Amendment 1: 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. The First Amendment did not stumble this week, as the U. S. government took an appropriate and principled position by (1) strongly condemning the attack on our Benghazi consulate, (2) deploring the content of the film, “Innocence of Muslims,” whose trailer allegedly ignited the deadly riots, and (3) explaining why it could and would not prevent the film’s production and distribution. Never did our government waver on the issue of First Amendment rights nor excuse the murderous actions that followed.
The First Amendment is our most difficult amendment. It is also the most important. It is no coincidence that the first rights totalitarian regimes strip from the people are those it enumerates. Consequently, those rights must be safeguarded above all others. It is pretty easy to protect the right of people to say things we find harmless or agreeable. It is when someone says something stupid, obnoxious or uncomfortable that we need the first amendment most.
The “Innocence of Muslims” trailer is obnoxious. (One reader called it “cyber bullying, with tragic consequences.”) But above all it is stupid. In fact, it is so puerile and badly made that it is hard to understand how it could evoke any reaction but derisive laughter. That it invoked, instead, deadly retaliation is truly frightening.