The first mention of this that I saw online was in a LA Times story about the filmmaker, where it was mentioned in passing five paragraphs down. If you thought General Dempsey pressuring Terry Jones to pipe down was bad, how much worse is it to have the U.S. government leaning on one of the world’s most influential online media companies to suppress “offensive” content? Google spent nearly $4 million to lobby the feds in the second quarter of this year alone; they have strong financial incentives to comply with “requests” like this, and it’s to their credit that they refused in this case (while agreeing to block YouTube in Libya and Egypt, do note). What that means is that, at the moment, Google seems to be more strongly committed to free speech than your own government does. And I should have anticipated that two days ago in this post, when I was half-jokingly wondering about a future blasphemy exception to the First Amendment. The government doesn’t need to enact anti-blasphemy laws if it can lean on private media platforms to enact their own anti-blasphemy policies “voluntarily.” It’s a “soft power” approach to censorship, and the more cronyistic the government is with business, the more leverage it’ll have in pursuing it.
And yet, the LA Times barely thought to mention it. The only way you’re going to get the feds to stop doing this is if the media shines a big bright spotlight on whenever it happens, but that won’t happen until a Republican is back in office. Free speech is, for our concern-troll media, largely a partisan issue.
The White House has asked YouTube to review an anti-Muslim film posted to the site that has been blamed for igniting the violent protests this week in the Middle East.
However, the video remained on the site as of Friday afternoon, and it is posted many other places on the Internet.
Lots of stupidity in this strategy. First, as noted, getting YouTube to dump the vid will greatly reduce its visibility but won’t cause it to disappear completely. If anything, demand to see it would skyrocket. Second, by leaning on Google, the feds are actually confirming the worst suspicions of Islamist nuts that the U.S. government has some sort of control over offensive speech by U.S. citizens. The message the State Department should be pushing right now is that America doesn’t meddle with what its citizens say and therefore bears no moral culpability for cultural insults. Instead, they’re meddling. Third, per Mark Hemingway, this actually vindicates Romney’s critique of the Cairo embassy statement. Romney accused the administration of “sympathizing” with the sort of Islamist cretins who later assaulted the embassy, annnd that’s basically been proved true. Islamists were insulted, and now the White House is trying to make the insult go away.
Since the feds couldn’t get Google to bend on the clip, though, I guess it’s time for plan B: Actually imprisoning the guy responsible for the movie.
U.S. probation officials are looking into potential violations of prison release terms by a California man linked to an anti-Islam film that triggered violent protests at U.S. embassies in Muslim countries, a court spokeswoman said on Friday…
[The filmmaker,] who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Cerritos, pleaded guilty to bank fraud in 2010 and was sentenced to 21 months in prison, to be followed by five years on supervised probation, court documents showed. Prison records show he was released in June 2011, shortly before production began on the video…
Under the written terms of his release, [the filmmaker] was forbidden to use the Internet or assume any aliases without approval of his probation officer. A senior law enforcement official in Washington indicated the probation investigation relates to whether he broke either or both of these conditions.
Violations could result in him being sent back to prison, court records show.
Newsweek also has a story about the parole-violation angle, which I recommend reading just because it’s palpable how much of a pretext it is to punish the guy for the crime of “unhelpful ” speech instead. (The last paragraph of their story sums it up.) Even if he technically violated his parole by using a computer and an alias, as far as I’m aware no one’s alleging that he used that computer and alias to commit any crimes since leaving prison. Bringing him in for that is like going after Al Capone for tax evasion: That’s not his “real” crime, but you’ll happily prosecute him for it just to impose some measure of justice on him. The filmmaker’s “real” crime is antagonizing lots of violent Islamist lunatics by blaspheming their religion, but since that’s still technically legal, maybe we can bring him in on the charge of using an alias instead.
Exit question: Since everyone understands that this guy is now marked for death, why does the media — with the help of law enforcement — insist on publishing his name and whereabouts? Finding out who’s behind the film and what his motive was in producing it is a legitimate story, but you could write that story without using his name: “The filmmaker, who’s name is being withheld for security reasons, is a Coptic Christian who’s been to prison for fraud and drug possession,” etc etc. Every clue to his identity and whereabouts makes the job of jihadist nutbags a little easier, and yet the media insists on dropping some very, very big clues.
Update: Ed DMs to say that he’s familiar with the filmmaker’s hometown and that it’s small enough that it shouldn’t be difficult to pinpoint him. So, yeah, this guy’s probably going to be killed. But I guess he had it coming, huh?