Liberal support for free speech has been waning for a long time, and at present it seems to be just about extinct. The latest evidence is a story in today’s New York Times about Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man who made the video that was falsely blamed for the Benghazi attack, and has languished in jail for the last two months as a result. One might think that the Times would regard jailing a man for exercising his First Amendment rights as an outrage requiring daily denunciations, but no–the tone of the article, by Serge Kovaleski and Brooks Barnes, suggests that Nakoula deserved what he got.
Start with the article’s title: “From Man Who Insulted Muhammad, No Regret.” The Times finds it remarkable that Nakoula isn’t penitent:
Fuming for two months in a jail cell here, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has had plenty of time to reconsider the wisdom of making “Innocence of Muslims,” his crude YouTube movie trailer depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a bloodthirsty, philandering thug.
So is America now a country where we imprison people so they can rethink the wisdom of making a video with the wrong political point of view? Apparently the Times thinks so; there is strong evidence that Barack Obama does, too.
Does Mr. Nakoula now regret the footage? After all, it fueled deadly protests across the Islamic world and led the unlikely filmmaker to his own arrest for violating his supervised release on a fraud conviction.
Not at all. In his first public comments since his incarceration soon after the video gained international attention in September, Mr. Nakoula told The New York Times that he would go to great lengths to convey what he called “the actual truth” about Muhammad.
Which raises an interesting point. I have never seen anyone comment on the historical accuracy of Nakoula’s film (assuming that anyone has actually seen it) or the YouTube trailer. Muhammad was, in fact, a “bloodthirsty, philandering thug.” You could say worse things about him than that without straying from the truth. But this question is not one that the Times, or any other media outlet I am aware of, has seen fit to explore.
The Times tries to keep alive the fiction that Nakoula’s video might have had something to do with the Benghazi attack:
There is a dispute about how important the video was in provoking the terrorist assault on the American diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed the United States ambassador and three other Americans.
Actually, I don’t think there is any dispute at all. To my knowledge, there is zero evidence that the Ansar al-Sharia terrorists who carried out the attack knew or cared about Nakoula’s video.
The main point of the Times article–the only point, really–is to establish that Nakoula is disreputable and untrustworthy. But this is an odd perspective to take on what appears to be an extraordinary violation of the First Amendment–jailing a man for political speech regarded as inconvenient by the Obama administration. In the view of the New York Times, is the First Amendment reserved for the honest and the respectable? That certainly wasn’t the Left’s position when Communists were availing themselves of the bourgeois right of free speech.
A friend emailed the authors of the Times piece and got a response from Serge Kovaleski. This led to a dialogue in which Kovaleski described the Times as “champions of the first amendment.” Kovaleski defended Nakoula’s imprisonment, however, on the ground that “Nakoula had specific restrictions attached to his supervised release, which he violated.” But the Obama administration doesn’t even pretend that Nakoula was imprisoned for any reason other than as punishment for his impermissible speech. Recall Charles Woods recounting how Hillary Clinton approached him at his son’s memorial and said, “We’re going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video.” And it is blindingly obvious that tossing a probationer in the slammer for using an alias and accessing the internet, notwithstanding that those actions violated the terms of his probation, is not standard practice.
At the New York Times, however, there is nothing to see here; nothing other than a disreputable Christian who dislikes Islam and therefore deserves to rot in jail until he sees the light.