The One Thing About "Innocence of Muslims" October 01, 2012 17:45 31 Comments
I shared a link awhile back that got a reaction I did not expect in my wildest mescaline-induced hallucinations. No, not the Atheism+ one (although, what fun, huh?) Not the old priest saying goofy sodomy things either. I don't blame you - it was a month ago, and I can barely remember life before that awful Kia hamster commercials destroyed my ability to reason. I'm talking about this one:
Yeah! Now you're on board. I was surprised by the response. Many called this peaceful protest an act by "militant" atheists behaving in just the same manner as the Westboro Baptist Church; that they were extremists, that they were the "Mirror, Mirror" versions of religious zealots, complete with twisted goatee and cackling laugh. Many called it stupid and childish, a pointless exercise geared only to annoy. All of this surprised me to no end, and re-reading them now to find the best bits makes me ask the same question I asked in August - did we all read the same article? I know 99.9999% of us weren't there, we didn't precisely see the demonstration, so we cannot fully know what went down on that boardwalk that day, but c'mon now - I'm still astonished that I can read this and see "peaceful demonstration that showed that much of the bible is genocidal, immoral, anachronistic and contradictory," and others see "antagonistic protest on par with bible-thumpers screeching that gays burn in eternal torment."
But I suppose that's neither here nor there. I can't claim to understand the reaction of many of our readers, both here and on Facebook, but I do have a question - how do you (and I'm referring to you specifically, you who felt this demonstration, the tearing up of photocopied pages of the Bible that say, for instance, that a raped woman must marry her rapist, or that non-virgins on their wedding nights should be murdered, was appallingly overblown, offensive, and shocking) feel about the violence-inducing YouTube video making the rounds and causing "protests" in the middle east? Protests that have ended in the murders of many in Libya and Egypt. How does that "demonstration" strike you?
I am, of course, referring to the quote (and I cannot put enough stress on the word QUOTE) "film" Innocence of Muslims, which is apparently responsible for mass outrage and violence in the Middle East. Much has already been said about this, so much so that the United Nations is now considering a law against blasphemy. I don't want this blog, this one in particular, anyway, to be about how offensive such a law would be to any self-respecting human being with an ounce of individual, unique thought in her or his head, but that's honestly how out-of-hand this has become. In a wildly misguided attempt to poke fun and satirize the Muslim religion and its wacky ne'er-do-well prophet Mohammed, some jackwagon "named" "Sam Bacile" supposedly made an amateur desert battle film without religious overtones (think John Carter but with no money), and in post-production turned it into a mess of anti-Islamic gobbledygook. It was then supported by Terry Jones (the awful pastor, not the great Monty Python member), who turned away from his pile of smoldering Qu'rans long enough to back a fourteen-minute YouTube video.
Much of the film paints Mohammed as a child-molesting self-aggrandizing fool of a Took. Naturally, in response to being portrayed as the followers of a violent zealot, many Muslim people have behaved as violent zealots, attacking and screaming and shouting and who knows what else. And absolutely no one is surprised. I must, at this point, link over to Sam Harris' brilliant and incisive blog post "On the Freedom To Offend an Imaginary God," in which he cuts to the quick the notion of any sort of "blasphemy," as well as the response.
I spoke last week a wee bit about the relationship between moderates and their fundamentalist kinfolk - how it resembles something out of a horror story: a hapless couple on their way to their honeymoon villa experiences car trouble in front of a ramshackle cabin in the woods. Inside are some creepy folk, but basically decent. They offer the use of their phone, offer a warm cup of coffee, all while keeping their guests far clear from the cellar door, emanating from which are grunts, scrapes, growls. Fast forward - the young man is killed, his ingenue set upon by the beast hidden under the house. When the authorities arrive (far too late - we've seen this film), the deranged mutant has been put down, but the family keeping him does nothing but attempt to assuage their guilt - that was our poor, deranged kin! We can't stand by his actions, but we've come to accept that our mutant cousin will occasionally break his chains and murder innocence city folk!
That's clearly what we're seeing here. The violent fundamentalists, whose restraint is a tiny twist-tie against a tide of terrific turbulence, have already acted. Their more moderate members march, merely menacing the majority with mottos of malice: "Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet," as Harris points out. How do we feel about these protests? I'm well aware that there is a vast chasm of difference between tearing up photocopies of the Bible and calling for the ban of a YouTube video coupled with the immediate death of the filmmaker, but both fall under this ridiculous blanket of "blasphemy." Again, Harris is quick to point out - any man, woman, or child has the human right to criticize any person, any idea, any belief (AND THIS LAST BIT IS THE IMPORTANT PART) without fear of violent retribution.
But there's one important bit that I think Harris neglects to mention, and this is The One Thing no one seems to mention, The One Thing completely overlooked in all this talk of protests and marches and hate mongering - did anyone actually bother to watch this video? We've all talked about it, people have apparently been killed because of it. But of all the angry folk marching and burning and screaming - did any of them take the fourteen minutes to sit down and really see what this had to say? Or did they just hear that there's some video out there saying not-nice stuff about their main man? This, to me, is so very vital. Not just because it reveals an almost inherent desire to pick up the torch and join the mob, not just because it reveals how incredibly conciliatory many on the side of the victims are willing to be by decrying the freedom of speech, but because HOLY SHIT this "movie" is terrible! I've watched it twice now, because I hate my human senses. That's twenty-eight minutes of my life, this precious, mind-bogglingly statistically-unlikely gift, that I've not only flushed down the drain - I made sure the drain was filled with utter filth before flushing. Seriously, it's really bad. Any rational human being, whose first instinct when presented with "offensive" ideas is NOT murdering those responsible wouldn't cry, "this is a tasteless debasement of long-cherished ideas" or "I can see what they're going for - a satirization of the tenets of Islam - but boy is it uncalled for and rude," but "this is horseshit." The first instinct is to laugh. To laugh and to laugh and to laugh. It's so incredibly clear from watching and listening that this was some desert drama, filmed on a shoestring budget, onto eighty percent of which has been dubbed the random babblings of someone who either A) thought he was being satirical and clever by poking these holes in the story of Mohammed, or B) just wanted to be as anti-Islam as possible with what little brain power he had left after downing his seventh Pabst Blue Ribbon. It honestly feels like the sort of scheme the wildly immoral characters from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia might pull. I mean, it ends with a goofy Benny HIll-esque chase!
Apparently every single reference to Islam or Mohammed or the Qu'ran throughout the "film" is dubbed in, and was done so without the actors' knowledge or consent. This guy got some people together to make a weird little desert battle filmlet, took it, and puked bigoted dumbness all over it. It's just not all that good, is what I'm saying! Every time I see a response video on YouTube, I'm shocked when it's "I'm very upset, and I have every right to be," or "How could they! This is an affront to all we hold dear!" and NOT "HA HA HA! What an unwatchable turd of a film. A mentally-challenged box turtle in a dark closet could make a more coherent and interesting movie!" I could see marches in the streets if Mel Gibson poured 150 million dollars into the wide release of The Passion of Mohammed: Time Rapist, sure, yes, that would be pretty messed up. But this? Come on - there's actual stuff going on in the world. Let the internet swallow this up and forget about it like "Friday" and that guy who cried about Britney Spears under a bedsheet. Where were the marches over those atrocities!?
I started by asking a serious question about some readers' responses to a mild little demonstration in Huntington Beach. I imagine many will argue that the comparison between that and these two "demonstrations" - both the "movie" and the acts in its wake - is misguided, unfair. And of course they're not the same. My goal is to not only shine a light on what makes them different, but also their similarities.
- Huntington Beach Protest: A peaceful protest on a serious subject.
- Innocence of Muslims: Dumb-dumb-stupid, and anyone viewing it should become immediately aware of how no adult person could take it seriously.
- Reaction to Film: A screaming throng vibrating with pure malice, lashing out at anyone who might represent those that may be responsible.
Clearly different. Yet the first two have something that the third doesn't - the fact that they should be protected. The fact that they SHOULD exist. I have no problem with "Sam Bacile" making his hate film and putting it on the web. Go to, speak your mind. How many people has he hurt in creating it? How many fires lit? The answer is zero. A person's hair-trigger reaction to respond to a (shitty) film with violence is not the fault of the film or the filmmaker. There is no such thing as the right to NOT be offended, and it's high time we stop being free to criticize everything BUT someone's beliefs.
I repeat: there is NO SUCH THING as the right to NOT be offended.
There are just far better ways to do it than this awful film. If Manos: The Hands of Fate and The Room had a little 14-minute movie baby, it would point and laugh at this "movie." Transformers 2 thought this movie would benefit from opening a textbook now and again. The Star Wars prequels make fun of this movie when they're all riding the short bus together.
As always, I'm prepared to be one-hundred percent wrong. Thoughts, my lovelies?
Edit: After finishing this blog, I found this great quote from Real Time with Bill Maher that explains why the acts of violence in response to the film are so scattershot - why a US Embassy in response to a YouTube film? Here:
I guess some people just don't "get" YouTube.