Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sarah Chayes on the Innocence of Sam Bacile

An op-ed by Sarah Chayes in the Los Angeles Times asks the question,
"Does Innocence of Muslims meet the free-speech test?"
Her answer has generated quite a bit of controversy:
"Innocence of Muslims, the film whose video trailer indirectly led to the death of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens among others, is not, arguably, free speech protected under the U.S. Constitution and the values it enshrines."
I happen to know Sarah Chayes and her perspective is that of an American who has for the last decade been living in and traveling around Afghanistan. While Sam Bacile does the free speaking, people like Sarah Chayes do the dying. Our soldiers, aid workers, diplomats, allies, and untold numbers of civilians also do the dying.

Basically, her argument comes down to whether a nation at war with radical Islamic terrorists should be providing the radicals with propaganda weapons:
"In Afghanistan, and in all of the Arab nations in transition, an extremist fringe is brawling for power with a more pluralistic majority. Radicals pounce on any pretext to play on religious feeling. I could pick out the signs of manipulation in Afghanistan — riots that started on university campuses where radicalized Pakistani students abound, simultaneous outbreaks in far-flung places, the sudden appearance of weapons. By providing extremists in Libya and elsewhere such an opportunity, the makers of Innocence of Muslims were playing into their hands."
Sarah teased that out a little further in the comment section of her op-ed:
"A careful examination of the details surrounding the production and promotion of this film -- the duping of cast and crew, the false claim to an Israeli identity on the part of a producer, the re-promotion just prior to 9/11 connected with inflammatory anti-Muslim pastor Terry Jones -- all suggest a deliberate 'intent' to provoke 'imminent' violence."
That raises more questions. How do we know that Sam Bacile is on our side and not on their side? And if we don't know, shouldn't we find out? Have we ruled out his, or someone else connected to the movie or trailer, being an agent provocateur for Al Qaeda?

I hope we haven't just seen the equivalent of Tokyo Rose broadcasting from L.A. during World War II.

1 comment:

ruralcounsel said...

All of what Chayes and you say here about the damn video may be true, but none of it is germane to whether or not it ought to be protected speech.

Just post hoc analysis to rationalize the end result you want.

What don't you get about not having to be beholding to anyone for permission?