Did you think you would live to see this?

Swedish Flag   MYes, I know that it is the newspaper of a far-right political party, a fringe group that wants strict immigration controls and has little or no mainstream role in Swedish politics. But did you ever think that you would live to see this news story? The Swedish government has shut down a newspaper website, reacting to its stance in favor of publishing cartoons of Muhammad. Here is Islam Online's take on the same story:

The site's host, Levonline, pulled the plug on the website of the Swedish Democrats' SD-Kuriren newspaper after consulting with the government. It is believed to be the first time a Western government has intervened to block a publication in the growing row.

Kuriren editor Richard Jomshof said the government was breaking the law.

"We have to do something about it. This is illegal. They can't do this just because we are a small magazine," he told the BBC News website.

Once again, government officials have found themselves in a double bind. They are for free speech. But they are not for free speech by small groups of offensive people or, at least, people who are willing to offend the wrong religious groups.

Once there was a saying that free speech does not include the right to shout "Fire!" (or, perhaps, "Burn, baby, burn!") in a crowded building. Now, it seems, there is no right to shout "We disagree with your doctrine!" in a small, crowded nation. This is what that press theory sounds like in practice:

Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds described Kuriren's move as "a provocation" by "a small group of extremists."

"I will defend freedom of the press no matter what the circumstances, but I strongly condemn the provocation by SD-Kuriren. It displays a complete lack of respect," she said in a statement.

However, it should be noted that there are press reports that the SD-Kuriren website is -- at the moment -- back online via a backup server. (Then again, maybe not.) In the age of the World Wide Web, you can put servers anywhere. But, up until now, I think most people would have assumed that Sweden was the kind of place where offensive people, just to be safe, wanted to locate their servers. As a friend of mine said today: You mean there is something that is too offensive for the Swedish government?

By the way, here is my understanding of where many mainstream American newspapers are at the moment. They are confused and conflicted. Click here for a National Journal look at the Catch-22.

flag danishOr, once again, let's take The New York Times as the MSM outlet of record.

In the past, it has been the position of the Times that it is censorship, in reality if not in law, for government officials to deny government money to artists and communicators who wanted to produce offensive speach that offended religious groups. Perhaps the Times is gaining a new appreciation for the power of religious images, in this current debate. However, it would seem that the long-established stance of the Times editorial board would lead it to argue that it would be censorship for the Swedish government (or the Danes) to deny actual government funds to artists and communicators who wanted to prod, provoke and offend religious orthodoxies.

Then again, perhaps this does not apply to all religions.

Then again, perhaps -- for the Times editorial board, and editorial-page leaders in some other zip codes -- journalists are not artists and communicators.

One final comment, after looking at the controversial flags together: Do flags burn better in certain parts of the world when they have crosses on them? Just asking.

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