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Singham Nails It on Violence in Libya, Egypt

Everyone is still reeling a bit after the brutal and deadly attacks on American targets in Egypt and Libya, which resulted in our ambassador to Libya being killed. Mano Singham expresses my thoughts better than I would have in this post:

This tragedy may result in renewed calls for people to be ‘sensitive’ to religious sentiment. My feeling is that no level of deference will ever satisfy all religious people and attempts to do so only enhance the sense of entitlement of the most prickly of religious elements. No one has the right to unilaterally [decide] what is religiously offensive and what is not and enforce speech restrictions on others. If people want to go out of their way to offend others, the only thing that should be used to deter them is the opprobrium that they might face, not death or physical injury.

It will be interesting to see how the US government responds to this attack. When private individuals have been attacked by religious zealots, the acts have been condemned but also resulted in calls for greater sensitivity to the feelings of religious people. That is wrong-headed. What we really need is a greater global sensitivity to the right of free speech. Muslims, like any other religious group, will have to come to terms with the fact that their religious beliefs cannot be allowed to put limits on the speech of others however deliberately offensive it may seem to them.

I would only alter one thing: Everyone has a right to decide what offends them, but no one has the right to maim and kill merely because they are offended. But that’s just a minor quibble. I fully agree with him that we should be defending the principle of free speech, not the absurd notion that religions should be protected from offense. The film in question is a vile piece of propaganda, but that simply doesn’t justify violence of any kind.

Comments

  1. Ben P says

    I still can’t shake the suspicion that this whole thing is a setup or that all of this has nothing to do with protests and was planned in advance.

    The movie “Innocence of Muslims” purports to have been financed and produced by a “Sam Bacile” an Israeli American “real estate mogul.” However, one problem. Sam Bacile doesn’t exist. he’s never lived in California has never had a real estate license there and the Israli government says they have no record of him as a citizen.

    The media has reports that Sam Bacile is a psuedonym for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula an egyptian coptic christian. Nakoula is an Egyptian Immigrant in California who’s spent half the last decade in prison and been forbidden from using an internet connection as part of his parole.

    So we have an Egyptian Coptic Christian, who has been convicted of bank fraud, and seperately with possession and intent to manufacture methamphetimine, who, purportedly on his own, financed production of a low budget ($50-$60,000) dollar movie.

    All of the actors purportedly in this movie were under the impression it was a low budget historical fantasy/historical movie (think 10,000 BC but made for the Sci-Fi channel but worse).

    The movie was then overdubbed with anti-islamic dialogue and a trailer portraying mohammed having a one sided homoerotic conversation with a donkey was published on the internet.

    Somehow Terri Jones (the pastor in Florida who burned the Quaran just to provoke people) gets ahold of it and says that he’s going to show a 13 minute segment of it at his church.

    It gets picked up by an anti-islamic Coptic egpyptian blogger who publicizes it. From there it goes to egyptian TV, where they show a two minute clip sparking widespread protests. Last friday the movie was the subject of statements by muslim religious authorities provoking crowds, then on September 11 and 12th, there are riots outside US embassies.

    But somehow the “riots” in Benghazi and Cairo end up being what have been described as “complex” and “professionally executed” attacks on the embassies with heavy weapons, including the RPG that killed Ambassador Stevens.

    The whole thing is strange.

  2. says

    This particular movie (or the trailer that went viral at least) was clearly made with the conscious intent of inciting a violent reaction among people who already had a reputaton for such reacions. It doesn’t attempt to inform, and it’s clearly not humor — it was an incitement to riot, nothing more, and inciting to riot is NOT protected speech. So please, let’s stop blathering about “free speech” — that’s not the issue here.

    The people who made this piece of shit are guilty of inciting to riot, and they should be arrested and tried for it. A tthe very least, the State Dept., and the families of those killed, can sue those scumbags for wrongful death and interference in US foreign policy.

  3. Michael Heath says

    I was glad to see the White House immediately reject the argument coming from the U.S. Embassy in Egypt arguing we should be respectful of religious beliefs. However there is an enormous difference between ridiculing somebody’s religious beliefs, or any beliefs, and lying, which is what the so-called documentary that enraged so many Muslims does.

    In that regard I do think some recourse in the civil courts should be available, where a jury sets the punishment but also where the judge insures assigned culpability doesn’t infringe on speech rights while protecting the victims’ right to slandered or libeled.

    So let’s not ignore the fact there are victims here beyond those beyond the obvious victims who suffered violence against them, even losing their lives; and their family, friends, taxpayers, and associates’ loss because of this violence. Lying about others on these matters does cause unjust suffering to Muslims and all of us because we have to deal with the ramifications of such lies. So I argue the courts need to be able to dole out justice for those are lied about as well.

  4. trucreep says

    I think it was Stephen Fry who said something to the effect that the phrase “That offends me” was the most pointless/meaningless thing someone can say. His response was something like, “So fucking what??”

  5. says

    I think it was Stephen Fry who said something to the effect that the phrase “That offends me” was the most pointless/meaningless thing someone can say.

    Sounds like something a bully would say.

  6. says

    I was glad to see the White House immediately reject the argument coming from the U.S. Embassy in Egypt arguing we should be respectful of religious beliefs.

    Frist, was the statement out of our embassy really an “argument,” or just a hasty plea for calm? And second, what did the White House say to “reject” that plea for calm?

  7. Ben P says

    I think it was Stephen Fry who said something to the effect that the phrase “That offends me” was the most pointless/meaningless thing someone can say. His response was something like, “So fucking what??”

    http://imgur.com/EX5v4

  8. Michael Heath says

    Raging Bee writes:

    This particular movie (or the trailer that went viral at least) was clearly made with the conscious intent of inciting a violent reaction among people who already had a reputaton for such reacions. It doesn’t attempt to inform, and it’s clearly not humor — it was an incitement to riot, nothing more, and inciting to riot is NOT protected speech. So please, let’s stop blathering about “free speech” — that’s not the issue here.

    I would be shocked to learn this hate-movie meets the standard of being an incitement to riot; I’m confident that isn’t even a close call. It’s an argument and therefore protected; but hopefully not in the civil courts if the victims can show they were libeled and/or slandered.

    As an aside, I’m fully aware this movie was most likely not what instigated the actions which occurred in Libya, but it appears this movie was used by those who did the attacks to stir up some of the public in helping those perps with their attack.

  9. says

    It gets picked up by an anti-islamic Coptic egpyptian blogger who publicizes it.

    Which is an incredibly stupid and malicious thing to do, given that Egyptian Copts are already threatened by religious hatred and violence from the very Muslims this hate-piece was crafted to enrage. What kind of person knowingly pours gasoline onto a fire in his own family’s house?

  10. slc1 says

    Re Michael Heath @ #3

    Even more to the point are the totally irresponsible statements of Mitt Romney on this subject, demonstrating beyond a doubt that he is totally unfit for the office of POTUS.

  11. tomh says

    The people who made this piece of shit are guilty of inciting to riot

    Not in the US, not even close. Incitement to riot requires urging or instigating other persons to riot, but does not mean the mere oral or written advocacy of ideas or expression of belief. As for “blathering” about free speech, if the issue is whether someone should be allowed to post this video on the Internet, it’s exactly about free speech.

  12. says

    It’s an argument and therefore protected…

    Racist and antisemitic slurs can be disguised as “argument.” That doesn’t make them protected speech when the obvious intent and effect is to incite violence.

    As an aside, I’m fully aware this movie was most likely not what instigated the actions which occurred in Libya, but it appears this movie was used by those who did the attacks to stir up some of the public in helping those perps with their attack.

    Offensive spech almost never incites violence on its own. There are normally other circumstances (poverty, injustice, foreign occupation and lingering rage over same) that make people much more likely to go apeshit when blatant insults are tossed into the mix. But that doesn’t mean the asshole who tosses said insults into said mix is less liable for his actions. When an arsonist throws a match onto spilled gasoline, he can’t say afterword “It’s not my fault because I didn’t put the gasoline there.”

  13. says

    Incitement to riot requires urging or instigating other persons to riot…

    Which is exactly what the morons who made “Innocence of Muslims” did. They said stupid and bigoted things that they KNEW would serve no purpose but to incite more rage among people who were already known to be angry, scared, and in a state of social flux where anything could happen. If the film had informed comments, based on some sort of good-faith attempt to bring real information to light and talk about it, then it would be acceptable, as “Islam, the Untold Story” is. But “Innocence of Muslims” contains nothing of the sort — it’s nothing but intentional malice.

  14. d cwilson says

    No one has the right to commit violence just because something they saw/heard offended them. That should be a given and yes, the Muslim has a big problem with people who just don’t get it.

    On the other hand, I can hardly blame our embassy in Cairo for issuing a statement condemning a hate-filled video when there are angry mobs if anti-American protesters gathering in the streets. They weren’t doing with an abstract concept there. They were trying to diffuse an obviously volatile situation.

    For Romney then, to reverse casaulity and turn that statement around so that it morphs into an apology to the terrorists in Libya was completely irresponsible. There are times for political point scoring and there are times to be the statesman. This was obviously the latter and walking away with a jackass smirk on his face was inexcusable.

    I know there are dozens of reasons not to vote for Obama and dozens of reasons of reasons to vote for him. But right now, I can’t think of one reason to vote for Romney. He is completely unfit for the office.

  15. says

    Also, the fact that the actors in this film were deceived about the intent of the film, and that LOTS of their lines were overdubbed, with totally different lines, without their knowledge, further proves the purely malicious and dishonest intent of the filmmakers. You can’t call something an honest attempt to argue a point, when even the actors were lied to about what the point was.

  16. says

    No one has the right to commit violence just because something they saw/heard offended them.

    Did anyone here say they had such a right? No. So why are you repeating this tired bit of self-righteousness here?

  17. slc1 says

    Re Ben P @ #1

    Supporting this theory is the fact that the initial reports relative to this film clip said that it was produced by an Israeli and financed by 100 American Jews. One would think, based on this, that if the riots were spontaneous, they would, at least in Jordan and Egypt be occurring at the Israeli embassy in those countries. It would appear that the only substantive reaction to that report in the Arab world was from a couple of Arab members of the Knesset who jumped the gun and used the film to beat up on Bibi.

  18. says

    Sounds like something a bully would say.

    Fry’s argument is that people who express the thought “That offends me” do so with the expectation that the person they’ve directed that to will now shut up. Which is bullshit. No one has the right to not be offended. You do have the right to criticize, to mock, to counter-argue, to protest, to explain why something’s not funny, etc.

    Brother Jed is one of the most offensive evangelists I’ve ever seen, as his whole act is designed to “confront” college students for their sinful behaviors. I watched him personally call out a couple of girls as “whores” because…well, they happened to walk near him while he was making a point about whore. I didn’t simply say “I’m offended” and expect to silence him. I did this instead (I’m the barefoot fellow in blue):
    http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ash4/304627_10151140688263917_1312219_n.jpg,/url>

  19. tomh says

    They said stupid and bigoted things that they KNEW would serve no purpose but to incite more rage among people who were already known to be angry, scared, and in a state of social flux where anything could happen.

    But that’s all irrelevant. What the film makers KNEW, what their intention was, whether people were angry, scared, or whatever, what the actors knew, none of that matters. If you want to prove incitement to riot, quote the actual words where they urged people to riot. Everything else is irrelevant.

  20. Michael Heath says

    chriswalker writes:

    No one has the right to not be offended.

    Sure we do, our rights are inalienable. And we have plenty of recourses to avoid being offended along with a host of responses if we are offended. That doesn’t mean the government will protect that right if a superior right of someone else is in play, like my speech right to offend you in a manner that isn’t defamation or infringes upon your protected privacy rights.

  21. Steve Morrison says

    The relevant term is the heckler’s veto. The problem, of course, is that it means the most violent private citizens will have the ability in practice to decide how far other people’s free speech extends.

  22. d cwilson says

    Did anyone here say they had such a right? No. So why are you repeating this tired bit of self-righteousness here?

    Did you see me accuse anyone here of saying that? No. So, why are you getting all self-righteous?

    Did you even read the rest of my paragraph? Especially the part where I said it was many people in the Muslim world who feel that they have that right?

    If you’re going to get all pissy over the opening sentence of my post, at least do me the courtesy of reading the whole thing in context first.

  23. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Incitement to riot requires urging or instigating other persons to riot – tomh

    Suppose we had a situation of simmering communal tension in Somewheresville USA. Someone then makes up a story that members of group A have raped and murdered some children from group B, and relays this lie to a crowd from group B. He does not urge them to riot, but he knows very well that that is what they will do, and that is exactly what he intends. Is that incitement to riot under US law? If it isn’t, I’d say it bloody well should be.

  24. says

    Fry’s argument is that people who express the thought “That offends me” do so with the expectation that the person they’ve directed that to will now shut up. Which is bullshit. No one has the right to not be offended.

    I see some people are just repeating the same slogans they’ve been conditioned to repeat, regardless of the specific events in question here.

    I don’t know what this Fry guy is about, but if I told you I was offended by something you said (without trying to kill you, mind you), and you called my statement “meaningless,” my next statement would be “Fuck you!”

    And please spare us that tired robotic repetition of that “no right to not be offended” crap. Of course we have at least some right not to be unduly offended — to say otherwise is to say that other people’s feelings and interests are unworthy of any consideration. Are you really saying (for example) that a black person has no right to be free of people calling him a n****r to has face?

    This isn’t about a “right not to be offended,” it’s about an obligation not to cause needless offense when you know damn well it would endanger innocent lives and exacerbate social strife in a large region of the world, with no commensurate benefit to anyone.

  25. says

    But that’s all irrelevant. What the film makers KNEW, what their intention was, whether people were angry, scared, or whatever, what the actors knew, none of that matters. If you want to prove incitement to riot, quote the actual words where they urged people to riot. Everything else is irrelevant.

    Since when was intent, circumstance, and predictable effect “irrelevant?” Since you realized such facts on the ground were inconvenient to you, I guess. Tough shit — they’re certainly not “irrelevant” to the victims of such malicious hate-speech. If none of that matters to you, then why are you even bothering to comment here?

  26. says

    Is that incitement to riot under US law? If it isn’t, I’d say it bloody well should be.

    There’s a pretty good way to answer that question: arrest the perps, put them on trial, call witnesses, make the strongest factual and logical case we can, and see what a jury decides. I believe a good Federal prosecutor could make a very strong criminal case against the “Innocence of Muslims” crew; and even if a jury ultimately acquits them, it would still signal the Muslim world that not all Americans are overgrown junior-high-mouth-breathers. That alone would make such a trial worthwhile, conviction or no conviction.

    Seriously, what’s wrong with letting a jury decide here?

  27. Michael Heath says

    Raging Bee writes:

    . . . arrest the perps, put them on trial, call witnesses, make the strongest factual and logical case we can, and see what a jury decides.

    Ahh, the tyranny of a majority. I prefer my government remain a liberal democracy; i.e., that we have constitutional protections for our individual rights.

  28. says

    Are you really saying (for example) that a black person has no right to be free of people calling him a n****r to has face?

    A legal right? No, not really, though it might depend on the jurisdiction (seeing as you could make a case for racial epithets falling under fighting words doctrine”). It also depends on the context – if someone knocks on his door just to call him the N word, then he can kick the dude right off his property. If a clerk at store does it, he has every right to e-mail a complaint to corporate or to demand a manger on the spot. If some stranger on the street does it, he has every right to call them a racist cracker right back. But no, there’s no right to not be called mean names…unless it rises to the level of slander or libel.

    There are people out there who are offended as all hell by gay people. If they see two men or two women kissing or even holding hands in public, they feel it is a slight against their God and everything they believe in. Some of them will even take vocal or violent exception to it. Should gay people run back into the closet, hiding any socially-acceptable-for-straight-people displays of affection in order to avoid offending these people? Or do we recognize that the offense isn’t their problem?

    This isn’t about a “right not to be offended,” it’s about an obligation not to cause needless offense when you know damn well it would endanger innocent lives and exacerbate social strife in a large region of the world, with no commensurate benefit to anyone.

    So we should censor our country’s legally produced artistic products so as to not offend people who will take violent exception to them? You confuse moral and legal responsibility. And art, which films are, is always of highly arguable commensurate benefit. Should be locking up Martin Scorsese for John Hinckley, Jr.’s Taxi Driver inspired assassination attempt? Should the surviving Beatles be spending their last years in prison for the crimes of the Manson Family, who read The White Album as a prediction of upcoming race wars? Should J.D. Salinger have spent his last days in prison for the crimes of Mark David Chapman and Robert John Bardo? Was the true victim in the Theo van Gogh murder his killer? Is the Fatwa against Salman Rushdie justified?

  29. says

    The commenter who mentioned the heckler’s veto is exactly right. What Raging Bee and others who are demanding the arrest of the filmmaker for “inciting a riot” (which this situation doesn’t even come close to fitting the description of) are actually in favor of the heckler’s veto. The limits of free speech would then be policed by those who oppose what is being said; if they react violently enough, often enough, then saying anything that offends them is “inciting a riot” because, hey, they should have known it was going to result in violence and therefore we can assume that this was their intent all along. By that reasoning, Salman Rushdie should have been jailed for writing The Satanic Verses. And the Danish Muhammad cartoonists too. And if Christians would just start committing violence more often, they can determine what can and can’t be said against their beliefs too. It’s a backdoor, and violent, way of instituting those “defamation of religion” laws that I’ve been arguing against for so long.

  30. naturalcynic says

    There is also the possibility that the Benghazi consulate incident may not be related to the protests outside the embassies in Cairo and other places. There was a report last night on Rachel Maddow from al Jazeera that there was not much going on in Benghazi until there was an attack on the consulate by armed men in 4 vehicles. This suggests that the attack was an al-Qaida or a-Q affiliated organization’s operation – it did happen on 9/11. Coincidence? There has been a-Q related activity in western Libya.

  31. says

    The limits of free speech would then be policed by those who oppose what is being said…

    You could just as plausibly say that any time someone is put on trial for inciting to riot. And you’d be wrong in all cases. Free speech is already limited — we already make exceptions for slander, libel, inciting to riot, etc.; and a person can be either sued or criminally charged for going beyond those limits.

    By that reasoning, Salman Rushdie should have been jailed for writing The Satanic Verses. And the Danish Muhammad cartoonists too.

    No on both counts, because the facts and history of those cases are totally different from the facts and history of this one. Just like the facts of one murder case are different from the facts of another. That’s why we have trials: to fully discuss all the relevant facts and determine guilt or innocence with those facts in mind, rather than just mindlessly apply a law without regard to individual circumstances.

  32. Michael Heath says

    Raging Bee writes:

    A jury trial is “the tyranny of a majority?” Are you fucking kidding me?

    As you framed it would be exactly and effectively that. We have judges to insure juries do not convict people for liberties protected by the Constitution.

  33. says

    I’m cynical on this “incitement to riot” angle. If you arrest someone for provoking a riot by saying something offensive to the group, you’re effectively claiming that he’s responsible for the behavior of the rioters. It’s treating the rioters like they’re reactive machines instead of people capable of thought. I would think that provides reinforcement for future offense-motivated riots because rioters will get the message that it’s the offender’s fault they become violent, not a decision they made. It sounds to me like the perfect setup for blaming the victim, since it seems to me the same rationale could be used for blaming a minority standing up for minority rights for provoking an “obvious” riot when those in the majority don’t like the message.

    You also have to work out intent. What if someone tried to provoke a riot with offensive speech but failed? Would he still be charged? What if someone was honestly oblivious to the group being prone to riots, or what if he didn’t expect his offensive message to reach the potential rioters?

    I’m more willing to bend if we were talking about a member of the group explicitly inciting peers to riot, since it seems unlikely someone would tell others to riot if he didn’t intend to cause a riot. That would at least send the message that rioting hurts members of their cause. Punishing their opponents for provocation sends the message to potential rioters that they can choose who gets punished by “reactively” rioting whenever they feel like hurting someone.

  34. laurentweppe says

    @Ed

    Unless it was a tragically succesfull attempt at satirizing.mimicking the islamophobic far-right, the longterm goal of the trailer’s maker is to increase animosity toward Muslims.
    *
    Now, the fact that violence followed will undoubtedly be used to justify increased hostility toward Muslims. But had the only reaction been a stern condemnation of the movie, its makers would have pretended that it was a plot of the Politically Correct mafia, that the elites were in fact, in the Muslim’s pocket, which would have been used to encourage animosity toward Muslims. And had the movie provoked no reaction at all, it would have been seen by the racist makers of this movie as a sign that their hostility was now accepted enough to allow them to go to the next level (more blatant calls for oppressing Muslims or actual violence).
    This trailer is a bully’s trick. It is meant to push toward more hostility toward Muslims regardless of it’s release’s outcome. The filmmaker may not have done so far anything illegal, but at least we can refrain from pretending to be dupes about his/her/their intent without being in favor of the Hecler’s veto.

  35. M Groesbeck says

    So basically, the “trailer” for the (supposed) movie is yet another episode in the drama where right-wing Christians and right-wing Muslims use each other’s statements, positions and actions as excuses to escalate their mutual war. And, as always, a depressing number of atheists buy the right-wing Christians’ insistence that the fact that the right-wing Muslims are full of shit means that atheists must join forces with the right-wing Christians in their holy war.

    Fuck that. The people using this trailer as an excuse for violence are full of shit. The people who created this horrendously racist and homophobic trailer are also full of shit, and I feel no obligation to join them in their Christian jihad (even if they invent fictional Jewish funders).

  36. DrVanNostrand says

    Raging Bee, you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about. The Brandenburg standard is clear as to what constitutes incitement. It only covers clear statements directing people to commit violence. Hate speech is absolutely not covered, no matter how hateful, and no matter how bad the reaction of the targeted people is. Nazis, the KKK, Anti-muslim groups, the Wesboro Baptist Church, and a whole host of other groups have had their right to hate speech affirmed in court many times. There may be some civil recourse in the case of libel/slander, but that’s it, and in the US libel and slander are also quite narrowly constructed. I also agree with Ed and Mano that that is exactly how it should be.

  37. pacal says

    In my opinion one of the things the Muslim rioters should be told along with the usual Freedom of Speech precisely means Freedom of Speech for opinions you despise otherwise it really isn’t Freedom of Speech, is that their behavior is exactly what the makers of this film want. They are doing what the makers of this absurd film want them to do and thereby are “proving” what they say about Muslims. The fact that only a tiny minority is behaving in such a way will of course be ignored for propaganda reasons.

    Muslims should be reminded that their local media produces some rather hate filled stuff about Jews and Christians.

  38. Olav says

    Raging Bee, #12:

    Offensive spech almost never incites violence on its own. There are normally other circumstances (poverty, injustice, foreign occupation and lingering rage over same) that make people much more likely to go apeshit when blatant insults are tossed into the mix.

    This part is so true. To say that the violence erupted because the rioters were just offended is far too simplistic. Their anger may be misdirected, but it has many causes.

    The rest of the debate, I am not so sure about. I am still thinking about it. I do not automatically agree that freedom of speech should be absolute in all circumstances. Nor do I like to see that freedom restricted.

    Further, I am not sure what caused the murder of the ambassador. He appears to have been killed by rocket fire. Are rockets the weapon of choice of angry rioters? Seems rather that someone took advantage of the chaos.

  39. says

    8 USCS § 2102, my comments in brackets:

    (a) As used in this chapter, the term “riot” means a public disturbance involving:

    (1) an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage of three or more persons [the filmmaker was not part of the assemblage], which act or acts shall constitute a clear and present danger [the danger was not even close to present danger] of, or shall result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual or
    (2) a threat or threats of the commission of an act or acts of violence by one or more persons part of an assemblage [again the inciting person is part of the assemblage] of three or more persons having, individually or collectively, the ability of immediate execution of such threat or threats, where the performance of the threatened act or acts of violence would constitute a clear and present danger of, or would result in, damage or injury to the property of any other person or to the person of any other individual.[no "ability of immediate execution." In fact, the film had to be brought to the attention of Egyptians by way of a TV show hosted by a fundie--he would be closer to engaging in inciting a riot]

    (b) As used in this chapter, the term “to incite a riot”, or “to organize, promote, encourage, participate in, or carry on a riot”, includes, but is not limited to, urging or instigating other persons to riot, but shall not be deemed to mean the mere oral or written (1) advocacy of ideas or (2) expression of belief, not involving advocacy of any act or acts of violence or assertion of the rightness of, or the right to commit, any such act or acts. [there must be advocacy of violence or the assertion that such violence is right.]

  40. iangould says

    Other than the terrorsit attack in Benghazi using the protest as a cover for an apparently pre-planned attack on the US consulate, how much actual “violence” and “rioting” has there been?

    Peaceful protest even over something as stupid and trivial as this movie is also an exercise of free speech.

    Finally, people might want to note that the demonstrations at the US embassy in Egypt had fewer than 1,000 people present. (The second day of protest is estiamted at as low as 200.) People might want to compare that to the hundreds of thousands who demonstrated ror a democratic state and the similar numbers who demonstrated for a secular Egyptain state durign and after Morsi’s election before making generalizatiosn about “The Muslim”.

  41. says

    If you arrest someone for provoking a riot by saying something offensive to the group, you’re effectively claiming that he’s responsible for the behavior of the rioters. It’s treating the rioters like they’re reactive machines instead of people capable of thought.

    News flash: People very often ARE reactive creatures, whether or not it fits your worldview. That’s why our Founders put so much stuff into the Constitution to protect against mob rule. Seriously, get out and read some newspapers: people can be incredibly volatile and reactive, especially in situations like present-day Egypt and Libya, where old governments have been overthrown, new regimes are nowhere near firmly established yet, entire societies and economies are in near-total chaos, armed gangs operate unchecked, old ethnic, tribal and religious disputes are bubbling to the surface, people are poor, not as educated as we’d like them to be, powerless, afraid, and unable to decide who can leadership and restore order. Their information sources are unreliable, their social and spiritual leaders even more so, and there’s this huge foreign power waging intermittent war very near them, where an extreme right-wing bigoted party is trying to retake control. Do you really expect the masses to all function as rational creatures, consistently capable of rational thought, when they’re powerless in the midst of all that insanity? I get terrified just from getting laid off, so I, for one, really can’t expect tens of millions of much less secure people to stay calm in present-day North Africa; and neither, I think, can you.

    So yes, if we know that a certain large population is in a bad situation, and might react with irrational violence if provoked a certain way, then we really ARE responsible for not going out of our way to provoke them that way if we don’t have to. Is that really too hard a task, too onerous a burden for us privileged educated Americans to bear?

    I would think that provides reinforcement for future offense-motivated riots because rioters will get the message that it’s the offender’s fault they become violent, not a decision they made.

    “You would think?” Do you know of that actually happening? Given that the people in question don’t normally riot as a matter of habit, I’d say your supposition is false. People don’t riot becuase they calculate in advance that someone else will take the blame; they riot because they’re frightened and/or enraged.

    What if someone tried to provoke a riot with offensive speech but failed? Would he still be charged?

    Of course not — how can you prove someone incited a riot if there’s no actual riot?

    What if someone was honestly oblivious to the group being prone to riots, or what if he didn’t expect his offensive message to reach the potential rioters?

    If there’s no evidence that they knew, or could have known, in advance that there would be a violent reaction, then no, you would not be able to prove malicious intent.

    …it seems unlikely someone would tell others to riot if he didn’t intend to cause a riot.

    Are you kidding? Do you really think demagogues are that honest and responsible? Of course not — they provoke violence for all sorts of reasons, many of which involve using said violence as an excuse for some other atrocity. So admitting up front that they intend to start a riot would not work for their objectives.

    Remember the Saudi Toon Tantrum? The Saudi state media didn’t actually SAY they intended to cause any violent pogroms — but that was clearly their intent when they reprinted those cartoons so far out of their original context (and added more inflammatory crap of their own).

    Punishing their opponents for provocation sends the message to potential rioters that they can choose who gets punished by “reactively” rioting whenever they feel like hurting someone.

    Given that, in this case, the Egyptian and Libyan security forces are taking action to restore order, independent of what we do about the “Innocence of Muslims” asshats, I’d say that’s a remote possibility.

    Further, I am not sure what caused the murder of the ambassador. He appears to have been killed by rocket fire. Are rockets the weapon of choice of angry rioters? Seems rather that someone took advantage of the chaos.

    True. But the chaos was still exacerbated by the deliberate malice of the filmmakers, so they’re still at least partly responsible for the result.

    In my opinion one of the things the Muslim rioters should be told along with the usual Freedom of Speech precisely means Freedom of Speech for opinions you despise otherwise it really isn’t Freedom of Speech, is that their behavior is exactly what the makers of this film want.

    Lecturing an angry, scared, ignorant mob about the importance of OUR freedom of speech — yeah, that always works. Especially when said lectures some from the country that invaded two Muslim countries, called it a “Crusade,” and can’t even allow its own Muslims to have their own worship-space without freaking out.

  42. says

    iangould,

    Excellent points. In fact, I saw a bit of footage from Cairo, with demonstrators protesting violent reactions to the film.

  43. tomh says

    @ 25

    Since when was intent, circumstance, and predictable effect “irrelevant?” Since you realized such facts on the ground were inconvenient to you, I guess. Tough shit — they’re certainly not “irrelevant” to the victims of such malicious hate-speech.

    Now you’re talking about the effect on the victims. Before you were talking about being guilty of incitement to riot, which is a crime. Make up your mind. There was no crime committed, no matter how outraged you are.

    why are you even bothering to comment here?

    I could ask you the same thing – why do you keep proclaiming that the film makers are guilty of incitement to riot when you are so ignorant of the law?

  44. iangould says

    To date there are reports of deaths from protests in Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia and Yemen.

    As near as I can tell, in every single case, the dead are protesters killed by police or soldiers.

    Normally, when that happens, the first reaction is to assume that the security forces were at fault. So far, the news coverage I’m seeing pretty much assumes that the protesters are at fault (if it even mentions that the dead are protesters.)

    Maybe these deaths have less to do with the innately violent nature of Islam than they do with police practises like shooting people in the face at point-blank range with birdshot.

  45. dingojack says

    Would the filmmaker’s actions constitute ‘fighting words‘?
    OK if not incitement how about reckless endangerment*?

    Dingo
    ——
    * No, I can’t see any reason to arrest an idiot filmmaker for his pretty lame film, no matter how incendiary it is.

  46. DrVanNostrand says

    Eugene Volokh summarized fighting words case law pretty well during the Phelps case recently:
    “Under the “fighting words” exception, speech is unprotected if “tend[s] to incite an immediate breach of the peace” by provoking a fight, Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942), so long as the speech consists of a “personally abusive epithet[] which, when addressed to the ordinary citizen, [is], as a matter of common knowledge, inherently likely to provoke violent reaction,” Cohen v. California (1971), and is “directed to the person of the hearer,” and is thus likely to be seen as “a direct personal insult.” See Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (1942); Cohen v. California (1971).”

    Here: http://www.volokh.com/2010/03/08/the-phelpsians-picketing-and-fighting-words-2/

    The court has interpreted “fighting words” very narrowly since they were invented in 1949. Also, if the speech isn’t exempted under an exception like “fighting words” or “incitement”, you can’t prosecute for reckless endangerment or anything else. People can’t be prosecuted for constitutionally protected speech.

  47. says

    If there’s no crime for which the filmmakers or distributors can be charged, civil action remains an option. And I sincerely hope we see it, preferably before the election, just in case the discovery process turns up a connection between the anti-Muslim right-wing shits who made the movie, and the anti-Muslim right-wing shits who currently support Romney after taking their turn inciting hatred over that Manhattan “mosque” affair.

    Maybe these deaths have less to do with the innately violent nature of Islam than they do with police practises like shooting people in the face at point-blank range with birdshot.

    Yeah, the security forces are seriously burdened with a LOT of disturbances these days, and they probably aren’t as well trained as their US counterparts in crowd-control. And the mobs seem rather undisciplined, so there’s probably blame on both sides for the killings. Fucking tragic unnecessary fiasco all around, which is why I despise the demagogues (on both sides of the line) so much. Hey, didn’t the teatards say something about “Second Amendment solutions?” Is Seal Team Six busy?

  48. DrVanNostrand says

    You can’t be sued in civil court for constitutionally protected speech either. It might be possible to find some civil liability if it’s libel/slander, but those are very narrowly defined.

  49. says

    And a suit claiming defamation of a person who died 1400 years ago isn’t a winner in the U.S. What about Christians or Jews bringing suits for defaming dead popes, Jesus, Moses… Noah?

  50. says

    “No one has the right to commit violence just because something they saw/heard offended them. That should be a given and yes, the Muslim has a big problem with people who just don’t get it.”

    I keep hearing this on the radio and reading it on various blogs.

    We should bear in mind three things.

    1.) The person/s responsible for this hatespeech disguised as a film (and hatespeech IS considered a crime in the U.S.) are on record as saying that they KNEW the film was liable to provoke a violent reaction from its target audience and HOPED that it would.

    2.) The actual protestors in the riots (not the paramilitary thugs/terrorists) are, in many cases, the arab equivalent of your low information U.S. voters who only hear what they want to hear and are reactionary in both their rhetoric and actions.

    3.) When we look at recent events as a disproportionately violent response to an “attack” we would do well to remember the fallout from the incident at the WTC on September 11, 2001. As a direct result of having their hatred, distrust and paranoia ginned up by the cynical neocons, the U.S. government and the people (us) for whom they supposedly work engaged in an attack upon a country which, to this day, has not been proven to be an actor in those events. Perhaps some are unaware that violence begets violence, I am not.

  51. DrVanNostrand says

    Hate speech IS NOT a crime in the US. Nazis, the KKK, the WBC, all the antigay hate groups, etc… are all protected by the 1st amendment with very, very few exceptions. Primarily, “fighting words”, which is very narrowly defined (see my post above), and incitement, which is also very narrowly defined (see Brandenburg). You’re pulling that prohibition directly out of your ass, and it’s explicitly repudiated by decades of jurisprudence. The most recent example, of course, being Phelps v. Snyder.

  52. says

    Dr. Van Norstrand:

    You are of course correct, I misspoke about “hatespeech” being a crime under U.S. law.

    This bit:

    “You’re pulling that prohibition directly out of your ass…”

    was totally gratuitous, fuckface.

  53. says

    It seems to me that assigning any responsibility to the producers of this “film” (which is stupid, ham-fisted, anti-Islam propaganda to be sure) for the murderous actions of others is somewhat analogous to citing the clothing worn by a rape victim as being contributory to that crime.

    “Well of course he shouldn’t have raped her but did you see what she was wearing?”

    “Well of course they shouldn’t kill people but did you see how sacrilegious that film was?”

    It doesn’t matter how sacrilegious a film, cartoon, novel etc. is, it in no way justifies, or makes understandable violent behavior and the blame for the violence lies solely with its perpetrators.

  54. Chiroptera says

    Troy Britain, #57:

    Why? In what way is a rape victim analogous to the makers of this film? In fact, how are the makers of this film being victimized at all by the rioters?

    -

    It doesn’t matter how sacrilegious a film, cartoon, novel etc. is, it in no way justifies, or makes understandable violent behavior and the blame for the violence lies solely with its perpetrators.

    Maybe your comment would be more appropriate in a forum where people are saying that.

  55. says

    Chiroptera:

    Sure it is. It’s ‘zackly the same thing.

    I’m just hoping that somebody puts together a porno showing JESUS and his posse havin’ a homorgy at the Last Supper and says it was done by, oh, I don’t know, the Cath-O-Licks, maybe. That should let us see some real restraint on the part of the KKKristian fanatics./s

    There is a consistent denial of reality on the part of people who say that since there are no specific statutes prohibiting such vicious, deliberately provocative attacks on the beliefs (which I think are, at their most benign, ridiculous) of any religious group that there CANNOT BE such laws without destroying freedom. It’s fucking nonsense. We have laws, hundreds of thousands of laws, which regulate, prohibit or require various actions we all might perform, daily, in our lives.

    To say that since there IS no legal recourse to deal with situations like the instant case we CAN’T find one is illogical.

  56. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    The limits of free speech would then be policed by those who oppose what is being said; if they react violently enough, often enough, then saying anything that offends them is “inciting a riot” because, hey, they should have known it was going to result in violence and therefore we can assume that this was their intent all along. – Ed Brayton

    Crap. No-one is saying we can assume intent – you just made that up. It is quite normal for courts to investigate intent, in order to determine whether a crime has taken place. In the current case, apparently (I haven’t seen them myself) there are statements from the film’s makers or backers that they hoped for a violent reaction. Now if they made and distributed the film with the specific intention of provoking a violent reaction, that may still not be a crime under US law, but I can see no grounds for the assumption that it shouldn’t be.

  57. DaveL says

    There is a consistent denial of reality on the part of people who say that since there are no specific statutes prohibiting such vicious, deliberately provocative attacks on the beliefs (which I think are, at their most benign, ridiculous) of any religious group that there CANNOT BE such laws without destroying freedom. It’s fucking nonsense. We have laws, hundreds of thousands of laws, which regulate, prohibit or require various actions we all might perform, daily, in our lives.

    Those laws are not dictated by what the most violent and unreasonable among us are willing to do if they do not get their way. They are based on boundaries between our rights and the rights of others that can be equally applied to everyone. There is no possible way that everyone’s religious beliefs, including atheists, can be included as sacred cows immune from criticism, because each belief system includes tenets deeply offensive to the others.

  58. Chiroptera says

    DaveL, #61: There is no possible way that everyone’s religious beliefs, including atheists, can be included as sacred cows immune from criticism, because each belief system includes tenets deeply offensive to the others.

    Jesus Christ! Is that really what you read in that comment?

    We are not talking about being offensive. We are discussing people who allegedly fully intended to provoke a violent reaction.

    It may very well be that the manner in which they provoked this violent reaction (assuming that it was intentional) is protected under current law. It may very well be that the manner in which the First Amendment is interpreted prevents any law that would make this type of provocation illegal. And you may very well think that this is a good thing, and that’s fine.

    But we are talking about people who allegedly deliberately created a situation that put others at risk and even caused the deaths of innocent victims. That is very, very different than speech that is merely offensive. These people are not in the same category as academics who are trying to understand a phenomenon, or even in the same category as satirists who are trying to make a point about social or political issues.

  59. DaveL says

    Sorry, I find the distinction between “deliberately saying things that will cause a violent reaction” and “deliberately saying things that will offend people who tend to get violent when offended” is far too thin a thing to hang our civil liberties on. If you want to find the people who perpetrated actual crimes, not only of violence but of incitement to violence, they are to be found in the mob, not in the studio.

  60. says

    DaveL:

    And thus far, there are enough people that agree with you that changes in the law which would hold people accountable for deliberately provocative acts–INTENDED to cause them to react violently–where they currently have ZERO responsibility.

    Following your logic I suppose it would be fine if I made a movie suggesting that the JEWS intentionally killed JESUS and are only on top of the financial world (and Hollywood and the arts and medicine and some other stuff) ‘cuz they stole HIS buried treasure of 10 tons of perfect blue-white diamonds in A.D. 33 or thereabouts and had him CRUCIFIED to cover their tracks.

    I am perfectly aware that the odious fuckers who made this film are likely beyond the grasp of the prosecutor. I am also perfectly aware that many people in this country are reluctant, in the extreme, to tamper with 1st Amendment guarantees of being able to pretty much say whatever you wish–with some already fairly limiting exceptions.

    It strikes me as a bit odd that many of the people who decry current U.S. social policy in the areas of healthcare, race relations, police oversight and other hot-button issues, suggest that we look to Canada or Europe to see how they handle these things. However, when we talk about the limits of speech, especially speech which is deliberatley inflammatory and seeks to goad people to a violent response, we are told that other countries who DO place limits on such speech have it all wrong. Seems like a little bit of cognitive dissonance to me.

  61. Chiroptera says

    DaveL, #63: Sorry, I find the distinction between “deliberately saying things that will cause a violent reaction” and “deliberately saying things that will offend people who tend to get violent when offended” is far too thin a thing to hang our civil liberties on.

    If that is what you intended to say, then it wasn’t clear — at least not to me. It looked as if you were mischaracterizing other people as saying that speech should be banned just because it is considered offensive.

    That would have been as egregious a mischaracterization as if someone claimed that you were saying that people should be allowed to incite riots without repercussions, which would be just as wrong.

    If you wrote earlier comments that, had I remembered them, would have made it clear what you were saying, then I apologize if my reply to you came off as a little too strong.

    -

    Incidentally (and this isn’t directed specifically at DaveL), even if it turns out that the film makers did not intend to provoke a violent reaction among Muslims, it is still possible to criticize the intolerance of the Islamists and their tendency to violence and demand that the full powers of the law be used to bring the guilty to justice, and AT THE SAME TIME point out the hatred and intolerance of the film makers and state the obvious truth that hatred and intolerance have no place in a civilized society (even if it is legally allowed).

    If there had been no riot, people who would have been aware of this film would rightly have condemned the makers for their bigotry; that the riot did occur doesn’t all of sudden put hate mongers into “our side.”

  62. tomh says

    It strikes me as a bit odd that many of the people who decry current U.S. social policy in the areas of healthcare, race relations, police oversight and other hot-button issues, suggest that we look to Canada or Europe to see how they handle these things. However, when we talk about the limits of speech, especially speech which is deliberatley inflammatory and seeks to goad people to a violent response, we are told that other countries who DO place limits on such speech have it all wrong. Seems like a little bit of cognitive dissonance to me.

    I don’t see why they can’t get some things right and some things wrong – like most people do. Personally, I think they get health care laws right and hate speech laws wrong.

  63. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    There is no possible way that everyone’s religious beliefs, including atheists, can be included as sacred cows immune from criticism, because each belief system includes tenets deeply offensive to the others. – DaveL

    That you have to resort to such blatant misrepresentation of what those you are arguing against is very telling.

  64. says

    ” Personally, I think they get health care laws right and hate speech laws wrong.”

    That is your opinion, you’re entitled to hold it. It doesn’t mean that you’re right.

  65. tomh says

    That is your opinion, you’re entitled to hold it. It doesn’t mean that you’re right.

    I kind of realized that. That’s where the “personally” comes in.

  66. says

    tom h.:

    Sure, I get that. But, why do you suppose that they have a very good set of ideas on, for instance, health care and a very bad set of ideas on personal freedom of speech? Was one set of ideas formulated by really wonderful, thoughtful people and the other by some hateful group?

    I, personally, do not think that the U.S. Constitution is the absolute bestest that can be written. Apparently others, including its authors, agree; hence the process of amending it is enshrined in the document. It is difficult (practically speaking, it’s becoming nearly impossible) to amend the Constitution. That difficulty has not stopped some people (people whose views are pretty fucked up, imo) from trying to pass things like an Anti-flag burning amendment, prohibition of same-sex marriage amendment and a few others. The ERA was defeated, because of the difficulty in getting super majorities of the states to agree on its merits. Does that mean it was a bad idea?

  67. Chiroptera says

    democommie, #70:

    Without commenting on whether or not the European style “hate speech laws” are a good idea, I will point out one difference between Europe and the US.

    Europeans tend to be a well-informed electorate who elect grown-ups to public office. They are probably capable of distinguishing between genuine “hate speech” that does nothing to advance the public debate and legitimate expressions of creativity and opinion.

    On the other hand, the US tends toward a much lower level of education among the electorate who are more easily led by fear and resentment, who tend to elect people based on their lack of real education. I have doubts that our government is really capable of applying restrictions to speech in order to prevent unpopular opinions as opposed to real hate speech.

    That is why some of us tend toward a more absolute interpretation of our First Amendment. On the other hand, unlike the other absolutists here, I don’t begrudge the Europeans their desire for intelligent and fruitful public debate.

    In the end, what matters is whether a society is a free and open democracy. Different nations may need to look at the issues differently to achieve this.

  68. says

    “On the other hand, the US tends toward a much lower level of education among the electorate who are more easily led by fear and resentment, who tend to elect people based on their lack of real education.”

    While I disagree with you that all or even a majority of U.S. voters are uneducated, I would agree that they know next to nothing about specific issues and the candidates in a given election.

    I also agree with the premise that uneducated voters; voters who support jingoism, demagoguery and xenophia and voters whose votes are informed by fear, hatred and bigotry–whether they are U.S. citizens, europeans, asians, arabs or others–ALL vote for authority figures (perceived) who will solve their problems with a minimum of effort on their part.

  69. tomh says

    democommie wrote:

    I, personally, do not think that the U.S. Constitution is the absolute bestest that can be written.

    I absolutely agree with you. I think Justice Ginsburg said it best in her interview on Egyptian TV when she said, “I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a Constitution in the year 2012. I might look at the Constitution of South Africa.” There are many ways the Constitution could be improved, but, in my opinion, limiting speech is not the place to start.

  70. Chiroptera says

    democommie, #74: The 1st Amendment is not immune to regulation.

    Or, more to the point I think, whether this one particular case fits within the parameters in which we already agree should be limited.

  71. Chiroptera says

    And let’s make no mistake:

    even if the film makers didn’t intend to provoke extremist violence, they are still not First Amendment Martyrs.

    At the very best, they are vicious lying thugs whose vicious fascist goals must be denounced even as we protect their rights, because both are required to protect our own liberties.

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