Obama officials fasten on the video so they can flinch from hard truths. They can’t bring themselves to say that the protesters hate us and our freedoms. They can’t admit that electing President Barack Hussein Obama, with generations of Muslims in his family (as he boasted in his Cairo speech), wasn’t enough to win over the Muslim world. They can’t look dispassionately on an Arab Spring that is sputtering out into more radicalism and more disorder. And, most disturbing of all, they can’t muster a full-throated defense of free speech that doesn’t give ground to the premises of Muslims hostile to it.

To blame the video for the violence, rather than the provocateurs on the ground, is a concession to the logic of blasphemy laws giving aggrieved Muslims a veto over free speech. The administration has already shown itself disturbingly sympathetic to these efforts, co-sponsoring a U.N. resolution in 2009 against religious hate speech. In free societies, religious hate speech is simply free speech; otherwise Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris wouldn’t be allowed to publish. Any hedging on this principle is a betrayal of who we are.