The White House Monday refused to back away from its pre-Paris-attack criticism of the magazine Charlie Hebdo’s exercise of free speech, claiming it was meant as some kind of defense of our troops.
The criticism came from former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, who on September 19, 2014, accused Charlie Hebdo of lacking “judgment.”
That puts the White House among the many in the Je suis Charlie Hebdo crowd who failed to stand up for free speech until the magazine’s cartoonists died for it.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Monday piously explained that Carney – who spoke in September 2012 after the attacks on U.S. embassies that were being blamed on an anti-Muslim video – was objecting to speech that could cause harm to American servicemen and women:
It would not be the first time that there has been a discussion in this country about the kinds of responsibilities that go along with exercising the right to freedom of speech. And in the scenario — or in the circumstances in which my predecessor was talking about this issue, there was a genuine concern that the publication of some of those materials could put Americans abroad at risk, including American soldiers at risk.
And that is something that the Commander-in-Chief takes very seriously. And the President and his spokesman was not then and will not now be shy about expressing a view or taking the steps that are necessary to try to advocate for the safety and security of our men and women in uniform.
Well, the problem is, Carney never mentioned American troops. Carney did say the cartoons could provoke “violence against Americans and our diplomatic missions overseas,” but if he were so concerned about the troops, why didn’t he mention them?
The other problem is, if Carney was really referencing the troops, why did he bash the magazine’s “judgment.” How could a French satirical magazine possibly be taking into account the possible effect of its cartoons on U.S. troops?
No, this was an attempt to squelch free speech out of fear people might be insulted, and that they might get riled up. Not an effort to protect the troops.
Even taking Earnest at his word, this is dangerous talk. I have as great a concern as anyone for the safety and well being of our troops and diplomats. But are we now to be careful about what we say because some lunatics might react and try to attack Americans? Would our brave troops even want that?
What if I decided that Islamists smell like pigs who haven’t been hosed down for a month? Am I to blame if that makes them angry. Should I politely suggest a deodorant so as not to upset anyone?
As has been said many times, the very speech that is meant to be protected by the First Amendment is that which provokes and upsets.
But what Carney was talking about, and what Earnest backed up, was an effort to undermine Freedom of the Press. And critics of the Je suis Charlie Hebdo movement are correct to judge the hypocrisy of some of the marchers, who weren’t there for Charlie Hebdo before the attack and will return to political correctness and appeasement once the memory of the killings fades.
Here are Carney’s remarks, complete with derrière-covering tributes to free speech, even as he seeks to limit it. Judge for yourself.
Well, we are aware that a French magazine published cartoons featuring a figure resembling the Prophet Muhammad, and obviously, we have questions about the judgment of publishing something like this. We know that these images will be deeply offensive to many and have the potential to be inflammatory. But we’ve spoken repeatedly about the importance of upholding the freedom of expression that is enshrined in our Constitution.
In other words, we don’t question the right of something like this to be published; we just question the judgment behind the decision to publish it. And I think that that’s our view about the video that was produced in this country and has caused so much offense in the Muslim world.
Now, it has to be said, and I’ll say it again, that no matter how offensive something like this is, it is not in any way justification for violence — not in any way justification for violence. Now, we have been staying in close touch with the French government as well as other governments around the world, and we appreciate the statements of support by French government officials over the past week, denouncing the violence against Americans and our diplomatic missions overseas.