Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Middle East Media Sampler 9/19/2012: Why Obama Administration Owes Apology -- But Not To Egypt

From DG:

Friedman - worth reading and related thoughts about the video

This won't happen very often but I highly recommend today's Thomas Friedman column, Look in your mirror. It is a response to this:
On Monday, David D. Kirkpatrick, the Cairo bureau chief for The Times, quoted one of the Egyptian demonstrators outside the American Embassy, Khaled Ali, as justifying last week’s violent protests by declaring: “We never insult any prophet — not Moses, not Jesus — so why can’t we demand that Muhammad be respected?” Mr. Ali, a 39-year-old textile worker, was holding up a handwritten sign in English that read: “Shut Up America.” “Obama is the president, so he should have to apologize!”
Friedman shows the hypocrisy of such demands citing numerous examples from MEMRI.

Though he worked from a similar premise, Bret Stephens approached the issue from the other side in Muslims, Mormons and Liberals.
The "Book of Mormon"—a performance of which Hillary Clinton attended last year, without registering a complaint—comes to mind as the administration falls over itself denouncing "Innocence of Muslims." This is a film that may or may not exist; whose makers are likely not who they say they are; whose actors claim to have known neither the plot nor purpose of the film; and which has never been seen by any member of the public except as a video clip on the Internet.  
No matter. The film, the administration says, is "hateful and offensive" (Susan Rice), "reprehensible and disgusting" (Jay Carney) and, in a twist, "disgusting and reprehensible" (Hillary Clinton). Mr. Carney, the White House spokesman, also lays sole blame on the film for inciting the riots that have swept the Muslim world and claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Libya. 
So let's get this straight: In the consensus view of modern American liberalism, it is hilarious to mock Mormons and Mormonism but outrageous to mock Muslims and Islam. Why? Maybe it's because nobody has ever been harmed, much less killed, making fun of Mormons.
Focusing on the administration's response to the video, James Taranto allows that the "optics" may indeed be worse than the reality ...
Yet even if law enforcement's treatment of Nakoula was entirely above board, critics of the administration have good reason for suspicion that it is hostile to civil liberties. On Friday, Politico reports, the White House asked Google, which owns YouTube, "to review the video to see if it was in compliance with their terms of use," in press secretary Jay Carney's words. Having already done so and finding it compliant, Google rejected the implicit censorship request. 
Blogger Eugene Volokh, a First Amendment scholar, wisely counsels against the temptation to attempt to buy calm by yielding to censorship just this one time: "It seems to me to actually be safer--not just better for First Amendment principles, but actually safer for Americans — to hold the line now, and make clear that American speech is protected even if foreigners choose to respond to it with murder. That would send the message, 'murder won't get you what you want.' Not a perfectly effective message to be sure, but a better one than 'murder will get you what you want.' " 
The message of the administration's ineffectual effort at censorship, however, is something like this: "We can't guarantee that murder will get you what you want, but we promise we'll do our best." That's arguably more provocative even than simple capitulation.
I find the administration's (and media's) focus on the video especially disturbing as a result of its participation in the "Istanbul process." Secretary Clinton's address to the Washington meeting discussing the Istanbul process, clearly rejected the idea of criminalizing speech, even abhorrent speech.
Now, in the United States, we continue to combat intolerance because it is – unfortunately, seems to be part of human nature. It is hurtful when bigotry pollutes the public sphere, but the state does not silence ideas, no matter how disagreeable they might be, because we believe that in the end, the best way to treat offensive speech is by people either ignoring it or combating it with good arguments and good speech that overwhelms it. 
So we do speak out and condemn hateful speech. In fact, we think it is our duty to do so, but we don’t ban it or criminalize it. And over the centuries, what we have found is that the rough edges get rubbed off, and people are free to believe and speak, even though they may hold diametrically opposing views. 
Now, with Resolution 1618, we have clarified these dual objectives. We embrace the role that free expression plays in bolstering religious tolerance. We have agreed to build a culture of understanding and acceptance through concrete measures to combat discrimination and violence, such as education and outreach, and we are working together to achieve those objectives.
However, the language of 16/18 (.pdf) contains this:
(f) Adopting measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based on religion or belief;
Perhaps Secretary Clinton was assuaged by the qualifier, "imminent." But it seems that the State Department is coming very close to adopting the view of the OIC with little dissent.

In the wake of the Washington meeting last December, Nina Shea wrote:
US diplomats should stop the “Istanbul Process” and begin to energetically and confidently promote the virtues of our First Amendment freedoms. They should be thoroughly briefed about the OIC’s intractable position on blasphemy laws and the extent of atrocities associated with them. They must end signaling that there is common ground on these issues between us and the OIC.
Given this background, it is particularly disturbing the way the administration has used legal means, not just rhetorical rejection to address the anti-Islamic video. The administration may not have deprived anyone of free speech as some of its critics have charged, but its actions certainly demonstrate an uncomfortable sympathy for those who would criminalize offensive speech.

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