U.S. Embassy in Pakistan Condemns Video After Consulate Suffers Deadly Attack

Though you may at this point be overcome with embassy-attack fatigue, this New York Times account of yesterday's deadly clashes at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, Pakistan contains at least two passages worth considering. The first:

The American Embassy here said in a message posted Sunday evening on Twitter that "all American personnel are safe and accounted for at U.S. Consulate, Karachi."

"The United States government has absolutely nothing to do with this video," another Twitter message by the American Embassy said. "We reject its content and its message."

"Another" is one way of characterizing that content-rejecting Tweet. But the more descriptive modifier might be a later Twitter message. As in, after the consulate was attacked, the embassy sent out a don't-hurt-us-we-hate-the-video-too message. Which it then reiterated this morning in case the message to rioters wasn't clear.

And that message is this: The more you attack, the more we will pay respect to your grievance and even share part of your critique. As Eugene Volokh counseled over the weekend in a post worth reading and bookmarking for later (because there will always be a later), "Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated."

Not only are there potentially grave consequences to rewarding special pleading with special kid gloves (in addition to a chilling of domestic free speech), these embassy messages don't seem likely to change the behavior of the rioters in question. Which leads us to the end of the Times story:

[Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the leader of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba], said in his speech that the production crew of the video "must be hanged to set an example."

Protesters held placards and shouted slogans against the United States government. One placard read, "O Obama, we are all Osama." Another placard read, "Blasphemy is not freedom of expression, and its sentence is death."

Reason on free speech and Islam here.

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  • CampingInYourPark||

    "And that message is this: The more you attack, the more we will pay respect to your grievance and even share part of your critique."

    Best summary I've read of why the constant sympathy for Muslims about the video is making things worse.

  • R C Dean||

    I can only hope that the craven pleading for mercy isn't sitting well with the domestic audience.

    I don't watch teevee news, but I wonder if the pix of the filmmaker being hustled off by a squad of brownshirts is getting much coverage. I expect not.

    And I don't give a shit about "parole violations". For one thing, you don't "investigate" parole violations with squads of deputies and a caravan of press. For another, given the circumstances, you hold off doing anything in this case because it comes off as being a suppression of speech and the appeasement of terrorists.

  • Proprietist||

    It was the headline picture on CNN.com the other day.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "I don't watch teevee news, but I wonder if the pix of the filmmaker being hustled off by a squad of brownshirts is getting much coverage. I expect not."

    Sure it's being covered. The reaction from many people is probably not what you'd expect, though.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    It's an odd reversal from what I can see: the liberals are cheering on the perp being perp-walked, while the conservatives are aghast at the display of force.

  • nicole||

    And the libertarians, as usual, get dicked--you see, anyone who would now mention "brownshirts" is certain not to have objected to LAWyORDER before, and only does so now out of anti-Muslim bigotry.

  • Proprietist||

    Hopefully my rom-com about Mohammed and a goat is going to get tons of free publicity!

  • NoVAHockey||

    This can't be that hard of a concept.

  • ||

    Secret Muslim. 'Nuff said.

  • Bardas Phocas||

    I warms my heart to know that my rights depend on the butthurt of energetic film critics' ability to find crap on the internet (cuz that's really hard).

  • tarran||

    The U.S. State Department are handling this affair suprisingly incompetently. WTF?

  • Restoras||

    No no no, they are all Top. Men. from Top. Universities. and other Top. Institutions. All is well!

  • Tulpa Doom||

    The layer of the State Dept that we see are the ambassadors and of course secretary Clinton, who are just political apparatchiks of the BO machine. I'm sure the skilled bureaucrats who work for them are plenty competent, but unfortunately they're not listened to and never have been in this administration (or the last one, for that matter).

  • tarran||

    I posted this in another thread.

    Obama is reminding me of the Polish officials shutting down Mel Brooks' stage show on To Be or Not To Be

  • Drake||

    Can somebody send this to Chapman as exhibit 1 on what a weak foreign policy President would do?

    I don't care about his bungled wars or kill-lists. If you can't articulate Freedom of Speech rather than appeasing third world mobs, you are weak. It's a weakness of character and a weakness of belief - not an unwillingness to use force.

  • Mike M.||

    Are you serious? Chapman is a fake libertarian and a full-fledged Obama dogwasher whose job is to piss on us and tell us that it's raining.

  • ant1sthenes||

    Hitting people that can't hit back isn't strong, it's just bullying. Once they start to react and you turn around with your tail between your legs, that's when your true colors come out. Obama's foreign policy isn't strength, confidence, heroism, assertiveness, or anything like that, it's just the viciousness of a bully.

  • Killazontherun||

    Fuck Chapman.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Blasphemy is not freedom of expression

    Oh, but it is. It is the best kind. A free society has no sacred cows and no unquestionable truths.

  • J_L_B||

    I'm fine with sacred cows and unquestionable truths as long as the government is not the one trying to shut them down.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "'The United States government has absolutely nothing to do with this video,' another Twitter message by the American Embassy said. 'We reject its content and its message.'"

    The embassy might as well add this:

    "So, stop trying to hurt us and go get the real villains. The people that produced that movie."

  • RickC||

    "Let's make it easy for them," said the U.S. government and media, here's his real name and he lives in this city. Hell, here's a picture of his house."

  • ||

    "When we called at their house, we found that they had gone away on two weeks holiday. They had not left any forwading address, and they had bolted and barred the house to prevent us from getting in. However a neighbour told us where there were." [BOOM]

    "And here is the neighbour" [BOOM]

    "Here is where he lived" [BOOM]

  • MJGreen||

    You'd think at least one embassy would try a different strategy, saying something like: "The United States is sworn to defend its citizens' freedom of speech. It also protects its citizens' lives. Those who threaten either will be dealt with by force."

  • Killazontherun||

    The answer to that mystery lies in a post above:

    No no no, they are all Top. Men. from Top. Universities. and other Top. Institutions. All is well!

    Being deferential to third world barbarism and intolerance displays their own commitment to tolerance.

  • Brutus||

    But isn't multiculturalism an unquestioned Good?

  • ||

    You spelled God wrong.

  • ||

    The attacks on the consulate in Lybia last Tuesday appear to have been coordinated and pre-planned with the film as a pretext.

    But it seems a lot of other Muslims protesting, rioting, and vandalizing US embassies really are motivated by the film. Or at the very least, hearing about it was the catalyst for the pandemic of stupid that has swept the Muslim world (though they may already have had prior hostility towards the US).

    In this context, it would be nice for the Obama administration to make a more clear and decisive statement in defence of freedom of speech and the US 1st amendment. I would like him to say something like:

    "Listen people, in the US everyone has the right to non-violently express their views and produce satire on any subject. A film that ridicules your favorite prophet may offend you, but it does not physically or financially harm you, so your rights are not violated by this movie. If you don't like it, you don't have to watch it. While the US government does not generally endorse the contents of private citizens' speech, including this film, we will protect the right of US citizens to express thier views. You do not have the right to respond to this film with violence or vandalizing of US property, and doing so will not get us to change our policy on free speech. Instead, such acts will be met with defensive force."

  • Ron||

    it's to late for Obama to say anything since the police have already taken one of the people involved in for questioning. Of course the police are using the pretext that he violated some other probation and not because they want to suppress his free speech. Which is the calls I'm hearing for on Huffington Post about how this man has blood on his hands, they are no better than the islamist.

  • ||

    It is not too late to articulate a defense of free speech. There are still people rioting over this after all and demanding censorship.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "It is not too late to articulate a defense of free speech."

    It's a little too late to articulate it and appear sincere. The first reaction was empathy with people angry about free speech. That ship set sail a few days ago.

  • ||

    Well it is sincere in the sense of being true. The 1st amendment applies here and protects the right to make the film in question. The president couldn't change this even if he wanted to.

    While I agree that it would have been nice to make this point earlier and more clearly, I would still welcome such a statement now on "better late than never" grounds.

    The statements appearing to express "empathy with people angry about free speech" may have been a bad idea, but they are just PR statements by embassy personnel with no legal force or effect. If there is any confusion, president Obama could point out that the 1st amendment prevails over embassy twitter accounts in the event of a conflict between the two.

  • CampingInYourPark||

    "...but they are just PR statements by embassy personnel with no legal force or effect. If there is any confusion, president Obama could point out that the 1st amendment prevails over embassy twitter accounts in the event of a conflict between the two."

    Yes, he could have forcefully disavowed his own State Dept. personnel and defended free speech, but instead we got:

    "While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants."

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/.....us-attack/

    And:

    "'The White House asked YouTube to review the video to see if it was in compliance with their terms of use,' White House press secretary Jay Carney told POLITICO in an email. The White House said it reached out to YouTube on Tuesday.

    http://www.politico.com/news/s.....z26k4PvOkv

    I see nothing that contradicts the embassy statement in word or deed.

  • Ron||

    You can't claim to be for free speech while taking a man to the police station for questioning about his free speech.No they haven't arrested him but it is a form of intimidation.

    This is typical of our government lately they say they are for one thing while they doing the opposite.

  • ||

    You can still claim to be for free speech, though one may argue that the image of this guy going with the cops for questioning reduces the credibility of such a claim.

    It may be a good idea for the government to say: "we are not questioning this guy anymore nor investigating him, he can go about his business". While the basis for the questioning was technically possible parole (and thus technically legal) it could give the appearence of appeasing thuggery and rioting by selectively enforcing a parole condition that would otherwise not have been enforced.

    In any case, regardless of parole questioning thing, it is still true (and worth pointing out) that the first amendment protects free speech even when Muslims find it offensive; and that this won't change in response to rioting.

  • Ron||

    Is it free speech if I were to make a video that someone doesn't like and I am then taken to the police department. While at the police department my clients ask why isn't Ron at work today and people say the police have him. How many clients will I lose that day. Free speech in writing is not free speech when it's not protected. I guess today it's free speech only as long as I don't say anything.

  • ||

    Well it would depend on a number of factors:

    - Do the police have a non-speech-related, legal reason to call you in?

    - Are they censoring you or bringing charges against you for the video?

    - Are they inflicting some other harm on you that is calculated to have a general chilling effect on free speech (i.e. not just for people on parole)?

    The government has not forced (and may not force) anyone to stop showing or viewing the film. No charges can be brought against the other people involved in this film (I'm assuming they are not all violating their parole). And it appears this one guy might just get questioned and then that’s the end of it (though this is still not clear).

    So it is not quite true that the government is cracking down on free speech. It is just that the Obama administration has failed to explicitly articulate a strong defense of free speech. But that is all the more reason to reverse course and do so now.

  • Ron||

    You don't understand the meaning of the word "Intimidation" do you. I'd suggest that you look it up and then think about.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    But sending out multiple tweets does not help the situation. Say it once or not at all.

    Anyone who has access to twitter already knows the US govt's official position.

  • Pro Libertate||

    It's Constitution Day. The day we ritually deny our rights three times.

  • NeonCat||

    Then we hear the eagle shriek, and are ashamed.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    225 years old, baby.

  • R C Dean||

    "Its not dead, its . . . resting !"

  • Dr. Frankenstein||

    All right then, if he's restin', I'll wake him up! (shouting at the cage) 'Ello, Mister US Constitution! I've got a lovely fresh cuttle fish for you if you show...

  • Pro Libertate||

    Could we get Cleese and Palin to do a dead Constitution sketch?

  • CE||

    The Constitution is underground in an air-tight crypt in DC. They can bring it up out of the ground and start reading it whenever they want to, but they don't want to.

  • Joe R.||

    That's more than 100 years!

  • aelhues||

    There have been plenty of people telling whoever will listen that this type of statement is seen as weaknes, and is to be despised, in Islamic culture. They only respect strength.

  • Invisible Finger||

    I would think THIS video would piss off Muslim fundies more than some lame green-screen shit.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cncbOEoQbOg

    It sure pissed ME off.

  • Rich||

    Good point.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    As Eugene Volokh counseled over the weekend in a post worth reading and bookmarking for later (because there will always be a later), "Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated."

    Pretty sure that idea did not originate with Eugene Volokh. It's probably older than fire.

  • R C Dean||

    He only got half of it, anyway:

    You get more of what you reward, and less of what you punish.

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I was waiting for you to take issue with Volokh getting credited for that!

  • Killazontherun||

    Volokh did quote the old proverb, 'pay the Dane-geld, you'll never get rid of the Dane.'

  • NoVAHockey||

    I like the first response to the embassy's tweet, from an American who happens to be Muslim:

    @HRAsif as an American Muslim I humbly reply: no. Instead, understand that offense happens. Deal. @alimhaider @usembislamabad @SaimaMohsin

  • Tulpa Doom||

    I hope he's not on probation.

  • Paul.||

    Rushdie condems the protesters and the Muslim world in general on Morning Edition today.

    After his diatribe, host Steve Inskeep asks pointedly for confirmation that Rushdie is in fact saying that the protests say "more about the muslim world than the filmmakers".

    Man them liberal folk just can't let go of the idea that this is some YouTube member's fault.

    The only thing that bugged me about Rushdie's comment is, at the end he critiques the production values of the video and then says that killing people who had nothing to do with it is barbaric. Leaving open-- in my mind-- that maybe some sort of recriminations against the people who did may be excusable. I think I know Rushdie well enough to know that's not what he meant, but it seems to give NPRs core audience something to hang on to.
    http://www.npr.org/2012/09/17/.....slim-world

  • CE||

    "Blasphemy is not freedom of expression," but "cut thier [sic] throats, spill thier [sic] blood" is?

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Behavior that gets rewarded, gets repeated."

    That's what I've been saying for a long time. The response to every riot should be a thousand more videos, tweets, and cartoons in the same vein.

    If these countries won't protect our embassies, we should get out and call them on skype when we need to talk to them. What century are we living in? Is there really a compelling reason to put diplomats in harm's way in this fashion?

  • Copernicus||

    Yo Muhamed/Mohamed.... SUCK MY COCK!!!

    This cannot be said often enough.

  • Ardelle||

    Is your opponent a racist? Why or why not?

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