Talented artist goes into hiding: Molly Norris & “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day”


No more Molly

It’s official.

An hour ago, the Seattle Weekly announced:  “You may have noticed that Molly Norris‘ comic is not in the paper this week. That’s because there is no more Molly.”

The talented cartoonist who launched the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” on Facebook, and then regretted and withdrew her proposal, has nevertheless had to go into hiding – moving, changing her name, washing out her identity – at the suggestion of the FBI. It’s just like the witness protection program. The government, however, will not be picking up the tab.  She will.

Norris viewed the situation with characteristic humor: “When FBI agents, on a recent visit, instructed her to always keep watch for anyone following her, she responded, ‘Well, at least it’ll keep me from being so self-involved!'”

She joins a growing class of writers, filmmakers, cartoonists, political activists, beginning with Salman Rushdie in 1989 who must be guarded 24/7.  As Paul Berman wrote in The Flight of the Intellectuals:

“And so, Salman Rushdie has metastisized into an entire social class. … who survive only because of bodyguards and police investigations and because of their own precautions. This is unprecedented in Western Europe since the fall of the Axis.  Fear — mortal fear, the fear of getting murdered by fanatics in the grip of a bizarre ideology — has become, for a significant number of intellectuals and artists, a simple fact of modern life.”

Murdered: Theo van Gogh

We’ve written before about Molly, and also urged people to sign the petition backed by cartoonists Oliphant and Garry Trudeau.

Almost more troubling than the announcement is the American reaction — in particular, the youngsters who seem to feel it is incumbent upon us to avoid expressing opinions that distress others, and that Norris herself is at fault for the fatwa that has been brought upon her.  (Yes, yes, I know.  It’s not technically a fatwa.  I don’t care.)  At some point, to have any kind of character at all, one has to decide not to be a coward.

The last time I suggested at a gathering that maybe it was time to reintroduce some old-fashioned First Amendment values into our educational system, I was attending a dinner party with liberal academics.  They acted almost as if I’d burped at the table. Isn’t that a Sarah Palin kind of thing, they asked.

Maybe. But I remember the day when it was a left-wing kind of thing, and I spent a portion of my university years signing letters for Amnesty International, and working in London for Michael Scammell‘s Index on Censorship.

God knows I hear enough offensive things towards my own values, beliefs, religion, etc. – and on a daily basis, too. But freedom of speech begins at the point where you offend me.  Otherwise it has no meaning at all.

Postscript: Medievalist Jeff Sypeck speaks out on the affair here.

Postscript on June 14, 2018: It appears that Dutch politico wants to start his own “Draw Muhammed” day. Perhaps he’s never heard of Molly Norris. Read about that here.

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4 Responses to “Talented artist goes into hiding: Molly Norris & “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day””

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  3. Quid plura? | "Na na na na na na, make my mind up for me..." Says:

    […] my cartoonist years seemed all the more idyllic when I read this morning, with horror and nausea, that Molly Norris of the Seattle Weekly has ceased to exist: The talented cartoonist who launched the “Everybody Draw Mohammed Day” on Facebook, and then […]

  4. Cynthia Haven Says:

    More on this guy’s p.o.v. in today’s post…