The XX Factor

Molly Norris Disappears

A week ago, a young woman disappeared , and no one really seems to care. Cartoonist Molly Norris briefly became famous last spring when she suggested, in response to self-censorship by Comedy Central over the portrayal of Muhammad on South Park , that there be an “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day.” The idea went viral, and cleric Anwar al-Awlaki called for her execution. The FBI took this threat very seriously. An agent in charge of counterterrorism, David Gomez, said the FBI was assisting Norris and others on the hit list to “effectively protect themselves and change their behavior to make themselves less of a target.” Yes, that’s where we are-the FBI is there to give cheeky Americans advice in not offending murderous Islamists. Norris quickly backed off her suggestion and said she meant no offense. That apparently was not good enough to keep her from potentially becoming the next Theo Van Gogh . So last week her former employer, the Seattle Weekly , announced that there would be no more Norris cartoons because “there is no more Molly.” She has gone underground and taken on a new identity; the FBI calls it “going ghost.” She’s not in the witness protection program, however, so the government is not paying for her disappearance. The paper does not explain how a ghost manages to find employment.

In recent weeks our leaders have vehemently condemned the odious would-be Quran burner, Terry Jones. Gen. David Petraeus said if Jones proceeded he would endanger the lives of our troops. Petraeus’ remarks can’t be refuted-offending Islam has resulted in numerous deaths. What’s disturbing, however, is the lack of full-throated defense of our right to offend. So now a young woman has had to disappear because of a suggestion about a cartoon. This should be the source of fervent outrage by the same leaders who castigated Jones. But their silence makes Norris’ disappearance tragically complete.