Brzezinski: Free Speech about Muslims has Limits

J. Robert Smith
With free speech comes responsibility said Zbigniew Brzezinski, and when it comes to speech about Muslims, some speech is like crying "fire" in a crowded theater.  Brzezinski made his remarks Wednesday morning on msnbc's Morning Joe (which Brzezinski's daughter, Mika, co-hosts).  Brzezinski came to prominence as President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor.   

Brzezinski's comments dovetail nicely with President Obama's remark at the U.N. last week that the Prophet Mohamed shouldn't be slandered.  (Still no word from the White House if telling the ugly truth about Mohamed is in bounds).

Do you see where liberaldom is heading with its reasoning about speech vis-à-vis Muslims?  Toward proscription, though, of course, Mr. Obama and Brzezinski would never concede the point.  Nor will the left. 

Brzezinski trotted out the now hackneyed - and refuted - argument that the movie trailer for Innocence of Muslims (is there a movie?) sparked the recent convulsions and violence in the Middle East and led to the torture and murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya. 

As Brzezinski's remarks illustrated, liberals will attempt to couch speech proscriptions concerning Muslims as reasonable and common sense.  Surely, everyone agrees that inciting mayhem in a crowded theater is wrong?  Ergo, restraint is the watchword, lest the Muslim hordes take offense at a comment or cartoon and initiate violence.

But the public square isn't a crowded theater - not by a long shot.  We can hope that people are responsible in their public utterances or expressions, but that's not a requisite of free speech.  Free speech isn't conferred by government.  Free speech is a natural right; limits on it are therefore quite narrow. 

And why should limits on free speech pertain only to Muslims?  There are no other peoples or groups in the world that can be incited to violence with the wrong words or by a film trailer?  Liberals will just constrict speech toward Muslims, but, otherwise, Americans are permitted speech that can be plain awful and provocative toward others?

Perhaps the Chinese would take offense to Americans' characterizations of their despicable treatment of Tibetans and rattle sabers - or encourage "spontaneous" demonstrations and riots aimed at the U.S.  Perhaps Americans shouldn't call Putin and the Russians thugs and hegemonists for attempting to subvert the Ukraine, for instance, to regain control.  The former KGB operative Vladimir Putin knows something about the value of agitation.  Why couldn't the Russians erupt in violence toward the U.S. because they object to Americans who aren't so nice in leveling charges and making accusations? 

If Mr. Obama, Brzezinski, and the left have their ways in putting a kibosh on expression that Muslims object to, they set precedent for any and every group or people who assert that they find certain expression offensive.  Not only does this lead to straightjacketing Americans' free speech rights, but it hands the nation's enemies' a weapon.  As the Soviets and the Communist Chinese deeply appreciated, shutting down speech is a means of prohibiting action; it's a necessary prerequisite to domination.

But the Muslims are different, goes the argument.  The Muslim religion is primitive.  Muslims hold precepts that are like tinder; a wrong word, a boorish cartoon (or a not-so-boorish cartoon), a distasteful appraisal of Mohamed (or an honest one) can serve as a spark that ignites the entire Muslim world. 

The problem, then, lies not with free speech, but with Islam, with Muslims, with the intolerance of the religion's precepts, and with the fanaticism that all-too-often goes with the practice of Islam. 

The problem in the 1930s wasn't freely expressed opprobrium - however extreme - toward Hitler and Nazi Germany; the problem was Hitler and Nazi Germany.  Imagine if Churchill or other brave souls had been cowed or shamed into silence then.

What about the president's assertion that Mohamed shouldn't be slandered, now or in the future?  Mr. President, what constitutes slander and who makes that determination?  And if Mohammed can't be slandered, why not Jesus Christ or Moses?  How about Vishnu or the Buddha? 

No, President Obama and Brzezinski would never claim that they wished to impose limits on free speech; they're just counseling more prudence in expressions toward Muslims.  What both men probably want is self-censorship and societal policing, disapproval, and censoring of language odious to Muslims.  The political correctness genie was let out of the bottle years ago.  The president and Brzezinski are likely banking on it helping smother objectionable speech toward Muslims.  Sadly, they may be correct.    

But mark these words: there's an internal logic to the president's and Brzezinski's arguments that will eventual carry liberals toward wanting to formally proscribe language that they deem inflammatory toward Muslims.  And rest assured, Muslims across the globe will continue to furnish liberals with the flimsiest pretexts for doing so. 

With free speech comes responsibility said Zbigniew Brzezinski, and when it comes to speech about Muslims, some speech is like crying "fire" in a crowded theater.  Brzezinski made his remarks Wednesday morning on msnbc's Morning Joe (which Brzezinski's daughter, Mika, co-hosts).  Brzezinski came to prominence as President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor.   

Brzezinski's comments dovetail nicely with President Obama's remark at the U.N. last week that the Prophet Mohamed shouldn't be slandered.  (Still no word from the White House if telling the ugly truth about Mohamed is in bounds).

Do you see where liberaldom is heading with its reasoning about speech vis-à-vis Muslims?  Toward proscription, though, of course, Mr. Obama and Brzezinski would never concede the point.  Nor will the left. 

Brzezinski trotted out the now hackneyed - and refuted - argument that the movie trailer for Innocence of Muslims (is there a movie?) sparked the recent convulsions and violence in the Middle East and led to the torture and murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya. 

As Brzezinski's remarks illustrated, liberals will attempt to couch speech proscriptions concerning Muslims as reasonable and common sense.  Surely, everyone agrees that inciting mayhem in a crowded theater is wrong?  Ergo, restraint is the watchword, lest the Muslim hordes take offense at a comment or cartoon and initiate violence.

But the public square isn't a crowded theater - not by a long shot.  We can hope that people are responsible in their public utterances or expressions, but that's not a requisite of free speech.  Free speech isn't conferred by government.  Free speech is a natural right; limits on it are therefore quite narrow. 

And why should limits on free speech pertain only to Muslims?  There are no other peoples or groups in the world that can be incited to violence with the wrong words or by a film trailer?  Liberals will just constrict speech toward Muslims, but, otherwise, Americans are permitted speech that can be plain awful and provocative toward others?

Perhaps the Chinese would take offense to Americans' characterizations of their despicable treatment of Tibetans and rattle sabers - or encourage "spontaneous" demonstrations and riots aimed at the U.S.  Perhaps Americans shouldn't call Putin and the Russians thugs and hegemonists for attempting to subvert the Ukraine, for instance, to regain control.  The former KGB operative Vladimir Putin knows something about the value of agitation.  Why couldn't the Russians erupt in violence toward the U.S. because they object to Americans who aren't so nice in leveling charges and making accusations? 

If Mr. Obama, Brzezinski, and the left have their ways in putting a kibosh on expression that Muslims object to, they set precedent for any and every group or people who assert that they find certain expression offensive.  Not only does this lead to straightjacketing Americans' free speech rights, but it hands the nation's enemies' a weapon.  As the Soviets and the Communist Chinese deeply appreciated, shutting down speech is a means of prohibiting action; it's a necessary prerequisite to domination.

But the Muslims are different, goes the argument.  The Muslim religion is primitive.  Muslims hold precepts that are like tinder; a wrong word, a boorish cartoon (or a not-so-boorish cartoon), a distasteful appraisal of Mohamed (or an honest one) can serve as a spark that ignites the entire Muslim world. 

The problem, then, lies not with free speech, but with Islam, with Muslims, with the intolerance of the religion's precepts, and with the fanaticism that all-too-often goes with the practice of Islam. 

The problem in the 1930s wasn't freely expressed opprobrium - however extreme - toward Hitler and Nazi Germany; the problem was Hitler and Nazi Germany.  Imagine if Churchill or other brave souls had been cowed or shamed into silence then.

What about the president's assertion that Mohamed shouldn't be slandered, now or in the future?  Mr. President, what constitutes slander and who makes that determination?  And if Mohammed can't be slandered, why not Jesus Christ or Moses?  How about Vishnu or the Buddha? 

No, President Obama and Brzezinski would never claim that they wished to impose limits on free speech; they're just counseling more prudence in expressions toward Muslims.  What both men probably want is self-censorship and societal policing, disapproval, and censoring of language odious to Muslims.  The political correctness genie was let out of the bottle years ago.  The president and Brzezinski are likely banking on it helping smother objectionable speech toward Muslims.  Sadly, they may be correct.    

But mark these words: there's an internal logic to the president's and Brzezinski's arguments that will eventual carry liberals toward wanting to formally proscribe language that they deem inflammatory toward Muslims.  And rest assured, Muslims across the globe will continue to furnish liberals with the flimsiest pretexts for doing so.