It has become de rigueur over the last few disheartening days for U.S. officials to begin any discussion of the uprisings in the Middle East by excoriating the “filmmaker,” whose anti-Muslim video, movie, or whatever the deuce the danged thing is is being used as a flimsy pretext for the uprisings. The lives of four American citizens, including our ambassador, have been lost, but U.S. officials seem more comfortable apologizing for what they see as lacks in our society than damning those who have harmed us.
Stop it already! The right thing to say is: Stop these bloody rampages; we are really, really angry. We can’t, in an open society, police the weird things people do by way of expressing their views. Our officials should not be apologetic about this right. We cannot cower in fear that somebody is going to say something that offends fanatics.
Added to that, the folks behind these mobs have to be laughing up their sleeves. They know that the video was largely irrelevent. The date of the assaults on our embassies–September 11–should have been a tip off even to the striped pantsuits in Foggy Bottom.
We should be very worried that officialdom seems angrier at the video maker than the killers. We should be alarmed that many–including people in the media–appear willing to surrender on the free speech front to appease murderous escapes from the ninth century.
Jonah Goldberg notes one particular hotbed of anti-free speech sentiment:
Over at MSNBC, a riot of consensus broke out when contributors Mike Barnicle and Donny Deutsch as well as University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler all agreed that the people behind the video should be indicted as accessories to murder. “Good morning,” declared Butler, “How soon is Sam Bacile [the alleged creator of the film] going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now.”
Barnicle set his sights on Terry Jones, the pastor who wanted to burn the Koran a while back and who was allegedly involved in the video as well. “Given this supposed minister’s role in last year’s riots in Afghanistan, where people died, and given his apparent or his alleged role in this film, where . . . at least one American, perhaps the American ambassador, is dead, it might be time for the Department of Justice to start viewing his role as an accessory before or after the fact.”
Deutsch helpfully added: “I was thinking the same thing, yeah.”
Goldberg goes on:
It’s interesting to see such committed liberals in lockstep agreement with the Islamist government in Egypt, which implored the U.S. government to take legal action against the filmmakers. Interestingly, not even the Muslim Brotherhood–controlled Egyptian government demanded these men be tried for murder.
Now, I have next to no sympathy for the makers of this film, who clearly hoped to start trouble, violent or otherwise. But where does this logic end? One of the things we’ve learned all too well is that the “Muslim street” — and often Muslim elites — have a near-limitless capacity to take offense at slights to their religion, honor, history, or feelings.
Does Barnicle want Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses, charged with being an accessory to murder, too? That book has in one way or another led to several deaths. Surely he should have known that he was stirring up trouble. Perhaps the U.S. Justice Department and the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security could work together on a joint prosecution?
Perhaps Rushdie’s offense doesn’t count because he’s a literary celebrity?
Disturbingly, government officials have leaked the name and general whereabouts of the man who made the offending video to the newspapers. Ross Kaminsky writes:
I agree that [the video maker] Mr. Nakoula, at least based on his history as reported by the AP, is not a model citizen. In 2010, he was sentenced to 21 months in jail and ordered to pay $794,700 in restitution for committing bank fraud.
We don't know whether Mr. Nakoula is an American citizen either, though one would expect his criminal sentence to include mention of deportation if he were not. The UK's Daily Mail reports that "Last year, he was stripped of Egyptian citizenship after he called on the US to intervene in the country to protect its Christians."
But none of this, not the likelihood of a reporter determining that Nakoula and Bacile are one and the same, not Nakoula's unsavory past, and not whatever his citizenship status might be can justify a federal agent outing him to the world.
The Rushdie affair was a long time ago. We've changed. The West is more craven, and, also, it seems that our elites are now more likely to regard freedom of speech as a right that shouldn’t be extended to just anybody. Some people may, in the words of our brave Secretary of State, “abuse” this right.