Against Collectivist Violence in the Middle East – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Against Collectivist Violence in the Middle East – Video by G. Stolyarov II

Mr. Stolyarov condemns the murderous attacks on U.S. facilities in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen and discusses how the philosophy of collectivism and collective guilt is the motivation for the attacks. These completely unjustified killings should result in the recognition that individuals should only be judged as individuals and only for the deeds that they personally committed, and that guilt by association is unacceptable. Mr. Stolyarov also calls for a non-interventionist foreign policy, for the individual perpetrators of the atrocities to be brought to justice, and for a more general Enlightenment to occur in the Middle East.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational discourse on this issue.

Support these video-creation efforts by donating here.


-“US envoy killed as Libya mob storms embassy” – Agence France-Presse – September 12, 2012
-“New details emerge of anti-Islam film’s mystery producer” – Moni Basu – CNN- September 13, 2012
– “2012 U.S. diplomatic missions attacks
– “Yemeni protesters storm U.S. embassy compound in Sanaa” – Reuters – Mohammed Ghobari – September 13, 2012
– “Libya arrests four suspected in deadly US Consulate attack in Benghazi” – NBC News – September 13, 2012

9 thoughts on “Against Collectivist Violence in the Middle East – Video by G. Stolyarov II

  1. I very strongly disagree, on two counts. First, I disagree with your characterization of Mitt Romney’s characterization of Obama et al. The U.S. Embassy in Cairo and Barack Obama both qualified their condemnations by also condemning some Americans’ exercise of free speech. That’s decidedly well beyond any proper role of government.

    Second, the attacks weren’t simply spontaneous expressions of outraged by offended citizens. When the U.S. is confronted with attacks by enemies of freedom, mealy-mouthed half-apologies are not in order.

    The president’s refusal to explicitly defend freedom of speech in no uncertain terms is extremely dangerous. Left liberal progressives are piling on, for political gain. There’s more condemnation of Mitt Romney and of the filmmakers in New York Times and Washington Post than there is condemnation of the Muslims behind the riots. I would go ahead and predict that this would lead to leftwing calls for “common sense” restrictions on free speech — except that I’m too late, it’s already started.

    From an Obama foreign policy advisor and academic

    From another American academic

    From American journalists

    And the Whitehouse itself is seeking “backdoor” censorship.

    The president deserves condemnation. This entire episode is very dangerous.

  2. Dr. Steele,

    First, I have toggled some settings that will hopefully enable you (and other repeat commenters) to post without moderation. I am not sure if I was able to do it correctly, but we shall see when you make your next comment.

    Now, on to the substance.

    Obama’s actual statement included the following (cited here): “The United States condemns in the strongest terms this outrageous and shocking attack […] There is absolutely no justification to this type of senseless violence. […] As long as there are those who would take innocent life in the name of God, the world will never know a true and lasting peace.”

    Hillary Clinton also stated the following prior to Romney’s erroneous remarks: “I condemn in the strongest terms the attack on our mission in Benghazi today. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.”

    The statement by the Cairo embassy was not the official position of the Obama administration and was later criticized by the State Department. See “The Romney campaign’s repeated errors on the Cairo embassy statement” – an analysis of what was actually stated and how the Romney campaign misconstrued it. It was even apparently the case that the State Department tried to dissuade the author of the Cairo embassy statement from posting it in the first place.

    Interestingly, Mitt Romney has now come out with the following statement: “Of course, we have a First Amendment. And under the First Amendment, people are allowed to do what they feel they want to do. They have the right to do that, but it’s not right to do things that are of the nature of what was done by, apparently this film.” (See this article, which clearly illustrates the hypocrisy of Romney’s earlier denunciation of Obama’s response, irrespective of what we may consider to be the nature of that response. As always, Romney never fails to become what he once criticized, when he sees the political winds blowing in a direction different from his earlier stance.

    The articles you cited do indeed show an abominable desire by certain academics to suppress free speech in the name of political correctness or (as in the case of Peter Spiro) international law. However, the formal link between these individuals and the Obama administration is tenuous at best. One would think that Peter Spiro’s official faculty page would generously emphasize his advisory role to the Obama administration, if it were indeed a prominent and influential role. But his page, while it lists other incidental involvements, the main involvement seems to be Spiro’s membership of the U.S. Department of State Historical Advisory Committee, which seems rather removed from any serious foreign-policy decision-making.

    As for Anthea Butler, she does not appear to have any formal connection to the Obama administration. Her sentiments are typical of many left-leaning “politically correct” academics, but this is nothing new. Of course, suppressions of free speech, be they in the form of speech codes on campus or bans on certain media, are unacceptable in any context. But I do not see Ms. Butler’s sentiments as being in any manner indicative of the Obama administration’s position.

    The back-door YouTube “review” is more troubling, and I can agree with you there that the Obama administration should be criticized for this. This reminds me of similar attempts to suppress WikiLeaks by co-opting the sites which WikiLeaks used to host its files and receive donations – a kind of “public-private partnership” for “soft” censorship. Fortunately, YouTube has refused to cave in and remove the video in question.

    But I ask again, how is this any different from Mitt Romney’s statement and strong implication that the First Amendment should not apply to “The Innocence of Muslims”? I think this is another instance of the perceived difference between the two major parties and their candidates being far greater than the actual difference. Mitt Romney simply tried to score political points against Obama, without actually disagreeing much in substance – and it backfired in a rather humiliating way for Romney. This is not an expression of general support for Obama, but rather one of distaste for political mudslinging. It is also my attempt to communicate the facts of the situation so as to enable an accurate analysis.

  3. Once again, it doesn’t seem like there’s much practical difference between Obama and Romney on the important issue of free speech. It’s much like how Romney said he’d support SOPA in one of the early Republican primary debates, then “retracted” it. Neither party seems to give a fig about freedom of information.

  4. Thanks for your reply. I appreciate your point about distaste for political mudslinging and desire for an accurate portrayal of the situation. In my view, Romney, not Obama, is the victim of political mud here; there’s a nearly universal and incessant condemnation of him, of Republicans, and of conservatives in the mainstream media, entirely unbalanced by anything similar regarding Obama & the Democrats. This episode is just one example. Unfortunately, all of the links you provide as citations give Error 404 messages & need to be fixed. But in the interim…

    First, I regret I misspoke on Prof. Spiro; I mistook him for Harold Koh, Dean of the Yale School of Law and now State dept. advisor. Koh holds views similar to Spiro’s.

    Second, the quote you give from Mitt Romney illustrates no hypocrisy at all. Romney states that the filmmakers have the (Constitutionally-protected) right to do things that are not (morally) right. There’s no contradiction.

    Allow me to raise two new points regarding your video essay.

    Third, the main target of your essay is the notion of collective guilt — the idea that if some Americans (in this case) do something objectionable, other Americans might reasonably punished for it. This is certainly a pervasive and destructive doctrine and worthy of attack. But there’s a second fallacious ethical doctrine that is at least as deserving of attack in this episode, and that is the idea that blasphemy is a crime deserving punishment, or that insulting someone’s beliefs or otherwise offending them is criminal activity. You seem blind to the unwillingness of the Obama administration to challenge this doctrine, and the growing chorus of people around the world calling for the United States to begin imposing such doctrine. Here’s an example from a moderate-right German think tank that has respectable credentials. Note the headline recommendation is for the U.S. to stop hiding behind the First Amendment and start prosecuting those who insult Islam.

    Fourth, in your essay you make note of sophisticated Turkish theologians who are reforming Islam. Could you explain, and give citations? I may have some further points to make on this subject, but first would like to understand your position better.

  5. Dr. Steele,

    I will make a more detailed comment later today, but I will make this short reply to point out that I have now fixed the links in my prior post.

    Regarding efforts to reform Islam, this 2008 article from BBC News details a courageous and eminently wise effort by theologians at Ankara University to literally rewrite the Hadith – the sayings of Mohammed – and get rid of much of the historical baggage that has accumulated there. It turns out that it was not Islam or the teachings of Mohammed as such that are responsible for many of the socially restrictive customs of today’s Middle East. Rather, these customs existed on their own, and their adherents tried to twist Islam to justify them.

  6. Dr. Steele,

    Of course, I disagree with the views of Harold Koh and Hubertus Hoffmann – as well as any others of the persuasion that “international norms” can trump the right of free speech. In my video, I explicitly discussed the importance of free speech and toleration for the views one considers repugnant. I specifically emphasized that this is an aspect of liberty and of Western civilization that the fanatics who stormed the embassies and committed other acts of violence do not understand.

    Harold Koh is indeed generally a disturbing character, one of the advocates of the drone strikes that have resulted in many innocent civilian deaths. He was also a leading figure in the US government’s persecution of WikiLeaks. However, I am not aware of his specific reactions to the embassy attacks, or his degree of involvement in crafting the Obama administration’s response. I can only judge by the specific statements that have been released, and my understanding is that the Obama administration has distanced itself from the statements of the Cairo embassy and has opted to take a more appropriate position of attempting to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. I personally support public trials and the death penalty for those who were responsible for the killings.

    I agree that it is likely that the attacks had some organization behind them, and, if this is the case, the organizers should be found and tried/executed as well.

    More generally, my evaluation of how the Obama administration has behaved is limited to this particular incident. It is likely the case that the philosophical thrust of the administration’s policies (and the views of many of its senior members) will continue to be deeply contrary to my views. The only question is whether this particular incident was/will be handled in the appropriate manner.

    I will have more to say later.

  7. Dr. Steele,

    Here is the remainder of what I planned to write.

    Regarding Romney’s comments, his statement could indeed technically be read in the way you describe. I found the wording itself (“They have the right to do that, but it’s not right to do things that are of the nature of what was done by, apparently this film.”) to be somewhat confusing. The difference between “it’s not right” and “it’s not a right” is just one letter, and the poorly constructed phrasing could lead to that misunderstanding quite readily. The many political hacks employed by Romney are masters of making statements that would mean everything to everyone. Those who support freedom of speech might read Romney’s words in the way you did, while those who do not might insert the “a” in there.

    But it seems that your reading of Romney, too, is no different in substance from Hillary Clinton’s comment that the film is “disgusting and reprehensible” but that in the United States “we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be” (Cited in this article). If this is the case, then Romney truly had no reason to criticize the Obama administration’s response, other than to try and score political points. The irony of all this is that Romney would have scored more political points in reality by appearing to be above the partisan fray and instead focusing on the substance of the issues involved. Alas, the polarization of American political discourse (but not the substance of policy) has blinded Romney and his political-hack strategists to this insight.

    Regarding the idea of blasphemy being criminal, my own view is that this is a heinous notion, and its treatment is one of the fundamental differences between premodern and modern societies. Perhaps a future video devoted to debunking that idea will be worthwhile. Still, I have seen no calls coming out of the Obama administration in response to this series of attacks for free-speech rights to be coercively restricted by law in any way. Yes, there were attempts to persuade YouTube and Terry Jones to remove their support from the film, and I do not endorse those courses of action. But the very fact that the administration resorts to such ad hoc expedients shows that it is not (at least not yet) willing to challenge free speech openly through laws or even executive orders or less formal “policies.” Perhaps this may change in future years, but it has not yet – and I hope it never does. Ultimately, what needs to change is the balance of opinion in the Muslim world. Until we get a more enlightened, humane, tolerant strain of Islam, these kinds of tensions will continue to erupt. However, the appeal of Western technological civilization, global commerce, and personal liberty will be strong incentives for many Muslims to “reinterpret” their faith to be more enlightened.

  8. You must be kidding.

    I have no doubt about your libertarian credentials. I have great doubt about your judgment of the president’s position. Where is Obama’s ringing defense of the freedom of speech? Left-liberals — his supporters — are calling for restrictions on free speech, and he’s silent. You respond that he’s only using “ad hoc expedients” to sabotage the First Amendment? This is your defense of the president against Mitt Romney’s criticism?

    As for Romney: “The many political hacks employed by Romney are masters of making statements that would mean everything to everyone.” “Masters?” If anything, the Romney campaign is noted for gaffes. And he and Republicans in general are now being denounced by left-liberal pundits for having spoken in favor of the First Amendment. (Read the NYT op-eds if you don’t believe this.)

    I strongly urge you to reconsider your position. What is happening in this affair is very dangerous.

    My position is detailed more carefully here here, here, and here. Anyone is free to repost or reproduce them in their entirety, with attribution of course.

  9. Dr. Steele,

    It seems that your problem with the Obama administration’s response (other than the back-door attempts to get the film reviewed by YouTube or voluntarily disavowed by Terry Jones) is not so much regarding what the administration formally stated, but rather regarding what the administration did not state. So I am curious as to what kind of statement(s) you would have issued if you could be in charge of making administration policy – and furthermore what the key distinctions would be between your preferred statement(s) and the comments I cited, particularly the statement by Hillary Clinton that “we do not stop individual citizens from expressing their views no matter how distasteful they may be.”

    I have no doubt that there is a vocal faction of politically correct left-liberals who see pragmatic restraints on free speech as justifiable. But I would like to point out that (i) this is not even a representative faction within left-liberal circles, particularly among the young (it is more a remnant of the postmodern academic generation that went to college in the 1960s and took over many tenured positions in the 1980s). My contemporaries who would call themselves left-liberals have grown up in the Internet age and thus tend to appreciate the value of free speech and deeply detest any attempts to restrain it. Furthermore, (ii) the Obama administration is not legally or morally responsible for the statements of every left-liberal, centrist, internationalist, or what have you. The New York Times editorials and calls from other think tanks and internationalist legal scholars are indeed alarming, but they are expressions of private opinion that are not per se reflections of the administration’s stance. Obama has no more responsibility to keep those left-liberals in line than Romney has to keep Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck (who have all made statements just as egregious, if about different matters) in line with Romney’s preferred message.

    Finally, regarding my point about political-hack “masters” within the Romney campaign, this is entirely consistent with the gaffes of said campaign. I never suggested that their sort of “mastery” was of a good or efficacious sort. The political hacks are quite good at doublespeak and at expressing positions they do not believe in so as to attempt to gain public support. (Great examples were delivered to my mailbox from the Romney campaign recently: (i) a xenophobic, protectionist anti-China ad and (ii) an ad about how Romney will “strengthen Medicare and Social Security” while Obama will allegedly gut them – ads clearly aimed at nativists and conventionally minded senior citizens.) However, political hackery typically backfires in a way that humiliates the hacks and undermines their objectives. Yet, for the most part, they keep hacking away – largely enabled by the fact that the opinions of the people (particularly intelligent people) matter increasingly less in the oligarchic political status quo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.