On September 22 2012, the Daily Camera published my response to the Sept. 11 (2012) protests and the (unrelated) attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. . It’s a little dated now, with the information that has since come out.
Governments should protect free speech, and not condemn or censor speech that some find offensive.
Yet in president Obama’s response to the killings, he mentions “America’s commitment to freedom,” but also that the “United States rejects efforts to denigrate … religious beliefs.” Acting on this policy, the White House also asked YouTube to consider taking the controversial video off-line.
Instead of this flimsy commitment to free speech, Obama should firmly and proudly defend it. For example,Obama should refute the juvenile view expressed by Palestinian journalist Khalid Amayreh: “My right not to be offended and insulted overrides a scoundrel’s right to malign [a religion].” There is no such right. Rights are freedoms to act, not an entitlement that authorities silence others and shelter you from handling criticism like an adult.
As a Reason.com blog notes, some U.S. journalists share Amayreh’s rejection of personal responsibility: by advocating censorship, rejecting free will, and blaming provocative speech for violence. Violent protesters could have chosen peaceful responses to offensive speech. Blaming or censoring videos or cartoons is like blaming a rape victim for her attire and enforcing a “less provocative” dress code.
Censorship also endangers people not connected with offensive speech. As Cato’s Julian Sanchez notes, when government censors allow offensive speech, it does so “in the name of all its citizens collectively.” Hence, violent protesters will more likely seek retaliation against all citizens.
Worse still, censorship appeases terrorists and advances their totalitarian goals.
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See also: Our self-crippled policy encouraged the deadly embassy attacks, by Elan Journo. Excerpts:
The murders of American diplomatic and military personnel in Libya underscore the consequences of America’s longstanding failure to uphold the rights of Americans to live and speak their minds in the face of the Islamist threat. …
The cycle persists, because without connecting the dots to see the big picture,without grasping the uniting religious goal of the Islamist movement, we cannot take the steps necessary to stop it. Until we end America’s policy of passivity, inaction and appeasement, we can only expect more Islamist aggression.