In Defense of the President Against Islamophobic magazine editors

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Recently by Justin Raimondo: Spinning Benghazi

Whatever one may think of our President, it has to be admitted that his speech to the United Nations showed real leadership. He took the time to explain, at length, that although the noxious Innocence of Muslims video had nothing to do with the US government, and that it represents only the views of marginal extremists, we defend their right to engage in such speech because of the nature of our system. He explained why we don't ban such speech – because, you see, there's this thing called the Constitution – and, more importantly, why it's not in America's interest to have the world believe we endorse the hate that emanates from such efforts.

I'm ignoring, of course, the threats directed at Iran and Syria: that, after all, is routine for this administration. I'm ignoring the irony of his remarks about the evils of u201Cextremismu201D against the backdrop of US support to Sunni extremists in Syria, who are killing civilians, driving out Christians and others, and engaging in what can only be called terrorism under the rubric of a US-supported movement for u201Cdemocracy.u201D Every time an American president opens his mouth to talk about u201Cdemocracy,u201D u201Cfreedom,u201D and All Those Good Things, the charge of hypocrisy hangs over him like a storm cloud, and I won't be the one to defend him.

However, I will defend him when he's right against those who attack him for u201Cappeasementu201D – such as Matt Welch, editor of Reason magazine and former u201Cwar-blogger.u201D As editor of a magazine considered by many the voice of libertarianism – a movement I consider myself a part of – Welch's views on this matter are apt to be confused with the movement at large. In this case, that would be a very dangerous and undesirable assumption.

So what's Welch's beef with the President? He finds it u201Cnoxiousu201D that Obama described the Innocence video as u201Cdisgusting.u201D He finds it equally noxious that the President went on to say u201Cits message must be rejected.u201D Yet how could anyone outside of Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, and the rest of the hate-mongers amongst us object to that?

According to Welch,

u201CSo many things wrong in so few words. Why this video, and not Theo Van Gogh’s Submission, or Lars Vilks’ animation of Mohammed wanting to go to a gay bar, the ‘Super Best Friends’ episode of South Park, or Funny or Die‘s ‘How to Pick a Pocket’? Is it the degree of the insult, the craptasticness of the production values, the size of the release, or the vociferousness of the outrage expressed?u201D

Welch is playing dumb here by dropping the context: did an American ambassador die due to Theo Van Gogh's obsession with Muslims? Or the inanities of South Park? Welch writes: u201CIt is not any politician’s job, and certainly not any American politician’s job, to instruct the entire world on which films to criticize.u201D This is Welch's idea of advocating u201Cless government,u201D and yet this impulse in him is strangely selective: we heard not one word of criticism from the editors of Reason (or Welch) when the US government denounced the u201CHolocaust Denial Film Festivalu201D put on in Tehran, which the White House attacked as u201Can affront to the entire civilized world.u201D In short, the US government engages in this sort of thing all the time – and yet why were no objections raised by Welch and his crew until the subject was obscene anti-Muslim bigotry?

Welch writes:

u201CAnd speaking of that favorite State Department word, rejected – isn’t that a word to describe what you do to something that gets in your face, or body? In medicine, the body u2018rejects” organs or other dissonant substances that have been introduced within it. In basketball, not every blocked shot is a u2018rejection,' mostly those that come when the offensive player is driving aggressively toward the vicinity of the hoop.u201D

Ignore the incoherent style – how is a hate video like a basketball game? – and get to the essential issue: does Welch reject the u201Cmessageu201D of Innocence? It's not clear. He writes:

u201CInnocence of Muslims didn’t get all up in someone’s grill. it lay forlorn and neglected on YouTube until some people (pro and con) decided to get excited by it. Even then, it is a remarkably easy piece of culture to avoid coming into contact with. u2018Rejected' implies a cultural potency that u2018Sam Becile' (or as I prefer, u2018C’est imbecile') could never dream of.u201D

As I've pointed out in this space repeatedly, Innocence didn't just lay forlorn and neglected on YouTube: the makers actively promoted it to Muslims in hopes of u201Cflushing outu201D alleged Islamist cells in the US. They also promoted it abroad, in Egypt, where news of it first surfaced. It was, in short, a deliberate provocation, a work of u201Cartu201D designed to inspire a violent reaction – a job at which it succeeded all too well.

The President of the United States no doubt has better intelligence on the origins of the Innocence video than I do, but for him to pay so much attention to it in this high profile speech indicates – at least to me – that his information comports roughly with my guess: that it was and is a deliberate ploy to direct violence at American interests throughout the world, including embassies and US government personnel.

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Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.

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