Capurro-RafaelAn article by Rafael Capurro, on Intercultural Information Ethics

There is an interesting ethical and intercultural discussion in the German newspapers (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Jan 13, 2015, No. 10, p. 8: “Angst vor Blasphemie. Die britische und amerikanische Pressse und die Moral” by Jochen Buchsteiner and Andreas Ross) about how the US (The NY Times, The Washington Post but also CNN) and UK (Dominic Lawson) newspapers refused to publish the Mohammed satirical cartoons of Charlie Hebdo because of ‘internal rules’ based on the precept that the US is a multi-cultural country with a special sensitivity about not insulting minorities of any kind. Some German journalists view this as a kind of cowardice coming paradoxically from countries that defend freedom of speech and freedom of the press. British journalists such as Nigel Lawson, Peter Hitchens and Rod Liddle are seen as ‘politically correct’ and defenders of public morality, “Sittenwächter” or guardian of morality, which is a very negative concept in German. My impression is that the Anglo-Saxon culture is less ‘fundamentalist’, or more pragmatic than the German culture is. Consider the difference between satire and insult or hate speech or hate pictures, as Dean Baquet, executive editor of The New York Times, has outlined. Is this decision really a product of having fear (“Angst”), of being blasphemic, or is it the result of weighing prudently (Aristotle’s phronesis)? Or is it ‘just’ practical cleverness in this particular situation, taking into consideration the global impact of what is locally published independently? If I know that the people I am attacking or ridiculing are anything but rational and that their reaction will cause social disruption, is it ethically prudent to produce these kind of ‘blasphemies’, however otherwise viewed by ‘enlightened’ religions? Is it not possible to distinguish between critical speech and that which is considered by an ‘irrational other’ _as_ blasphemic? And is it not paradoxical in this situation that to defend our values in such a way is considered by said ‘irrational other’ as a kind of religious war? Did we not learn from Freud how to deal with the ‘irrational other’ in ourselves and in others? (more…)