Town Hall, by Adam Turner, Nov 23, 2015:
“There’s something different about what happened [in the November 13, 2015 Paris terror attacks] from [the January 7, 2015 terror attack targeting the French magazine] Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of – not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.”
Secretary of State John Kerry, November 17, 2015
Secretary of State John Kerry opened his mouth again, and as usual, inserted his foot (with a Kinsley gaffe).
But we should be thankful that Secretary Kerry is his usual foolish, undisciplined, and talkative self. Because it, once again, exposes what Kerry, and his boss, President Obama, really think about the right to free speech in the United States, if that speech focuses on Islam, Islamism, radical Islam, and related topics, including terrorism, terror fundraising, sharia, female genital mutilation in the Muslim world, and other issues relating to Islam. (Islam et al.)
Simply put, they do not like it.
Without a doubt, we know this to be true. Let’s not forget, President Obama hasdemanded, from the podium of the United Nations itself, that “(t)he future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” President Obama’s words (probably) inspired Secretary Kerry’s predecessor, Obama first term Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – who is also the likely 2016 Democratic nominee for U.S. President – to illustrate the methods the Administration planned to follow:
So we are focused on promoting interfaith education and collaboration, enforcing anti-discrimination laws, protecting the rights of all people to worship as they choose, and to use some old-fashioned techniques of peer pressure and shaming, so that people don’t feel that they have the support to do what we abhor.
From this statement, it is clear that the Obama Administration is willing to utilize two of the three prongs of the strategy often used by opponents of free speech regarding Islam et al. The tripartite strategy to punish and silence all speech opponents disapprove of includes: 1) violence, or the threat of violence; 2) lawfare; and/or 3) political correctness pressure, e.g., smearing reputations by alleging “racism,” “Islamophobia,” or other epithets. In this situation, lawfare is specifically defined as malicious lawsuits, or other legal actions, in American courts, designed to punish and silence those who engage in public discourse about Islam et al, which are often predatory, filed without a serious expectation of winning, and undertaken as a means to intimidate, demoralize, and bankrupt defendants.
Obviously, violence is not a strategy that any U.S. Administration would follow. However, as shown by the Terry Jones affair (see below), this does not mean that the Obama Administration is unwilling to cite the threat of violence as a reason to object to the free speech of Americans regarding Islam et al.
Over the past seven years, the Obama Administration has followed through with its rhetoric by engaging in a number of disturbing anti-free speech actions:
· In 2011, at a summit meeting between Secretary of State Clinton and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary General, the U.S. committed to the “Istanbul Process” to implement the United Nations resolution 16/18, which calls for the domestic and international criminalization of language that defames religions, most especially Islam. The OIC is a bloc of 56 Muslim countries plus “Palestine.” The Administration has participated in subsequent meetings of the Istanbul Process, but little information has been released about these meetings.
· The Obama Administration named an Islamist, Salam al-Marayati, its official representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) premier conference on human rights. At the OSCE, Al-Marayati took part in the “intense lobbying campaign by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, a bloc of 57 Muslim countries that are aggressively pressuring Western countries to make it an international crime to criticize Islam.”
· A U.S. Attorney appointed by President Obama, Bill Killian, of the Eastern District of Tennessee, has been quoted by the Tullahoma News suggesting that some inflammatory material on Islam might run afoul of federal civil rights laws. This is not legally correct, but seems to reflect Secretary Clinton’s earlier statement.
· The Obama Administration was responsible for the imprisonment of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the American Coptic filmmaker who was responsible for the film clip that President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and others initially and incorrectly blamed for inciting the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Nakoula was prosecuted and imprisoned by the federal authorities under suspicious circumstances that should lead an objective observer to believe that he was being punished for producing his anti-Islam clip.
· Also in response to Nakoula film clip, Obama administration officials admitted that they “asked YouTube to review the video and determine whether it violates the site’s terms of service.”
· The most comprehensive campaign against such speech was waged by the Obama Administration against a little known American gadfly named Terry Jones. Jones has burned, or threatened to burn, a Koran, numerous times. His threats prompted President Obama, then Secretary of State Clinton, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and then General David Petraeus, among others, to all plead with him to cease and desist. Jones has also been plagued by legal punishments and restrictions, although these are largely as a result of the actions of local, and not federal, authorities.
For the next year and a half, we can expect this Administration to continue its campaign against such free speech. Unfortunately, by a margin of 41% to 37%, Americans support criminalizing “hate speech,” and even more disturbingly, in the subset of Democrats, a 51% majority approve of criminalizing “hate speech,” with only 26% opposed. So President Obama, Secretary Kerry, and Hillary Clinton well represent their political party.
It used to be that all Americans were united in the belief that speech was sacred, and that religion – any religion – should not be able to restrict the speech rights of Americans. No longer. John Kerry’s statement clearly demonstrates that many Americans, including the Administration he represents, believe differently now. This is not good news. How long will the other half of America be willing to stand up for their right to free speech?
It is hard to defend your speech rights, when you know that others are willing to sue, pressure, or even kill you for doing so. Not everyone is a Molly Norris.
Adam Turner serves as general counsel to the Endowment for Middle East Truth. He is a former counsel to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, where he focused on national security.