Button a Couple More Buttons, First Amendment

This asinine post by Joanna Schroeder for The Good Men Project about Free Speech and the recent terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Libya has so many problems I could spend all day enumerating them. Leaving aside the likelihood that the killings were pre-planned by al-Qaeda and the film itself merely provoked riots that served as a convenient cover, I’ll start with her belief that KKK-sponsored lynch mobs are an appropriate analogue to making an anti-Islamic film:

The fact is, we protect the KKK’s right to spew their hate, but if they were to say, “You need to go lynch John Jones on X street in Y city” we would arrest them, right? You can’t tell people to kill other people and get away with it.

I’ve seen the film in question. It’s terrible on nearly every level you can imagine, but it never promotes violence—against Muslims or anyone else. Here’s a more apt analogy: “The fact is, we protect people’s right to criticize the KKK, but if a black man made an anti-KKK film, and the KKK killed his neighbor, we would arrest that filmmaker, right? You can’t provoke people who might kill other people by criticizing them and get away with it.”

Now on to my favorite part: victim-blaming (sort of). Schroeder quotes an Op-Ed piece by Qasim Rashid for The Washington Post:

To think this vicious cycle can stop simply if extremists stop being extremists is an extreme view itself.

Schroeder’s commentary:

While the extremists are wholly responsible for their deplorable actions against others, we are all responsible for our roles in this deadly cycle.

Nope. Sorry. You can’t have it both ways. Either the extremists are wholly responsible and no one else is responsible at all, or we share responsibility with the extremists.

I’d compare this to warning a woman that while a rapist is wholly responsible for raping her, she is also responsible for dressing revealingly—but that’s actually a poor analogy. No one attacked the people responsible for this awful, bigoted film. A better analogy would be warning a woman that while a rapist is wholly responsible for raping her, her cousin is also responsible for dressing revealingly.

The appropriate response to an act of terrorism is not to blame the people who exercised their right to free speech, regardless of how objectionable we find their particular speech. Don’t blame the First Amendment.