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The Libyan Film Riots

The Libyan Film Riots

If we take the wrong lesson, we're in serious trouble.


This week, the world became a more dangerous place.

Consider how one guy in California, with a small budget and a false name, made an outrageous anti-Muslim film that spread via YouTube to the entire planet.

The near-immediate result: riots throughout the Arab world resulting in the savage murder of four Americans in Libya, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.

It's insane the degree of power that the Internet has put into the hands of the irresponsible. Yet this is the reality of how our world works, 2012.

Initial news reports incorrectly tagged an "Israeli Jew" – funded by Jewish donors – as the maker of this film.

It is incredible how the world accepted this untruth so quickly.

It is irresponsible how the media rushed to cite this film as "another example of Jewish Hollywood pushing the Israel agenda with hate-filled documentaries."

So let's get down to the core question: Who is to blame for these tragic deaths?

Muhammad al-Zawahiri, the brother of al-Qaeda's leader, says that "the filmmakers should be arrested and brought to trial."

These words are not surprising, coming from the freedom-hating purveyors of terror.

But we're hearing this same refrain in "sophisticated" circles as well. University of Pennsylvania Professor Anthea Butler tweeted:

"How soon is Sam Bacile going to be in jail folks? I need him to go now. When Americans die because you are stupid…"

Everyone agrees that the film must be condemned in the strongest terms. But why is the target of our wrath directed not at the murderers, but instead at those exercising their First Amendment rights?

Consider evangelist Rev. Steven D. Martin, who writes:

"I have no sympathy for anyone who would assassinate a U.S. ambassador. But I have even less sympathy for filmmakers who spread hatred..."

Really?! Is expressing one's right to free speech – as vulgar, offensive and hateful as that may be – really worse than the assassination of a U.S. ambassador?

What's worse, this movie was not even the impetus for the violence, but rather an excuse. The attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi was planned for days, if not weeks, ahead of time. How clever of the Muslims to think they could pin their "spontaneous" outrage on some bush-league film that is truly irrelevant.

It seems we've gotten so accustomed to Islamist violence that we're willing to accept it as a matter of course. This is a dumbing down of the standards, refusing to hold all humanity to the basic standards of decency. It's what Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson calls "a soft bigotry of low expectations."

A decade ago, Robert Fisk, the London Independent's Mideast correspondent for 30 years, was beaten to a pulp by Taliban supporters in Afghanistan. Rather than issue a harsh denunciation, he sided with the attackers:

"I couldn't blame them for what they were doing. I would have done just the same to Robert Fisk. Or any other Westerner I could find."

Once we start making excuses – justifying and accepting Islamist violence – we're falling into a dangerous trap. During World War II, when dictatorial madmen set out to conquer the world, the threat was so clear that no one had to analyze it or philosophize. Everyone knew that life and liberty was on the line, and they joined the cause – even journalists. As a pioneer of American media, Edward R. Murrow, said: "On some stories, there is no other side."

In our generation, as well, with radical Islam, the entire basis of our free society is being threatened. One week after the 9-11 attacks, Dan Rather declared: "[I'm] just one American, wherever [the president] wants me to line up, just tell me where. And he'll make the call."

The attacks in Benghazi occurred on September 11. If we are to take any lesson from that tragic day, it is fathoming what losing this war means. Radical Islam wants the West neutered and submissive.

There is no question that we must categorically condemn this senseless film. But we also need to get straight where the problem truly lies. Otherwise the free world is in for serious trouble.

HT: Matt Welch

September 14, 2012

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Visitor Comments: 93

(65) Ben doulton, November 2, 2012 7:00 PM

This atrocity was not about the Muhammad film - it was jihad

From information coming to light, it seems that the attack on the American embasy in Benghazi was not in response to the Muhammad film, as Hilary Clinton initially suggested. It now seems that this atrocity was purely and simply just another jihadist attack to rub salt into the wounds of the US on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. When will the US learn that it is not fighting a 'war on terror', as George W Bush so erroneously claimed, but a war against Islam. America is still asleep at the wheel, while the jihadist juggernaut keeps rolling on. It is high time some very difficult decisions were made about protecting an ideology, which its own documents state, is attempting to destroy its host from within.

(64) R, September 27, 2012 11:40 AM

Into Perspective

We need to keep things in perspective: in a 75 million strong muslim populated country like Iran, under harsh dictatorial dictatoship, 5,000 go out to demontstrate. The story is similar in many other countries. Are they representative? How do we feel if some Jews - and it has occurred - make a shameful demonstration and the whole world thinks its representative? I am hardly a friend of islamists, but I know too many muslims at work etc who are perfectly normal, not antisemitic people. You have those and you have others. As to the film maker being Israeli, the newest joke is that he and hte main actor was German, as an excuse to plot attacks in Germany. We need to differentiate: like it or not, ten of the 11 peple murdered by the NSU nazi terrorcell in Germany were Muslim, none Jewish - if they were the Jewish world would be interested - so one needs to be careful as not to light the flame of blatant hatred and play into the hands ot the extreme right. Le Pens party is now advocating kippah ban - still think they are good just coz they hate muslims in toto? PErhaps we should ignore the demonstrators - as they deserve not the attention they are getting, being unrepresentative and often organised by parties or bussed in by governments.

(63) Judith Jensen, September 24, 2012 8:43 PM

The nature of 1st Amendment rights

I have a question for those who know Constitutional law. If shouting "Fire!" in a crowded theater is illegal, and is not considered free speech; and if saying one plans to assassinate the President of the U.S. is illegal, and is not free speech; then how is sending out on the Internet an inflammatory video, clearly known through experience to likely incite violence, protected speech?

Ethan, October 2, 2012 6:07 PM

You didn't make them do anything. Shouting "Fire!" tell people that they are in danger regardless of if they actually are, and they are justified in reacting to preserve their own lives. Speech is just transfer of information; if you point a gun at someone, the light coming off of the gun tells the person he/she is in danger. These Islamists weren't tricked into rioting (I have doubts that it was the video that even caused it in the first place). And you are off of your rocker if you think America respects the Constitution. I should be able to say I want to kill the President if I want, and there's nothing wrong with Federal Agencies keeping an eye on me without violating my rights.

Anonymous, October 24, 2012 7:06 AM

Missing the point

Judith, your question, though technically valid, misses the entire point of the article. EVEN if the kind of speech in the video is not protected speech, EVEN if it is not free speech, EVEN if it was illegal and the maker of the movie ought to go to jail under Constitutional Law, that does not take away from the point of the article one iota. "Once we start making excuses – justifying and accepting Islamist violence – we're falling into a dangerous trap."

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