By now, those who are interested are probably aware that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has been identified as the film producer of Innocence of Muslims. This film has generated much outrage in the Islamic world and has provoked a lot of commentary from Arabic leaders. In the US, it has been reported that Nakoula is now afraid of retaliation from the Muslim world. While the partisans split hairs over whom has supported free speech enough, I think the more interesting question is what we do about Nakoula. Are we obligated to protect this man, a repeat criminal, from those who might want to exact revenge upon him?
I think we are. If free speech is to have any meaning, we need to be able to speak freely, but also without fear of retaliation. This does not mean we are to be free from verbal retaliation. What is often labeled as PC, is just having one’s claims challenged or criticized. No, I am talking about actual physical retaliation resulting in injury or death. For free speech to be free, we need to protect those who would be attacked for exercising their rights. While Nakoula’s film looks to be deliberately insulting, I don’t know their real intent and can only judge from the bit available online, it is still legal speech in the U.S.
What I cannot decide upon is the extent to which we are obligated to provide adequate protection. Do we need to provide him 24 hour protection for the rest of his life? For the next 10 years? How many people do we need to assign? One bodyguard? What if two attackers come? Do prior convictions for meth production, tax avoidance and bank fraud temper our willingness to pay? My first thought is that we should provide some extra protection for a set period of time, maybe a year or so. Beyond that, Nakoula’s protection should be adjusted based upon the threat level we are able to determine from local law enforcement and national intelligence efforts. Anyone else?