I have seen and heard a good deal of talk about the decision by the New York Times not to reprint cartoons from Charlie Hebdo. The official explanation is that they do not want to offend their Muslim readers. Their critics point out that they have been willing to publish things offensive to other groups of readers in the past, and attribute the policy to the fear that publishing the cartoons might result in violent attacks on the Times or its staff. They go on to argue that refusing for that reason is, if not admirable, at least understandable, but that the Times ought to have the honesty to admit that that is what they are doing.
I think both explanations are wrong. What is really going on, as I interpret it, is tribal politics, as described by (among others) Dan Kahan and Scott Alexander, both of whom I have linked to in the past. A considerable part of the U.S. population identifies with either the red tribe (Republicans, conservatives) or the blue tribe (Democrats, liberals), choosing positions and interpreting evidence accordingly.
Both tribes are, of course, opposed to Muslim terrorism and the murder of journalists. But the blue tribe version amounts to "Muslim terrorists are bad people, but we should not let their offenses prejudice us against the vast majority of Muslims who are not terrorists or give us a negative opinion of their religion." The red tribe version concedes that not all Muslims are terrorists but sees Muslim terrorism as part of an us vs them conflict, with "us" the west and "them" the Muslim world. The same split shows up in views of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The blue tribe, or at least its hard core members, sees the Palestinians as the oppressed, the Israelis as the oppressors. The red tribe sees the Israelis as part of us, the Palestinians as part of them.
The New York Times is the nearest thing the blue tribe has to an official organ. The Charlie Hebdo case is a red tribe story. The Times cannot deny that it happened, cannot refuse to cover it, cannot defend the killers. But it also cannot identify with victims who, from its (unstated) point of view, were on the wrong side of the red/blue split over Islam, deliberately provoking Muslims with their cartoons.