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Jacoby and Fear

I think Jeff Jacoby was trying to deliver a back-handed compliment to the Phoenix this week with his Sunday column charging that the American media were simply too afraid to publish the inflammatory cartoon images of the Prophet Mohammed. It's true that the Phoenix was candid in listing security concerns as a key reason for not publishing the cartoons -- and I believe they were a factor, to varying degrees, in some other media outlets' considerations as well.

But speaking strictly for myself, not my paper, I think Jacoby -- a "clash of civilizations" aficionado if ever there was one --simply can't bring himself to imagine that such legitimate and worthy impulses as respect for the sensibilities and religious beliefs of the large majority of the Muslim world could have played into the equation. Thus, he insists, he knows the one and only motive for the relative restraint on the part of the US media.

"Rationalizations notwithstanding, the refusal of the US media to show the images at the heart of one of the most urgent stories of the day is not about restraint and good taste. It's about fear," he wrote.

I don't agree with much of Jacoby's stark and simplistic worldview nor his hyperbolic linking of the cartoon episode to appeasement of the Nazis and playing footsie with the Soviet totalitarians. Maybe what's really bugging him is the same concern gnawing at the neo-cons -- who pretty much think of geopolitics as a global version of Rotisserie baseball -- that's enunciated in Peter Canellos's intriguing Globe column today. Maybe they're scared that a once pliant but now somewhat chastened George Bush has had enough of their endless saber rattling, their faulty assumptions, and their lousy advice.

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