“Strange it is that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free speech but object to their being “pushed to an extreme”, not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case.” - John Stuart Mill
It’s unclear whether or not the attacks against the U.S. embassy in Libya were premeditated as there are conflicting reports emerging from Libyan and American officials. Al-Qaida is encouraging further violence, perhaps in an attempt to convince themselves and others that Libyans support them, when, in fact, 75 percent of Libyans supported U.S. intervention against Muammar Gaddafi. Certainly Al-Qaida sees an opportunity for a propaganda victory in the wake of Ambassador Stevens’s death but it’s probably too soon to judge the extent of their involvement.
This uncertainty, however, has not deterred some journalists from calling for the punishment of the filmmakers behind the incendiary film that may or may not have caused the embassy riots. One columnist, despite being ignorant of almost every relevant fact that would make or break his case, is eager for reprisal:
I’m not a fan of censorship, but if there’s evidence (beyond the circumstantial) that the cretins who made and disseminated this flick were aiming it squarely at Muslim audiences in hopes of setting off a religious war, then it may very well fall outside constitutional protection.
The “I’m not a fan of censorship, but…” reminds one of the common tactic people use to convince their audience that a principle is being upheld even while it’s being destroyed. (How many times have we heard someone say “I don’t condone bigotry but…” right before making a bigoted remark?).
Another writer pretends that the only real dispute is whether or not the “ensuing violence” was “sufficiently imminent.”
While many 1st Amendment scholars defend the right of the filmmakers to produce this film, arguing that the ensuing violence was not sufficiently imminent, I spoke to several experts who said the trailer may well fall outside constitutional guarantees of free speech. “Based on my understanding of the events,” 1st Amendment authority Anthony Lewis said in an interview Thursday, “I think this meets the imminence standard.”
As Glenn Greenwald rightly noted on Twitter this morning, those who write such things only desire to punish speech encouraging violence that they don’t approve of. When George W. Bush, members of his administration, and numerous conservative journalists argued for the use of torture, did that not meet the standard of inciting a violation of the law that is both imminent and likely? Clearly, the law is not being equally applied if an unknown amateur filmmaker can be guilty of inciting imminent violence but not a politician or an established journalist.
By making a potential case for the punishment of the filmmakers before all the relevant facts are available, these journalists are participating in the intimidation and discouragement of free speech, just as the White House did when it requested that Google take down a clip of the anti-Muslim film. (Google has bravely rejected the request).
Speech that pertains to the public interest must be protected. It is important, if not necessary, to allow for the criticism and analysis of religion, even if most of us consider this particular film to be vile. Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Frederick Douglass, and so many others throughout history have criticized both religion and specific religious beliefs. Their statements may have been deemed controversial, even reprehensible, at the time but today we celebrate their wisdom and courage.
I don’t mean to suggest that the filmmakers behind the anti-Muslim movie are courageous or wise because they’re not. But I mean to invoke the rule of unintended consequences. We cannot respect the idea that some free speech is off-limits. The degree to which speech is inappropriate is not just a matter of opinion but is also subject to change.
By all means, let’s dismiss the filmmakers for the ignorant bigots they are and defend the overwhelming majority of Muslims who continue to be linked with violence they do not support and had nothing to do with. But let’s also allow all opinions to be expressed. We’ll sift out the nonsense and eventually the truth will have its day.
- ex-ist likes this
- aboriginalpressnews reblogged this from prettayprettaygood
- happyhealthynomz likes this
- prettayprettaygood reblogged this from carvingscars and added:
- carvingscars reblogged this from prettayprettaygood and added:
- mariopgrant likes this
- theonecalledbiz reblogged this from prettayprettaygood
- marysgrace likes this
- cascademuse reblogged this from prettayprettaygood and added:
- okami-oni reblogged this from prettayprettaygood
- rcousens3 likes this
- eagleofliberty reblogged this from prettayprettaygood
- sarahlee310 likes this
- recantingrage likes this
- please-go-choke-on-it likes this
- anarchival likes this
- santorumforgop likes this
- This was featured in #Politics
- letterstomycountry likes this
- prettayprettaygood posted this