Look, you folks over in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, I know how it is.
First of all, you're diplomats. You're conditioned to believe you've got to eat the shit sandwich now and then, and to apologize for stuff other Americans do so that relations don't break down. I get that sometimes preventing relations from breaking down saves lives and property and trade and stuff.
I also get that you've been attacked by a howling mob that vastly outnumbers you, you have very limited defenses, and the willingness of the local constabulary to protect your lives is in doubt.
So I'm not going to fault you if you sweat and stammer and need a few minutes to get it together. It's scary. I understand.
But you know what? I'm not going to sit by quietly when you issue a pusillanimous press release misstating and abandoning core American values.
The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.
Every sentence of this is chock-full of un-American bullshit. Yes, I said un-American. And I meant it.
First, U.S. Embassy in Cairo, you issued this because a mob attacked you because its members were angry about a movie they heard is being made. Mob violence against disfavored speech shouldn't result in a timorous "we're sorry you were offended" from the United States government. That encourages more violence, thus endangering people everywhere, and reinforces a view of speech that I will very deliberately call inferior and barbaric. You have no business whatsoever underming perhaps the most important American civic value.
Second, your second sentence is either a complete non-sequitur or a further capitulation. Do you mean to pronounce, on behalf of the government, that there's a "fitting" way and wrong way to commemorate 9/11, and that expression that offends people is the wrong way? We don't need the government to tell us that, thank you.
Third, "[r]espect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy" is a false statement. Respect for the freedom to worship — along with freedom of expression — is a cornerstone of American democracy. Government-enforced displays of respect, or government protection from offense, are not cornerstones of American democracy.
Fourth, the statement that you "firmly reject" expression you don't like is either totalitarian or meaningless. If it just means "we don't agree" it's meaningless. If it means "we may yield to your censorious demands, or wink at the violence you employ to retaliate against speech you don't like," it's totalitarian. Moreover, the formulation is insipid and accepts the central but unsustainable premise of the censorious mob. Rude speech can hurt feelings. But it is impossible to "hurt the religious belief of others" by speech. That belief either exists or does not. Here the U.S. Embassy's statement accepts and promotes the narrative of the censors: that religious people (and, let's be frank, mostly people from one religion) have a protected right to be free of people saying things they don't like. That's vile and dangerous, and damn you as traitors for endorsing it.
Let me point out, furthermore, that you're apologizing to a mob even though it's not clear what movie they are complaining about, or whether the movie was ever produced or released. Perhaps you mean to apologize to them for being from a country where it is possible that such a movie could have been made without its producer being jailed or stoned to death.
This is no small thing. The United States is in a struggle against forces that would like to demand that it abandon its tradition of freedom of expression and accept instead an unprincipled regime under which people have a right not to be offended. You're fighting for the other side — the side of mobs, censors, and their enablers and apologists at the U.N.
Shame on you.
Edited September 12: A few updates. First, the mob-led murder of State Department employees in Libya illuminates the stakes here. Second, further information suggest that the mobs were angry about a virulently anti-Islam film made by a man named Sam Bacile, which I offer as a point of clarification and not as any sort of justification or excuse. Third, several commenters pointed out that emerging facts suggest the Embassy in Cairo put out the statement before the mob attack, not after. If nothing else, that calls into question the alleged value of such conciliatory language.
Further edited: Subsequent evidence suggests strongly that mob attacks in Cairo and Benghazi were coordinated for political effect by terrorists, not spontaneous reactions to any film.
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