The missing anti-Muslim movie stories

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting, if completely unsurprising, update to the stories about the intense interest in the people affiliated with the so-called film being blamed for widespread anti-American violence throughout the world:

A federal government bulletin to local law-enforcement officials warned of the possibility of retaliation within the U.S. over the low-budget “Muhammad Movie Trailer,” a 14-minute clip posted to YouTube that has sparked rioting and protests across the Muslim world.

The effort, while low-key, shows the U.S. government is worried about violence not just abroad but also at home.

So far, there have been no known incidents of violence in the U.S. linked to the video. But as is often the case when the FBI learns of an increased danger to specific groups or individuals, the agency is privately sharing that threat information, according to multiple officials.

I have found it interesting (although I’m not really sure what I think about it) that the media is hyping the idea that the film is provoking all this violence and bloodshed while at the same time publishing all sorts of details about who is behind the film and where they live.

But that’s not why I bring it up. I keep thinking of all sorts of stories I’d like to be reading that I’m not. And I’ll give just a few examples and ask if you have any to add. I was looking through the photos and story about violent Muslim riots in Sydney, Australia (note the child holding the sign calling for the beheading of those who insult “the prophet”) and thought of the dog who didn’t bark. Isn’t it interesting that the offending film was made by Americans and yet we don’t have violent riots here? I’m so thankful that we don’t have that right now and I realize something not happening is not usually considered news, but in this case I think it is.

The other story that isn’t around is far more shocking to me. You can read headlines that raise all sorts of First Amendment (or related) concerns. The Los Angeles Times wrote that the filming permit for the controversial “movie” was pulled at the request of federal agencies. The Associated Press wrote that the feds identified the guy behind the anti-Muslim film. And there are any number of stories about U.S. Government officials condemning the film. ABC reported that the White House even asked YouTube to “review” the film:

“We reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney…

The White House has not asked YouTube to take down the video, simply to review it.

Oh, well in that case. But shouldn’t these stories be talking to a few civil libertarians or free speech advocates about whether they have any problems with this?

Now the guy in question has been taken in by federal authorities for questioning. Obviously this Nakoula Nakoula (these names!) sounds like a most unsavory character. Supposedly he’s being questioned about his probation status. But the only reason people in any way care about him is because of the riots around the world. Which is usually why civil liberties organizations get worried. They want to determine whether federal interest in him is about the speech he engaged in rather than the kind of activity he may have conducted with computers.

We know that the media tend to be vigorous defendants of certain types of speech. I don’t know why they’re so disinterested in that issue this week. Maybe they can pretend it’s an anti-Christian film, or a porno, or a piece of journalism and just imagine how they’d be writing about such a crackdown.

Do you  have any stories you wish were out there that you haven’t seen enough of?

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  • Darren Blair

    As an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, AKA “Mormons”?

    People make anti-Mormon movies, videos, and faux documentaries all the time (including a BBC one that effectively accused the church of hiring ex-CIA agents to stalk malcontents). Yet 9 for 10, nobody outside of the LDS faith says a word; folks just nod their heads and either ignore it or take it at face value. It’s only when something absolutely awful like “September Dawn” or “The Godmakers” comes along that people finally say anything… and usually, it’s only because the work in question is so blatantly false and one-sided that they have no choice.

  • JoFro

    Maybe Nakoula Nakoula should get some pretty white girls to chant songs in a mosque – he’ll perhaps get people across the world calling for his release then! Or would the pretty white girls get all the attention and we’d still forget about poor Nakoula.

    This is what concerns me. Had this been an anti-Christian film and we’d had riots the world over and the filmaker was found to be some atheist who doesn’t like Christianity, would the media and the politicians be dealing with it in the same manner?

    The hypocrisy is getting so bad, it has stopped being a quirky thing – it is now officially getting too troublesome to just be dismissed

  • The Old Bill

    The press was concerned about anti-Catholic speech. Once. It was back when Michele Bachmann was in the running. Her Lutheranism was a concern because of the harsh words she and Luther said about the pope back in the early 16th century. (Don’t worry, Mollie, I forgive you for your part in it. You were very young back then.)

    The photos of Cecil B. Nakoula being put in a police cruiser are rather chilling. The police say they just wanted to talk to him. No pressure, no intimidation. No charges. Just a friendly little chit-chat. Uh-huh.

    The administration and the press has fawned all over the Arab Spring. The story line is that all this rioting was just an understandable reaction to a stupid, crudely done YouTube video. It looks more like a raging wildfire searching for a spark. I really think all the violence is really aimed at Kentucky Fried Chicken. They hate us for our hush puppies.

  • sari

    :: Isn’t it interesting that the offending film was made by Americans and yet we don’t have violent riots here? I’m so thankful that we don’t have that right now and I realize something not happening is not usually considered news, but in this case I think it is.::

    Do we really want the press to *speculate* as to the reasons why we don’t have violent riots here? Because that’s what it would be: speculation. I agree that the boundaries of free speech should be delineated, but only by those who have hard data to present, not those who have only opinion. Op-Ed page, not news. How does the coverage compare to, say, the riots following MLK’s assassination, the Watts or Rodney King riots? Each had a single precipitating incident that provided flame to dried tinder: spontaneous, yet not.

    Nakoula violated the terms of his probation, which gives his probation officer the right to interrogate him. His free speech was abridged when he was arrested, convicted, sentenced, and paroled. Does this require a comment from anybody? I once worked in a tox lab where we tested thousands of parolees a day for drug use. Those who tested positive were picked up (when possible), taken before a judge, and often re-incarcerated. This guy is no different. The terms of his parole are more difficult to monitor, but he violated them.

    Why has there been virtually no journalistic comment on the antisemitic aspect?

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    Things haven’t changed much–but even gotten worse–since a fatwa was issued against Salmon Rushdie years ago for his book “The Satanic Verses.” It almost didn’t get published in the U.S, some media outlets didn’t want to review it or describe it, and most of the big book chains refused to carry it. As I recall what broke the logjam were some independent booksellers who wouldn’t be cowed and who strongly believed in the First Amendment and Freedom of the Press.
    So now we have various government agencies from the White House to local law enforcement making a mockery of the First Amendment and–as rightly pointed out here–getting comparatively little media coverage let alone outrage.
    It almost seems as if certain political quarters are using the Mohammed movie as a decoy to get the media from looking deeply into what now is beginning to look like gross security negligence in Lybia. It doesn’t get much worse, if true, than the minimal coverage of how one of those killed had communicated his fear of an expected attack and being killed.

    • deacon john m. bresnahan

      Apropos of what I observed above, Salmon Rushdie has just gone public concerning the assaults on freedom and said he believes that his book wouldn’t get published today.
      The ironic part of all this is that the Big Mainstream Media–whose bread and butter is strongly tied to First Amendment freedoms–is often the most cowardly when it comes to defending the First Amendment and frequently even lends itself to attacking the First Amendment based on the politics of the situation.

  • Dave

    Mollie, I quite agree that the non-violence of American Muslims is a missing story. Further, it’s a missing continuing story. There was no violence in response to the infamous Danish cartoons of the Prophet, to the threat of that Florida reverend to burn Korans, or to the Charlie Hebdo blow-up in France. Nobody seems interested that American Muslims have either acculturated rapidly to American standards of discourse, or show up already selected for that attitude. We get coverage of American Moslems only when something like the Ground Zero Mosque is the central story.

    Maybe it’s just “If it bleeds, it leads.” But it’s a genuine religious ghost.

    • The Old Bill

      Good point. The story of American Muslims finding their place here is the story of Irish Catholics and Russian Jews. And despite some salty talk, there has not been widespread violence against Muslims here. But the story plays concurrently with Islamic violence against Americans in the Mideast. (And yes, American violence in the Mideast.)
      Maybe some Muslims are peaceable here because they want to be peaceable. Maybe some realize they don’t hold all the weapons. But the Bush WH said that Mr. Atta’s little airshow had nothing to do with Islam, and the Obama WH labeled Major Hasan’s little tantrum workplace violence.
      The narrative in much of the media is that this round of rioting was caused by the stupid trailer. And as Sari points out, Israel is now portrayed as the bad guy.

  • MJBubba

    It is worth noting that he was brought in for questioning at midnight; a strongarm tactic that smacks of the sort of things that go on in countries with fewer individual rights. And I saw an insightful comment at ricochet that is worth sharing: that widespread photo of the perp being loaded into a squad car at midnight is guaranteed to spread the idea around the world that the U.S. government really can crack down on blasphemy if they want to. The photo does much to unravel many words about free speech rights in places that don’t have free speech rights.

    • The Old Bill

      Right, MJBubba. Nakoula has been convicted in the public mind by the photo of his non-arrest. Like the time and manner of the Elian Gonzalez raid, this was done by design. (Pointing an MP5 at the chest of a man holding a crying child is done for a reason.) The king’s men don’t have to slash the peasants with the sword, just smack them with the flat periodically to let them know who’s in charge.

      Religious ghost of prisoners past: In Acts 22:29, Paul is put in chains. But the officials are alarmed when they find out Paul is a Roman citizen and putting an untried citizen of Rome in chains was not the done thing. The Romans were not exactly touchy-feely about the treatment of prisoners. We cuff five year olds. We see the staged perp walks and shrug. Film at 11. We watch TV shows like “Cops.” It sells beer and shampoo. To paraphrase Niemöller, “Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?”

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      The reports I read suggested that the police waited until midnight because they were waiting for the press to leave. Most of the press did leave, but a couple were apparently there overnight.

      I’m no fan of the US government’s behavior here, but I believe a midnight pickup would have been a strong-arm tactic if they gave him no warning or etc. But they had previously escorted his attorney past the press, and it seems clear to me that the pickup was scheduled in advance. There wasn’t a whole lot more the police could have done to avoid a photo like that. They couldn’t *force* the press to leave, after all, and the nature of the building did not allow for some kind of secret pickup. I don’t like the photo, but I’m not sure what else they could have done.

      But there are the kinds of points on which I’d like to see more reporting.

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  • Julia

    “The press was concerned about anti-Catholic speech. Once. It was back when Michele Bachmann was in the running. Her Lutheranism was a concern because of the harsh words she and Luther said about the pope back in the early 16th century.”

    I’m Catholic and have never heard a Catholic upset about harsh words from Luther about the Pope.
    And I’ve never seen this concern in the papers or on the TV news.

  • Darren Blair

    http://www.buzzfeed.com/mckaycoppins/anti-muslim-filmmaker-also-runs-leading-anti-mormo
    The quip I made earlier about the press ignoring anti-Mormon sentiment to focus on anti-Muslim sentiment?
    According to Buzzfeed, one of the guys behind the movie is also behind a major anti-Mormon website.
    Oy.

  • FWKen

    Julia – this Catholic has certainly never been upset about Luther’s views on the pope, but it was a media issue last year. Mollie did several posts on the business which are linked in this post:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/getreligion/2011/07/shameless-self-promotion-bachmann-and-the-pope/

  • Becky

    I fear that the reason we don’t see more free speech experts consulted for interesting analyses in the mainstream media is that…

    too many aggrieved groups in the United States do not want to give up the tool of speech codes. They want to continue to declare some speech legal but hateful or hurtful and therefore stoppable. They don’t want to question the soapbox they are standing on, their subjective judgment of offense and hurt.

    They need this tool to be available to them for a while longer to shut down speech to achieve their goals. There are many goals, many protected classes, and this is not about the validity of their grievances, this is about the fact of blasphemy laws disguised as speech codes on college campuses, in business, and in government.

    Just saying that there’s a whole lot of silence from folks who usually like to complain about being silenced.

  • Becky

    Yes, the dog definitely is NOT barking; why? Ignorance?

    We need a good religion reporter in the media to explain to the irreligious, as well as the religulous, what was so bizarre about the US Embassy Cairo statement that “Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”


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