Neera Tanden, who runs the Center for American Progress, e-mailed Goldblog in order to respond to my post suggesting that the proper response by the U.S. government to anti-Muslim provocations committed by private citizens is to explain that, just as battling perceived blasphemy is a mission for Muslims, the mission of the U.S. government should be stand up for free speech regardless of how offensive it is. It's a hard thing to explain to non-Americans (and even, sometimes, Americans), that the protection of offensive speech is a moral and cultural value, but it is. You can read about our earlier exchange here, and here is Neera's response:
Murdering four people for any statement is obviously both horrifying and barbaric. And should be condemned totally. My only point to free speech advocates, of which I count myself, is that we can both believe strongly in freedom of expression and also believe that freedom should be exercised responsibly. Obviously making a blasphemous video should not be equated with murder; that doesn't mean making a video designed to denigrate a religion, any religion, should be celebrated as an act of freedom. Its contents can and should be criticized. One can believe absolutely in the protection the First Amendment affords a certain expression, and believe a certain expression is dumb. It is a conflation to equate support the First Amendment and support for all content. In that way, Americans can adhere to our most fundamental principles of both freedom and tolerance.