A California man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, aka Sam Bacile, is alleged to be the creator of a short inflammatory film titled “Innocence of Muslims” mocking the Prophet Mohammad, which he posted on YouTube in Arabic translation. As reported in the New York Times, “The film sparked a violent protest at the U.S. consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi during which the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were killed on Tuesday. Protests have spread to other countries across the Muslim world.”
Prior to the attack in Benghazi, the American Embassy in Cairo in an attempt to quell unrest said it deplored “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims — as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions.”
Then Mitt Romney and his fellow Republicans decided to dip their oars in. Romney chastised the President for “apologizing” for America. Senator John Kyl made yet another inapt rape analogy and Reince Priebus accused the President of sympathizing with the attackers.
Republicans have a long-running hatred of the ACLU, defender of the U.S. Constitution and specifically First Amendment rights. The ACLU has defended everyone from Nazis to pornographers. So it is ironic that Free Speech has suddenly become the Republicans’ most hallowed value. (That is, until someone mentions gun control.) Perhaps the turning point was when the Supreme Court defined money as speech.
But Republicans act as if no one, including government, has the right to criticize or disagree with the filmmaker. It is every citizen’s right and responsibility – and our government’s – to condemn hateful, provocative speech.
Just as millions of peace-loving Muslims throughout the Middle East do not want to be branded terrorists because of the actions of the few, I don’t want to be branded a narrow-minded, intolerant bigot. Because I condemn the actions of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, I am not condoning the actions of murderers. They alone are responsible for their actions, as Nakoula is for his. And that’s the bottom line: responsibility.
Yes, as Americans we can say anything we want. On Friday, I am free to post caricatures of my boss on my Facebook page if I want to. On Monday, I may also be free to look for another job.