By now, everyone knows that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s motorcade in Alexandria, Egypt, was surrounded by protesters throwing shoes and tomatoes. Last night, Rachel Maddow exposed the reason for the attack: Rep. Michele Bachman, Glenn Beck and Frank Gaffney.
When reporters asked the Alexandria protesters why they were attacking Secretary Clinton’s motorcade, they said that according to the internet, Clinton had manipulated the Egyptian election to favor the Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi, who won the presidency. Pressed to cite sources, they quoted Rep. Michele Bachmann’s assertion that Secretary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff, Huma Abedin, had ties to the Muslim Brotherhood; cited Glenn Beck’s Muslim Brotherhood conspiracy rants and discussed an internet radio interview by Frank Gaffney of a former U. S. Army colonel who was disciplined by the Bush administration for appearing in uniform to speak to fundamentalist church groups about how his God was greater than their “idol” and that is why we would win in Iraq. Gaffney has been pushing the idea that the President is a secret Muslim who plans to turn America into a Muslim state under Sharia law so successfully that states have passed anti-Sharia laws. He was a prime force behind the “Ground Zero Mosque” protests.
As Dr. Maddow pointed out, the internet is international. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman made the same point a decade ago, after interviewing people in the Middle East who believed the internet conspiracy stories that Israel had bombed the Twin Towers and all the Jews who worked at Ground Zero were warned not to come to work. Friedman’s warning then was ignored. The conspiracy theories and outright lies, the blog postings and news service comment stream rants have just grown worse in the past decade.
The Alexandria protesters pointed to Bachmann’s position in our government and Gaffney’s past position in the Pentagon as proof that these people must be telling the truth. After all, in their countries a member of the government speaks for the government, and anyone lying about the government ends up in jail, or worse. A popular singer who criticized the al-Assad regime was arrested, tortured and finally killed with a knife that removed his vocal chords. His body was dumped on the street as a warning against criticizing the government.
Our freedom of speech is unique to this country. Even Great Britain has limitation on free speech. A few years ago, Ann Coulter threw a huge temper tantrum when the Canadian government informed her that her signature hate-laced speeches were illegal in their country. We not only let the loonies talk, we allow them access to the internet to spread their wild accusations and lunatic theories around the world. That is a problem. The internet doesn’t carry warning labels saying “This site is stupid” anymore than our cable television channels are required to carry warning labels telling people “This channel is commentary and opinion, not factual news.”
You can see the impact of these idiots on the comments on Yahoo News….the calls for “kill all the Muzzies” and “turn Iran into a sheet of glass” and references to Allah as a “monkey god.” But they are not being read only by Americans who either believe them because they are equally brainwashed or know they are stupid. Stay on the comments long enough and you will see postings from people whose names are printed in Arabic, people protesting the rants, people calling for destruction of our nation because of the hate being allowed to spread across the internet.
We do not want censorship. It runs against our basic rights. But there is a line being crossed here. These people – Bachmann, Beck, Gaffney, the rest of the anti-Muslim crowd – are threats to our national security. Their rants are feeding hatred and fear in the Muslim world. They are being mistaken for voices of the majority and of the government. There is no way to know how the anti-France rantings of people like Bill O’Reilly tainted our relationship with that nation during the run-up to the Iraq invasion, but when we allow our lunatics to speak for us, they create resentments and hatred.
Our government did not in any way support the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. We are walking a tightrope in the Middle East in the aftermath of the rebellions, needing to support democracy yet afraid of a rise in anti-minority, anti-women Islamism. We have important strategic interests in the region, in addition to our commitment to Israel. We cannot deal diplomatically with the shifting situation in the region if we are allowing the lunatic fringe to speak for us and color the views of Muslims.
Even supporting Bachmann’s opponent in her election and seeing her defeated will not be enough. She will not go silently. Boycotting Beck’s TV show’s sponsors until Fox dropped him didn’t stop his reach. We need some legal way to label all internet sites the same way we label the “opinions expressed in the interviews” on movie and television show DVDs, as the opinions of the authors, not as pure fact or the official position of our Federal government.
Rep. Bachmann sent multiple letters demanding an investigation into Ms. Abedin. We should equally be demanding an investigation of the impact of Bachmann’s statements on our national security. Did she, Beck and Gaffney place the life of our Secretary of State in jeopardy? Have they complicated our relationships with key nations? Are they creating recruiting tools for terrorists who are attacking our troops? The administration needs to stop being afraid of the “it’s just political revenge” image problem which kept them from justifiably prosecuting the Bush administration for violations of U. S. law and international treaty, man up and treat these people as what they are – traitors offering aid and comfort to our enemies and creating new ones.