Monday, December 23, 2013

An Actual Example of Free-Speech Infringement

Last week I explained the inanity of invoking the First Amendment to defend offensive comments. (‘Duck Dynasty,’ Sarah Palin, and Free-Speech Confusion.) Hollering “Free speech!” is a convenient but moronic means of changing the subject when the speaker’s remarks—like “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson’s—are indefensible. (Attacking people as “intolerant” because they won’t tolerate the intolerance of a homophobe only gets you so far.)

As people like Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindal seemingly fail to appreciate, the First Amendment doesn’t become relevant until the government punishes free speech.

On Monday, the United Arab Emirates provided the perfect foil for Palin and Jindal’s criticism of A&E for suspending Robertson. An Abu Dhabi court sentenced several men, including an American living in the UAE, to jail time for their roles relating to a mockumentary posted on YouTube. The video makes fun of young Emirati men who act like “wannabe gangstas.”

The American citizen has been in government custody since April for his role in the video. He and his codefendants were convicted (under UAE, not American, law) of “defaming the UAE societys image abroad.” (Adam Schreck, “UAE sentences American in gangsta mockumentary case,” Associated Press, December 23, 2013.)

Now that’s what the First Amendment prohibits.