The Corner

Please, No More Apologies For Free Speech

This week amid the theatrics at the United Nations, let us hope that President Obama and his lieutenants do not persist with the ongoing administration de facto apologies for the views of a crude American filmmaker, and instead try to explain to the world the singular American commitment to free expression, which always eventually proves to be a commitment to unpopular and often repelling expression.

What has been especially galling about Secretary of Clinton’s chronic hedging, and the apologies aired on Pakistani television, are—other than the abject fear of Islamists— two salient facts. One, the Middle East — not its individuals, but its official government-sponsored and subsidized television, radio, press, and film — routinely demonizes and defames Christians, Jews, and Americans in the worst sort of way. Let us be spared from the sanctimonious boilerplate, for example, from a Prime Minister Erdogan, who has presided over a surge of Turkish anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, and anti-American television shows and popular films, many of them with the de facto aid of the Turkish government.

Apparently leaders of the Islamic world present a non-negotiable demand to the West that they be given a blank check for their governments to defame Jews, Christians, and Americans, but the United States must condemn any private individual who, quite apart from the knowledge of the U.S. government, does the same to Muslims. That is the issue, and anything less than an unapologetic defense of free speech is not only a betrayal of our Constitution, but a very dangerous concession that will only incite more violence in the near future. Unfortunately, Western hedging, appeasement, and apologies to theocrats and authoritarians have never won gratitude, but instead such magnanimity is seen as either weakness to be exploited or proof all along that the apologizer admits culpability and will do so again in the future — a fact well known to history’s thugs, big and small, whether Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Osama bin Laden, or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Second, Muslim outrage over an amateurish trailer for a probably non-existent video coincides with an ongoing hit Broadway play ridiculing the Mormon Church, the reappearance of the once government-subsidized Piss Christ photos, and so on. When the administration apologizes for the excess of a private individual, but ignores condemnation of far more widely disseminated similar venom, some of it sponsored by the U.S. government, it is making a policy statement — we dare not tamper with free speech unless it touches upon Islam, not out of principle but because of sheer cowardice.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump.

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