Jonathan Turley points to a disturbing sign that the Obama administration is softening its defense of free speech rights in the wake of the backlash over the Mohammed film. He quotes reports that say that the Justice Department has asked YouTube to ‘review’ the film.
Whatever one might think of the merits of the film or the motives of its makers, they seem to be well within their rights to make it. But the First Amendment guarantees of free speech apply restrictions only to the actions of government and its agencies and not to private entities and YouTube can yank the film if it wants. As a result, the government can use its heavy influence to ‘lean’ on private organizations to take actions that it cannot do directly. As Turley says,
The latest White House move appears to be an effort to get YouTube to remove the video without taking responsibility for expressly asking for the removal. For civil libertarians, the announcement leaves an uneasy — and all-too-familiar — feeling with this Administration. The White House has repeated compromised on civil liberties in favor of political advantage in areas like torture, immunity, and surveillance policies.
The request from the White House reflects the same dishonest approach of some of our closest allies who refused to punish the Danish cartoonists while then quietly cracking down on anti-religious speech. The correct and only answer is that he filmmaker has a right to express his views of Muhammad and Islam. Muslims have a right to respond in kind. However, we cannot allow murderous mobs to turn this into a debate over free speech. These mobs are in countries that have long killed and arrested those who speak out against their beliefs. We cannot yield to such demands.
People who try to appease the sensitivities of religious groups tend to think that there is some clear line that can be drawn about what can be said without causing offense. This is an illusion. The ore one panders to these sensitivities, the bolder they get in their demands. The practices of theocratic states provide enough examples.