Free Speech and the Mob

The scene was reminiscent of those paranoid dystopian futurist movies that were so popular back in the Nixon era. A small army of brown-shirted government agents launch a midnight raid on an obscure filmmaker whose work has been deemed “reprehensible and disgusting” by the administration, hauling him off for questioning under the flimsiest of legal pretexts.

This actually happened on Saturday in Cerritos, California, where a man involved in the making of the suddenly infamous “Innocence of Muslims” film — which has been widely blamed for the murderous riots sweeping the Middle East — was taken from his home by sheriff’s officers at the behest of the federal government. The stated reason was a possible violation of the man’s probation on a charge of bank fraud, the terms of which reportedly forbid him to post anything on the internet, but in reality the man was being offered as a scapegoat to appease the mobs.


The White House continues to insist on the absurd fiction that the ongoing raucous protests outside American embassies throughout the world, which resulted in the death of an ambassador and four others in Libya, are solely the result of a spontaneous outrage over an amateurish and previously little-seen film. Never mind that the Libyan government has confirmed that the attack in their country was long planned by al Qaida as a retaliation for American strikes against their terror network, or the plentiful evidence that the attacks were coordinated, or that the chances of such a spontaneous uprising occurring on Sept. 11 are only one in 365 and that the chances of several such events happening several places on that significant date increase exponentially, we are assured that the Muslim world has no quarrel with an America led by Barack Obama.

If the only reason for the violence and threats is an amateurish film that had previously languished in well-deserved obscurity, then the administration apparently believes that it can make the problem go away simply by appeasing the mobs’ thirst for retribution against a man who had dared to criticize their religion. Mankind’s long history with mobs suggests they are not so easily placated, however, and even a cursory glance at the past 1,400 years or so will reveal that Islamist mobs especially difficult to satisfy. The usual result of appeasement efforts is an ever-expanding list of demands that cannot be met without submission to the mobs’ medieval religious views. Even if the mob’s could mollified by abandoning the First Amendment, it is not nearly worth the price.

The administration’s brazen attempt at censorship is all the more galling because it is cloaked in language about religious tolerance and respect for the religious sensibilities of others. The same administration that forces the Catholic Church to hand out contraceptives, that sat silently as mayors from its own party told a Baptist business owner that he was not allowed to work in his city without keeping his religion’s views about same-sex marriage to himself, and which happily and silently accepts the donations and propaganda support of an entertainment industry that routinely ridicules mainstream Christianity, now presumes to lecture this extraordinarily tolerant country about respect for religion.

It will be interesting to see if the people who made the upcoming Hollywood blockbuster celebrating Obama’s heroic killing of Osama bin Laden, a movie likely to enflame the religious resentments of many Muslims, will receive the same heavy-handed treatment from the administration. Once the censorship starts it is hard to stop, but we suspect that some allowances will be made for friendly media.

— Bud Norman

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