Why No Support for Freedom of Speech?

September 17, 2012


There seems to be wide agreement that the vast majority of citizens of the countries in which anti-US protests are occurring at this time, objecting to the film (“Innocence of Muslims”), are of the strong opinion that such protests should stop, and most certainly that there is no justification whatsoever for violence being imposed on US and Western governmental and business entities.

Here’s the harder question to find answers to: If this is true, then why do the leaders of those countries not speak out in opposition to such behavior and perhaps also defend the right of free speech which is core to the dilemma? Some, including the new President of Egypt have done the opposite—calling for the creator of the video to be prosecuted. He is smart enough to know that we cannot do that under our constitution and our rule of law. Nor would England or Germany, which are to some extent, also being targeted.
Can this be explained by simple reasoning? Is it that the leaders do not have a good feeling for the power (in numbers or politically or economically) of the fundamentalist minority? That doesn’t seem likely.

Or, is it that they see only the noise of this minority, and hear nothing from the vast majority? After all, the vast majority does not take to the streets to preach moderation. This kind of influence can be seen in America, can it not? Let’s take the National Rifle Association. Reportedly, they only have 4.3 million members, and even if we multiply by 2 to guestimate their supporters or sympathizers, it’s still not a strong block, in numbers, in a country of more than 300 million. There must be many multiples of that number of citizens like me, who feel we should much more to limit the weapons permitted to citizens of the US. Yet, we do not take to the streets. We do not protest. We do not hire lobbyists. We are not organized. They are. And the capitalist entities which supply their weapons pay millions to lobbyists to protect their interests. Thus, we see even our President defer to this group in an election year. And, there is the fear that alienating a block which might represent even as little as 2% could swing the upcoming election.
On top of all that, if no other charismatic political leaders of any of the countries we are discussing, including Libya, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Iran, Egypt, Afghanistan, and others, if there is no leader in any of those countries who is calling publicly for reason, for understanding, for calm, no one to defend free speech, then what is the downside for a leader like Mohammed Morsi of Egypt, in calling for the prosecution of the creator of the video? Similarly, there is no one in US leadership of political importance at this time, who is calling for reduced availability of firearms.
And, the case we have cited here, the NRA, is by far the strongest of US lobbying interests, according to Congress. We know that far smaller fractions of special interest groups are also able to wield similar power, resulting in our leadership being unwilling to criticize. Why should we expect it to be different in a Muslim country?
There appears to be a dearth of leadership, worldwide, leaders who are willing to say the right thing and do the right thing. As we speak, Morsi is modifying his stance, perhaps largely due to pressure from the US (and Obama directly by phone to him). Is this the only weapon we have to influence the right behavior? Is the world so lost in the complex influence of politics that we cannot even mount leaders who will stand up for what they truly believe?

Let’s hope not!

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