From Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. (links removed)
In the aftermath of a terrorist attack in Libya that killed our ambassador and three other Americans, the Obama administration was quick to scapegoat a film called “The Innocence of Muslims” for the attack, claiming that the film caused the attack. But in reality, the attack was pre-planned, and within 24 hours, the administration knew it was a terrorist attack, not a “spontaneous” eruption of outrage over the film, as it later repeatedly claimed on TV:
U.S. intelligence officials knew within 24 hours of the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Libya that it was a terrorist attack and suspected Al Qaeda-tied elements were involved, sources told Fox News — though it took the administration a week to acknowledge it.
The account conflicts with claims on the Sunday after the attack by U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice that the administration believed the strike was a “spontaneous” event triggered by protests in Egypt over an anti-Islam film.
Two senior U.S. officials said the Obama administration internally labeled the attack terrorism from the first day in order to unlock and mobilize certain resources to respond, and that officials were looking for one specific suspect.
Yet, “four days later, the White House sent U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice to five different Sunday talk shows to claim that the sacking and assassination sprang from a ‘spontaneous‘ demonstration. That no longer can be explained as initial confusion over conflicting reports; it is now clearly a lie told by the White House.” (The fact that terrorists, rather than demonstrators, overran the “poorly-secured” American consulate may have helped make it a “catastrophic intelligence loss.”)
This false claim resulted in a vast number of people calling for censorship or prosecution of the filmmaker.
Did you all hear about what Obama said about speech critical of Islam at the United Nations?
Banning speech because someone reacts violently to it sets a terrible precedent. It gives the most violent or angry members of society a veto over free speech and what issues are discussed. It is always possible to blame the victim of violence for inciting aggression by an angry person through expression of views that offended that person. (For example, when a security guard working for a conservative group was shot by a critic of the group, some people blamed the group’s rhetoric for supposedly creating a “climate of hate” that led the outraged shooter to react by attacking it, and said it must “share” the “blame” for the “growth of” such “violent acts.”)
The Obama administration has not advocated criminalizing speech against Islam. But at the United Nations, it has argued in favor of civil liability for speech that incites “discrimination” or “hostility” to Islam, based on the false assumption that civil liability is less subject to First Amendment limits. (The Supreme Court’s Hess and Brandenburg decisions protect even speech that incites violence or legal violations unless the speech intends and is likely to cause imminent lawless action. The Administration is apparently unaware of, or does not agree with, federal appeals court rulings that apply those decisions to bar civil liability for speech that incites “discrimination.”) As the National Review notes, the much-criticized statement by the U.S. Embassy in Egypt deploring the “abuse” of free speech in America…
perfectly reflects the views of the United States government under Obama’s stewardship. . . In 2009, the Obama State Department ceremoniously joined with Muslim governments to propose a United Nations resolution that, as legal commentator Stuart Taylor observed, was “all-too-friendly to censoring speech that some religions and races find offensive.” . . .The sharia countries were happy with the compromise, though, because it also would have made unlawful speech that incites mere “discrimination” and “hostility” toward religion. Secretary Clinton’s feint was that this passed constitutional muster because such speech would not be made criminally unlawful. Yet the First Amendment says “make no law,” not “make no criminal law,” restricting speech. The First Amendment permits us to criticize in a way that may provoke hostility — it would be unconstitutional to suppress that regardless of whether the law purporting to do so was civil, as opposed to criminal.
What does it mean that the President of the United States would lie to the American people in order to justify cracking down on free speech? We know he doesn’t like religious liberty or private property or firearm ownership or the free market – must he also go against free speech now?