The Political Prisoner

I didn’t see this coming, but should have: now that they’ve “proved” the Obama administration deliberately avoided stopping, and then covered up, a Jihadi terrorist attack in Benghazi!, now it’s time for some conservatives to double back and begin rehabilitating Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the auteur behind the execrable video Innocence of Muslims. This fine artist, who is in federal prison for multiple violations of the probation he was under from an earlier conviction for bank fraud, is being treated as the “patsy” who took the fall for the administration’s efforts to blame the violence in Libya on protests against Nakoula’s video when it knew full well it was the evil Muslims Nakoula was trying to warn us against who were really at fault. Some Twitter warriors have taken to calling Nakoula a “political prisoner.”

But the real goal in this aborning revisionist campaign is made clear in the lede of Rich Lowry’s Politico op-ed I linked to above:

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula deserves a place in American history. He is the first person in this country jailed for violating Islamic anti-blasphemy laws.

Ah, yes: in pursuing Nakoula (after “apologizing” for the offense he gave The Prophet), the Obama administration is executing the first phase of the imposition of Shariah Law on America. Newt warned us this would happen, and with only a lonely few protesting at the time (notably Instapundit‘s Glenn Reynolds, who called for Obama’s resignation over federal enforcement actions against Nakoula), it has already happened. After acknowledging the film-maker was entirely guilty of the charges against him, Lowry ties it all up in a nice bow:

This wasn’t a case of nailing Al Capone on tax evasion. As Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute points out, Al Capone’s underlying offense was racketeering and gangland killings. Nakoula Basseley Nakoula’s underlying offense wasn’t an underlying offense. He exercised his First Amendment rights.

Best we can tell, Nakoula, and his confederates who insisted on distributing his film throughout the Middle East, were not trying to “express” any “opinions” about Muhammad or Islam; they were trying to ignite a religious war. Whether or not there is some First Amendment right to do so, convicted felons who are in the process of aggressively violating the terms of their contingent freedom from incarceration have little grounds to complain Big Brother is punishing them for acting as a global agent provocateur.

But however you construe the constitutional issues, if any, raised by the prosecution of the perpetrator of Innocence of Muslims, conservatives should be ashamed to undertake, as Kevin Drum described it last year, “the martyrization of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula.” It tells you a lot about the motives underlying the Benghazi! investigations in general. The targets aren’t just Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but anyone who deplores anti-Islamic bigotry and the construction of a new cold war in which Muslims are the new red menace.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.