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What a Difference a Nipple Makes

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Was it two years ago? Janet Jackson and what's-his-name did that cute little halftime number (the same slot that got the Rolling Stones censored this year: "You make a dead man -- uhhhh"), and then she had her wardrobe malfunction. American religionists of a certain flavor were outraged, and for at least two weeks it seemed as if no newspaper, website, or television news or newsertainment program could be produced that didn't include a healthy serving of the malfunction. Sometimes the offending nipple was pixilated, sometimes not, but any news media outlet that refused to jump on that bandwagon is most likely read only by academics or is out of business.

Flash forward, and religionists of a certain flavor overseas are outraged about some cartoons solicited as illustrations for a book on Islam. A Danish newspaper published them first, then other papers in Europe followed in solidarity against the slowly rising protest. By the time this story got on the American radar screen, embassies were being burned, and editors and cartoonists were getting death threats. And how many American media outlets let us see what the fuss was about? On his program Monday night, Tucker Carlson quizzed the M.E. of the Chicago Tribune about the latter's decision not to run the offending drawings. Carlson admirably started by acknowledging his own network's similar refusal. For many newspapers, the decision was made for them by the AP. Here's that service's explanation to the SF Chronicle:

Speaking by phone, AP executive editor Kathleen Carroll told The Chronicle, "The cartoons didn't meet our long-held standards for not moving offensive content. The AP is not just an indiscriminate warehouse for information. We put a lot of care into what we put on the wire."

The AP cared enough to put a photo of Jackson's malfunction on the wire, just so, you know, we'd understand the context of the fuss. But, of course, that was then.