Tim Rutten Shows Outstanding Grit in Columns On Cartoons
Rutten would be a distinguished editorial page editor in a Times freed of the mediocre grip of the Chicago Tribune.
His latest column yesterday, "Let's be honest about cartoons" takes on Times Editor Dean Baquet as to whether the Times should illustrate its articles about the cartoons by actually reprinting samples of the original work by courageous Danish cartoonists.
Baquet, who has unwisely given up control over the editorial pages of the paper to minions from Chicago, says no. Rutten argues yes. Baquet, falling victim to a too-frequent tendency to want to have it both ways, tells Rutten, no he can't run the cartoons, but he should write the toughest possible column.
The Times, acccording to Rutten, will print all kinds of reviews critical of the Catholic Church, and allow fulsome reports of anti-Semitic cartoons emanating regularly out of the Arab World. But it will not show its own readers even a sample, inside the Calendar pages, of the cartoons that appeared in September in Denmark.
It used to be said that Rutten could be too complex in his writing, lose his readers in indirectiveness. This is not the case in recent months, in which Rutten has turned in the most incisive writing on media topics in the American press today. One aspect of the cartoon controversy is its pertinence to reform from within Islam. Without challenge by moderate Muslims, the extremists flourish.
Ruttin has always been independent and honest. At a time when the Times has too often been going down hill, Rutten has always leveled with the readers and never, as an editor and a columnist, showed an unwillingness to practice what the late columnist James Reston of the New York Times termed calling "a spade a bloody shovel," in other words calling things what they are.
In his columns last Saturday and this Saturday, Rutten has devoted himself to pointing up the glaring discord between complaints and threats coming from the Muslim world over mildly-critical cartoons about Muslim reform and the willingness in the Middle East to slander Jews and Christians.
The thugs who lead Iran and Syria have called for punishing the cartoonists and craven apologies from the Danish and other governments, while themselves pursuing a policy of venomous invective against other religions and cultures.
Meanwhile, too many leaders in the American media have failed to give their readers any clear sense of what the controversy is about. As Rutten says, they have allowed themselves to be terrorized. Rutten gives the New York Times and CNN as examples, but he could just as well name Time magazine, which is under new, characterless direction.
These are the same publications who are about to allow the Catholic Church to be slandered in the phony, I do not use the mere word fictional, Da Vinci Code movie.
"Give me liberty or give me death," said the Virginia patriot, Patrick Henry. The service Tim Rutten has been performing is not to allow American media gurus such as Wolf Blitzer get away with saying, "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Muslim Fanaticism, as long as the Fanatics Don't Go After Me."