Politics & Policy

Bowing to the Mob

Government-funded film critics do grotesque damage to freedom of speech.

I see the Obama campaign has redesigned the American flag, and very attractive it is too. Replacing the 50 stars of a federal republic is the single “O” logo symbolizing the great gaping maw of spendaholic centralization. And where the stripes used to be are a handful of red daubs, eerily mimicking the bloody finger streaks left on the pillars of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi as its staff were dragged out by a mob of savages to be tortured and killed. What better symbol could one have of American foreign policy? Who says the slick hollow vapid marketing of the Obama campaign doesn’t occasionally intersect with reality?

On the latter point, after a week and a half of peddling an utterly false narrative of what happened in Libya, the United States government is apparently beginning to discern that there are limits to what even Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Susan Rice can say with a straight face. The official line — that the slaughter of American officials was some sort of improvised movie review that got a little out of hand — is now in the process of modification to something bearing a less patently absurd relationship to what actually happened. That should not make any more forgivable the grotesque damage that the administration has done to the bedrock principle of civilized society: freedom of speech.

##ad#The more that U.S.-government officials talk about the so-called film Innocence of Muslims (which is actually merely a YouTube trailer) the more they confirm the mob’s belief that works of “art” are the proper responsibility of government. Obama and Clinton are currently starring as the Siskel & Ebert of Pakistani TV, giving two thumbs down to Innocence of Muslims in hopes that it will dissuade local moviegoers from giving two heads off to consular officials. “The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video,” says Hillary Clinton. “We absolutely reject its content, and message.” “We reject the efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” adds Barack Obama. There follows the official State Department seal of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad.

Fellow government-funded film critics call Innocence of Muslims “hateful and offensive” (Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations) and “reprehensible and disgusting” (Jay Carney, White House press secretary). General Dempsey, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and senior Pentagon adviser to Variety, has taken to telephoning personally those few movie fans who claim to enjoy the film. He called up Terry Jones, the Florida pastor who apparently thinks Innocence of Muslims is the perfect date movie, to tell him the official position of the United States military is they’d be grateful if he could ease up on the five-star reviews.

Obama and Clinton’s two-on-the-aisle act cost $70,000 of taxpayers’ money. That may not sound much in the $16 trillion–dollar sinkhole of Washington, but it’s a pretty big ad buy in Islamabad, and an improper use of public monies. If government functionaries want to do movie reviews, they should have a PBS fundraiser, offering a “Barack & Hill at the Movies” logo-ed burqa for pledges of over $100, and a complimentary clitoridectomy for pledges over $500. I fought a long battle for freedom of expression north of the border when the Canadian Islamic Congress attempted to criminalize my writing, and I’m proud to say I played a modest role in getting Parliament to strike down a shameful law and restore a semblance of free speech to a country that should never have lost it. So I know a little about how the Western world is shuffling into a psychological bondage of its own making, and it’s no small thing when the First Amendment gets swallowed up by the vacuum of American foreign policy.

What other entertainments have senior U.S. officials reviewed lately? Last year Hillary Clinton went to see the Broadway musical Book of Mormon. “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others”? The Book of Mormon’s big showstopper is “Hasa Diga Eebowai” which apparently translates as “F*** you, God.” The U.S. secretary of state stood and cheered.

Why does Secretary Clinton regard “F*** you, God” as a fun toe-tapper for all the family but “F*** you, Allah” as “disgusting and reprehensible”? The obvious answer is that, if you sing the latter, you’ll find a far more motivated crowd waiting for you at the stage door. So the “leader of the free world” and “the most powerful man in the world” (to revive two cobwebbed phrases nobody seems to apply to the president of the United States anymore) is telling the planet that the way to ensure your beliefs command his “respect” is to be willing to burn and bomb and kill. You Mormons need to get with the program.

#page#Meanwhile, this last week has seen the publication of two controversial magazines in France: One, called Closer, showed Prince William’s lovely bride, the Duchess of Cambridge, without her bikini top on. The other, the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, showed some bloke who died in the seventh century without his bikini top on. In response, a kosher grocery store was firebombed, injuring four people. Which group was responsible? Yes, frenzied Anglicans defending the honor of the wife of the future supreme governor of the Church of England rampaged through Jewish grocery stores yelling, “Behead the enemies of the House of Windsor!” The embassy-burning mobs well understand the fraudulence of Obama and Clinton’s professions of generalized “respect” for “all faiths.” As a headline in the Karachi Express-Tribune puts it:

“Ultimatum to U.S.: Criminalize Blasphemy or Lose Consulate.”#ad#

The assistant attorney general of the United States has said he does not rule out a law against blasphemy, so that’s good news, isn’t it? Once we’ve got government commissars regulating movies, and cartoons, and teddy bears and children’s piggy-banks and Burger King ice-cream tubs and inflatable sex-shop dolls and non-sharia-compliant mustaches (just to round up a few of the innumerable grievances of Islam), all the bad stuff will go away, right?

If you’ll forgive a book plug before General Dempsey calls me up and asks me to withdraw it from publication, the paperback of my latest, After America, has just come out. On page 297, I speculate on how future generations will look back on our time from a decade or two hence:

In the Middle East, Islam had always been beyond criticism. It was only natural that, as their numbers grew in Europe, North America, and Australia, observant Muslims would seek the same protections in their new lands. But they could not have foreseen how eager Western leaders would be to serve as their enablers. . . . As the more cynical Islamic imperialists occasionally reflected, how quickly the supposed defenders of liberal, pluralist, Western values came to sound as if they were competing to be Islam’s lead prison bitch.

Gee, that’d make a pretty funny number for Koran: The Musical next time Secretary Clinton wants a night out on Broadway, wouldn’t it?

In the meantime, spare a thought for Abdullah Ismail, one of 10,000 Pakistanis who participated in a protest in Lahore the other day. He died after “feeling unwell from the smoke from U.S. flags burnt at the rally.” But don’t worry: I’m sure the new Obama flag is far less toxic, and there’s no risk of keeling over in mid-chant of “Death to America!”

 Mark Steyn, a National Review columnist, is the author of After America: Get Ready for Armageddon. © 2012 Mark Steyn

Mark Steyn — Mark Steyn is an international bestselling author, a Top 41 recording artist, and a leading Canadian human-rights activist.

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