One of the more unsettling bits of fallout from the saga of ???Innocence of Muslims??? has been the spectacle of liberals, including media liberals whose very livelihood depends upon freedom of speech, suddenly becoming ambivalent about the First Amendment. Like a kid who comes up with elaborate excuses for why he didn???t fight back when the school bully slammed him up against the lockers, they???ve been constructing tortured intellectual rationalizations to mask a very simple reality: they???re willing to accept the premises of Islamic blasphemy law, because the consequences of defying it can be fatal.
No one worries about how angry Mormons will respond to a stage play mocking their religion, which is why Hillary ???This Video Is Disgusting and Reprehensible??? Clinton was a happy member of the audience for such a play. But draw a cartoon of Mohammed, and you might be killed, so all of those bold, transgressive, iconoclastic liberals abruptly lose interest in Speaking Truth to Power.
The thing to remember here is that liberals have always had a rather nuanced relationship with freedom of speech. They make a lot of noise when theirs is threatened, but they have a long tradition of suppressing speech they dislike. From campus speech codes to the Fairness Doctrine, they have a history of declaring that certain people and ideas really don???t qualify as the sort of speech that deserves protection, resulting in a crew of censors who prattle about intellectual freedom while howling for the demise of a chicken restaurant because the CEO said something they don???t like.
Thus we have the spectacle of a ???journalist,??? frequent CNN and MSNBC guest Mona Eltahawy, caught defacing a poster with spray paint, to obscure a statement she disagrees with??? and, with a perfectly straight face, describing her act of censorship as ???freedom of expression.??? Eltahawy is amusingly determined to continue spraying both Orwellian twaddle and pink paint in the face of a determined challenge from camerawoman Pamela Hall:
Maybe someone should try throwing a blanket over Eltahawy the next time she appears on MSNBC, and telling her it???s an act of free expression when she objects.
The key moment in this exchange is when our determined little fascist sneers at Hall, ???That???s right, defend racism.??? That???s the totalitarian mindset in a nutshell: double-plus ungood thoughtcrime is not ???speech??? worthy of respect or protection. The poster Eltahawy is trying to obliterate says, ???In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man.??? One suspects the ???Support Israel, Defeat Jihad??? message at the bottom of the poster is what turns it into ???racism??? instead of free speech in Eltahawy???s mind.
As Tim Graham at Newsbusters notes, Eltahawy is Egyptian-American, and recently offered this defense of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi during an MSNBC appearance:
We [Egyptians] have a president who is trying to establish his position somewhere in the middle and we have a group that is trying to establish themselves on the right wing. And you`re having a similar situation in the U.S. We are coming up to elections now in less than two months. There is a right wing fringe there as well. So, you`ve got a right wing and a right wing. Both minorities, both trying to provoke people and a whole lot of people with very, very, sometimes legitimate grievances, but sometimes utterly senseless grievances, being caught in the middle.
(Emphases mine.) That would be the same middle-of-the-road moderate Egyptian president who supported the notion of global action to limit free speech to ???protect the world from instability and hatred??? at the United Nations yesterday. ???A freedom of expression that tackles extremism and violence, not the freedom of expression that deepens ignorance and disregards others,??? as Morsi put it.
Why, he???s just like Barack Obama! They???re both fending off ???right-wing extremists,??? such as Salafist fanatics and Tea Party activists.
See how it works? All the bad stuff is just plain unacceptable, so you can suppress it all day long, while still loudly declaring your undying love for freedom of speech. Islamists and liberals agree on that basic premise, and they are increasingly moving toward agreement on some of the particulars.
Update: The New York Post reports Eltahawy was “arraigned in Manhattan on misdemeanor charges of criminal mischief, making graffiti and possession of a graffiti instrument,” detained overnight, and is due in court on November 30.