Saturday, March 25, 2006

Blogosphere gets results

As I noted at the time (in "Moral equivalence run amok"), Reuters ran a piece Thursday on the equivalencies between the Danish cartoon kerfuffle and the Afghani death-to-the-Christian-convert kerfuffle.

After receiving criticism from the like of Charles Johnson ("Possibly the most insane case of extreme moral equivalence ever seen in mainstream media") and James Taranto ("Only in Reuterville"), Reuters significantly revised the article (though without any apparent acknowledgement that the article was changed).

The original version of the article went like this:
Afghan convert controversy mirrors cartoons row

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
Thu Mar 23, 8:25 AM ET

ROME (Reuters) - The strong Western response to a threatened death sentence for an Afghan convert to Christianity looks something like a mirror image of the Muslim reaction to the Prophet Mohammad caricatures printed in the European press.

There have been no riots or sackings of Afghan embassies, unlike the violence that marked the uproar in Muslim countries after the Danish cartoons were published, but the shock and mutual incomprehension expressed in both cases are similar.

The difference lies in the issues at stake. In the cartoons row, Muslims stressed the sanctity of Mohammad, whom they say nobody -- even non-Muslims -- can criticize. The subtext was resentment against perceived Western prejudice against Islam.
In fairness to Reuters, the point seems to be that the reactions to the controversies were similar, even though the underlying issue was different. But that's not the impression given by the headline or a quick look at the article.

The updated version has lost much of the stench of moral equivalence:
Western, Muslim worlds clash again over religion

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor
Thu Mar 23, 4:23 PM ET

ROME (Reuters) - Western political leaders and the media have reacted with mounting indignation to the news that a Kabul court threatened to impose the death sentence on an Afghan man who abandoned Islam and coverted to Christianity.

Two months ago, political and religious leaders in the Muslim world were rounding on Western European media and governments for printing and defending caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad that they considered blasphemous.

The cases are clearly different.
The edits continue. Here is one notable selection from the original:
Amin Farhang, the Afghan economy minister who lived in exile in Germany for 22 years before returning to Kabul in 2001, saw the parallels and warned against any escalation.
And here is the no-moral-equvalizing update:
Amin Farhang, the Afghan economy minister who lived in exile in Germany for 22 years before returning in 2001, illustrated the gulf between Western and traditional Islamic views when he tried to make a link between the two controversies.
Good for Reuters for eventually getting it right.

Next time, let's hope they can do it on the first try. The papers around the world that print what Reuters writes cannot easily update their print versions when Reuters messes up.