I am not Seeing Capitulation

Wherein I engage in a little intra-blog debate.

I started to weigh in in the comments section of Doug Mataconis’ post about the president’s speech to the UN in which he addressed The Innocence of Muslims (among other issues), but several specific thoughts occurred, so I thought I would go full post on the subject (and because the issue goes beyond Doug’s post, as I have seen these issues discussion elsewhere as well).

As I noted in the comment threads of another of Doug’s posts on this subject over the weekend, I am not getting the outrage over attempts at public diplomacy on this issue.  I don’t want to go straw man here, but it seems to me that the position of Doug and others is that they would have prefered that the president simply

My basic objections are rooted in word choices and the starkness of claims.  Over the weekend, I wondered about the words “timidity” and “kowtowing” and I wonder today about “capitulation” (the title of the post was “President Obama Capitulates On Freedom Of Speech Before The United Nations“).  I was vexed over the weekend as to where the US had “kowtowed” to anyone and I further confused as to what the “capitulation” was today.

To note that some speech is offensive is not a capitulation.  I find calling African-Americans the n-word offensive, but that does mean I am opposed to free speech. Indeed, I could easily make a long list of things that I find offensive.  I find Ku Klux Klan marches in downtown Montgomery to be offensive and will happily say so (indeed, I just did) but saying so is not a capitulation.

I think that we have to remember the basic context of the current situation:  there have been a series of ongoing riots in response to this film in a number of volatile countries.  In one of those case the riots led to the death of an American ambassador and several American citizens.  This is, therefore, no small trifling matter and one for which, it seems to me, some attempts at trying to calm the situation (or, at least,  make appeals to persons not rioting, but who are still offended—not to mention provide some potential rhetorical help to governments in the region).

A couple of things that struck me from Doug’s post.  In responding to a line from Obama’s speech (“In every culture, those who love freedom for themselves must ask how much they are willing to tolerate freedom for others”) Doug stated:

No, Mr. President. This is not a choice. Freedom is not a choice, it is the right of all human beings, and the fact that the manner in which I or someone else exercises their freedom might offend someone is, in the end, entirely irrelevant.

I would note that we make choices of this type all the time.  One cannot say the f-word on a broadcast television drama.  Nor can one show naked genitalia there (nor can one traipse about town disrobed and claim freedom of expression). This is because it would offend some people if we did so. Likewise, the police would be called if I was standing in my front yard with a bullhorn reciting a racist rant.  There are a host of restrictions on speech, some codified (linked primarily to broadcast media) and some based on norms of conduct, and many of them are linked to whether or not offense would be created because of the speech.   My point being that even when we have clear rights like speech there are always limitations of some kind placed on them, if anything because we have to live together.  None of us can say whatever we want, whenever we want, to whomever we want (and to note this is not a capitulation, nor is it a denigration of the First Amendment).

Granted, I certainly agree with Doug on the following:

Their offense does not give them the right to riot, to destroy property, to issue bounties for the death of the person who created something that offended them.

But the president isn’t saying that it does, so again, where’s the capitulation?

Also, I am just not seeing the following, and those claiming this is the case don’t make their case very well:

no American President should be standing up before the world and effectively apologizing for the fact that we have a legal and Constitutional structure that allows people to freely express their opinions even when those opinions offend people.

I ask directly:  where is the apology for the Constitution/the First Amendment?

Also, I have heard variations of the following, and I find them to be a false equivalency:

The United States didn’t condemn Salman Rushdie for The Satanic Verses when the Muslim world rose up in condemnation of that book, indeed the American government condemned the fatwa that was issued against him by Ayatollah Khomeni.

First, there is a wee bit of difference between the contexts (see the above).  Second, there appears to be some general consensus, even amongst non-Muslims, that The Innocence of Muslims actually is offensive.  As such, I am not seeing the comparison to The Satanic Verses (i.e., why is it problematic to acknowledge that X number of people find thing Y offensive, especially when X is a big number?).  Third, the makers of the film were trying to offend, Rushdie was not, so again I am not seeing the validity of the comparison.  Fourth, the US condemned the bad actors in both cases:  the Ayatollah and the rioters—so what’s the problem?

As I noted the other day, I am a bit ambivalent on the administration’s responses and I am open to suggestions of other courses of action.  However, I do know a couple of things:  1)  there is probably only a limited amount that could be done in any event and, 2) the US government has not capitulated (at least, I remain unconvinced that it has).

So, to sum up:  why is it so wrong to acknowledge that a lot of people are offended by this film?  I see neither capitulation nor apology in the following passage from the speech (indeed, I see a defense of the constitution):

I know there are some who ask why don’t we just ban such a video. The answer is enshrined in our laws. Our Constitution protects the right to practice free speech.

Here in the United States, countless publications provoke offense. Like me, the majority of Americans are Christian, and yet we do not ban blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs. As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day, and I will always defend their right to do so.

Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views — even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do so not because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened.

We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities. We do so because, given the power of faith in our lives, and the passion that religious differences can inflame, the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

Indeed, I read the speech as a celebration of American constitutional values and an admonition to the region that they need to learn the same values.  For example:

The impulse towards intolerance and violence may initially be focused on the West, but over time it cannot be contained. The same impulses towards extremism are used to justify war between Sunni and Shia, between tribes and clans. That leads not to strength and prosperity, but to chaos.

In less than two years, we have seen largely peaceful protests bring more change to Muslim-majority countries than a decade of violence. And extremists understand this, because they have nothing to offer to improve the lives of people, violence is their only way to stay relevant. They don’t build. They only destroy.

It is time to leave the call of violence and the politics of division behind. On so many issues, we face a choice between the promise of the future or the prisons of the past, and we cannot afford to get it wrong. We must seize this moment, and America stands ready to work with all who are willing to embrace a better future.

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt. It must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted, “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women. It must be shaped by girls who go to school and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons.

I am not just not seeing the capitulations and apologies.

Note:  I am not trying to start a fight with Doug, but rather a conversation.  It is the power of the blog (and free speech!) in operation.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2012, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. I really think it is very simple.

    It is not the business of the President of the United States to be condemning the speech of an American citizen merely because a bunch of people who still live in the 3rd Century find it offensive.

    Honestly, that, and the post I wrote, I about all I have to say on the matter.

  2. bill says:

    Merriam-Webster says;
    Capitulation
    1: a set of terms or articles constituting an agreement between governments
    2 a : the act of surrendering or yielding
    b : the terms of surrender

    I can see item 2, “yielding”. I don’t see any of item 1 as i doubt if we have any agreements concerning killing our embassy staff on a very important anniversary dates let alone for making bad movies.
    Plus, he’s talking down to the uneducated masses over there like he’s some sort of nobel peace prize winner- oh, never mind.

  3. C. Clavin says:

    Doug…
    Stop it.
    You are embarrassing yourself.

  4. Alex Knapp says:

    “It is not the business of the President of the United States to be condemning the speech of an American citizen merely because a bunch of people who still live in the 3rd Century find it offensive.”

    Doug,

    If you saw the pictures of the people in Libya protesting the embassy attacks. You’ll note that a lot of them were (peacefully!) protesting both the movie AND the violence.

    Don’t you think it makes sense to let THOSE PEOPLE KNOW that we know where they’re coming from and we’re on their side?

  5. john personna says:

    I think that even the last refuge reduction of Doug’s argument, that Presidents or Executive Branches should never criticize anyone, is still very weak.

    What the hell, right? Their criticisms were only words. If you don’t like those words, vote them out.

    (If they’d been legitimately violating the Constitution, you’d be impeaching them.)

  6. Alex,

    There is still no evidence at all that there were ever any protests in Benghazi before the terrorist attack that killed Ambassador Stevens

  7. Moosebreath says:

    Good post, Steve.

  8. John,

    I never said there was a violation of the Constitution, those are your words.

  9. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    Sadly, the only conclusion that I can come to is that in the dark night of his own soul, Doug– like me–is a cracker at heart and resents the fact that that n*****r is impugning American exceptionalism.

    The only difference being that I can recognize my state and try to change.

  10. Modulo Myself says:

    I find Ku Klux Klan marches in downtown Montgomery to be offensive and will happily say so (indeed, I just did) but saying so is not a capitulation.

    If the mayor Montgomery made the normal announcement that the Klan’s presence was in no way an indication of what Montgomery was really like, and then people started complaining about the mayor condemning free speech or something, my gut reaction would be that these people are flat- out racists.

    I’ve read this blog for a couple of years and have agreed with Doug roughly zero percent of the time and I’ve never thought of him as having some sort of real dislike towards Muslims. I’m not so sure now.

  11. Modulo Myself says:

    I find Ku Klux Klan marches in downtown Montgomery to be offensive and will happily say so (indeed, I just did) but saying so is not a capitulation.

    If the mayor of Montgomery made the normal announcement that the Klan’s presence was in no way an indication of what Montgomery was really like, and then people started complaining about the mayor condemning free speech or something, my gut reaction would be that these people are flat-out racists.

    I’ve read this blog for a couple of years and have agreed with Doug roughly zero percent of the time and I’ve never thought of him as having some sort of real dislike towards Muslims. I’m not so sure now.

  12. anjin-san says:

    about all I have to say on the matter.

    Is that a promise?

  13. michael reynolds says:

    I found it to be an educating speech, the American president simply telling the truth to people around the world who do not understand our perspective. They don’t know that this wasn’t a US government production, so Mr. Obama clarified that point. They don’t know that we allow all types of “blasphemy,” so Mr. Obama explained that. And he condemned anyone who would use this as an excuse to commit violence. In other words, he was precisely on-message for an American president.

    Our presidents have got to be able to make our case to the world without Americans getting hysterical and ginning up phony outrage. The irony of this is that Doug acted as if he were every bit as ignorant of the facts as any backwoods Pashtun tribesman. Doug matched their hysteria with his own.

    I’ve said, and will repeat, that as a rule I don’t want my politicians acting as movie/TV/literary critics. But I also want my president to have sufficient flexibility that he can make our broader case to ignorant people whose unstable government happens to have a nuclear arsenal. This Libertarian black-and-white, yes-no, up-down, 100%-or-0% mentality mirrors the mentality of people who Doug describes as still living in the 3rd Century.

    Doug: we’re the grown-ups in geopolitical terms. We’re the educated ones. We’re supposed to be the secure ones. Remember? They’re the ones who freak out over nothing, we’re the superpower.

  14. john personna says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Free speech is enshrined in the Constitution. If the Obama administration is good with the Constitution, where foes all the hyperbole, the chicken dance, come from?

  15. anjin-san says:

    a bunch of people who still live in the 3rd Century

    CDF Gun Report: 2,827 Child, Teen Deaths by Firearms in One Year Exceed Total U.S. Combat Fatalities During Three Years in Iraq

    NEW YORK – June 13 – The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) releases its report on gun violence against children, “Protect Children, Not Guns,” at a time when major U.S. cities are calling for strategies to combat illegal firearms. Citing the most recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the report reveals that 2,827 children and teens died as a result of gun violence in 2003 — more than the number of American fighting men and women killed in hostile action in Iraq from 2003 to April 2006.

    Thank God we are civilized…

  16. steve s says:

    The president’s statement was perfect. Identifying with a value your audience shares (the film was offensive) is communications 101. He then goes on to strongly defend the value of free speech and call the violence inexcusable. Perfect.

    Doug’s post was just a far-right expression of the feeling that if you’re not rubbing America in the rest of the world’s face, you’re a sissy-boy.

    Stupid, stupid, stupid.

  17. jukeboxgrad says:

    doug:

    It is not the business of the President of the United States to be condemning the speech of an American citizen merely because a bunch of people who still live in the 3rd Century find it offensive.

    I wonder if you’re OK with a GOP Senator “condemning the speech of an American citizen” (link):

    He is a jerk. And he is taunting the American people … He was seeking to create indignation. … Do not dishonor our Lord. I resent it … If we have sunk so low in this country as to tolerate and condone this sort of thing, then we become a part of it. … He deserved to be rebuked and ignored … Anybody who would do such a despicable thing …

    Yes, this Senator was complaining that Andres Serrano received NEA money, but that’s not all he was saying. He was also condemning Serrano as “a jerk” because he decided to “dishonor our Lord,” and this is something we should not “tolerate.”

    I don’t recall any Republicans (or libertarians, for that matter) telling Helms it wasn’t his “business … to be condemning the speech of an American citizen.” Do you?

  18. @Doug Mataconis: I would respectfully submit that that is a non-response and that you have never defined your terms, but rather have simply made assertions.

  19. PT says:

    I agree, and find it exceedingly irritating that those making claims that the administration is “capitulating” or “kowtowing” won’t, or can’t, differentiate between censorship and criticism.

  20. Argon says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It is not the business of the President of the United States to be condemning the speech of an American citizen merely because a bunch of people who still live in the 3rd Century find it offensive.

    When it’s serving the best interests of the US and not hurting the rights of its citizens, it is well within the President’s role to do so. And not *merely* because some people find the some expressions offensive (what a sophistic crock of bull, Doug!) or have their fee-fees hurt, but because it’s sane and good policy for the situation at hand. Jeez, act like a grown up sometime.

  21. Ron Beasley says:

    I don’t see how saying you object to something someone says is capitulation. I sure we can all agree that the Westboro Baptist church activities are objectionable but we can agree they have the right to do it although those rights have been limited. I think we are all looking in the wrong places for the cause of unrest in the Middle East. It’s not ideology or religion so much but unemployed young me with little hope. That’s what’s creates suicide bombers and demonstrators.

  22. Alex Knapp says:

    Doug, I was talking about the post-attack protests.

  23. LC says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    You and I are obviously reading different speeches. Try again. Steven has even posted the relevant sections and put them in bold-face.

    Perhaps you wanted Obama to stand up in front of the U.N. and say “You are all a bunch of ignorant fools who don’t understand that in the U.S. people can say anything about anybody and not expect to be hurt for doing so. The video maker had every right to produce that video. More power to him. So grow up and learn to respect free speech the way we do”?

  24. Tillman says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    It is not the business of the President of the United States to be condemning the speech of an American citizen merely because a bunch of people who still live in the 3rd Century find it offensive.

    But what if those people live in another country, and attack embassies?

    There’s an economic argument here you’re completely missing. Diplomacy like this, however abhorrent to your warped priorities, costs us less money in the future in maintaining embassy grounds free of rioters.

    Also, Muhammed died in 632, so stick with 7th century if you can.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    I am not Seeing Capitulation

    Well of course you don’t…after all, you aren’t a libertarian or a partisan Republican/conservative…

  26. MM says:

    @anjin-san: Well, its tougher to do his standard personal attack/strawman rebuttal on a fellow contributor, rather than just a commenter. Or a dumb hick reporter.

  27. legion says:

    Well said, Prof Taylor. I don’t even feel the need to weigh in on this one.

  28. Dazedandconfused says:

    Watched the speech on CSPAN. Seemed like a lecture on how stupid it is to be rioting over stuff like this. It made me suspect he was letting some of the people in the room know he knows they encouraged it. (BTW, I think that most definitely included you, Mr. “We took our time” Mursi….)

    Apology? Must be silly season.

  29. Santiago says:

    Steve, I respect your being civil and all but reasoning with Doug is a futile exercise. Once he lets his inner Confederate flag fly no amount of argument can sway him.

    He may be the most prolific OTB FPer but IMO he is also the weakest.

  30. Spartacus says:

    Has anyone ever seen Doug and Jan at the same time? I think they are the same person.

  31. c.red says:

    Regarding Mr. Mataconis, like a large portion of this country, once he has created a narrative regarding a situation he is unable to change that narrative or accept any criticism of that narrative regardless of facts or events. There are far too many of these people in the world and they make me sad.

    In this case the Obama administration did “something” wrong in the aftermath of the attack (not certain what; immediately scream terrorist and hide under the bed, immediately scream “free speech” and send in the bombers and blow up Benghazi or perhaps we were supposed to pretend a quarter of the planet stopped existing) therefore everything going forward will be subject to as much vitriol as he can manage and will be entirely wrong and evil and an attack on the American way. Worse yet people started showing how moronic his stance is, so now he is going to take his ball and go home and he will show all of us.

    Mr. Mataconis does have some excellent posts, particularly about the legal side of things, but commenting on his posts are largely a waste of time.

    I must say I miss the days of a more balanced approach here at OTB, when Prof. Joyner and yourself were posting more frequently (though I entirely understand and sympathisize with Prof Joyner’s reasons for cutting back) and when Mr. Knapp and Mr. Schuler posted occasionally as well.

  32. Murray says:

    Excellent post. Sanity has returned to OTB.

  33. Davebo says:

    Page views. Right Jim?

    Doug is but a pawn in a game of……

  34. MarkedMan says:

    God help us all Steve. There are few enough non-Mataconis posts on this site as it is without you actually inviting him into the comments section of yours. Stop it, please.

  35. Davebo says:

    Honestly, that, and the post I wrote, I about all I have to say on the matter.

    Can I mombo dog face to the banana patch? Seriously, you get paid for this drivel?

  36. rodney dill says:

    I concur with Steven Taylor’s view on this subject.

  37. Fiona says:

    I saw the same speech Steve saw–not an apology or a capitulation but a defense of free speech and the First Amendment.

  38. @Santiago:

    Once he lets his inner Confederate flag fly no amount of argument can sway him.

    I think that that is a grossly unfair characterization.

  39. @c.red:

    I must say I miss the days of a more balanced approach here at OTB, when Prof. Joyner and yourself were posting more frequently

    I appreciate the sentiment. Life has been quite busy of late, and hopefully I can get back to a bit more regularly in posting soon.

  40. MBunge says:

    “Freedom is not a choice, it is the right of all human beings”

    This comment may seem a digression, but I think it gets at a fundamental thing in what makes Doug occasionally go off the deep end like this.

    I once read a comic book with The Punisher where a fairly obvious point was made. “Saying people have a right to freedom is like saying a lion has a right to eat a gazelle for breakfast.” The point being that the lion has to work and struggle to get that juicy gazelle, just like people have to work and struggle to achieve and maintain freedom.

    At a basic level, Doug seems to think freedom is the natural state of Man if everybody just gets out of the way. It’s not. The natural state of Man is the strong enslaving the weak. Freedom is an unnatural state that has to be manufactured and carefully sustained.

    Mike

  41. MBunge says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “I think that that is a grossly unfair characterization.”

    I think it is fair to say that Doug is completely indifferent to the fact that the principles he espouses have frequently been used to defend and justify some of this country’s worst history.

    Mike

  42. Rob in CT says:

    I am not trying to start a fight with Doug, but rather a conversation.

    It is not the business of the President of the United States to be condemning the speech of an American citizen merely because a bunch of people who still live in the 3rd Century find it offensive.

    Honestly, that, and the post I wrote, I about all I have to say on the matter.

    Well then, I guess there will be no conversation.

    I think it’s obvious there is no “capitulation” in that speech. I read it as a solid defense of free speech. If one is to defend the concept of free speech, on *must* address unpleasant/offensive speech and affirm its protection. POTUS did this, as he explained that we do not and will not ban this sort of thing.

    Was he supposed to go to the UN, stand up and yell “BRING IT ON, YOU IGNORANT 3RD CENTURY BARBARIANS! YEEEEEEEEHAW!” ??

    Diplomacy, how does it work?

  43. Herb says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    “It is not the business of the President of the United States to be condemning the speech of an American citizen merely because a bunch of people who still live in the 3rd Century find it offensive.”

    They say the cure to offensive free speech is more free speech.

    But Doug says, “No, a refusal to condemn is the proper course.” That’s what you’re saying, right, Doug?

    In truth, though, isn’t this how the maxim goes? “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

  44. gVOR08 says:

    Doug–may I ask a hypothetical? I confess I’ve not been following this story closely, but apparently the “maker” of the movie, which I assume means basically producer, is on parole after conviction for financial fraud. Correct? There was apparently a one night showing somewhere and a trailer on You Tube, no serious effort to release the movie, with or without after the filming dubbing? Doesn’t this smell like a con? The Producers, lots of investors and little product?

    If it was a con, would you be OK with prosecution for fraud? Parole violation if any occurred?

  45. Santiago says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Maybe. But how else can you explain his obtuseness? After reading this blog for over 2 years now I am pretty sure that he is not arguing in good faith.

  46. @Santiago:

    After reading this blog for over 2 years now I am pretty sure that he is not arguing in good faith.

    I think he is trying to take a principled stand on free speech

    My ongoing complaint, however, is that he will not engage and explain his position once questions are raised. I don’t get it, save, as I noted the other day, that his training as an attorney gets in the way of a give-and-take dialog.

  47. @Rob in CT:

    Was he supposed to go to the UN, stand up and yell “BRING IT ON, YOU IGNORANT 3RD CENTURY BARBARIANS! YEEEEEEEEHAW!” ??

    I keep getting this vision that what many critics of the president want him to do is go Dave Chapelle and just yell “First Amendment, b*tches!” and be done with it.

  48. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    I really think it is very simple.

    “The President has no freedom of speech, because he is the President and that is a very un-American thing to do, you know…. engaging in free speech…. uhhh…..”

    Doug, You have officially become a caricature. Step out of the editorial page and come back to the real world.

  49. Rob in CT says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    LOL! Literally. Chuckling in my cubicle. Thanks for that.

    FREE SPEECH B*TCHES!

  50. michael reynolds says:

    Apparently the Washington Post also didn’t see capitulation. Under the headline, Mr. Obama’s refreshing defense of free speech:

    So it was heartening Tuesday to hear Mr. Obama, in his address to the U.N. General Assembly, deliver a vigorous defense of freedom of speech, including the right of individuals to “blasphemy against our most sacred beliefs.”

  51. Rob in CT says:

    American Exceptionalism is a powerful drug. [/Obama Chapelle]

  52. michael reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My ongoing complaint, however, is that he will not engage and explain his position once questions are raised. I don’t get it, save, as I noted the other day, that his training as an attorney gets in the way of a give-and-take dialog.

    This is my issue as well. I’ve said on several occasions that I admire Doug’s work ethic — he’s a prodigious blogger and OTB wouldn’t exist without him. I think he’s very smart and very principled. I think the problem is with those principles and the fact that I do not believe he’s ever re-examined them. I suspect there was a college-age move to libertarianism. (I was an LP member myself, briefly, back at the very founding of the LP when I was probably 19 or so.)

    Having once adopted libertarianism Doug became willfully blind to the many conflicts and absurdities that flow from his conviction. He doesn’t explain or defend those stands because obviously they are emotional rather than logical. So all he can do when challenged is restate his premises.

    The alternative would be to change his tribal identity, either to R or D, or to go rogue and reject all labels in favor of some personalized philosophy. But that last course would require a degree of effort and introspection. So I think he’s trapped in his L identity and thus trapped in ideas that simply don’t stand up very well in the real world.

    It’s the all-or-nothing mentality that does it, a personality trait. A large percentage of folks need a rigid set of ideas and principles — a religious doctrine, a political doctrine, whatever. And of course it never occurs to people of this rigid mindset that they are the mirror-image of the other equally rigid true believers they often despise.

  53. bk says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Honestly, that, and the post I wrote, I about all I have to say on the matter

    Except for the next two posts that you subsequently made on this thread, and a few more that will likely follow.

  54. Rafer Janders says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I don’t get it, save, as I noted the other day, that his training as an attorney gets in the way of a give-and-take dialog.

    A fair number of us who comment here are trained as attorneys, and we don’t engage in this kind of childish behavior. In fact, law school taught us that we need to engage our listeners and explain our arguments if we wanted to make any headway. Just stamping your foot and yelling “it is so because I say it’s so!” isn’t going to win you any trials in the courtroom or deal negotiations in the boardroom.

  55. rodney dill says:

    Was he supposed to go to the UN, stand up and yell “BRING IT ON, YOU IGNORANT 3RD CENTURY BARBARIANS! YEEEEEEEEHAW!” ??

    He would’ve needed to borrow Bolton’s ‘stache for that.

  56. Rafer Janders says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Apparently the Washington Post also didn’t see capitulation.

    Look, maybe we’re all being too hard on Doug. Just as there is an Invisible Obama that only Clint Eastwood can see, maybe there’s an Inaudible Obama that only Doug can hear. You, me and the Washington Post listen to the speech and hear a ringing defense of free speech. But Doug, gifted with extra-sensitive hearing, can detect notes of capitulation that are not audible to the average man.

  57. Alanmt says:

    I thought that the speech was balanced and Presidential, and I don’t think that explanation = apology.

    One conceit of Americans in general, is that we assume that everyone else around the globe is just like us, albeit economically disadvantaged or politically oppressed. The middle east is a tricky, tricky place, and many sociopolitical groups there have significantly different, long-ingrained outlooks and beliefs that are substantially different from ours.

    I would tend to agree that the instances in which a President ought to substantively criticize the private nonpolitical speech of a citizen probably ought to be limited, ought of respect for free speech rights, and so as not to denigrate or trivilize the office of the Presidency. In this case, though, it was political speech, it was deliberately inflammatory, and it led to international incidents. It was absolutely appropriate for the President to address the issue, and he did so in a quintessentially American way.

  58. grumpy realist says:

    Doug, just because you see the speech as “capitulation” doesn’t mean it is so. Honestly, I wish you could live abroad and get exposure to other viewpoints. “Freedom of Speech” doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it does. Nor is it a concept that you have the authority to define.

  59. mantis says:

    I look forward to Doug condemning the Virginia GOP for telling their Mecklenburg County affiliate to remove all of the racist Obama images it posts to its Facebook account. After all, they are politicians, so it’s not their job to comment on what free speech is appropriate.

    Come on Doug. Politicians should never criticize anyone else’s free speech, right? Or do you have different standards for different politicians or different types of speech?

  60. Alanmt says:

    Also, I think we could ease up on the Doug-bashing a bit. My ideas don’t always coincide with his, and sometimes when his posts are unpopular, he does entrench, but so what? He gets the issues of the day out here, on screen, with impressive efficiency, enabling one of the better commenting groups I have seen on a political blog to chew up an issue with insight and occasional wit. Eugene Volokh sometimes rubs me the same way on the rigidity and absolutism of his free speech ideals, and I am a strong proponent of free speech as conceived and practiced in the United States.

    On the other hand, I agree that co-bloggers and commenters have a right to request that he fill in his gaps and explain his reasoning and own up to inconsistencies.

  61. c.red says:

    @Alanmt:
    I agree with your sentiments regarding Mr. Mataconis, despite my earlier bashing, and would even go so far as to say some of his posts are both insightful and informative. That is why I have never stopped reading them. I know that I have capacity to stop reading a poster here despite being addicted to the site, because I did in fact stop reading one of the previous contributors. It is the fact that Mr. Mataconis has the capacity to be insightful and informative that makes the entrenchment a bit more frustrating.

    That being said I would say “Thank you” to Mr. Mataconis for exactly the reasons you describe, getting the issues of the day on screen and the efficiency with which he posts.

  62. mattb says:

    @michael reynolds:
    agree with everything you said…

    He doesn’t explain or defend those stands because obviously they are emotional rather than logical

    To your broader point, I’m not sure Doug thinks these are emotional responses. Based on his posts on this topic, I’m pretty sure he would argue all of his reactions are logically based.

    Therein lies part of the problem.

  63. Rob in CT says:

    I’d like to note something else about all this:

    We have a very, very big “global footprint” right? Many of us would like to shrink that, and I think Doug is among us.

    A USA with a smaller global footprint probably has less need to explain ourselves to angry foreigners who don’t share our values. But so long as we’re engaged the way we are (bases all over the place, embassies/consulates, alliances, aid agreements, etc), we cannot take the position that talking to foreigners is best accomplished by yelling loudly at them in our language (and I don’t just mean English by that). I would argue against that method of communication in any case, but it’s a particularly bad idea when we’re up in everybody’s bidness, so to speak.

  64. Spartacus says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    :I think [Doug] is trying to take a principled stand on free speech”

    It’s impossible to stand on principle when you engage in dishonesty. And if you continue to say things that aren’t true after you’ve repeatedly been confronted with your falsehoods, then the reader is left with no choice but to conclude that you are either a liar or too stupid to understand the most basic facts – or maybe even some combination of both.

    Other than the frequency with which Doug does this kind of crap, I have a hard time distinguishing some of his thought processes from Jan’s.

  65. Rob in CT says:

    Doug decided early on that Obama was being “soft on free speech” basically. This goes back before the UN speech (see his post on the ad buy in Pakistan). Confirmation bias is a powerful thing. Obama gives a speech, Doug hears what he expects to hear, and reacts accordingly.

  66. Ken says:

    @LC:

    Perhaps you wanted Obama to stand up in front of the U.N. and say “You are all a bunch of ignorant fools who don’t understand that in the U.S. people can say anything about anybody and not expect to be hurt for doing so. The video maker had every right to produce that video. More power to him. So grow up and learn to respect free speech the way we do”?

    This is pretty much the entire thing in a nutshell. There are more than a few hardcore wingnuts (of both the conservative variety as well as the libertarian) who seem to think that the appropriate response to this kind of thing is “We’ll say whatever the fuck we like, and if you don’t like it, tough crap, you dirty, ignorant savages! AMERICA, FUCK YEAH! FREE SPEECH, BITCHES!” It’s often accompanied by more that a little racism.

    They also invariably think that any response even the slightest bit more nuanced than their personal internal tuffguy dialog is “apologizing” or “kowtowing” or “capitulating” and that the person making the nuanced response is nothing but a mealy-mouthed pussy.

    When confronted with the cognitive dissonance generated by the uncomfortable fact that their personal interpretation doesn’t match reality, they usually either change the subject, leave the conversation, or simply dig their heels in and repeat themselves without making the slightest effort to justify it to anyone who disagrees.

    You folks can point out the actual facts as many times as you like, but it will not make the slightest bit of difference; Doug knows, he really knows, he really truly KNOWS FOR SURE, deep in his heart of hearts that Obama is just another pussy politician who can’t stop apologizing, kowtowing and capitulating to those damned dirty apes ignorant savage Muslims.

  67. Jib says:

    Doug got his marching orders and followed through. Romney wants to attack Obama on foreign policy and the basis on that attack is that Obama is undermining core American values and so when Obama gives a speech at the UN defending core American values and nails it, minions must be mobilized to attack it.

    Doug does not engage because he know what he says is not true but like a good defense attorney, he is just trying to sow reasonable doubt. Most people scan the news, just read the headlines, throw a few “Obama apologizes for Free Speech” headlines out there and its mission accomplished. Its the instapundit school of blogging (another good attorney) and classic Rovian tactics.

  68. Steve Verdon says:

    The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.

    Uhmmm no. There has to be a place for such people in the future, just as there are people who make snide and demeaning comments about Jesus and Christianity. We don’t burn down their houses, we don’t torch the local pet store over it. We might think these people small minded and even possibly bigots, but we tolerate them. We don’t deny them “a future”. The President is simply wrong here.

    Yet to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see when the image of Jesus Christ is desecrated, churches are destroyed, or the Holocaust is denied.

    Free speech for me, but not for thee? Sorry, but no. As noxious and foolish as I think people are for the above actions. And burning churches? That isn’t a free speech issue at all, talk about mixing apples with televisions. Seriously, WTF? Again, a stupid horrible statement for the President to make.

    Also, I think people are mixing things up here a bit. Somebody puts out a low quality video on youtube or whatever and it pisses off muslims who in turn start burning stuff down and killing people. We are to condemn the video? And we are not to allow such people a place in our future? I’m sorry, but that is precisely what the First Amendment is for…to let people express unpleasant ideas. Expressing an unpleasant idea is not nearly the same as burning stuff down or killing people. This doesn’t even come into the range of walking around naked. If you walk around naked in public then the people around you can’t help but see you. A video on youtube…very easy to ignore on the other hand.

    While stressing that freedom of speech is a good thing the President did, while noting this video is in no way an “official position” of the U.S. government or even represents the views of most if not almost all Americans is also a good thing. But the parts above are quite simple complete crap.

    You are too forgiving Steven…

  69. michael reynolds says:

    @Steve Verdon:

    Is it that Libertarians are reading-impaired?

    Thought experiment:

    The future must not belong to those who despise Democracy.

    Have a problem with that? Because obviously we don’t actually want the future to belong to people who despise democracy, even though democracy makes room for their beliefs and protects same. Right?

    The future must not belong to those who hate black people..

    Is there a problem with that? Can we say that without implying that we’re going to start rounding up and killing off racists?

    The future must not belong to those who deny Israel’s right to exist.

    Well, there you have a clear capitulation to the forces of oppression. Right?

    Steve: “The future must not belong to aszholes” is not an announcement that we plan to start rounding them up over at Romney campaign headquarters. It’s aspirational, it’s not a threat.

  70. john personna says:

    @Steve Verdon:

    All of your comment would make sense given a genuine assault on free speech.

    When there is no assault, it is at best a non sequitur.

    There are also genuine slippery slopes in the world, but it is also true that just about anything can be asserted as a slippery slope. There was a time, for instance, when (otherwise) sensible people thought that fluoride in the drinking water was a slippery slope to communism. Instead communism died, and I’ve lived a life with one single cavity in my mouth.

    I’m afraid that “criticism is the sky falling” is about on the same level as “fluoride is the sky falling,” and perhaps even worse. Worse because criticism by Presidents of bad speech is nothing new.

    United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower criticized the notion of the confluence of corporate power and de facto fascism, and, in his 1961 Farewell Address to the Nation, brought attention to the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry” in the United States] and stressed “the need to maintain balance in and among national programs – balance between the private and the public economy, balance between cost and hoped for advantage.”

    OMG, right? An assault on the free speech of the arms industry.

  71. john personna says:

    (If you just didn’t listen to the address SteveV, then you are just taking a little too much as hearsay. If you did and missed or ignored the defense of free speech within, I have to assume you are one of those taking the “criticism is a slippery slope to a violation of the constitution” line. Note that when asked above, Doug said no, the constitution, including the 1st amendment was honored.)

  72. mattb says:

    @Jib:

    Doug got his marching orders and followed through.

    REALLY??!!! REALLY??!!!

    Do you realize how STUPID this sounds?! Like Romney or the powers that be sent Doug an email or a fax that read “Operative 2012.132 is now a go — start complaining about Obama’s and free speech…”

    That’s about as dumb as @Jan’s “liberal psy-ops” comment from a little while ago.

    Of the many things he might be, being in the bag for team Romney or any “powers that be” is not one of them.

    And it makes me rather sad that two people would “like” this particular example of stupid partisanship.

  73. john personna says:

    As president, Washington wrote in 1790: “All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunity of citizenship. …For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens.”

  74. Rob in CT says:

    Steve V.,

    The future must not belong to [those who slander…] != The future must not include/protect [those who slander…].

    Personally, being a “humanity won’t be free until the last politician is strangled with the entrails of the last priest” sort of guy, I’m not in total agreement with POTUS on that one sentence. But, since I view this as public diplomacy, and diplomacy involves at least a little bullshit, it doesn’t really bother me. Taken as a whole, the speech defends free speech while calling for reasonable people everywhere to reject extremists.

  75. john personna says:

    @Rob in CT:

    It is also consistent with G. Washington.

    It really worries me that there are adults out there who want all of the freedom and none of the responsibility which the first president put upon them. Good citizenship? Pfft, that’s so last century, right?

  76. Brett says:

    What strikes me is that Obama’s defense of free speech is very akin to Mill’s defense in On Liberty…. Mill discusses varieties of freedom of speech, along with their supposed dangers and why they must still be allowed. I wonder if Dough would think Mill engages in “capitulation”….

  77. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    As president, Washington wrote in 1790: “All possess alike…

    I told you he was a communist.

  78. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @john personna:

    It really worries me that there are adults out there who want all of the freedom and none of the responsibility…

    John, that is the very core of libertarianism.

  79. nitpicker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: In other words, you realize how dumb you’re sounding and will stop digging now?

  80. Jib says:

    @mattb: Yes really, or as you say REALLY!!!???

    I come to this by reading this site for a while. Go back and look at Doug’s posts. Look how close his short shallow Obama hit pieces follow whatever the talking point currently is with the Romney campaign. Compare the depth (or lack there of) of these posts with the ones he does that have little to do without whatever the political news cycle is yammering on about at the time.

    He often provides cover for himself by inserting a “I am not sure about this..” as he quotes extensively but some wignut. This is his version of instapundits “heh”

    For me its clear and I now consider anything Doug writes as if was coming from FNC or Rush or Insty.

  81. Carson says:

    @anjin-san: How about enforcing the laws against criminals and quit releasing them to go out and prey on the innocent people time after time?
    How about outlawing these soft on crime judges who run revolving door courthouses?

  82. Steve Verdon says:

    Have a problem with that? Because obviously we don’t actually want the future to belong to people who despise democracy, even though democracy makes room for their beliefs and protects same. Right?

    No, not at all Michael, because I am not one of those people who put Democracy on a pedastal…in fact, I have some very serious issues with democracy.

    Steve: “The future must not belong to aszholes” is not an announcement that we plan to start rounding them up over at Romney campaign headquarters.

    Well Michael, its a good thing I guess because if we were going to start rounding up bigots we’d probably have to include you too.

    By the way, I think your drool cup is full.

  83. Mary says:

    @Doug Mataconis: @Doug Mataconis: The U.S. Constitution (Bill of Rights) also protects the freedom of worship. For the U.S. Government to pretend in any way that it approves of the message on this videotape — a videotape that deliberately denigrates and salaciously mocks one of the major world religions (at a time when members of that same religion are seeing their mosques burned down and vandalized — in Tennessee, Missouri, and Virginia — and are being hauled in to court to defend the fact that Islam is even a religion in order to build a new mosque in Tennessee) — would in my mind constitute considerable “capitulation” re: 1st Amendment freedom of worship. Of COURSE the U.S. condemns this speech.

  84. Mary says:

    @Steve Verdon: It mght be less important to condemn the speech if it weren’t for the active and growing anti-Islam movement in the U.S. that a) recently hauled a Muslim congregation into an American court over their right to build a mosque (and called ‘expert’ witnesses to testify that Islam is not a religion deserving of 1st Amendment protections), and b) has apparently inspired some extremists to burn mosques in Tennessee and Missouri and vandalize one — just the other day — in northern Virginia. It’s routine to read articles about the “anti-Islam” movement in America, but can you imagine similar kid-glove treatment of some similar “anti-Judaism” movement? We’d call that what is really is — a bunch of neo-Nazis. And believe me, Muslims around the world can much more easily stumble across this poisonous anti-Islam invective online than to see clearly how most American Muslims benefit from the real freedoms and real tolerance that is characteristic of most Americans. So why on earth wouldn’t the President want condemn religious intolerance while he champions the freedom of speech?