I am Pussy Riot and, now, I am Sam Bacille

On the surface, there’s not much in common between Putin’s government and the murderous mobs rioting in Libya, Egypt, and now Palestine in response to an obscure Internet video by someone named Sam Bacille.

Except they can’t tolerate speech with which they disagree.

What about Americans? Where do we stand?

When I wrote a defense of the free speech rights of Pussy Riot, a feminist band recently sentenced to two years prison in Russia for their protest invasion of an Orthodox Church, I was surprised to get pushback from Westerners.

They pointed out that Pussy Riot, in general, is very offensive, crude, and downright disgusting, not to mention shockingly unsanitary if certain claims are true.

Granted. Completely granted.

They pointed out that people of faith in America have not suffered the kinds of suppression and persecution the Orthodox Church has.

Also granted, at least in living memory, with the stipulation that the people who wrote the Constitution knew very well what religious persecution looked and felt like.

Neither point matters, however, against the priority of the right to free speech.

With the shocking statement by our Cairo embassy that “hurting the religious feelings of others” is an “abuse” of the right to free speech, America seems a little closer to Russia and even those fanatical mobs today.

President Obama, while saying many good things, also said that “the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others.”

As a religious person myself, I do not like when people put a crucifix in urine and call it art, when they make movies like Dogma or The Temptation of the Christ, when they make fun of “zombie Jesus” on Easter, or take out subway ads mocking and denying God. It offends me.

However, I would fight to the death for the right of people to do so.

Why? Because we  do have a right to free speech and we do not have a right not to be offended.

At the heart of Christianity from its earliest days (although admittedly not always practiced), is the idea that religion should flow from the inside, not be enforced from the outside. Melded with the ideas of the Enlightenment, we have developed a culture with an unshakable confidence in truth.

We think that truth will win.

If you put all ideas in a public marketplace, swirl them, shake them, discuss and debate them, truth will emerge.

The offenses and vulgarities are not a threat because truth overcomes them. Even if people choose to embrace falsehood and offensive speech, however, that is their right as free beings.

People are free to choose wrongly.

So we enshrine blasphemy and offense as a right. You have every right to hurt the religious feelings of others, to denigrate the religion of others, as well as to question their marital status, to decry how they raise their children, what they think about abortion, how they respond to Chris Brown and Rihanna’s potential reconciliation, and whether Kristen Stewart is a tramp or a victim.

This is why I’m uncomfortable with so-called hate speech legislation. Let crimes such as vandalism, assault, murder, or in Pussy Riot’s case, criminal trespassing, be fully prosecuted. Let even vile speech, however, be protected. Ideas, even outrageous ideas, are not the enemy.

You have the right to swear, to create obscene performance art, to make a complete fool of yourself.

Within certain narrow legal guidelines, well threshed out by our judicial system, your speech can be restricted in order to not materially harm another person, but that’s it.

And I have the right to call you a fool or a devil, to shred your arguments, to prove you wrong, and finally to defriend you on Facebook.

This is a right because it is inherently a human right. Plus, as Soviet protest books and recent Twitter revolutions prove, there really is no way to truly stop free speech. It is tricky. It goes underground.

Except in America, where it is proudly out in the open.

But if we start making it governmental policy to create a right to not have feelings hurt, and expect our feelings to be protected in return, where does that end?

If America stops being America, who will be the beacon of freedom and liberty to the world?

So, I say, I am Pussy Riot and I am Sam Bacille.

They are both offensive idiots, but I stand with them.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey

  • BobDarker

    Pussy Riot didn’t get anyone killed for their protesting. The difference is that Pussy Riot is arguing for equality and for the church/Russian government to have less power, whereas Sam Bacille is saying “the imaginary being that I believe in that will save my soul when I die is more important than your imaginary being that will save your soul when you die.”

    The problem is religion and intolerant f***s, yet you stand behind Sam Bacille even as he himself is hiding (literally and figuratively).

    There are some things that are bigger than being able to say whatever you want to say. Like keeping your f***ing mouth shut so that other people may still have their lives.

    Ed note: I don’t allow profanity on my blog. Profanity has been edited out.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      So if atheist claptrap makes me violently angry, it’s your fault if I hurt someone after reading your comment?

      Probably would have been better if you’d kept your mouth shut so I wouldn’t be offended and enraged. Nonsensical.

      • Mel B.

        “Within certain narrow legal guidelines, well threshed out by our judicial system, your speech can be restricted in order to not materially harm another person, but that’s it.” – Rebecca Cusey

        The creator of the film “Innocence of Muslims” made the film with the intent of causing riots which he knew from past experiences directly lead to death of American citizens. He said he made the film to show the hypocrisy of Islam/Muslims by causing them to riot and murder whist they say they are peaceful (even though the violence only stems from a small percentage of the Muslims of the world – you hear less about the protests that do not end with violence). Therefore, the producer knew full well that the results of his actions would be the HARM TO ANOTHER PERSON!

        Sit down and drink your own hypocrisy. This film is beyond the right to free speech when the intentions of such speech are made quite clear. This is about the threat to our national security to our citizens abroad, about the international ties we have worked for a decade and sacrificed well over 4000 American soldiers for. This is about the detrimental set back we now have to overcome because of one moron’s claim to free speech when his sole intent was to cause the riots in the first place.

        Had the producer not intended for the violence or the riots or the murders that ensued then no he should not be prosecuted. But the violence and the riots and the murders were intentionally provoked “to prove a point” (that a small percentage of the world Muslim community are so ill educated that they must resort to violence to protest speech whilst undermining the integrity of their own religion and teachings).

        There is vast difference between “Innocence of Muslims” by “Sam Bacille” and the Dutch cartoon published by Kurt Vestergaard, and that difference is INTENT!

      • Mel B.

        Show me “Sam Bacille”‘s remorse to the violence and the riots and the murders that one should feel when their works cause the unintended death to a fellow citizen, and I shall retract my statement. But you will not find that, he boasts about how his point is proven and he does not regret the making of the film AT ALL.

        • JJ

          Hello stupid Mel B. Sam’s work did not cause the murder & riots, the stupid fools doing it did!!

          Why blame others? Yes Sam is an ass but it does not give you the right to kill?

          If I am a Buddist & someone make a cartoon about Buddah, I feel no need to go out & kill them.
          What is the defect in the Islamic religion that causes this, they must be very dubious of there own religion.

          JJ

          • Mel B.

            Hello JJ,

            You also fail to recognize the real problem, and my argument. Have you heard “Sam Bacille” since the revelation of his film? I doubt it! So allow me to clarify a few points.

            1) At no point did I say that the protesters who resorted to violence were not responsible for their own actions. They are directly responsible for the, now, 50+ murders that have happened all over the world and should rightly be prosecuted for the murders. But that does not mean “Sam Bacille” does not hold fault for the violence and the murders that have happened. “Sam Bacille” is indirectly responsible for them for the sole reason that this was his INTENTion to spark violence.

            2) No, the movie itself does not say “go muslims murder for your prophet”, but “Sam Bacille” is boasting that this is exactly what he wanted. He wanted to provoke the muslim world to show that this would happen. There is no purpose to this movie except to ignite the violence that a few in the muslim world have resorted to. Because of that he should be prosecuted. He wanted the violence so he could point fingers. Let me be clear that I do not think that “Sam Bacille” should be beheaded for this. I think he should be forced to issue a public apology for the making of his film and be fined for it and be given community service. That fine should then go towards the American families who have lost loved ones from the violence he intentionally provoked.

            The real problem is that we have people who hide behind free speech without taking responsibility for their actions. There are penalties for shouting “Fire” in a crowd and causing panic. Try saying “bomb” on the phone a few dozen times on the phone or in front of a law enforcer and see how quickly you are swept up for your speech. In both cases you will be questioned about the intentions of your speech. In the case of saying “Fire” in a crowd, you will be released without prosecution if you really thought you saw a fire and it turned out to be something that was just misunderstood to be fire (flameless candles). However, if you did it as a joke just to cause panic you will be prosecuted and most likely fined with probation or community service, maybe jail time though time served before trial will be more likely. As for saying “bomb” you will be questioned by the FBI for hours on end before they find that you have no intention of actually bombing anything. How about the boyfriend that called the airline to say that the ex-boyfriend of his girlfriend was carrying dangerous substances in his checked baggage. His “speech” had the airline turn around the ex-boyfriend detained and question and then what happened? The boyfriend was arrested! I have not followed up to see what has happened to him since, but my point is made. You have the right to say what ever you want, you are not free from taking responsibility for the outcomes of your speech. And in all cases, YOUR INTENT, is what is questioned, YOUR INTENT, is what is prosecuted.

            “Sam Bacille” INTENTIONALLY sought to provoke violence in muslim communities around the world. So he needs to be prosecuted for his intent.

            Now let us review the First Amendment that protects freedom of speech:

            “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

            No where does it say that the person who invokes “freedom of speech” can not be prosecuted for the results of their speech. It says that no laws can be passed to suppress free speech. And case law shows us that it is the INTENTIONS of the speaker that are on trial.

            So, JJ. I am not stupid. You fail to see my argument. As most who misunderstand our right to “Freedom of Speech” commonly do.

          • Mel B.

            My mistake. 30+ deaths so far.

  • Jorge Reyna

    I feel the need to point out that the embassy’s statement, as well as Obama’s, were not calling for a suppression of free speech. Rejecting hate speech – and let’s just call a spade a spade – is not the same as suppressing it.

    It is opportunistic, not to mention cowardly, to openly denigrate a religious group and then promptly shield yourself behind one of the pillars of our democracy to protect you from the consequences of your provocations. Sure, we’ll protect Bacille’s right to speak out in ways that show him to be an idiot – and a coward – but we’ll use that same right to openly denounce him for being so.

    You are free to stand with Sam Bacille. I for one won’t, and I will vehemently reject his idiotic and opportunistic abuse of such an important right to further his anti-Muslim agenda.

    Defending freedom of speech does not mean we have to identify with those who use it to espouse hate against others.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I think a government entity calling speech an abuse of free speech is a soft example of suppression. The government doesn’t get to judge what is acceptable and what is not, except for narrow legal grey areas.

      The fact that they were busy condemning particular speech and not defending the issue of free speech is the problem here.

      I wouldn’t have a problem with “this video does not represent the position of the United States government or most of its population and, indeed, our administration rejects it, but the right of free speech is extended to all citizens and he is within his rights.”

      • Jorge Reyna

        We may be parsing words here, but Obama’s statement literally said the US rejects speech being used to denigrate others. I didn’t take the omission of a statement of Bacille being within his rights as a tacit suppression of them.

        You have to be mindful of the context in which the statement was issued. He was condemning the attacks on the Embassy, which is a more pressing issue to address. “Killing unarmed Americans is not ok!” takes priority over “we hate what this guy said but we must defend his right to say it,” and it would muddy a message that needs to be made clearly and strongly.

        That said, thank you for taking the time to reply. :)

        • Rebecca Cusey

          The US does not reject any speech. That is the problem.

          We embrace free speech and the ability to disagree with someone’s idiotic comments.

          Parsing, maybe, but a distinction that is soooo important in my view.

  • Dwight Davis

    I disagree with you, but I don’t particularly enjoy internet arguments so I won’t go into it.

    I did want to ask, however, if you had read a recent article by a theologian named Dan Siedell titled “Piss Christ, Revisited”? Dan is a fantastic guy and has written one of my favorite books on theology and art out there (God in the Gallery). Here’s a link to the blog.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/cultivare/2012/08/piss-christ-revisited/

    • Jorge Reyna

      Wow, I remember the uproar discussing Piss Christ caused in a class I took in college. At the time, I felt I had to pick a side and uneasily fell in the “must defend art even when it makes me uncomfortable” faction (I grew up Catholic.)

      I really appreciate the post you link to because it adequately articulates to me one of the chief reasons why art should be defended – when it creates “a space where grace operates.” Very succinctly and well put.

      That said, Bacille’s pseudo-film does not, to my knowledge, seem to possess either the nuance nor the ambivalence that would create such a space. It is basically a hit piece on the Muslim prophet. Which is why, I reiterate, the guy’s a deuche.

      • Rebecca Cusey

        Completely agreed.

        Indeed the film may be a hoax. It is without value.

        Exactly why we need free speech, to determine what is without value. It would have remained obscured and forgotten if not for these events. T

        • Dwight Davis

          To be clear, I’m not arguing for or against the film. Rebecca referenced her distate for Piss Christ, the article I posted changed how I looked at so I thought I’d pass it on for her to read.

          • Rebecca Cusey

            I did look at that post. Thanks for pointing it out.

  • MichaelL65

    The problem with free speech is this: The people that often “practice” it the loudest do not understand the great responsibility that comes with it. The free expression of ideas needs to be practiced with a great deal of wisdom and thought. It is NOT ok to spout off racial hatred just because you do not like certain races. It is not ok to spout of hate speech against people of a different sexual orientation just because you do not like them.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I agree it is not ok. I would not do it.

      It is more not ok to restrict idiots from doing so.

      I can handle someone saying disgusting things about what I care about. I can’t handle some government entity telling me what’s ok or not to say. (Outside of clearly defined legal rules that have more to do with protecting people from material harm than with restricting speech.)

    • http://afistfulofneurons.blogspot.com Cloudbuster

      Wait, please explain why it is not OK. Seriously. What harm does it do? People say things I find offensive all the time, but it does me no harm. If the only harm “hate” speech does is in the minds of people who are offended by in and in their intemperate actions in response, then that says to me the problem, the thing that is not “OK” is the pathological reaction to being offended that we are implicitly promoting when we condemn “hate” speech.

  • http://aslantedview.tumblr.com Simon Tam

    I completely agree, we can’t say that we are a country that values the free exchange of ideas or freedom of speech on one hand and yet shut down those that we disagree with with the other. I was involved with a similar case that made my head spin at the inconsistent standards on speech that we impose.

    My dance rock band, The Slants, filed for a trademark a few years ago. However, it was rejected by the US Trademark Office because, according to urbandictionary.com, “slant” is offensive to persons of Asian descent. The interesting twist? Our band is comprised entirely of Asian Americans and we work with Asian cultural festivals and advocacy events across the country. In fact, though many other non-Asians hold trademarks for variations of the term Slant, only Asian applicants get rejected over it being disparaging (even though much like the term “queer,” it has been reappropriated as a positive, self-referential term of pride). Go figure.

    If we really value the freedom of ideas, by virtue, we should value the protection of ideas we don’t understand, disagree with, or even find offensive as well. Governments should not be dictating what speech is acceptable and what isn’t.

    BTW – if you’re interested in reading about my story, here’s a link to it in the Oregonian: http://www.oregonlive.com/music/index.ssf/2011/03/portland_band_the_slants_and_t.html

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Crazy-making. Unbelievable.

      The Urban Dictionary is an official US document now?

  • Jeff

    No one really seems all that interested in standing up for the westboro baptist church either. When they protest at the funerals of dead soldiers, shouting how God hates fags, and that God killed those soldiers, because of homosexuality in America… no one wants to stand up for their rights to do and say those things….

    Likewise, the producers of the stupid film in question didn’t kill anyone… they were simply making a mockery of Islam… something that I think far too few people do these days.

    But this wasn’t about a movie… this was about Sept 11… this was about Islam, the religion of peace, being completely intolerant, and unable to accept that there are more than a few that think very little of their religion. Guess what… there are Many more that think less of it now.

    And let’s be honest. Obama doesn’t give a crap about Christianity. He has offended Christians more than once, by making every attempt to exclude Christians from the public arena of ideas… Anyone remember the comment he made about “Bitter people clutching their guns and bibles?”

    Brilliant Article. I completely support it.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      Thanks Jeff.

      Westboro, of course, has won court battles to allow them to do what they do. We tolerate them not because we agree with them but because we value freedom. Great example.

      I, myself, am pro-life. I am well aware that many factions view pro-life speech in the same category as Westboro protests. They would happily shut down pro-life protests and have, indeed, succeeded in restricting them. This is not academic.

      I agree that far too few people question Islam. There is an attitude of fear and appeasement about it. I think it would be amazing if freedom loving people came alongside freedom loving Muslims and said, yes, we will rigorously examine Islam. We will help it modernize by bringing it into the light of day. We will question and whatever comes out of the fire of scrutiny is what is the essence of the faith.

      It happened (and continues to happen) for Christianity. It’s not always fun. Sometimes it’s threatening. But when a faith or philosophy relies on suppressing inquiry and evidence, how are we supposed to believe in its truth?

      I respect many Muslims, know many here in the US, and see such hope in the Arab spring and the Libyans now sending condolences and apologies to the US. There is common ground. But the Muslim world has to reject this extremism and open up to plurality. This is what America stands for. It’s complicated, but it’s important.

      Thanks for your comments.

      • Zob

        In fairness, the reason people try to shut down pro-life protests is that they often cross over into threats and harassment territory. There’s voicing your opinion on a political issue and then there’s harassing women on what is already the worst day of their life. Which would be bad enough if there wasn’t a record of assaults, murders, and arson directed at family planning clinics. Whatever you think of Planned Parenthood, they shouldn’t have to hire escorts to protect their customers.

        (I totally agree with your article, though! I think you captured the nuances of the issue beautifully)

        • Shyra

          Ummm you say “harassing women on what is already the worst day of their life.” Why exactly did you use the phrase “the worst day of her life?” I mean to the woman, is she not removing the “inconvenient blob of tissue” from her body? Is she not getting exactly what she wants? I mean how can it be the “worst day of her life” when she believes the lie that it is not a baby growing within her, but some substandard form of human with no right to life?

          Pro-lifers are not trying to harass those women, but trying to help educate them on what is actually happening within their bodies. There is a life, a human being, with a destiny to be performed in this world. Think of all those babies… gone… maybe one of them held the cure to cancer, and we will never know it because of his/her untimely death.

          I will say, it is, arguably, the worst day of that woman’ life, because no matter what she tries to hold to, she knows she killed the budding life growing within her, and she will NEVER live it down or be able to drown out the pain and suffering it will cause her… and that is truly very sad… I ACHE inside for those mother’s who will never get the chance to hold their child, or see him/ her smile, or hear the laughter; never able to feel those little arms encircle one’s neck and give a kiss with sticky lips, all while saying “I love you, mama!” It is a sad thing indeed.

          • Susie

            Yeah, those little hugs with sticky lips are super awesome, especially for fifteen-year-old mothers.

          • Shyra

            Yes, even for them I ache, cause for them, they still have to live with the regret in their hearts that they lost their child, and they will live with it the rest of their lives. IT is a very sorrowful sad thing…. What is also sad about the 15 year old mothers, is that our society is teaching them it is perfectly acceptable to sleep with as many partners as possible, and teaches them to practice “good” birth control techniques, instead of abstinence, which is the sure fire safe way to not get pregnant or to get a disease. Then when the birth control methods fail we teach our daughters that is OK there is another method, and you do not even have to tell your parents, we will take care of it for you secretively, so now we have 15 year old girls carrying around a huge burden of guilt in secret, not knowing how to deal with it, and then viola, increased depression, increased drug use among teens, increased suicide rates. Yes, sure… that is a better option. I just do not know why, if we HAVE to advocate that sex among teens should be a completely normal, “healthy” thing (as long as it is done with “proper” methods), then WHY do we not promote adoption as an option to these poor teens who end up in this predicament. OF course you then have the abortions the teens undergo that causes them to never be able to bear children at all, so that is more painful. The guilt and trauma left on the minds of these girls as a result of the choice to abort their children is not worth it… especially when there are other options available. The problem is our society is so determined to keep these kids in the dark and not share the truth of what is going on in their bodies with them… I am of the opinion that ANY person undergoing an abortion should be required to have a 3D ultrasound before agreeing to the the termination of the child… then let them say that is not a baby in there! At least then, when they choose to abort, they are doing it in the full knowledge they are terminating a human life, not some “blob of tissue.”

        • Rebecca Cusey

          I think “often” is a stretch. But “sometimes” probably is not. That is why the legal system has adjudicated, to the tiniest detail in this case, where speech stops and harassment begins.

          Which I think only serves to support my general point. Thanks for the general agreement!

  • Sana

    I understand that what you are trying to say is that one needs to respect the freedom of speech and honestly I vouch for it too. Infact in India we are trying to get the Sedition Law repealed so that it gives a sense of expressive comfort to journalists, artists, activists and anyone and everyone. However, having said that, I also condone the usage of such hateful and disjunctive opinions. One might say that people should not react to it and try to see beyond such hateful acts as mere stupidity and eccentricity. Because it might leave feelings of remorse and anguish within people whose faith has been targeted. This picture does not make up for a very promising homogeneous reality that we could have been moving towards. You see, I have been having debates with people from Muslim faith (where I being a Muslim too) that such acts of violence and intolerance should be completely denounced upon. Islam teaches one to be peaceful and non-violent and forgiving is the most sacred virtue. But such expressions need to be curbed within a certain realm of judgement and consideration for other’s sentiments and opinions. We do live in a democratically pluralistic world where freedom of expression is the utmost human right that we all strive for, but a penchant of remembrance in these times is that ‘with Great Power, comes Great Responsibility!

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I love your thoughtful reply. Thank you.

      In America, we have learned to live with the vilest insults to our religion. Just because people insult doesn’t make their insults true or worth noting.

      As we say here, “Haters gonna hate.” It’s just the way it is. But faith, and all kinds of truth, are much stronger than insults.

  • BlueVA

    It’s been determined that “Sam Bacile” doesn’t even use his real name but has gone by several aliases. It’s also been determined that he isn’t an Isreali Jew, as he claimed to be. The actors in his video say that he dubbed hateful dialogue over their spoken lines, initially misleading them about the project in which they were involved. There was apparently no integrity in his actions, and now he’s in hiding.

    Although I agree that the US should not censor speech (or ideas) no matter how offensive, I’d rather not replace my personal desire to be slow to speak, as God asks of us, with a love of freedom of speech. So I would never call myself “Sam Bacile,” and I believe that Christians can defend freedom of speech without aligning themselves with such a man. To go to the extent that you’d call yourself Sam Bacile after he got this deadly ball rolling seems like idolatry to me. I wonder if you feel that he’s not at all culpable for what happened to the four Americans murdered in Libya? That’s not to say that the murderers aren’t to blame, but Sam Bacile isn’t without blood on his hands.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      I know he may not be real.

      The point stands, nonetheless.

      I identify with him because offensive speech must be protected. Speech with which we all agree needs no protection. But if there is to be freedom of speech, it must be all speech.

      If he exists, he is not at all culpable. Not to say his video is good or right, but violence half a world away by others is not his fault.

      • BlueVA

        “If he exists, he is not at all culpable.” Wow. I’m surprised by this answer. Nevertheless, thank you for taking the time to answer my question.

        • Rebecca Cusey

          Thanks for taking time to comment.

          If he had rallied people, saying “hey, guys, let’s all go storm an embassy and kill people,” literally inciting people to riot, then yes. He would be culpable.

          Satire, mockery, funmaking, even poorly done, does not make him culpable of murder.

          • BlueVA

            “Sam Bacile” says he’s a Christian. I, as a Christian, cannot but condemn how un-Christian his video is. I believe Christians should hold one another to the high standards set by the Bible. Now, I’m often taken to task for this point of view; people tell me, “The Bible also says an eye for an eye! Why should we always turn the other cheek? When they build a cathedral in Mecca, then I’ll respect Islam!”

            But as Americans, and for myself as a Christian, I believe living in a country like the US is to have been given a true blessing. We are free to say what we want, practice our own religion and not one sanctioned by the state, and other freedoms that are unfathomable to too many around the world. So we have a responsibility to maintain the high standards set by this great nation, even if those around us do not. Allowing freedom of speech, even if it’s disgusting speech, would be exercising that responsibility. First and foremost, however, we have a responsibility to maintain the standards set by God. (Atheism, I guess, would put country first.) Therefore, if “Sam Bacile” is honestly a Christian (and who knows anymore what or who he really is), then he did not adhere to the standards set forth for us in the Bible. Fellow Christians should call him on that. No, he may not have drawn blood by his very own hand, and no, he may not have made an overt call to riot and kill, but what he did was very wrong, and other Christians should recognize that. IMO, to defend his right to say whatever he wants above and beyond calling out the consequences of his actions is putting country first, and then God.

            I’m not trying to judge anyone’s commitment to their own faith. But Patheos is a faith-based blog host, and so I feel free to address that aspect of this conversation. To be honest, I’m interested in how you feel about Christian responsibility in this case.

            Thanks again, Rebecca, for your thoughtful post and considered response to my comments.

  • fwira

    go to hell sam bacile

  • sholi

    As far as I know, freedom of speech is part of human right. You can say whatever, just do not be a liar and jerk which will cause danger to others. Go ahead, protect the freedom of speech done by Sam Bacile while many innocent Americans life are in danger because of his film. Go ahead with Sam Bacile. Keep on endanger other Americans life. Maybe the right to be alive is higher than Sam Bacile’s freedom of speech.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      American lives (and many more Middle Eastern lives, btw) are in danger because riotous mobs have turned to violence.

      They, and they alone, bear the responsibility.

  • johnstok

    While I have the right to stand up in Harlem at midnight on Saturday night and shout out the ‘N-word’ at the top of my lungs, it may not be greeted by applause. Such an act of ‘free speech’ might not be wise. What is regarded as “the shocking statement by our Cairo embassy” was a contextal response to a heated situation. Christians in general do not seem to like the word ‘f@@k’ and react with hostility to one who uses it, yet the person using the word ‘f@@k’ is only exercising their free speech, albeit in a crude way. Perhaps we do not affirm ‘free speech’ in an absolute sense after all.

    • Rebecca Cusey

      It would not be wise, but those that physically attacked you would be guilty of a crime.

      Speech is not illegal (except in narrow, legally defined cases), but violence is.

  • Susie

    I am a Jew, and a big defender of my cultural heritage. I have also signed multiple petitions to allow Nazis to protest. To disallow certain types of speech is morally wrong.

    The lack of anger that our embassy has been attacked horrifies me. The condemning of Sam Bacile is even more horrific. I am terrified about where our culture is headed. Totalitarianism will not happen in an instant, it will happen gradually. Ceasing to defend freedom of speech feels like step one.

    Once again, it takes a religious Christian to really “get” it. This is why I defend my friends from the Christian Right with a passion, even if we disagree on those petty issues such as gay marriage or birth control. Whether or not Tom and Bill can get married or if I can obtain the morning after pill will be wholly irrelevant when World War Three comes. I wish to God that liberal Obama supporters – the majority of them from my religious persuasion and thinking with their emotions rather than their brains – would get that.

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  • Lynn

    As someone who is in Russia– you are right to compare and note the hypocrisy. Pussy Riots was defended vehemently by the Obama administration, as though they should have a right of free speech. The actuality was that Pussy Riot infringed on people’s worship by their crude behavior in a church. No person would get away with singing down with Obama in any church in USA, especially uninvited. And, now, with him turning on the man who made a video (who I’m sure had no intent to promote violence, as the trailer clearly represents that Jews and Christians were mistreated by Muslims with needless bloodshed– which means, the producer was against such notions and aiming to expose that). Much worse videos have been made, much better-quality documentaries are on youtube about pedophilia in the Muslim world– it’s just that Sam Bacille was the luck of the draw when it came to how to steer away from al Queda and the fact that this administration knew the threat of these attacks but didn’t properly defend real Americans overseas. Would be nice for Putin to give Obama a call and suggest he step back from accusing a man with a video for his failed foreign diplomacy.

    • http://afistfulofneurons.blogspot.com Cloudbuster

      “No person would get away with singing down with Obama in any church in USA, especially uninvited. ”

      Actually, if they were invited, they would totally get away with it. Singing “Down with Obama” is totally legal in the U.S. So your sentence should be revise to reflect they they wouldn’t get away with it only if they were uninvited, not “especially” if they were uninvited.

      Also, here in the U.S., in my state of residence, criminal trespassing and disorderly conduct are fourth degree misdemeanors and carry a maximum penalty of 30 days in jail. They are the most minor of offenses, barely above a speeding ticket. The two year sentence the members of Pussy Riot received is ridiculously punitive.

  • Felix Collado

    Good morning,

    I read your blog, but I deliberatly do not read the comments as they almost never add to the discussion and serve only to muddy an already murky area.

    In principle I agree with what you say, Freedom of Speech is an important principle of Western Democratic philosophy and one of the cornerstones of the Parliamentary system and of political discourse, though there is a fundamental difference between the Pussy Riot case and this Sam Bacille character; Pussy Riot were not trying to inflame violence between Islam and the West.
    I have not seen this film, nor will I, so I wont comment on its content, but the reaction here is what is important. These types of publications/films/etc. that portray the Prophet (PBH) in such a way that it will cause offence seves only one purpose, and that is to cause offence. There is no discourse, no political message, no critical thinking designed to raise awareness or questions for discussion, nothing but offence and the hope that it will cause violence. And like making teenagers depressed, it’s not that difficult to make certain parts of the Mulsim world turn violent against the West.
    What these types of events do is raise the stakes that much higher, make the posability that some already not to stable person decides to strap on a suicide belt and walk into a crowded place that much more likely. How does that serve the principles of Freedom of Speech? How does killing you, me, my infant son, or any one of countless others because of this irrelevant, offensive, facile waste of time serve anything?

    This has one other purpose; fear. To cause as much fear as it can before it disapears.
    That we are having this discussion is an indication of the level of fear you and I currently have. You are affraid that the Freedom of Speech you rightly hold so dear is under attack and needs to be defended, and for this I applaud you. But, it’s this very reaction that the makers of this type of material are relying on to continue to place you in danger because they have no sense of the responsability that comes with Freedom. Freedom is not a catch all “get-out-of-jail-free” card as your own examples show, it has a flip side as well. It is not a licence to say, or do as you please. That is and has always been an erroneous way of seeing any freedom, and is always the first thing that is reached for by Western extremists looking to cause problems for the rest of us. I have come to be very fond of breathing and would very much like to see my son grow up, this places that in danger, no matter how slight that danger may be. You and I also have rights as well and I place yours, mine, and my sons right to live higher than Sam Bacilles “right” to spread hate and cause violence. A right I dont recognize because it is not under the spirit of Freedom of Speech, but a gross abuse of that right and of those that will rise to its defence, such as your good self.

    If you wish to stand by Sam Bacille then you should, but dont do it because of a right they are deliberatly flaunting and missusing to place you and those you care for in harms way.

    • http://afistfulofneurons.blogspot.com Cloudbuster

      Given that nowhere in the video does it directly incite violence, such as “Go Muslims now, and kill Americans” any charge that Bacille/Nakoula’s video was an incitement to violence would clearly fail under U.S. law.

      It wasn’t an incitement. It was an insult. Just like Don Rickles in his day was famous for “insult comedy” and Lenny Bruce deliberately used provocative racist language in his comedy routines to make a point. If you resort to violence because someone insulted you, it is ENTIRELY your own failing and your own fault. Bacille/Nakoula bears no guilt or responsibility for the despicable actions of thousands of Muslims. That shame is all their own.

      • Mel B.

        You should hear “Sam Bacille”‘s boasting on the radio about the true intention of the film and you shall change your tone.

    • http://afistfulofneurons.blogspot.com Cloudbuster

      Also, I must add, I place my right to freedom of speech above my life and the lives of my five children (one of whom is a career soldier who will be returning to Afghanistan later this month). If freedom of speech isn’t worth dying for, exactly what is?

      • Mel B.

        You miss the whole point of his argument. Freedom of speech IS worth dying for. But it is not worth protecting those who intentionally abuse it and hide behind it.

        What should be discussed is the delicate balance to not infringe Freedom of Speech whilst also protecting its integrity.


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