Freedom of expression should stop at incitements to hatred
BIGOTRY is as old as the hills, some of them containing its mass graves. It is a primary motivator of hate crime and from there to crimes against humanity. Genocide, definitely an atrocity of the bigots, is the elimination of minority groups and communities not just because they are different, but because they are inferior. The last century has seen rather a lot of it. In nearly all cases, including Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, murder on a grand scale is justified on the grounds that victims are subhuman, or in other ways, not deserving of the usual benefits of civilisation. In the United States, minorities have suffered hate crime, which is why that beacon of freedom and fairness has enacted laws against it. In the age of the Internet, for the evil-hearted determined to create strife because of religious differences, racist prejudices or any other reason, it is not too difficult to do.
The recent appearance of excepts of the film Innocence of Muslims on YouTube has obviously produced for its makers more than they ever hoped for: an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and the death of the ambassador and three of his staffers, plus, of course, enormous and sometimes deadly protests across the Arab and Muslim world. A recollection of US chief justice William Rehnquist may, therefore, be timely here. In Wisconsin vs Mitchell (1993), when arguing for a penalty enhancement to hate crime laws, he is quoted thus: "bias-motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest". Obviously, no matter how badly made and bereft of artistic merit the film was, all that the judge predicted has come to pass as the emotions of the ummah worldwide are fired by the unending insults to Islam and its prophet.
Certainly, there is a certain amount of manipulation by opportunist politicians. But the anger of the population is manifest. Even though the film was made by totally ignorant non-Muslims, nevertheless, the intent to denigrate is clear. Also, they had stooped to lying to cast and crew, a sure sign of a desire to deceive. This is patently an attempt to inspire and instil hate that should not be protected under any principle of freedom of speech. The government's condemnation is understandably without reserve and it has asked for the offending videos to be taken down. So has the US government, which has called the film "disgusting". Google has complied with official requests, except Washington's, to exclude access in the countries concerned. It should thus consider removing the loathsome content altogether.