Will Obama Stand Up For American Free Speech?
Yesterday the US embassy in Cairo was attacked by a crowd of Islamists whipped up into such a frenzy about a documentary about Mohammed made by Egyptian expatriates. They stormed over the embassy’s walls and tore down our flag.
In response, the US embassy in Cairo did denounce the people who attacked our embassy, but instead denounced those who had made the documentary. They did so via Twitter:
We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
— US Embassy Cairo (@USEmbassyCairo) September 11, 2012
And via an official statement posted on their website:
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
As of a few hours ago, the embassy was still saying by way of their Twitter feed that they weren’t apologizing for anything because they don’t think they did anything wrong.
This is outrageous. Now, to be clear, I know exactly nothing about the documentary in question. I can make no value judgments as to whether or not it might be offensive to Muslims (though, frankly, what doesn’t offend Muslims these days?). That doesn’t matter. Whatever that documentary is, it doesn’t justify an attack on our embassy.
Condemnation should be reserved for the rioters, not those exercising their right to free speech.
The Obama administration is already walking back the embassy’s comments, with Mitt Romney in hot pursuit, but we need more. This isn’t just a political goof-up. This isn’t about partisan point scoring. This is about sticking up for what “free speech” means in America.
The standard set by the statement from the Cairo embassy holds free speech as free as long as it’s not offensive. But that’s not how it works. If being offensive isn’t protected by free speech, then there are a lot of comedians, authors, playwrights, artists, bloggers, cable television pundits, columnists, journalists and politicians who should be in jail (or, I guess, at the mercy of some mob).
Free speech means free speech, especially for controversial speech. The 1st amendment doesn’t exist to protect conversations about the weather. It exists to protect unpopular speech.
By apologizing for those who were supposedly offending Islam, and not condemning those who responded to the alleged offense with violence, the Cairo embassy through that understanding of free speech under the bus.
It’s now up to Obama, our leader, to set the issue straight.
Update: The cover-up begins. The embassy is now deleting some of their tweets.
Update: The embassy has deleted the tweet standing by their original comments.Tags: Barack Obama, cairo, free speech, islam