Free speech and Tuesday’s thuggish attacks.
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Perhaps “The Innocence of Muslims” is offensive and stupid. But one of America’s most worthwhile enterprises is its First Amendment-protected right to free speech. Here you’re allowed to be offensive and stupid, and others are allowed to be offensive and stupid about you.
The State Department called free speech a “universal right.” No it’s not. Anyone who followed the Canadian Human Rights Commission’s witch hunt of Mark Steyn knows its limitations abroad. The United Nations has tried several times to pass a resolution that outlawed blasphemy and defamation.
Speech freedom gets to the larger problem of America’s understanding of the Middle East and the Arab Spring. The notion is that democratic rights are man’s natural state and once suffocating dictators like Saddam Hussein or Hosni Mubarak are removed, liberty will flourish.
But liberty is more complex than that. Our First Amendment didn’t randomly bloom in Thomas Jefferson’s mind. It was the product of an evolution that wound its way through ancient Rome, the Magna Carta, John Locke, and Montesquieu. That’s a lot of philosophical bedrock for something we take for granted. And even after we had our First Amendment, it almost immediately came under threat by the Alien and Sedition Acts.
We’ve had centuries. The Arab Spring has had a year-and-a-half.
However many inspirational (and brave) democratic thinkers there are in the Middle East, they’re matched by a faction of thugs that wants to delete freedom and impose Islamic Law. That foundation for individual rights isn’t there yet. Thus you have the Muslim Brotherhood taking control of Egypt and articles praising them for wanting a “balance on Islamic law.” That doesn’t sound very Spring-like. Get rid of a Mideast dictator and natural rights don’t breeze through the region; at best, they evolve and develop slowly, tortuously, and in competition with other ideologies.
Which is why there’s going to be plenty more violence, especially after yesterday. Al Qaeda’s attacks are quick and easy. Liberty is gradual and painstaking.
None of this means the situation is hopeless. The United States should stand with certain freedom fighters in the Middle East: certainly the democracy movement in Iran, fresh and young, is still a great hope. But don’t expect the Arab world to immediately embrace our freedoms. And likewise, don’t shamefully deplore the exercise of those freedoms. They make us more unique than we think.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?