Bruce and I have similar worldviews, but very different ways of expressing them. Yesterday, shortly after reading Glenn Reynolds’s post saying Obama should resign for dispatching law enforcement to arrest* the man who made a crude film attacking the Muslim prophet Mohammed, I shared the link with some conservative Facebook friends, asking if they agreed with Glenn’s conclusion.
At the time, I wasn’t ready to post on the topic, wanted to sort out my thoughts a bit before I did. A few moments after I posed my question on Facebook, I checked the blog and found that Bruce has already run with the story; he, however, did not include as question mark as I had. My co-blogger agrees with Glenn; Barack Obama should resign.
Now, given that Mr. Obama’s resignation would mean the inauguration of Joe Biden as President of the United States, I tend to be wary of resignation as an option, preferring instead defeat at the ballot box. And the Democrat’s actions this past week (not to mention what we’ve learned in the past two weeks) show him to be a most ineffective chief executive, leading from behind, as it were, particularly in regards to this crude and offensive film.
The White House dispatched the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to call a crackpot preacher with a tiny congregation and ask him to end his mean-spirited diatribes. The Obama team asked YouTube to remove the film. And now, they’ve gone and gotten the filmmaker arrested. He may have misrepresented the Muslim prophet in a mean-spirited manner, but the First Amendment protects his right to say offensive things.
The First Amendment also protects the rights of others to criticize the film for its flaws and defend the faith he faults. That is how critics should respond.
And that is how the President of the United States should have responded to those, including Egypt’s President, who demanded the United States prosecute the filmmaker and/or censor the film.
Eugene Volokh thinks “suppression” of such films “would likely lead to more riots and more deaths, not less. Here’s why”:
Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated. (Relatedly, “once you have paid him the Dane-geld, you never get rid of the Dane.”) Say that the murders in Libya lead us to pass a law banning some kinds of speech that Muslims find offensive or blasphemous, or reinterpreting our First Amendment rules to make it possible to punish such speech under some existing law.
What then will extremist Muslims see? They killed several Americans (maybe itself a plus from their view). In exchange, they’ve gotten America to submit to their will. And on top of that, they’ve gotten back at blasphemers, and deter future blasphemy. A triple victory.
Bold in original. Via Patterico. “Giving in to the terrorists incentivizes further terrorism,” observes Ilya Somin, “while refusing to do so reduces the risk of future violence.” (Via Instpundit.)
In seeking to suppress this film and prosecute the filmmaker, the president has given in to the terrorists. He should instead have stood for free speech and encourage his Islamic interlocutors to challenge the film with words and ideas rather than with threats and violence.
*Apparently as per the comment below, he was not arrested, just taken in for questioning. If they just wanted him for questioning, why then would they need that many law enforcement officials (as depicted in the picture included in Bruce’s post).
FROM THE COMMENTS: “According to several clips” reader Sandi
viewed there was NO ARREST, and don’t understand why ya’all keep repeating that it was.
That said I think the voluntary questioning on possible parole violation thing was a pretext to try and pin something on him.
UPDATE: Filmmaker released, now in hiding.