All over the Muslim world, people are angry.
They have every right to express their anger
– as long as it is done nonviolently toward both persons and property and within the laws of the land –
...just as the maker of a trailer of the fake movie has the First-Amendment right to express his opinion
– as long as it is not fraudulently harmful or willfully offensive within the limits of freedom of speech in the United States.
The laws in the United States strongly protect the freedom of speech
– to the point of the absurdity that money has been deemed a form of speech by the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission.
However, there are limits to freedom of speech that are based on the “harm principle” and the “offense principle,” i.e. limits on pornography, hate speech, and crying “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire.
In U.S. law, there is legal precedence for prohibiting “fighting words,” which cause those hearing the words to react with a “breach of the peace.” A stampede in a theater would qualify for that, as would an attack on an embassy, it would seem to me.
There is a related doctrine that prohibits incendiary or provocative speech, although the grounds on which the doctrine can be applied have been steadily narrowed. American Nazis were allowed to parade through a neighborhood of Skokie, Illinois, where many Holocaust survivors lived in 1977. The most recent unfortunate narrowing of the parameters was the 2011 Snyder v. Phelps Supreme Court case, which upheld the right of members of the Westboro Baptist Church to show signs saying “You’re going to hell,” “Thank God for dead soldiers,” and “Fag troops” at military funerals, regardless of how outrageous and disturbingly disrespectful to the mourners that speech is. I’m no lawyer, but maybe it would take attendees of the funeral going over and beating the crap out of the “protesters” for the law to actually apply. I am by no means advocating this, just wondering where the limits to freedom of speech would stand if the purposely incendiary action of showing up at a military funeral, gloating over the death of a soldier who, at least in principle, lost his or her life protecting their right to free speech, and piling on insulting and offensive language were to result in a “breach of the peace” – hypothetically speaking.
The New York Times explains that “hate speech” is only excluded as a First Amendment right in one instance: “the likelihood of imminent violence:”
The imminence requirement sets a high hurdle. Mere advocacy of violence, terrorism or the overthrow of the government is not enough; the words must be meant to, and be likely to, produce violence or lawlessness right away. A fiery speech urging an angry racist mob immediately to assault a black man in its midst probably qualifies as incitement under the First Amendment. A magazine article - or any publication - aimed at stirring up racial hatred surely does not.
Despite the narrowing of the bar, there is a bar, and using it, in the case of this absurd and fraudulent movie trailer video, which is causing so much havoc in the world, is exactly what will calm the situation down and show the Muslim world that the United States is not their enemy. The definition of “imminent” and “right away” would need to be looked at carefully, but again, there is plenty of proof that points to these people willfully and purposely inciting violence on the part of radicals who are known to be violent, which, indeed, occurred as immediately after the video was disseminated as the radical Muslim groups in Libya and Egypt could gather themselves together to act. And if this does not clear the hurdle, then it is high time that the height of the hurdle were reexamined in the context of current realities, as many people throughout the world try to resist the pull of fringe radical hatred toward violence and war that affects us all.
The maker of this atrocity, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is a Coptic Christian man from Egypt who would have been fully aware of the type of reactions that his offenses were going to have in the Muslim world, if not the extent or exact manifestation. The fact that he lied to everyone involved in the project about who he was and what the real nature of the project was (he overdubbed in all of the religious references after filming), lays the groundwork for prosecution, since his lies point to knowledge that no one would have worked on his movie otherwise.
Going on to incite anti-Semitism with his claims about who he was and whose non-existent five million dollars was behind the perverted project, along with his association with the likes of militant Christian Patriot Steve Klein, inflammatory Egyptian Coptic blogger Morris Sadek, and Koran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones, indicates that this was more than a matter of a sincere Christian innocently trying to inform Muslims about the supposed hypocrisy of Muhammad.
Steve Klein is a former Marine who is a long-time activist in the militant Christian Patriot movement. His name shows up in the introduction to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s spring 2012 intelligence report titled, Church at Kaweah Spreads Hateful, Militant Christian Views. According to the report, the church is allied with “militia and Patriot leaders, white supremacists, neo-Confederates, border vigilantes and Christian Reconstructionists, whose goal is to turn America into a theocracy based on the Old Testament.” At a compound nestled against the foothills of the Sierra Nevada at the southern edge of California’s Sequoia National Park, joint training with the San Francisco-based Christian Guardians and other groups are conducted, billed as a “unique system of learning how to survive the Muslim Brotherhood as we teach the Christian Morality of Biblical Warfare.”
Also from the SPLC report:
“What is remarkable here is the openness with which they speak of religious war to advance God’s laws and God’s government,” said Frederick Clarkson, an independent journalist and expert on the religious right. “Less surprising is that the war is to be waged against the government and the usual stew of far-right enemies — although, clearly, Muslims seem to have replaced Communists as the most fearsome, frontline Satanic soldiers said to be creeping over the border and into society.”
That’s “the most fearsome,” leaving blacks, Jews, Mexicans, and the One World Order to compete with the Communists for who is the runner-up in fearsome Satanicity.
Steve Klein is well documented as being heavily invested in the Biblical Warfare meme, with his group Courageous Christians Unite.
Although Qur’an-burning Floridian Terry Jones, who the director of the movie trailer knew could be counted on to help spread the hate, is also invested in this meme, he is just as dangerous because he is more interested in his own self-glorification. Chew on this: Terry Jones was ejected from the leadership of an evangelical church in Cologne, Germany, for fraud, but also because they saw him as a hateful, cult-like megalomaniac – and with that freaky mustache... hmmm. [Breaking News: Jones has now been forbidden to enter Germany, which means that he cannot enter any of the European Schengen Zone].
But what of the Egyptian Coptic Christians joining forces with this cast of characters? They are, of course, Christians, and yes, they have suffered the fate of being a minority in Islamic Egypt, with all of the distrust and hatred on the part of zealous religious nationalists that goes along with that – as Muslims in the United States can attest.
Morris Sadek is introduced by the Washington Post as an “Egyptian Christian activist in Virginia.” He’s the guy who promoted the YouTube virulent video with the Arabic subtitles on his website, as well as sending emails to Copts and journalists in Egypt, just to make sure no one missed it. Although he declares himself as a human rights activist and defender of religious freedom, others who have run into him describe him as “a fringe figure whose rhetoric was stridently anti-Islamic.” He has been rejected by organized Coptic groups, and his Egyptian citizenship has reportedly been revoked because of previous calls for an attack on the country. Coptic Christians throughout the world have been very clear that they condemn the video as insulting and in stark opposition to the cause of religious tolerance.
These people and the others involved in the making and distribution of the offensive video are just as radical in their ideology of hatred and violence as are the fundamentalist Islamists that they are trying to paint the entire Muslim world as.
But this Nakoula Basseley Nakoula character, with his strange foreign name and criminal background, is just the fall guy for what the Center for American Progress calls, in a report titled Fear, Inc., “the Islamaphobia Network in America.” These are the financiers, the misinformation experts, the enablers, and the political players who are pushing forward a conspiracy theory that rivals Adolf Hitler’s propaganda about who was responsible for Germany’s perceived fall from morality, purity, and strength; and if you are wondering where Michelle Bachmann, who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the CIA and the NSA, gets her information about supposedly creeping Shari’a law and the purportedly insipid threat of Islam, look not to the CIA or the NSA, but to Frank Gaffney, founder of the Center for Security Policy, cited multiple times in Norwegian mass murder Anders Breivik’s manic manifesto, and David Yerushalmi, founder of the Society of Americans for National Existence and author of model anti-Shari’a legislation that states across the nation are adapting. These and a small but noisy group of other well-funded “experts” are the ones who keep repeating the mantra that President Barack Obama is a Muslim and that this scary Arabic terrorist religion is quietly usurping U.S. laws and institutions ...like a thief in the night.
The Tea Party is listed in the extensive report as one of the right-wing groups that is part of the network, along with Pamela Geller and her group called “Stop Islamization of America,” which, according to the Anti-Defamation League:
...promotes a conspiratorial anti-Muslim agenda under the guise of fighting radical Islam. The group seeks to rouse public fears by consistently vilifying the Islamic faith and asserting the existence of an Islamic conspiracy to destroy ‘American’ values. The organization warns of the encroachment of shari’a, or Islamic law, and encourages Muslims to leave what it describes as the ‘falsity of Islam.’
This is just a snapshot of what is going on, some of the more prominent names, although the list would not be complete without mentioning the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which has been praised by the violent and deceitful right because it “combats the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror.”
The names I have highlighted here are important names to recognize, because it is they who are undermining democracy and the security of the nation with their fear mongering and their drumbeat to war.
It is they who are recklessly endangering the lives of U.S. diplomats and citizens abroad. It is they who are spending so much time, energy, and resources on their project to not only rid the United States of the Muslim menace, but bring on their coveted Clash of Civilizations that is to prove, once and for all, who really has God on their side – never mind that it is the Tea Party and the uber-Patriots who want to shrink the government while, at the same time, they are responsible for incurring additional security costs for the U.S. government to have to deal with this anti-American fury that’s flames have been fanned by a YouTube video that is so ridiculous, it would be laughable if it were not so tragic.
What is more tragic is that, just last week, I was writing about John Lennon... sigh.
Before we can imagine peace, we have to imagine solutions to the spreading violence, and what I imagine is people all around the globe coming together as one and condemning religious violence and hatred, from whatever quarter it comes.
I also imagine President Obama stepping forward to finally warrant that Nobel Peace Prize by taking aggressive action against speech that is not protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – speech uttered as lies and fabrications that are specifically meant to incite anger and violence and, ultimately, an apocalyptic Holy War. This is the kind of leadership that the world would actually respect, and it is obvious from the anger being expressed throughout the Muslim world against the United States that the militaristic way has not done the trick.
The Arab Spring occurred not to spread the tyranny of terrorism or strict religious codes, as the Islamophobes would like everyone to think. Muslims want democracy and personal freedoms and progress forward, not a return to an authoritarian past. Sadly, this same 2012 Pew Research Center report on Muslim attitudes also states that few believe that the United States backs democracy, which is not surprising, given that they see elements of U.S. society – including many in the government – demonizing their religion and its role in their newly-minted democratic governments, and this, after the United States supported tyrants for many decades in the name of “stability.”
Contrary to the Islamaphobic propaganda, the new president of Egypt, Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi, had campaigned on a theme of inclusiveness, and he followed up when he named two women and a Christian to his 21-member team of aides and advisors. He promised a degree of continuity in foreign relations, a move to settle the nerves of the Israelis, and sharply condemned Bashar Al-Assad of Syria for his brutality against the uprising in that country. And although he may have been slow to react to the recent anti-U.S. riots in Cairo, he eventually did, and the Muslim Brotherhood subsequently stepped back from their call for massive protests. Rather than denouncing and fearing the inevitable uncertainty that follows any major revolution, many even see the response to the wave of protests of the new governments that have come into place after the Arab Spring – and of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, itself – as a positive sign.
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
The New York Times.
Hate speech or free speech? What much of West bans is protected in U.S.
Southern Poverty Law Center – Intelligence Report, Spring 2012, Issue Number: 145
Huffington Post. 8 September 2010
The Washington Post. 13 September 2012
Center for American Progress. August 2011
Pew Global Attitudes Project. 10 July 2012
AP – The Big Story. 27 August 2012