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In Defense of Free Speech

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If it was just Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich, I may have not been inspired to respond. But, we see other more notable figures pressing for a U.S. government crackdown on speech. Of course the Muslim Brotherhood's new president of Egypt, Mohammad Morsi, has weighed in on the film. Morsi personally told Barack Obama to impose, "legal measures which will discourage those seeking to damage relations " between the Egyptian and American people." Another report quotes Morsi demanding "assurances from the U.S. government to prevent any infringement on the sacred." Arrest warrants have been issued in Egypt for the filmmaker, as well as for the pastor Terry Jones. Some reports claim that the "blasphemy" charges carry the death penalty there.

One might expect such a response from Egypt, but from the Russian parliament? Aleksey Pushkov, the Russian chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs has also weighed in on U.S. freedom of speech:

"This has nothing to do with freedom of speech. The freedom of speech is not covering a lot of other things that are considered banned in the West. Otherwise they would not be so eager in attempts to put Julian Assange in jail " Attacks on Islam and its sacred things -- this is not the freedom of speech but the freedom of hatred ""

In fact it is most certainly a freedom of speech case. Freedom of speech protects unpopular ideas, the views we oppose. It is not selectively restrictive. Pushkov's point about Julian Assange is well taken, and there is no U.S. case against him that should stand. Rumors of secret grand juries and, of course, the covert manipulation to get him on the false Swedish charges of "rape" are in play. Assange is another case entirely, in a league of his own.

As for the "freedom of hatred", we actually retain that right in the United States. You can hate whomever you want. Don't believe me? Post a Youtube video about anything. You will be hated on. The inverse, the outlawing of "hate" carries more problems than it solves. You have the right to express your hatred, thus exposing your arguments to scrutiny in the light of day. They can then be countered. The resulting synthesis is understanding. To eliminate the bad ideas through government repression is to attempt to circumvent the natural debates and discussions that ideas carry. Bad ideas can be refuted, not by the guillotine, but by presenting their antitheses. We call this civilization, and I'm for it.

Violence has erupted across the Middle East this week, and that's unfortunate. Is the motivation for this violence confined to the "Innocence of Muslims" film trailer? Or are there myriad other factors involved? Are sections of the Middle East pissed off about a lot more than bad Youtube videos? I think the evidence is unequivocally going to support that thesis.

Let's not get muddy in our thinking and accept that people are burning U.S. embassies solely because of this movie. It was not produced by the U.S. government, nor even by an American director. The creator is Egyptian!

The U.S. though has been a perpetrator of violence, coercion, covert support and numerous machinations for a long, long time. Engaged in war after war, sometimes covertly supporting these same groups that wish to burn U.S. embassies today, the foreign policies of the U.S.A. should take center stage here. They are conflicted, scattershot, always intrusive and often destructive of entire societies (sanctions, bombing campaigns, including NATO's extensive bombardment of Libya). Imperial meddling tends to make a lot of enemies, and this number has steadily increased since the escalations 11 years ago essentially declared war on Islam. U.S. military personnel routinely referred to Middle Easterners as "Hadjis", "ragheads" and even "sand niggers" as they decimated Iraq and Afghanistan. Even torture, rape and murder were broadcast across the globe, as Americans at home turned the channel to something more lighthearted.

People saw and felt how Islamic populations were treated as compared to other populations, even here in the U.S. itself, where people of south Asian descent were summarily rounded up after 9/11. In a move reminiscent of the rounding up of Japanese Americans in World War Two, the federal government pointedly imposed a racist us versus them dichotomy that persists to this day.

It's far easier to discuss bad movies and how we should punish the bad filmmakers than to attempt to reconcile massive war crimes that span numerous countries and several administrations, both Republicrat and Demogogue. But isn't that how it always plays out? You can't talk about the bipartisan rampage. You can't call out where both the Dems and the Repugs agree in their imperial ambitions. It's better to focus on other issues, side issues like bad filmmakers and too much free speech.

Joe Giambrone is a filmmaker and author of Hell of a Deal: A Supernatural Satire. He edits The Political Film Blog, which welcomes submissions. polfilmblog at gmail.

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http://politicalfilm.wordpress.com/

Political Film Blog Author of HELL OF A DEAL: A Supernatural Satire, a tale of Hollywood's accommodation with torture and militarism.

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If a neighbor says something offensive in front of... by Tony Orlando on Saturday, Sep 22, 2012 at 8:11:10 PM
freedom of speech. That is not the question. What ... by Archie on Sunday, Sep 23, 2012 at 1:03:02 PM
"No one should question freedom of speech. That is... by Joe Giambrone on Sunday, Sep 23, 2012 at 1:41:25 PM