Repudiating its professed commitment to "the discovery and dissemination of light and truth," Yale University Press will publish Jytte Klausen's forthcoming account of the Muhammed cartoon controversy, The Cartoons That Shook the World, only after excising the cartoons and other images of Muhammed. ("Yale Press Bans Images of Muhammad in New Book," the New York Times reports.) A justifiably outraged statement from the American Association of University Professors notes that Yale Press is not even responding to threats of violence but merely "anticipating them and making or recommending concessions beforehand."
Giving in to a fear of violence (the advice of unnamed consultants and, I suspect, some risk averse lawyers), Yale has effectively condoned the heckler's veto. This policy of appeasement may serve to encourage threats of violence against other authors or publishers of allegedly blasphemous or presumptively hateful books. Its chilling effect seems obvious. As the AAUP statement asks, "What is to stop publishers from suppressing an author's words if it appears they may offend religious fundamentalists or groups threatening violence?"
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