Nor have the crimes against free speech been merely rhetorical. Before police brought in the video’s creator for “questioning,” ostensibly over whether he violated the terms of a 2010 probation agreement, the federal government reportedly requested that YouTube investigate whether “The Innocence of Muslims” violated the site’s terms of service, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staffs himself placed a phone call to a Florida pastor to ask him to withdraw support for it.
This not-so-subtle coercion occurs against the backdrop of renewed efforts to globalize anti-blaspemy laws, efforts with which the current administration has shown a troubling sympathy. In 2009, in what American diplomats said was an effort to “reach out to Muslim countries,” the administration joined with Egypt, the representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), to introduce a hate-speech resolution at the U.N. It called on all states to “take effective measures to combat” religious hate speech. Last year, Secretary Clinton followed up with an initiative, called the “Istanbul Process,” under which the State Department, together with the OIC, is seeking ways to implement other U.N. resolutions against “religious stereotyping.” But the OIC’s final objective is to obtain the international criminalization of blasphemy against Islam, and such missteps by the administration give the appearance of validating this repressive effort.
All of this unjustly undermines free speech, and for a problem it never caused in the first place. Rice’s statement, and the official administration narrative it reflects, is thus built on both empirical and moral errors. It is both incorrect and, in a profounder sense, wrong.