“The Innocence of Muslims”
UGHHHHH. I’m really sick of defending shit like the “Innocence of Muslims” in the name of free speech. Can the next person or group of people who decide to insult a world religion please do so in an artistically meritorious way? But none the less, shit, even lying, offensive, poorly scripted, cheaply filmed, badly dubbed shit made by a fraudster, a soft-core porn director and an alleged methamphetamine cook should be defended.
Defending someone’s right to say something — no matter how shady they are and how much we disagree with their message is surely a fundamental pillar of our society, and we should realise that there is a difference — and not a small difference, but a gaping chasm — between defending someone’s right to say something and defending the content of what they say. The guy who made the “Innocence of Muslims” video is a complete arse —he really, truly is an utterly despicable individual who made it purely to wind people up — but his right to say that still exists. At this point, a lot of people, even on the liberal left, seem to decide that while the director of the film has the right to be an arse, none of this is his fault, and instead the Muslim world — which let’s face it, has been poked with a fairly big, crude stick these past few years/decades — should learn to better accept criticism and even insult directed at it. I’m not so sure…
As far as I’m concerned, this kind of outrage, and these kinds of protests do not come out of nowhere. Like Salman Rushdie’s (incidentally unreadable) novel, the Satanic Verses; or like the (badly drawn, unfunny) Danish cartoons this video was picked up on, and was used by other interested parties (in this case an Egyptian Islamist TV channel) as a way of manufacturing (justifiable) outrage against the West, and as a way of bringing that outrage of a violent and public head, in the form of the protests that have been seen this past week. People do not spontaneously get angry and take to the streets — there are organisers with targets in mind. Rushdie’s novel had been out for months before Khomeini decided to issue a bounty on his head — it just so happened that the outrage was a good way for him to bolster his regime (floundering after the Iran-Iraq war); similarly, the “Innocence of Muslims” YouTube clip had been on the internet for months, and eventually a TV channel picked up on it, gave it some Arabic subtitles, and here we are.
It may seem that there’s a kind of outrage machine that works in the Middle East — aiming to create scenes like the ones that have been seen the past few days, but at its root, it seems to me to just be a more extreme version of what we see with Fox News, Glenn Beck and papers like the Daily Mail. The outrage that all these media outlets — and many more — try and generate is fundamentally the same thing that’s being done here, just on a more impressive scale, and in different geo-political circumstances. But really, please, if you’re going to insult a world religion through the medium of film, or literature or art, please make it a good work of art so we don’t all have to buy another ‘solidarity copy’ of an unreadable novel?
P.S. I’ve just seen the cover of the French satirical magazine as well, and I’m sick of politicians calling for restraint and sensitivity, and the US government saying, in apparently contradictory terms, that “We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.” — belief systems should all be open to satire, and to criticism, but as I say, I do wish people would do it in a funnier way.