Glenn Reynolds linked a post from Allahpundit which highlights what I think is a little confusion about the First Amendment. Fox News did a poll:

Two weeks after the killing of a U.S. ambassador in Libya — an attack the Obama administration blamed in part on an online video mocking the prophet Muhammad — a majority of likely voters thinks the first thing a president should do in such situations is stand up for free speech, and not criticize how Americans exercise their First Amendment rights.

A Fox News poll released Thursday finds 61 percent of voters think the president of the United States should “stand up for freedom of speech, even if it’s offensive,” while 22 percent say the president should “condemn offensive speech if it might provoke Islamic violence.”

First, I see no inconsistency between standing up for the right to engage in offensive free speech and condemning the speech itself. Condemning offensive speech is just as much an exercise of the First Amendment as is the offensive speech itself. However, this administration has gone much further than merely condemning offensive speech. Consider the selectivity and the timing. Not only have Obama, Clinton, and company gone out of their way to condemn only speech that is offensive to Muslims, but arresting the film producer conveys an unmistakable message to our enemies that we are willing to capitulate — right when they are burning our embassies, killing Americans, demanding worldwide anti-blasphemy laws, and issuing death sentences against Americans doing what they have an absolute constitutional right to do.

You might ask, just whose side are they on?

Allahpundit adds,

In order to prove that it’s evenhanded about blasphemy, Egypt’s gone ahead and arrested a Muslim cleric for burning a copy of the Bible. Note to The One: If you want to show the Middle East that American free-speech principles are not, in fact, an anti-Muslim plot and apply even to people who insult the faith of most Americans, this is a fine opportunity. Speak up in this guy’s favor.

I agree. Some people forget that onerous as blasphemy laws are, they would penalize all attacks on religion. Which means that not only would the producer of (or the alleged inspiration behind) “Innocence of Muslims” would lose the right to speculate about the sex life of Muhammad (who is said to be a pedophile, necrophile, and homosexual) but playwright Terrence McNally could have been arrested for a play speculating about the sex life of Jesus. Many people thought he should have been at the time, and naturally, he received a fatwa:

In 1997, McNally stirred up a storm of controversy with Corpus Christi, a modern day retelling of the story of Jesus’ birth, ministry, and death in which both he and his disciples are portrayed as homosexual. In fact, the play was initially canceled because of death threats against the board members of the Manhattan Theatre Club which was to produce the play. However, several other playwrights such as Tony Kushner threatened to withdraw their plays if Corpus Christi was not produced, and the board finally relented. When the play opened, the theatre was besieged by almost 2,000 protesters, furious at what they considered blasphemy. When Corpus Christi opened in London, a group called the Defenders of the Messenger Jesus issued a fatwa sentencing McNally to death.[5]

While I am not inclined to speculate about the sexuality of anyone (much less revered or holy figures), I would of course vehemently defend the rights of anyone else to engage in such speculations. I also defend the right to get up on a soapbox and use deeply offensive sexual and racial pejoratives and other vulgar epithets. Obviously, defending the right to do something does not mean endorsing what I defend the right to do. Sometimes I worry that people are losing sight of that distinction, and that if you defend something that means you agree with it.

Aside from their obvious unconstitutionality, I think blasphemy laws suck a lot more than blasphemy. So I will continue to defend blasphemy, even though I think it pretty much sucks too.

But if I probe deeply within myself, I sometimes wonder whether my refusal to use certain words in public is grounded solely in politeness, because I do also know that a violent outcome is a certainty. If you refrain from using certain words because of violent consequences or out of fear of losing your job, are you not allowing others (and maybe the government, in the case of harassment laws) to silence you? What is the distinction between being polite, and being tyrannized by political correctness? Or do such things matter?