Since Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was interrogated, arrested and charged as a show of appeasement to the Muslim world and a warning to those who would exercise their right of free speech to offend Muslims, a number of civil rights groups have spoken out on the subject. The ACLU has not been one of them.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation and the First Amendment Center have made clear public statements on the dangerous and troubling actions of the Obama Administration, but the ACLU has been completely absent in the greatest free speech case of this century.
A search of the ACLU site reveals only one mention of the case and it is a laborious defense of Obama that, to its credit, does argue that the video cannot be censored. That’s all.
The ACLU’s Ben Wizner has condemned the movie and Nakoula while giving only lip service to the censorship questions raised by Obama’s request to Youtube to take down the video and the imprisonment of the Mohammed filmmaker.
Gene Policinski, the executive director of the First Amendment Center, on the other hand has seriously addressed the issues here.
“We have first amendment protections for our right of free speech, but they are somewhat hollow rights if not protected by an independent judiciary to call government to account,” said Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center.
“That’s what has to happen here. The judge has to fairly evaluate whether this is a back door way to punish him for expressing an opinion that is unpopular in the country,” Policinski said.
“With what little I know of parole system, I know it is overworked, overburdened, and moves so slowly. Yet within weeks or days here this man was being held and prosecuted. It is a high profile case, but that’s a warning flag. Why so fast? Why so quick?” asked Policinski.
Not to mention that the Nakoula case appears to be being handled by a top Federal prosecutor. How often does that happen with probation violation cases?
I certainly don’t agree with many of Policinski’s positions or those of the First Amendment Center, but in the Nakoula case, the FAC has shown that it honestly does care about freedom of speech and government censorship. The ACLU has shown that it does not. And Policinski’s statement on the riots is something that we can all agree on.
In some ways, we all — Americans and those caught up in violence overseas — are paying the price for foreign governments that control speech and religious liberty. Those rigid systems fear dissent and diversity, and teach by example that cabal and conspiracy are behind every public utterance.
Societies used to the give-and-take of public debate are not so easily shocked by a video or cartoon with a contrary view. In nations where religious liberty exists for all, no faith need fear for its survival.
The only long-term solution in the Middle East and elsewhere to the outrage, destruction and death over speech that offends rests in the First Amendment’s core provision for more speech, not less.
The First Amendment Center has stepped up to the plate while the ACLU has stepped down.