Editorial by John Ziegler

The United States Sells Out Free Speech

2/7/2006

The United States Sells Out Free Speech

Almost completely lost amid the hype surrounding the Super Bowl (heck, even the ultra-tacky shlockfest known as the 'Lingerie Bowl' got way more 'news' coverage), something truly remarkable happened on Friday that must have had many of the real 'New England Patriots' spinning in their collective graves. During an unheralded press conference, the United States officially sided with radical Islam's 'right' to be offended, apparently to the point of justifying violence and destruction, over the once revered principle of the free expression of legitimate ideas.

Last week a controversy which began last September with cartoon depictions of Muhammad in a Danish newspaper finally exploded after having been percolating just below the surface for weeks. One of the rather crude drawings shows 'Muhammad' (of course no really knows what the real Muhammad looked like) with a bomb with a lit fuse on his turban to signify the artist's apparent belief that Islam promotes terrorism, provoked angry threats of violence as well as, bizarrely, boycotts of the of the initial countries where the newspaper's printed the cartoon. Another cartoon used a Muhammad figure to tell suicide bombers that paradise had run out of virgins. Muslims, we are told, were outraged because it is supposedly against some of their religious beliefs for Muhammad to be depicted in any way (though unprotested portrayals of Muhammad are actually quite common).

Now usually when a major religion, especially Islam, makes threats/demands over claims of being offended the world seems to immediately slip a disk bending over backwards to apologize and accommodate. However, this time something amazing and almost magical happened. Instead of backing down, at least some of the continent of Europe (which, to this point has been mostly rather soft on the war on terror) stood up and took a rare stand against political correctness. In an extraordinary show of solidarity, numerous publications throughout the continent made the decision to print the caricatures which had caused so much commotion. Even the notoriously souffl'-spined French had one of their papers reprint the cartoon although the editor was later fired for his egregious transgression (wow, the French capitulating? Who could have seen THAT one coming?!).

The reaction of the extremists in the Muslim world was to expand the protests and ratchet up both the violence and rhetoric. Eventually, numerous embassies were set on fire, the lives of the artists were threatened, people died, relations between nations were strained, and perhaps most ironically/infuriatingly, crowds chanted praise to Osama bin Laden while urging bombings in his name (wasn't it a bomb that was on the head of Muhammad that was so offensive to Muslims presumably, at least in part, because it portrayed Islam as being unfairly pro-terrorist bombings?!).

At one point, there was reason for Americans to be pleasantly surprised at how the story was unfolding. While it was certainly very wrong for totally innocent people to feel threatened and, in some cases, have to leave their homes, and obviously the destruction of property is rarely a positive development, it appeared that, at last, radical Islam was being revealed for what it really is and much of Europe was finally standing up for what is clearly the side of right in the most important conflict of our time. But then the United States entered the fray.

Now considering the fact that our nation was largely founded on the notion of protecting the free expression of ideas (regardless of their ability to offend), and that our President had just spent much of his State of the Union address declaring once again that our goal is to spread that freedom around the globe, and that 'radical Islam' was our enemy in the war on terror, you might think that the U.S. position on this controversy would be as easy to predict as the overrating of 'Brokeback Mountain.' Instead, when we finally saw some signs of sparks surrounding the kindling wood of a long-awaited backlash against radical Islam, rather than breathe some oxygen on the embers our government tried its best to stamp out the fledgling fire completely.

Incredibly, like John Wayne's cavalry coming on the scene of an Indian ambush only to fight on the side of the bad guys against the town's folk, the U.S. State Department officially backed the Muslim outrage, calling the publishing of the cartoons 'not acceptable.'

The United States, the bastion of freedom in the world, a country for whom millions have sacrificed their lives in the defense of that freedom, has now decided to toss away its greatest principle all in the name of placating the very people who openly seek our destruction. For those who believe that diplomacy required such a maneuver there is the stark reality that such a show of weakness is highly unlikely to have persuaded even one Muslim that the U.S. is to be trusted. In fact, the dramatic increase in violence (including at a US military base) after our government's submission indicates that the misguided gesture had absolutely zero positive impact. If we felt that we couldn't afford to back the good guys then why didn't we just shut up and say nothing? I wish there was a plausible explanation for such a baffling blunder.

Of the many unanswered questions that come out of this development the most imperative is: why is there so much more outrage in the Muslim world over the depiction of Muhammad as a terrorist bomber than there is over real suicide bombers who kill in the name of Islam? The cowardice among the American media in getting a legitimate answer to that question surpasses even their spinelessness in not showing the cartoons themselves. The land of the free and the home of the brave? Hardly.

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