An Important Post At Popehat: “A Year of Blasphemy”

Ban it?

Ken, the witty First Amendment champion who blogs at Popehat, had issued an important and meticulously researched review of how blasphemy has been punished around the world in the past 12 months. He introduces his survey, in part, by writing…

“The incendiary film “”The Innocence of Muslims” was merely an unconvincing pretext for a terrorist attack, not the true cause of the attack. Yet the film has spurred new discussions of American free speech exceptionalism, and led some to question whether we should hew to the First Amendment in the face of worldwide demands for an international ban on blasphemy… We should address such views, not ignore them. But as we consider them — as we evaluate whether anti-blasphemy laws will ever be consistent with the modern American values embodied in our First Amendment precedents — we should examine what the competing values truly are. What are the “other values” which other societies believe outweigh free speech? What sorts of things “inflame” people in those societies? If other societies understand free expression differently than we do, how do they understand it? What “international norms” are emerging on blasphemy?” Continue reading

Nakoula’s Arrest and Imprisonment: The Big Chill [UPDATED]

More than a week ago, one of my blogging, legal, ethics idols, Ken at Popehat, took issue with my post stating that the midnight questioning of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula (the alleged producer of “Innocence of Muslims,” the crude anti-Islam film then being blamed by the Obama administration for all the violence that erupted in the Middle East on September 11) would appear both abroad and at home to be in retaliation for his exercise of his free speech rights, and should have been avoided even if it was otherwise justified by his parole violations. Ken wrote:

“…What separates us from the mob is the rule of law. We shouldn’t ignore the rule of law by violating First Amendment principles in what Eugene Volokh correctly points out would be an utterly vain attempt to appease a mob. On the other hand, we shouldn’t hinder the rule of law to avoid the appearance of appeasement, either. That’s still letting the mob dictate our actions and our adherence to our own laws. “We would normally do X, but we mustn’t because it might enrage the mob” is just the flip side of “We would normally do X, but we mustn’t because it might embolden the mob.” Both are a sucker’s game. The mob’s actions are going to be driven by its own culture and by the people manipulating the mob for their own political gain. Jack, and others, seem to be saying that the mob will misunderstand the orderly administration of the law in this instance: but is there really any chance that the mob will ever make an honest attempt to understand, or will care, or that the forces manipulating them will react honestly? Respect the rule of law and fuck ’em if they don’t like it.”

On this blog, commenter tgt was more succinct:

“Jack’s view of law is that if you are enough of a dick, you should be immune from prosecution for any action.” Continue reading

Comment of the Day: “Yes, Reporters Engaged in ‘Collaboration’ On Questions For Romney. Good!”

Dwayne N. Zechman, who has one or two other Comments of the Day to his credit, has authored another in response to the post regarding conservative alarms over evidence that reporters coordinated their questions before Mitt Romney began a press conference on the protests and violence at Middle East embassies. My position was that there is nothing sinister in this as long as it results in the politician or candidate being grilled actually answering legitimate questions. Reporters should do this with all question sessions, if politicians insist on spinning, ducking, and prevaricating. Obviously, if reporters employ this strategy with Romney and not the President, that raises an ethical problem, but a different ethical problem.

Here is Dwayne’s Comment of the Day in response to the post, Yes, Reporters Engaged in “Collaboration” On Questions For Romney. Good!.  I’ll have a further comment at the end.

“I *do* have a problem with the Press Corps acting this way because it sets up a dangerous future license for them to engage in groupthink with no checks and balances against it. (Indeed, the First Amendment would correctly, though tragically, protect it.) Continue reading

Integrity Check For Obama Supporters: Calling the Federal Harassmant of the Idiotic, Bigoted, Irresponsible, Anti-Muslim Film Maker What It Is

That is, intolerable.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a.k.a. “Sam Bacile,” was interviewed by Federal parole officials at the police station in  Cerritos, California, where Nakoula lives. Supposedly they investigating whether Nakoula has violated the terms of his five-year probation for various financial crimes, which could  cause a judge to send him back to prison.

  • What has he done to justify such an investigation? Why, he made a film insulting to Islam, which is being cited by the White House as the provocation for the protests and attacks at American embassies in Islamic nations! Yes, he also may in fact be in violation of his parole, which included prohibitions on using computers and aliases. If anyone really believes this is the reason the Feds are swooping down on him now, in the wake of the Obama Administration explicitly using his film as its scapegoat for the embassy protests and attacks, I need to talk with them about this Nigerian prince I know.
  • Is making a film insulting to Islam a violation of his parole by any stretch of the imagination? No. It is a protected act for any American citizen, and no matter what crimes he may have been convicted of in the past, completely irrelevant to them.
  • So why is he being questioned now? Three reasons: 1) To indicate to Islamic nations that the U.S. government is “doing something” to the miscreant who dared to make an offensive film (trailer, actually) 2) To intimidate him and other citizens who intend to exercise their right of free speech that Big Brother is watching, and if you displease him, or cause embarrassment to his misguided foreign policy, you will be sorry and 3) To prove a genuine violation of his parole , so he can be jailed in close proximity to his supposedly protected exercise of free speech, which the foreign critics demanding punishment for the maker of the film will take as official sanction for insulting Islam, which, in truth, it will be.*