American Freedom Of Speech Misunderstood In Middle East And In USA

Morsi and Obama are divided by a number of concerns, but superficially at least, the somewhat fuzzy idea of free speech is a real problem. And that is especially the case when a demagogue like Mitt Romney chooses to exploit a dangerous situation by essentially affirming a bigoted expression of the cherished American right.
Mitt Romney claims Barack Obama insulted American values on Tuesday night, because the US Embassy in Cairo condemned the anti-Islamic movie, Innocence of Muslims (IoM). Deliberately misconstruing the embassy's statement about the movie as an "apology" for American values—specifically freedom of speech—Romney has now encouraged all Republicans to repeat his dishonest, and quite ignorant, line of rhetoric.

Meanwhile, in Egypt, President Mohamed Morsi, who must walk a very fine line between appeasing the American government (Egypt's underwriters), and not seeming to do so to his base, has affirmed the righteousness of peaceful protests, and has called upon the American government to prosecute the makers of IoM. Realizing that is unlikely to occur, Morsi reportedly has asked the Egyptian Embassy in Washington DC to take "all legal measures" against the film.

Barack Obama, being president of the United States, and being actually responsible, unlike Mitt Romney, for both protecting the First Amendment rights of the people who made the movie, as well as affirming to the Islamic world America's respect for all religions, has a different kind of fine line to observe.

Obama does not have to convince his fellow Americans that bigots have a right to make insultingly stupid, trashily-produced movies. Everyone is pretty much convinced that's OK—although many Americans are less confident about this when it is a movie making fun of, or simply questioning the story of, Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, there is simply no possibility of the American government doing what the protesters want—for Barack Obama to censor IoM and to kill the people responsible for it.

Many people in the Middle East interpret the failure of the US government to take such repressive action against the film and its makers as a sign Americans approve of the message—such as it is—of the movie so many Muslims have rightly found so insulting to their religion. At the least, the protesters imagine that, even if the US government did not directly fund IoM (and many of them believe it did), it must support what IoM says about Islam.

To counter that view, on Tuesday evening, the US Embassy in Cairo put out a statement explaining the US government's support for religious freedom, and its condemnation of "the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims". The statement also explained the US government rejected "the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others."

That last statement, seeming to suggest there was a form of free speech expression that the government might consider an "abuse", and that IoM had crossed that line, was no doubt an attempt in Cairo to make sure offended Muslims understood the US government strongly stood against the movie.

But the wording, subsequently rejected by the White House, did open a door.

Romney and his advisors, in reviewing the Cairo Embassy statement Tuesday evening, made the decision to go through that door, and to exploit some Americans' hysterical concern that the Obama Administration might not be fully committed to affirming the rights of religious bigots versus the feelings of their Muslim victims. And Romney, seeking to obtain any small advantage he can wedge open in an increasingly decided campaign (where he's behind in the polls), launched his strike at US diplomats and the Obama administration:

"It's disgraceful that the Obama Administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks."

Of course, the initial Cairo Embassy statement came out prior to the attacks, and Romney's dishonesty about this has been discussed now at length. He refuses to admit to it of course, and still accuses the Obama administration of apologizing for free speech—to Muslims!

The politics of the world, particularly as it plays out as a subset of American politics, is increasingly a very complex, extremely hazy thing. For example, it appears now that the producer of the IoM is an American-Egyptian Coptic Christian, who made the movie as a protest against what he views as increasing harassment from the Egyptian government against the Coptic minority in Egypt. 

Yet, the message of the movie, once portions of it were uploaded to YouTube, found ready acceptance in certain extremist Christian communities in the USA, and in places and people where ignorance and fear of Islam are easily exploited by a politician willing to demagogue to Americans about how "they", "over there", in Islamoland, are trying to take away our freedom.

That is after all what George W. Bush kept telling us: "They hate our freedom." The fact that this simplistic, Newspeak hogwash, was tolerated and adopted by so many Americans as justification for mind-numbingly vicious wars against numerous Muslim peoples, is evidence of the efficacy and cynicism of KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid).

To this day, when Americans see a crowd of angry Muslims, chanting hateful things about America, the first thought that arises is often "They hate our freedom." When Mitt Romney talks about appeasing this alleged hatred, and says he, unlike Barack Obama (the supposed Muslim Socialist Kenyan), will never apologize for America, what Romney really means is that he will never bother to explain America and its rights and its behaviors to anybody—especially not to Americans themselves.

As the fallout from more pointless idiocy and blood rains down on us all, one thing we can be reasonably assured about is this: they don't hate our freedom. They don't understand it. And neither do many Americans understand it all that well either. Instead of screaming and killing some more, maybe it would be good to start explaining—a lot more of that—so that the peoples of the world can stop exulting so much in their respective bloody ignorances of one another.

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