Neera Tanden Responds on the Free-Speech-vs.-Blasphemy Controversy

By Jeffrey Goldberg

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/09/neera-tanden-responds-on-the-free-speech-vs-blasphemy-controversy/262323/