Lindsay Beyerstein in her excellent blog Majikthise:
The Danish cartoon scandal is a shameful manufactured controversy. A petty racist publicity stunt was hijacked by successively larger and more influential opportunists until it because an international incident.
It all started on September 30, 2005 when Denmark’s second-largest newspaper, Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The paper didn’t just happen to publish some cartoons of Mohammed because they were good or topical. The cartoons were a self-conscious attempt to provoke controversy.
“[W]e wanted to show how deeply entrenched self-censorship has already become,” a J-P spokesman told Der Spigel.
In other words, The J-P decided to conduct a little experiment. Can we get a rise out of the Islamic fundamentalists? A drastically disproportionate reaction? Suppose we tip the scales towards by adding racism and inflammatory politics to the blasphemy? If when excruciatingly predictable happens, we’ll have “Proof Islam Hates Our Freedom.” If the cartoons go unnoticed, the experiment will be dropped–headline won’t be “Islam is Cool After All.”