over the Muhammad cartoons, to prove a point. Which it did. It’s indefensible to kill someone over a cartoon, but the sad fact is, there are people willing to do it, and if you’re going to provoke them, you have to take that into account. I don’t know why Molly thought nothing would happen to her, but the fact is, her free speech wasn’t squelched. She had her say and now she’s suffering the consequences. As far as I can see, she’s not much different than those people who sneak into North Korea to try to confront Kim Il Sung.
That being said, I think she should have police protection if she wants it. But maybe just changing her identity sucks less than living like Salman Rushdie for the next 10 years.

#34 Henry Clausner
@ 9:17 am

RELIGION: a set of beliefs often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
LAWS: the principles and regulations established for protection of ones basic rights to live and practice the above.
CARTOONS: A drawing depicting a humorous situation, often accompanied by a caption poking fun at both the above.

#35 Joe Sutliff
@ 9:28 am

Terry – No no no no no no no!

Free speech means Molly can say what she wants, short of yelling “FIRE!” in a crowded theater. Distressing, distasteful, disrespectful, but not deathworthy.

By saying she should have taken into consideration “..the sad fact is, there are people willing to ..” kill her for it “.. and if you?re going to provoke them, you have to take that into account” how are you different than the person who says “that girl who was attacked? Did you see how she was dressed? Drinking in a bar at night? She should have known better!”

As for Molly backing down and going into hiding, fear is something we all have to deal with in our own way. How we deal with it NEVER justifies violence or the threat of violence. ZERO TOLERANCE for death threats!

#36 Dan Olson
@ 9:38 am

While most of the miracles Stacy Curtis mentioned stretch ones credulity, the parting the Red Sea may have happened. On 2010/09/21 ScienceDaily reported the following article, “Parting the Waters: Computer Modeling Applies Physics to Red Sea Escape Route”

#37 Brian Fies
@ 10:02 am

“In my view Molly?s real offense was to forget the ethical cartoonist?s duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable . . .”

I don’t recall taking any oaths. Ted, that might be your definition of your job, but it’s just one. An ethical cartoonist might also see his or her duty as telling a story (e.g., “here’s what happened when I went to Iraq”), teaching, expressing personal passion as any artist would or, Heaven forbid, just being funny. I think cartoonist-as-provocateur can be a perfectly ethical job description. Poking sacred cows (in this case literally) fits easily within a long tradition of ethical cartooning.

Your point about Muslims being among the afflicted minority in the U.S. is countered by your own argument that Molly’s audience was global. In many parts of the world, her target is precisely the comfortable that needs afflicting.

By the way, did you see her cartoon (“Will the real likeness of the prophet Mohammed please stand up”)? I thought it was pretty good. And, on point, it didn’t depict Mohammed. So what exactly was her offense, again?

In any event, defending free speech doesn’t give me the out of saying, “Well, I’d defend her, but what she said doesn’t fit my definition of ethical.” I don’t think there should be any “but” in that sentence. I defend her. Whether she’s ethical or not, stupid or not, heedless or not, or whatever her “offense” was. “Well, the chick had it coming” isn’t the right response. The fatwa against her isn’t her fault, it’s the fault of those threatening to kill her.

“Civilization” means something: people shouldn’t be killed for expressing a political or religious opinion. If you’re squishy on that–if you won’t defend that bedrock principle–what would you defend?

#38 Anne Hambrock
@ 10:12 am


“No need to single out religion here. Is there any organized gathering that is immune from this duality?”

Probably not. But the more hierarchical the group the easier it is for the people at the top to manipulate the people at the bottom. And sometimes religions are better at hierarchy than non-religious groups. Not always, but sometimes.

#39 RR Anderson
@ 10:28 am

our own poor ol’ David Horsey (editorial cartoonist for the Seattle Post Post Intelligencer) bravely stands up for the rights of Holly Norris.

Holly Norris must be Molly Norris sister? Or did poor ol’ david horsey just give away her new FBI identity? dangblamit!

#40 Joe Sutliff
@ 10:40 am

Anne – but it’s not about religion, really. I am a “lapsed” Catholic. By all the rules, I am going to hell, because of all the sins I committed, unless I repentgotoconfessiondopenance and all that. I ACCEPT that. My mother used to cry about it all the time – that was hard to deal with. Religions should be allowed to condemn and threaten damnation – otherwise, what fun would they be? Ask a devote person the old “..if God can do anything, can he make a rock so heavy that he can’t pick it up?” it’s a hoot! You get that warning look and

“render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s” I believe the quote goes. We should not judge religions or their beliefs except in our own personal way, but when someone crosses the line into violence in the name of that religion, everyone has to shout a collective NOOOOOOO!

#41 Jeff Darcy
@ 11:08 am

You’ve posted a warning that you won’t permit the bashing of
religions. Good. But you’ve posted a thread wondering why more people haven’t written about and come to the defense of
a cartoonist who seems to have been engaged hate speech against a religion. A Cartoonist who created “Draw Mohammed
Day” web page filled with cartoons that were basically hate speech against a religion and what it holds sacred. Given the hate -filled anti-muslim garbage the cartoonist presented under the guise of free speech
I’m not surprised at all this hasn’t gained the attention you think it

#42 Terry LaBan
@ 11:18 am

@Joe Free speech means Molly can say what she wants, short of yelling ?FIRE!? in a crowded theater. Distressing, distasteful, disrespectful, but not deathworthy.

You’re absolutely right, Joe(well, I’d argue with the notion that shouting “Fire” in the proverbial crowded theater actually constitutes speech, but whatever). No one prevented Molly from doing what she did, nor should they. But the having a right to free speech doesn’t give you a right to be free of speech’s consequences . As to your girl-in-a-bar analogy–no, I don’t think the person in your hypothetical case “deserves” to be raped. But if you show up at a Klan rally wearing an Obama tshirt, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone tries to kick your ass.
Look, I think the Mexican drug cartels are bad guys. I don’t think people, especially innocent people, should get killed so thugs can make money in the drug trade. So I’d certainly defend anyone’s right to start an “I Dare the Mexican Drug Cartels To Try And Kill Me” Facebook page. But I’d also think they were really stupid.

#43 Tom Wood
@ 11:43 am

I can’t pass up this opportunity to link to a relevant speech by Christopher Hitchens in which he makes an argument against Canadian hate speech laws.

#44 Michael Fry
@ 11:48 am

Whether it was wise for Molly to draw the cartoon is irrelevant. Whether she should have stood her ground is irrelevant. And, more to the point, what she actually drew is irrelevant.
All that matters is that she has a right to speak freely. Now that that’s been taken away through intimidation we should all support her. We have to support her. Out of pure self interest if nothing else. What’s happened to her could happen to any of us. Help Molly, help yourselves.

On a side note, I’m mystified that the Feds advised her to go into hiding. If the threat was that credible and the danger that imminent aren’t they sworn to protect and defend the constitution and thereby protect Molly? It’s like an admission of impotence. The Feds seems to saying, “This horrible thing which we are completely powerless to do anything about might happen to you. We suggest you hide.”

#45 Brian Fies
@ 11:55 am

Terry and others make the great point that freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom FROM speech. If you say something, other people get to say things back, and sometimes that extracts a price.

My favorite example is the Dixie Chicks, who criticized President Bush and, when people stopped buying and playing their records, complained they were being censored. No they weren’t: they were being answered. You can say what you want; in response, people are free to buy what they want, radio stations are free to play what they want. The merits of anyone’s position aside, I’ve got no problem with that. The Dixie Chicks also got death threats. THAT I’ve got a problem with.

People who didn’t like Molly Norris’s exercise of free speech could have boycotted her work, picketed her employers, burned her in effigy. That’s free speech too, and she’d just have to deal with it. But they can’t put out a contract on her life.

If there’s a line in the sand, I’m standing on Molly’s side of it.

#46 Pete Murphey
@ 12:03 pm

“But if you show up at a Klan rally wearing an Obama tshirt, you shouldn?t be surprised if someone tries to kick your ass.”

So in reaction,Terry, should we be spending our time condemning the t-shirt wearer, or the Klan members who beat him up?

Molly Norris wasn’t prevented from saying what she wanted, but the next person who is inclined to critique Mohammed or use his image might, in part because of the restrained support Molly is getting for her right to have expressed what she did.

Brian: “If you?re squishy on that?if you won?t defend that bedrock principle?what would you defend?”

Best quote of the thread!!

#47 Neal Skorpen
@ 12:13 pm

Death threats are clearly the wrong response when someone offends your religion.
However, if we are going to claim tolerance for different religions, we have to accept that visual depictions of Muhammed are offensive to Muslims. Who does it hurt if we can’t draw Muhammed? Aren’t we able to find a creative solution to this problem in our artwork?
Surely there’s a way to provocatively protest the loony fringe that doesn’t trample the beliefs of all Muslims…?

#48 Joe Sutliff
@ 12:43 pm

Yes, it’s scary and dangerous and, some might correctly say, stupid to stand up and wear an Obama t-shirt in the wrong place or tell Mexican drug lords nah-nah come and get me.

Throughout history, we recognize and aspire to show the same character as people brave enough to stand up for a belief against the threat of death or harm. We NEED to, because it is rare and often unrecognized.

Yes, muslims are an easy target these days. So are other religions (try being a Catholic priest.)

I have muslim neighbors and friends, and they inspire me with the dignity and courage they show in the middle of all this.

We need to see the difference – that this is NOT abut religion, not even about free speech (which is suppressed in many ways, even in the USA) – it is about the violent threats of bullies, and their attempt to intimidate us. If we let one person take the heat – Molly or the next person – then we perpetuate it. At some point we all have to stand up and say “I am Sparticus”

#49 Alan Gardner
@ 12:49 pm

I just wanted to point out an update to the original blog post. Contrary to what was reported in the Washington Examiner, the Society of Professional Journalists has issued a statement of support for Molly and free speech.

I have appended it to the bottom of the post.

#50 Mike Peterson
@ 12:58 pm

Maybe they could shift a couple of the police who are detailed to provide round-the-clock protection for women who have been threatened with physical harm by their husbands/lovers/stalkers. I’m not sure how many people are normally assigned to a stakeout in those situations or what the budget is for that special detail, but surely they could slip a cartoonist into the mix, even though the threat against her is a little more hypothetical at this point.

#51 Pat Crowley
@ 2:27 pm

@Ted Rall

“In my view Molly?s real offense was to forget the ethical cartoonist?s duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Here in the U.S., where she presumably still lives, Muslims are a beleaguered minority. They are discriminated against in the street and in the workplace. After 9/11 thousands of them were rounded up by the government and ?disappeared,? never to be heard from again.”

Between this and your claim in another thread that you received “hundreds” of death threats from Christians you should be grateful that drama queens don’t issue fatwas.

#52 Pat Crowley
@ 2:30 pm

Secular or political actions by religious groups are fair game.

Deliberate acts of sacrilage “to prove you can” serve no more purpose than drawing grotesque racial stereotypes just “to prove you can.”

#53 Ted Rall
@ 3:14 pm

There’s no excuse for you to be uninformed, Pat. It’s in the New York Times. Which they give away free, for some reason.

#54 Terry LaBan
@ 3:38 pm

@Pete “So in reaction,Terry, should we be spending our time condemning the t-shirt wearer, or the Klan members who beat him up?”

Condemn the Klan members. But ask the t-shirt wearer exactly what he was trying to prove.

@Brian “People who didn?t like Molly Norris?s exercise of free speech could have boycotted her work, picketed her employers, burned her in effigy. That?s free speech too, and she?d just have to deal with it. But they can?t put out a contract on her life.”

Oops–looks like they did.

#55 Joe Sutliff
@ 3:44 pm


That’s actually a good idea for a cartoon – draw a collection of stereotypes and label them “safe”, “not safe” and “get you killed.” I know if I want to do a character to make fun of, that no one will object to, I make him an upper middle class white guy.

Oh-oh! here come the Kiwanians!!

#56 Mike Peterson
@ 5:31 pm

I hope people will click on Ted’s comment to see what kind of horrible, unbearable stuff is being “hidden” by this stupid rating system. While, of course, we all rally for free speech!

#57 Brian Fies
@ 6:32 pm

“Oops?looks like they did.”

True ‘nuf. And I’m agin’ it.

#58 Dan Collins
@ 9:03 pm

Right on Ted!

#59 Ed Pwoer
@ 11:22 pm

There are a few things I disagree with above, but let me see if I can sum up my feelings.

People who threaten to kill people have broken a law and should be prosecuted.

Most relious people of any religon won’t kill or approve of killing you for breaking the rules of their religion.

There are nutcases who will kill you for breaking the rules of thier religion.

You have freedom of speech to say whatever you want.

If you say something to upset a nutcase, he may kill or attempt to kill you.

That is a crime and they should be prosecuted for it.

That said, nutcases don’t care about your rights, and it’s hard to celebrate a moral victory if you are dead.

You should express you’re rights, but you also can’t expect a nutcase’s response to be sane and rational.

No one is saying that you should resect killing as a religous practice.

What some people (myself included) are saying is the peaceful practioners of a relgion should not be lumped in with the nuts.

In short: You shouldn’t treat crazy people as if they are rational, and rational people as if they are nuts based on justifying an opinion. It defies the reality of the situation, which then cause poor decisions to be made.

#60 Carl Moore
@ 12:19 am

I thought the purpose of “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” was contained in the word “everybody.” Meaning, if hundreds of cartoonists, or better yet every cartoonist in the world, drew a cartoon of the Prophet on the same day then there would be too many infidels for the fanatics to threaten with murder. That being the case, their power to intimidate would be made impotent. Hmm… why wasn’t this a good idea? Because no one else supported her – including myself. Let’s face it, we’ve all been intimidated by these jerks and Molly is paying the price for our cowardice.

#61 Ed Power
@ 12:45 am

Wow. I know I don’t proof read, but I really should’ve caught mis-spelling my own last name.

#62 Ed Power
@ 12:59 am

Sorry. I’m a little bored tonight.

I thought the point of ‘Everybody draw Muhammad day’ was a young artist putting too much imortance on what cazy people think.

Here’s standing up for your rights:

The US government decides to bring back endentured servitude, and if you have credit card debt, you are now the slave of those who work for your credit card company. You don’t follw this law and protest against it with everything in your power.

Here’s NOT standing up for your rights:

Your government and all sane people agree you have the right to draw a religious prophet you have little to no interest in drawing, but there are a bunch of people that are INSANE who will kill you if you do it so you do it on purpose to show the people that you know are completely, irrationally, insane that they aren’t being rational.

#63 Joe Sutliff
@ 3:00 am

@ Ed

Well, I’m not bored, and I am busy, but I keep wondering why the argument keeps returning to this point. Before I shut down, can we agree on one thing?

Molly Norris did NOT draw the Prophet.

She did draw a cartoon, which some people (the crazies among them) interpreted as encouraging everyone to draw an offensive (to Muslims) image. I am a casual student of religions but I did not know until the whole Kurt Westergaard thing that you shouldn’t do that. I’ve drawn a lot of cartoons protesting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and somehow I never managed to draw Muhammad. I’m glad I didn’t, because I wouldn’t have wanted to offend, not because I am afraid to.

I interpreted Molly’s cartoon as a sanity check about extremism and overreaction, which I take, from her initial response to the whole thing (“I never intended to actually have a draw Muhammad day”) as correct.

As far as I can see, the only ones lumping all Muslims into one group are the people arguing that Molly shares some culpability for inciting an offensive cartoon day. I certainly hope I have not suggested that all Muslims should be held accountable for the actions of some extremists. The argument you and others seem to be making is that she should have expected the death threat, or at least not be so surprised at it, because some Muslims are extremists and that is the extremist reaction.

Molly’s cartoon – and don’t forget, this was drawn in reaction to the initial death threat against South Park creators Parker and Stone – was drawn and published because she has the right to free speech, and perhaps because she thought Parker and Stone had the same right (they didn’t draw Muhammed either, for what it’s worth.)

What I AM saying is that the extremists, or crazies, or whatever you want to call them are very bad people and all the moderate, sane or whatever you want to call us (please note I do not often refer to myself as sane or moderate) people should not tolerate or excuse in any way the bad people. Molly is not, NOT, guilty or should in any way be held responsible for this, and it is sad that she has to give up her life as a precaution against loonies. We can’t have this sort of thing going on – not anywhere, by anybody. We should want an unconditional, no excuses or buts, outcry of NO! I’m glad to see one such sane and active response by The American Muslim organization (see another thread on the home page.) More of that, please, and let’s not hear any more talk about what Molly Norris should or should not have done.

#64 Ted Rall
@ 5:07 am

I agree wholeheartedly: Molly is not “guilty” of anything. Her situation is heartbreaking and completely unacceptable in a free society. She deserves our support.

What I and Stacy and others here are discussing is the answer to Alan’s tacit question: Why didn’t anybody care about what happened to her? I think the answers include:

1. Molly is an unknown cartoonist. No one I know had previously heard of her. As an unknown, she had neither the ability to convince other cartoonists to draw Muhammed nor to rally to her after the fatwa. If this had happened to Garry Trudeau, it would have gone differently.

2. She behaved cavalierly, flippantly, glibly playing with fire and then being surprised when she got singed. If she went into it bravely, saying she was going to draw the Prophet, and no one could stop her and if they killed her for doing it, so be it, she would have established the moral authority through her courageous example that would have generated support.

3. Never apologize. In America, it’s taken as a sign of weakness. Once you’ve flung a poo bomb, take the heat. Don’t try to backpedal. She tried to act all reasonable-like. This ain’t Reasonistan. It’s the YooEssAy. Stupidest thing I’ve ever done is express regret for a cartoon. Never again, no matter how bad it is.

#65 Tom Wood
@ 6:41 am

SC: Again, I?m not defending the Muslim religion, but to think anyone is going to change their rule of not depicting Mohammed is like trying to convince a Christian how ridiculous Noah?s ark, parting the Red Sea, feeding masses of people with fish and bread, walking on water, etc. is.

But this is how cultures do change over time, one small step at a time. Religion is being herded into a smaller and smaller space as its truth claims are found to be false. As our understanding of the universe (and ourselves) increases, the gaps for religion to fill will close. It takes some push.

The prohibition against drawing Mohammed was done at a time when people worshiped a large variety of godlets, each with their own icon. At a time when the church powers were trying to consolidate under a monotheism, the rule had practical value because they didn’t want Mohammed to become just another icon. Now the rule is irrelevant and Islam needs to come into the 21st century.

I think the pro cartoonists should show more support for Molly, despite Ted’s reasons why they haven’t. It’s not too late.

good golly miss molly

#66 Frank White
@ 6:50 am

, I presume she won’t be able to make a living as a cartoonistunder a differerent name because her style is recognisable. that’s a real shame her earning capacity is affected as well as her identity

#67 Joe Sutliff
@ 7:08 am

Okay, focusing on the question at hand: Why doesn’t anyone care what happens to Molly?

Being unknown – sure. What’s your point? Only famous cartoonists can take chances or deserve protection? Boy, am I ever screwed.

She behaved flippantly – sure. Geez, I behave flippantly all the time. That’s why I draw cartoons for a living. Have a beer or three with Pat Oliphant if you want to meet a guy who can be flippant. And at the risk of whacking the horse way past the t.o.d., she didn’t draw Muhammed or , I believe, set out with an agenda to bait muslims. She was addressing a topic in the news, the death threats against Parker and Stone, which is fair game in my book.

She apologized – a sign of weakness – sure. But what if she meant it? What if she really didn’t mean to be taken literally? Should she pretend to own an attitude she didn’t honestly have?

#68 Joe Sutliff
@ 7:10 am

And if you don’t believe she was sincere in her apology – why? Only gutsy guy cartoonists mean what they say?

#69 Joe Sutliff
@ 7:11 am

and another thing – okay, not really. I just wanted to get number 69. See? I can be flippant too.

#70 Pete Murphey
@ 7:27 am

It seems rather silly to say that the intensity of ones support for
the principle and practice of free speech, particularly from cartoonists over artistic or political expression, should be affected by an artist’s fame, attitude, bravery, or apologies. Those are matters for what one might think about Molly as an individual and an artist or the wisdom of what she did, which is irrelevant to this issue.

#71 Terry LaBan
@ 7:50 am

@Carl Let?s face it, we?ve all been intimidated by these jerks and Molly is paying the price for our cowardice.

Speak for yourself, Carl. Personally, I didn’t participate in Molly’s little campaign because, unlike the South Park episode it was a reaction to, I thought it was stupid, juvenile and served no purpose other than to provoke. I don’t think Molly deserves to suffer for what she did. But speech is a lot easier to defend when it’s intelligent.

#72 Pete Murphey
@ 8:36 am

“But speech is a lot easier to defend when it?s intelligent.”

What is “intelligent speech” is a subjective matter. The test of defending speech is not when it’s easy but when it’s hard.

#73 Henry Clausner
@ 8:37 am

Intelligent or inappropriate, can we check both?

#74 Matt Bors
@ 11:24 am

“I presume she won?t be able to make a living as a cartoonistunder a differerent name because her style is recognisable. that?s a real shame her earning capacity is affected as well as her identity”

Like most cartoonists, she probably wasn’t making anything you would call a living from a paper in Seattle running her weekly comic. Perhaps that’s why she didn’t think it was worth it to continue. Now that she changed her name, I honestly don’t know why it would be so difficult to publish.

I was already considering what I would if this were to somehow happen to me. I work from home and file all my work via e-mail. I don’t see why you can’t live some place (anywhere on Earth, really) under your new identity and file cartoons under your “real” name. My syndicate delivers a check to my bank electronically.

Personally I’d do anything to continue–including risk my life. Not trying to sound brave. I just can’t quit cartooning. (I’d have to get a real job and, truly, I’d rather die.)

Molly Norris has her reasons for quitting and that’s fine, but it doesn’t seem like it would be impossible to continue cartooning in *relative* safety.

Her situation shouldn’t be downplayed at all, but the blog post above writes: “She has very likely been forever cut off from family and friends.” Give me a break. She’s not going to call her family on her cell phone? Or hop on a plane under her new identity and visit them? I have a hard time believing that. She shouldn’t have to deal with any inconvenience for drawing a damn cartoon, but how much do we really know about her new living conditions and how much of this is pure conjecture?

#75 Ted Rall
@ 12:13 pm

@Joe: Did you read what I wrote?

Once more, sloooow-ly:

Jihadi censors bad. We should hate them.

Molly lame. We should learn from her example.

Both true. At the same time.

#76 Joe Sutliff
@ 12:47 pm

I guess it comes down to this – did you like the Molly cartoon or didn’t you? Everything else springs from that, and that, as they say, is why Baskin-Robbins makes 31 flavors (free plug on a hot topic! do I get an ice cream cone?)

Like religion (perhaps even more so) humor is subject to taste and can be argued indefinitely – although I plan to stop here, thank you very much.

#77 Ted Rall
@ 12:57 pm

No, I don’t think it comes to whether Molly’s work is any good. Free speech is a right.

I think you’re conflating two questions:

Does she have the right? Answer: Yes, yes, hell yes!

Was she stupid? Also yes.

Should we have stood up for her? Hell yes. I was merely explaining why we didn’t.

#78 Mike Peterson
@ 2:26 pm

I agree with Matt. She’s doesn’t have to be in the Witness Protection Program. She isn’t being pursued by the Gambino family — she’s being pursued by a bunch of idiots with bombs in their underpants.

As I suggested before, we don’t extend 24-hour protection to women with far more immediate security threats than this.

She needs to get out of town. Thanks to cell phones, she doesn’t need a phone number that will tell people where she is. She’d probably be smart to drop in to see her parents on random weekends and not on their 40th anniversary, but nobody is going to be really tracking where she is or what she’s up to.

And, as Matt suggests, she doesn’t need to stop cartooning. My main client is nearly 2,000 miles away from my apartment, and they direct deposit my pay to a bank that happens to be in a state I left two years ago. And I’m not even trying to hide. Where you are today is where your laptop is.

#79 Stacy Curtis
@ 3:28 pm

Frank White wrote: ” I presume she won?t be able to make a living as a cartoonistunder a differerent name because her style is recognisable. that?s a real shame her earning capacity is affected as well as her identity”

Do you know how much money cartoonists make?
She’d be financially better off in another profession anyway.

#80 Tom Wood
@ 3:45 pm


#81 Jerry Zee
@ 9:35 am

If I was to advise Molly, I’d say buy a shotgun, move to one of these states like Texas where all your neighbors are similarly armed, go sit on your front porch with your shotgun and tell those bastards to come and get you. When the nuts who issued the fatwa see that they’d be facing an armed person capable of protecting themself and their rights instead of a helpless victim, they’d just slink away. She needs to stand up for herself. Going into hiding lets them win.

#82 Mike Peterson
@ 3:58 pm

Yes. More guns are almost always the solution to our problems!

#83 Jerry Zee
@ 4:34 pm

For once you got it right Mike. Glad to see you agree.

#84 Shane Davis
@ 5:37 pm

Guns don’t kill people.

Lead projectiles flying at 1200 feet per second as a result of a violent, forced chamber explosion do.

Just FYI.

#85 Mike Peterson
@ 6:19 pm

Oh, yeah, Jerry. I can just picture Granny sittin’ in the rocker on her porch with her jug of rheumatiz medicine by her side and her shotgun on her lap, 24 hours a day, with a bank of video monitors in front of her, jest in case them jeeehadees come a-sneakin’ around behind the cabin … I can’t think of a more intelligent solution to this problem.

Or at least, I can’t think of a solution that more belongs in a cartoon, and, after all, we’re supposed to be talkin’ about cartoons.

#86 JP Freire
@ 12:15 pm

You should check back with SPJ about when they released that statement of support. We can’t seem to find it anywhere aside from you and a handful of other websites, and it most certainly is not on their website.

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