I suspect that this may be about the only time I will ever agree with newly appointed Secretary of State John Kerry, so I would like to underscore of the awesomeness of his recent comments to a bunch of German students in Berlin. Relevant snippets (rearranged by me), courtesy of Reuters:
"In America you have a right to be stupid—if you want to be," he said, prompting laughter. "And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be."
"As a country, as a society, we live and breathe the idea of religious freedom and religious tolerance, whatever the religion, and political freedom and political tolerance, whatever the point of view," Kerry told the students in Berlin, the second stop on his inaugural trip as secretary of state.
"People have sometimes wondered about why our Supreme Court allows one group or another to march in a parade even though it's the most provocative thing in the world and they carry signs that are an insult to one group or another," he added…."The reason is, that's freedom, freedom of speech.
"And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that's a virtue. I think that's something worth fighting for," he added. "The important thing is to have the tolerance to say, you know, you can have a different point of view."
Kerry's comments represent a reversal of sorts of comments uttered by his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama in the wake of the murder of the U.S. ambassador to Libya in Benghazi. At that point, both Secretary Clinton and th president went out of their way to denounce freedom of expression and to lay the blame for violence on speech acts rather than, well, violent people. Indeed, as my colleague Matt Welch pointed out, Obama effectively called for a heckler's veto of any and all speech critical of Islam, Muhammad, or whatever. The father of one of the Americans murdered in Benghazi has charged that Clinton told him, "We're going to have that person arrested and prosecuted that did the video" ["The Innocence of Muslims"].
For the length of her public career, Clinton has rarely missed an opportunity to inveigh against the supposedly dangerous effects of video games and movies and the like on the real world. Her silliness on that score reached hyperbolic heights back in 2005 when the then-Sen. Clinton said, "Grand Theft Auto…encourages them [children] to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them."
Kerry is hardly a staunch defender of free expression—in the video below (around the 4.10 mark), he was all in during ridiculous 1997 hearings that led to the TV ratings system and the iplemenation of the V-chip—but here's hoping that as he continues his tenure as the nation's top diplomat that he reiterates the message he loosed recently.