The Future of Free Speech

At the Muslim Day Parade in NYC last weekend, jihadists were once again demanding (in speeches attended by city leaders and state senators) that free speech be outlawed:

  • “We demand that the United Nations make an international law against blashpemy!”
  • “The right of free thought and free opinion ends where others rights begins.”
  • “We demand that the American president and the American legislators make a law to ban this video!”
  • “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

Actually, that last quote was President Obama, speaking to the United Nations. The transcript is here.

The speech has many interesting features. One thing that struck me: When Obama was seeking an example of blasphemy in the US, he (or his speechwriters) naturally thought of people who criticize Obama himself:

Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense.  Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.  As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so.

I’ll bet that the “countless publications” in his mind included Fox News.  But to give him credit, he did defend the First Amendment:

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views — even views that we profoundly disagree with.  We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.

We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because, given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

I know that not all countries in this body share this particular understanding of the protection of free speech.  We recognize that. But in 2012, at a time when anyone with a cell phone can spread offensive views around the world with the click of a button, the notion that we can control the flow of information is obsolete.

The question, then, is how we respond.  And on this we must agree: There is no speech that justifies mindless violence. There are no words that excuse the killing of innocents. There is no video that justifies an attack on an embassy.  There is no slander that provides an excuse for people to burn a restaurant in Lebanon, or destroy a school in Tunis, or cause death and destruction in Pakistan.

Some of the speech was good, some troubling. The “We will not retreat from the world” lines I approve of, and the ones where we will continue to support democratic transitions (all of which become jihadist) are problematic.

That line, “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam,” is a little less startling in context — it’s part of a series of “not belong” lines — but it is still a rather odd statement, following as it does hard on the heels of the defense of free speech. And especially considering the fact that the US, by its “decadent” nature, is considered by many an insult to Islam and its prophet Mohammad. We cannot avoid such an insult, since we exist as a free, non-Sharia country.

And the insult of our existence was made clear in New York City last weekend. The jihadists have a solution — and as their magazine article proudly featured, it involves raising the black flag of jihad in place of the American flag — over the US Capitol.

But the Leftist notion of free speech in America is not at all one of reverence and protection, as Obama has indicated in his attacks on the video.  Supreme Court Justice Breyer has indicated, as I wrote previously, that the protection of free speech may have to yield to Muslim sensibilities. And he gets a very famous Supreme Court case completely wrong, in an interview on TV.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle