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Ted Rall’s work has been dropped from the New York Times’ online editorial cartoon page. The Times said that, while respecting free speech rights, they had an obligation not to offend the sensibilities of their readers and that Rall’s work did not fit the “tone” they try to set. Rall attributes the decision to Republican pressure and an orchestrated campaign against him since the controversial March, 2002 “Terror Widows” cartoon that placed him on rightwing hit lists.

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It is pretty outrageous, indeed, but I thought that defense of free speech means defending content that you don’t like, content that, ummm, offends sensibilities. By that same token, the New York Times has no obligation to run his work, but the assertion that they are responding to the discomfort of their readers cannot be made without acknowledging the rightwing attack dog tactics at work these days. Since 9-11, defense of certain unpleasant free speech has become markedly less popular in the face of risks that it will get one labelled a terrorist sympathizer.

Noting that he derives no income from the Times‘ carrying his cartoons, he asks for the assistance of those concerned with this partisan censorship. You can write to the CEO of New York Times Digital, a letter to the editor of the Times, and New York Times ombudsperson Daniel Okrent.