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Disproportionate Justice is Injustice

The New York Times manages to interview Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the maker of the anti-Mohammed film who is now serving a one year sentence for breaking his parole violation and using an alias on the Internet. The reporter doesn't seem to consider the truth that the punishment does not fit the crime. Parole violators get nothing at all or no more than couple weeks in jail for more than he did.

That is, they get a much smaller sentence if their offense is parole violation of a kind that did not involve violence or major financial loss. This fellow is in jail for a year because his video was blamed for violence committed by Islamist extremists in Cairo and because it was convenient, but false, to blame him at first for the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. In all likelihood, the online video was merely seized on as a handy weapon by political factions in Egypt looking for a club to beat America with. It had been virtually unnoticed on the Internet for months.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is not an appealing figure and his cause is pathetic. That does not constitute grounds for making him a political scapegoat, however, and scapegoat he was. It is deplorable that civil libertarians have not risen up over this case. It is not a lot different from the Pussy Riot incarcerations in Putin-land. In Russia the singing group was rude and violated property rights in their protest songs. But for this they wind up in a prison camp?

At least we are not surprised about Russia.

I always apply the "shoe on the other foot" standard to free speech cases. Would an Islamist militant making a film criticizing Jesus get this treatment if it turned out his making the film constituted a parole violation? Not likely. But even so, the punishment is disproportionate, and hence an injustice. It doesn't matter so much in itself as does what it says about the chilling of free speech in America.

(This post updates what I wrote earlier, here.)

You can email brucechapman@discovery.org

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