Unfree Speech Abroad

Sep 12 2012 @ 7:46pm


Daniel McCarthy explains how it makes events like those in Egypt and Libya possible:

[T]here is no such thing as worldwide free speech. It’s not simply that few countries other than the U.S. have constitutional speech protections as broad as those of our First Amendment. What’s more important is that few people in the developing world separate tolerated expressions of hatred from official endorsement of such views.

Indeed, while Americans think of free speech as something that protects everyone from censorious government, elsewhere peoples not infrequently demand that their governments limit speech. American diplomats must communicate with peoples and governments which not only recognize nothing like our First Amendment rights, but which see such rights as extreme and destabilizing — and with good reason. We in the U.S. may think that attitude barbaric and beyond the pale of civilized discourse, but diplomats addressing the public or officials of a foreign country have no choice but to deal with that reality, like it or not.

An Egyptian reader passes along the above Twitter pic of a sign that reads in Arabic, “We condemn insulting the Prophet, but not with terrorism”.