American Ambassador To Libya Killed


Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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505 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Thank you for writing this.Report

  2. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Islam has never separated the Mosque from the State. There’s a push within Shi’a Islam for this separation but as we see in Iran and to a lesser extent in Lebanon, it’s never really taken off.

    This is a horrifying episode. I have been writing a longish thing on what’s happening in the Middle East as the old states break down but every time I get going on it, I get depressed. Physically, it aggravates my bipolar disorder. I ought to put some more work into it. I’ll try, anyway.Report

  3. Avatar MBunge says:

    A further point should be that the Romney campaign, though no other Republican official that I can see except the slightly weird Reince Priebus, has again blatantly lied in saying that the Obama Administration’s response to the attacks was to express sympathy with the attackers.


  4. Avatar James Hanley says:

    In contrast to Burt’s thoughtfulness, we see the effect of politics on quality and integrity of debate in Romney’s response. To now I have merely shrugged wearily at the increasing dishonesty of the presidential campaign (both sides), but this one–immediately politicizing the tragic deaths of U.S. diplomatic staff–I find literally nauseating.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Politicizing is one thing. Flat out lying about it is something else beyond that.Report

    • Agreed. I struggle to think of a major party Presidential nominee offering a comparable piece of invective against a sitting President on his handling of an ongoing and emerging international crisis. GWB certainly did not take that tack in response to the USS Cole, and while Reagan was surely critical of Carter’s handling of the Iran crisis, I’m pretty sure he didn’t go so far as to suggest that Carter’s sympathies were with anyone other than the Red, White, and Blue.

      Add to that the fact that the statement in question was released from the Egyptian embassy on twitter even as angry mob was pounding at their doors and was clearly addressed to the protesters, not the world at large – and I’m pretty sure that the protesters aren’t exactly in a mood to be lectured about the nuances of free speech. Finally add in the fact that the diplomatic corps is an institution with its own interests, is (and always will be) immune to micromanagement by the Presidency, and is in the best position to understand a fast-developing situation on the ground.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        The really distressing part is that there are so obviously very harsh but fair, and justified critiques to be made both of Obama’s Libya policy, and his broader Middle East policy, into which this incedent would be an entirely fair exhibit to enter into evidence at the right time. And to be fair, Romney’s campaign began vaguely (though still ineptly) to gesture in that direction as the radioactive dust they kicked up was settling on their blue-blazer shoulders.

        And, wherever we may come down on the merits of that critique and others like it, we need it to be made – that’s where the only public value in these hysteria-fests we call presidential campaigns come. There’s a cost to us when, instead of providing that service, a major-party presidential candidate instead makes a spectacle of himself bloodying his mouth by faceplanting after tripping over his own dick in a rush to gain split-second political advantage from ongoing tragedy.

        Oh well. So it goes.Report

  5. Avatar Kimmi says:

    Thank you America, for failing to fulfill Australian warrants for FreeSpeech Violations.
    FreeSpeech is not a widely held thing in first world countries:
    1) Israel will not let you play WW2 video games
    2) Germany flat out bans particular political parties (well, with good reason).
    3) Japan is forbidden to use the word DEFCON (that’s in the treaty, apparently…)Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There were a number of statements made yesterday, at different times, by different people.

    Here’s the Cairo Embassy:
    “The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims – as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. 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.”

    Secretary of State Clinton said:
    “”Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet. The United States deplores any intentional effort to denigrate the religious beliefs of others. Our commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear: There is never any justification for violent acts of this kind.””

    I’m trying to find what Obama said at his speech… and whether the Libyan Embassy said anything.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Whoops, that wasn’t Clinton in the second paragraph. Obama said that. (The “let me be clear” ought to have been a giveaway.)Report

    • Avatar Scott Fields says:

      An important piece of this timeline – the Cairo Embassy statement was released BEFORE the attacks on the embassy compound in Egypt. This was the staff right there inside the building trying to tamp down the unrest directly outside. Yet, with the mob at their door, the diplomats there still called the right to free speech universal and called out the enemies of democracy.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Yeah, I never followed up the way I intended to (BURT I AM SORRY THAT I REPEATED SOMETHING YOU SAID WITHOUT COMMENTING ON IT)

        I had intended to do a compare/contrast between the different statements from all three (or four!) sources and explain what each one might have been thinking but the lab keeps calling and people keep interrupting and I really should write out the whole comment in notepad first instead of in the window here.

        I apologize.Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      In his joint appearance with Hillary, Obama said ““We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others,” and only then went on to condemn the violence, but not the belief of the attackers that they are justified in punishing anyone for any perceived slight or disagreement.

      Of course earlier in his administration, in Cairo, Obama famously said:

      That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” – B. Obama

      The rioters know that Obama has their back.Report

      • Hi, George. I don’t know you from a hole in the wall, but given this brief little glimmer of insight into your worldview, I’m rather pleased to be ignorant in this case.

        It is despicable, repulsive and shameful to state that this, or any, American President would “ha[ve] their back” when referring to rioters who had just murdered an American diplomat. Since I’m sure explaining what “despicable, repulsive and shameful” mean to the likes of you would be a fool’s errand, I will content myself with knowing that your words will appear just as appalling to all sane people of good faith as they were to me.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        The rioters know that Obama has their back.

        Yeah, his pro-Muslim sympathies were of a great comfort to OBL, I’m sure.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        He doesn’t have their back, but many of the rioters no doubt think he does, given his refusal to meet with the Israeli PM and a long list of other positions he’s taken.

        Perhaps I should’ve phrased “know he does” a bit more carefully.

        Remember, these are some of the same people who were convinced that the Mossad was training sharks to attack tourists at Egyptian resorts.Report

      • Avatar Michelle says:

        This is the first paragraph of the statement President Obama issued this morning:

        I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America’s commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.</iReport

      • Avatar Stillwater says:

        “And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.” – B. Obama

        Would you rather have a President who promoted negative stereotypes of Muslims?

        Wait, don’t answer that.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Would you rather have a President who promoted negative stereotypes of Muslims?

          Is “Arab Muslims in the Middle East will riot and murder in response to any perceived sleight against the Prophet Mohammed” a negative stereotype?Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Yes, pretty much definitionally.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Asking what would not constitute supporting a negative stereotype is one hell of an open-ended question so it might be better to ask whether certain acts would be supporting that stereotype.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                For my part, the stereotype is in saying “Arab Muslims in the Middle East,” which because it is non-restrictive implies that all of them will act in said fashion. If it was said, “There are some Arab Muslims in the Middle East who will…” then the statement is restrictive, allowing for the existence of Muslims who won’t do such things, and is not a stereotype.

                As a matter of empirical fact, have we seen more Arab Muslims in the Middle East rioting and murdering in response, or not rioting and not murdering in response? It seems to me that if there is to be a stereotype, it ought to run in a different direction than it’s been phrased here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So we can rephrase this to “Some Arab Muslims in the Middle East will riot and murder in response to any perceived sleight against the Prophet Mohammed” and have ourselves a good rule of thumb to go by?

                “We, as an organization, have instituted this particular policy because…” and then we can read off of the card?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                The first part, yes. It’s just a specific application of the rule that some subset of people in any given population will over-react to things they don’t like.

                The second part? I don’t have any idea what you’re saying.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Whether Obama saying “we’re going (institute the following policy) because some Arab Muslims in the Middle East will riot and murder in response to any perceived sleight against the Prophet Mohammed” would be an example of the President promoting negative stereotypes of Muslims.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        I like how that post shows Michelle Malkin highlighting Romney’s “Reaganesque” commitment to blather…remember when Reagan resolutely stood firm in Beirut after the barracks bombing?Report

      • Avatar b-psycho says:

        He’s got a point w/r/t MSNBC being in the tank, but…

        the Obama administration’s failure to protect our embassies

        The ambassador was killed in transit. By people firing rockets. How exactly do you rocket-proof a car?

        It’s terrible any time that people respond to speech they don’t like with violence. At the same time, considering where this occurred, I’d file this as yet another example of why our tendency towards intervention needs to be questioned. That this was their idea of payback for the perceived insult by a 3rd party — basically taking it out on the nearest manifestation of the U.S. government — …well, the assumption of good will earned via U.S. involvement yet again proves itself false.Report

      • Avatar Michelle says:

        Tom. . Your response here is even more incomprehensible than usual.Report

      • Avatar LarryM says:

        Tom, that’s really disgraceful. What a disgusting, hateful response on your part. You’re better than that. For shame.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          It’s the media that’s disgraceful, more focused on dogging Romney than in the murder itself.Report

          • Avatar Michelle says:

            Ummm, even MSNBC has been focusing more on the events in Libya and Eygpt than on Romney’s response. But when a presidential candidate doubles down on a major misstatement once the facts emerge in order to score political brownie points, it certainly seems newsworthy. If president, Romney would be heading up our foreign policy. It would be reassuring if he didn’t respond recklessly to this situation and showed some respect for the American civil servants who lost their lives by not immediately politicizing the event.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:


            You are playing mere partisan politics as usual. I prefer my initial phrasing, about “the effect of politics on quality and integrity of debate.” It just so happened to be Romney who was demonstrating that negative effect, because he’s the one who happens to be the challenger. But the challenger who demonstrates the ugly effects of politics that way is legitimately the subject of vocal criticism. It is not the media, mainstream, lamestream or otherwise, who are dishonoring the dead by focusing on the challenger’s comments; they are legitimatley focusing on the challenger’s comments because he dishonored the dead by instantly politicizing the event for electoral gain.Report

            • I’d also add that Romney’s initial craven response (before the killings, but after the attack on the Egyptian embassy), which he has now doubled down on (after the killings), itself exhibits a clear intention to make that response a major topic of discussion. There are a million other responses he could have given to the situation that would have been calculated to keep himself out of the story without necessarily defending the embassy’s response or even Obama’s response.

              It is not a defense of Romney, nor is it even a useful tu quoque to complain about people taking his bait.

              Until now, my feeling about Romney was that he was a blank slate who would make a subpar, but at least minimally competent, President. I felt he would be neither significantly better nor significantly worse than Obama.

              His response to these events, for the first time, put some actual chalk on that slate. But that chalk speaks to his temperament and prudence rather than his ideology, and it reveals him to be someone who acts rashly, without interest in obtaining facts, and narcissistically with little capacity for self-reflection even in the most sensitive of emergencies.Report

              • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

                I think anyone following Romney’s career for any length of time in any detail knew most of that. It’s why his fellow candidates tended to despise him, why he had such a hard time winning the nomination even against a depleted field, why he’s more likely to reach the downside on his poll numbers than surprise to the upside, and why ideologues who feel obligated to defend him now that he’s the nominee will breathe a sigh of relief when he’s firmly in the Republican past and they can get on to the pressing post-election business of rightwing civil war.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Obama certainly does. And he LIKED McCain (who, despite his rep, didn’t manage to piss off nearly the numbers of folks that Romney does merely by being Romney).

                Who the hell won’t apologize for forgetting to mention troops in his acceptance speech?Report

          • Avatar LarryM says:

            As others have pointed out, not true that they have been more focused on the Romney blunder than on the attacks.

            They have, though, also given a lot of attention to the blunder, and rightfully so. I’m not sure I can remember a worse blunder by a nominated candidate for president. People are comparing it to McCain in 2008, but I think this is much worse; the McCain blunder, embarrassing as it was, didn’t have the same meaning in terms of his qualifications to be president that this does, underlining as it does Romney’s scary lack of qualifications to be commander in chief. Heck, as a matter of substance, it is a far more disqualifying blunder than Todd Akin’s.

            Now, I can understand your reaction; your guy makes a blunder, you hope that, with everything else going on, the media ignores it. But the faulty is Romney’s here, not the media.Report

        • “You’re better than that.”

          Well, he did it. So apparently he’s not better than that.Report

      • Avatar BlaiseP says:

        Jeebus Effin’ Crispus, Tom. Romney’s a boor. He’s getting desperate enough to use Ambassador Stevens’ corpse for a soapbox. He should be ashamed of himself but he is not. And so should you, but we would expect nothing more or less from you than to drag in such crap.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

          What’s boorish is attacking Romney and not even knowing the story. [I believe Mr. Turner is coming from here as well.] Politico:

          In a statement late Tuesday night, Romney called Obama’s early response to the attacks on the consulate in Benghazi and embassy in Cairo weak and “disgraceful.” Romney was referring to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” — a statement the Obama administration later said hadn’t been cleared by Washington.

          On Wednesday morning, Romney stood by his earlier criticism, saying the Obama administration was wrong to sympathize with protesters who had breached U.S. facilities instead of condemning their actions.

          “[T]he statement that came from the [embassy] was a statement which is akin to apology. And I think it was a severe miscalculation,” Romney said at a news conference in Florida.

          Bold face mine, and a completely different angle than the blahblah to date.

          Read more:

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            Romney’s doubling down on the crazy. (From Mark Halperin via TPM):

            Unless the Romney campaign has gamed this crisis out in some manner completely invisible to the Gang of 500, his doubling down on criticism of the President for the statement coming out of Cairo is likely to be seen as one of the most craven and ill-advised tactical moves in this entire campaign.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley says:

            Romney was referring to a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, condemning “the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims” — a statement the Obama administration later said hadn’t been cleared by Washington. (emphasis, TVD)

            On Wednesday morning, Romney stood by his earlier criticism, saying the Obama administration was wrong to sympathize with protesters

            Good job, Tom, you completely undermined your point by bolding the line that shows Romney’s follow up claim that the Obama administration sympathized with protestors was a lie. I appreciate you doing the work to reveal your own sophistry this time, so we didn’t have to.Report

            • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

              Also, too, the Egyptian Embassy response came BEFORE the violence, as was noted by Scott Fields on September 12, 2012 at 12:37 pm, over an hour before Tom’s remarks. he’s trolling, again.

              TVD is a sad troll. As such, the only response is to point out to new-comers that he is a troll and does not reflect the opinions of the League.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                He is a troll.

                He is also on the blog’s masthead.

                Ome of those facts needs to change.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                I don’t mind his presence. Tom serves a valuable function round here.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Thx, Mr. North. I also find you a welcome respite from the unison bleat. Good to see you.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                Was off for a week vacationing in Canada (Nova Scotia). The food was incredible, the weather was horrible, the bugs were voracious and I narrowly got out ahead of a hurricane. Really helped heighten my appreciation for Minnesota.Report

              • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

                And what function would that be? We have conservatives here who aren’t trolls, who go into detail about their beliefs and who argue in good faith. On the other hand, TVD has made several nastily sexist comments in the past week or so, with no penalty that I can see.

                It appears to me that the League is telling Tom to continue.Report

              • Avatar North says:

                To your question Jeff I’d submit that Tom, in his manners of argumentation and general positions is highly representative of many of the common postures, mannerisms and argument styles of the GOP as it operates today (though I’d add a few of his compatriots; Koz and one of the Scotts especially; fill in the blanks).
                There’s significant value to his speaking for the party here in the manner the party typically speaks for themselves to the nation. If that enrages some then that’s valuable as well.
                And yes I disagree with him a ~lot~ and I certainly feel those emotional responses that my fellow liberals get from some of his manners of argumentation (or evasion). If one can learn to press on with courtesy and a relentless focus on the point and the thrust of their argument without giving in to those emotions that’s a valuable skill and one that can go a long way to helping people on our side of the argument advance our points and develop our thinking.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              Well, things are even more confusing because Romney was talking about Tweets from the embassy in Cairo that the embassy deleted after he commented on them.

              One of the deleted Tweets (who knows how many there are) said:

              This morning’s condemnation (issued before protest began) still stands. As does our condemnation of unjustified breach of the Embassy.

              The earlier condemnation, that they still supported after losing the embassy, was of the people who made the movie.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t really blame the embassy for tweeting what they did. They’re there in the firing zone and they have to be a *LOT* more diplomatic about this sort of thing. They can condemn free speech until the cows come home if they feel that doing so would protect them from violence.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Remember that episode of Louie where he was at the doughnut shop with his date, and after he shushed the loud teenagers, one of them came over and threatened to beat hm up? Louie did the smart thing, which was to apologize; there’s really no advantage to a grown man getting in a fight with a teenager, win or lose. But then Louie’s date dumped him because now she saw him as a wimp.

                The embassy condemning the movie was like that.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Except they weren’t condemning free speech, just the views expressed in that speech. There’s a world of difference there.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The views expressed? My reading is that it condemned the outcome.

                Speech that results in hurting religious feelings.Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                Well, things are even more confusing because Romney was talking about Tweets from the embassy in Cairo that the embassy deleted after he commented on them.

                Romney referred to “the administration,” not the permanent government staff. Yes, the tweets upheld referenced came from the embassy, but Romney was talking about Obama.Report

          • Avatar Michelle says:

            Obama denounced the statement the embassy released, saying the administration had not approved it. Romney knew Obama had denounced the statement and yet doubled down on his initial misstatement. In what universe is this not lying except the extreme right wingosphere represented by people like Malkin and Limbaugh? Even a lot of the Republican leadership is smart enough to back away from Romney’s statements.Report

  7. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    This is why drones, occupations, and aid deals with foreign countries are more complicated than any of the issues on the surface.Report

  8. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Direct responsibility for the deaths of these diplomats rests in the hands of the Benghazi mob and its leaders. There was clearly provocation involved, as many of the rioters were carrying signs that included slogans in English intended for distribution in western media.

    There’s some rumbling that the mob specifically responsible was a militia connected to Qaddafi loyalists. I don’t actually have confirmation on this one, but it’s interesting to note that it was in fact an armed militia group that stormed the embassy, not simply some group of protesters gone mad.

    Also, there’s something nauseating about people who release videos with the express intention of incitement.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      Also, there’s something nauseating about people who release videos with the express intention of incitement.

      I refer you to a long a storied tradition in the United States…Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        Not disputing this, but at this point Jones and co. having done this not only with the knowledge it was possible, but with the likelihood they wanted something like this to happen is well…

        Freedom of speech isn’t freedom from criticism of speech. Wonder how long that’ll last, though.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Jones wasn’t involved in the film. It was made by an Israeli living in California.Report

          • Avatar Michelle says:

            Jones started promoting it though. Otherwise, it probably wouldn’t have received nearly as much attention.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              So, just to hammer this stuff down flat, we’re discussing an Israeli in California who made a movie about The Prophet (PBUH) that was advertised on a website for a guy in Florida resulting in riots in Cairo and our focus is on whether or not we really should be criticizing Islamic Religious Figures because we know for a fact that those people riot when people criticize Islamic Religious Figures.

              Did I miss anything?Report

              • Avatar Michelle says:

                Nope. I have no sympathy for Jones, but this is a classic example of a response that was wildly inappropriate to the provocation.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The part where the “criticizing religious figures” wasn’t done for the sake of critique but for the purpose of spreading harm?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Did we ever find out the intentions behind Life of Brian?

                Or do we know, deep down, that intentions don’t matter when it comes to such things as really, really funny movies?

                There are a ton of folks in the Middle East who have forgotten to look on the bright side of life, I tell you that much.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Heh, I brought up Life Of Brian below.

                More seriously, this is indeed the problem. We don’t know the filmmakers’ intent; we don’t know if they genuinely believe they are critiquing, and helping to turn people away from a false/harmful religion or prophet. We don’t know if the claims made in the film are 100% true, 50 % true, 10% true, or 100% false – and even if they are 100% false, mockery is still an acceptable mode of expression (if not necessarily fair or constructive).

                What we DO know is, you don’t kill people just because you feel insulted (as MarkT notes elsewhere, if this is seen by Libyans as an official piece of US propaganda attempting to incite civil war, that gives it somewhat different tenor – but even then, I’d posit that rioting over it, is sort of like the bizarro version of ‘letting the terrorists win’).

                I’m not saying the people who made the film aren’t total douche-pickles with malicious intent. They may well be.

                But the exact line between ‘total douche-pickle’ and ‘truth-teller’ can be hard to parse sometimes.Report

          • Avatar George Turner says:

            The creators posted the 15 minute trailer for it on Youtube, in Arabic. When they movie premiered in Hollywood, they had titled it “The Innocense of Bin Laden”, hoping to attract militant Muslims to the theater. I would think Youtube would be about a thousand times more responsible for the film’s prominence than a pastor in Tampa who gave it a blurb.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          Did you catch Anon hacking this pack of foolz website on air? (I think it was these creeps and not the OTHER creeps).
          Wonder how long it takes before someone shuts ’em down for good?Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Also, there’s something nauseating about people who release videos with the express intention of incitement.

      I can see the argument that someone in Cairo shouldn’t make show a particular movie in Cairo because the people in Cairo will react and riot and do all this crap.

      I am less sympathetic to the argument that someone in Tampa shouldn’t do a particular thing in Tampa because the people in Cairo will react and riot and do all this crap.Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        Someone in Tampa who had already seen the effects of his incitement with his Koran burning stunt two years ago and not only knew, but probably was after this exact reaction.

        In fact, it’s more reprehensible for the fact that you know, there’s no way he’d actually suffer all of the consequences and rather it’ll be the people trying to prevent the outcome he’s hoping for that’ll bear the brunt of it.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          When you want to ignore the moral agency of the murderers, you’re ignoring a lot.

          You’re also creating one hell of a perverse incentive.Report

          • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

            I’m only ignoring the moral agency of the murderers in so far as they relate to the actions of Pastor Jones.

            It’s irrelevant frankly, whether or not the murderers have agency. The problem is in the premeditated incitement knowing some segment of the population will react violently (and hoping for that outcome).Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              It’s irrelevant frankly, whether or not the murderers have agency.

              This is one of those things that you really want to hammer out whether you mean it before you really want to argue it.

              I see so very much baggage in that statement, I’m pretty sure that you must have overlooked it.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                The agency of the murders is irrelevant wrt determining the moral culpability of the filmmaker and Jones (the distributor). Two types of actions. Two sets of moral properties.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Hmmm. So you actually agree with Nob, then.


              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Two types of actions. Two sets of moral properties.

                On the one hand we have “art”. On the other, we have “ballistics”.

                Two types of actions.
                Two sets of moral properties.

                This is one of those wacky things where we’re comparing getting a sandwich with murder.

                “But he was getting a sandwich WITH BAD INTENT!!!!” strikes me as a spectacularly silly thing to point out.

                We, as a society, have a history of the creation of and dissemination of offensive art. There are literally dozens of essays about this on the internet.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                This is one of those wacky things where we’re comparing getting a sandwich with murder.

                No. No no no. Dude, we’re not comparing anything. We’re looking at two distinct actions and considering the relevant moral properties of each as distinct things.

                Why is that so hard to understand?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                We’re looking at two distinct actions and considering the relevant moral properties of each as distinct things.

                Okay. So… would you like to frame the two distinct actions or would you like me to do it?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Do whatever you want, JB. I already framed the two distinct acts.

                If you want to approach this topic from another angle, I’m all in favor.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                So your argument is that we should have known that Egyptians are a bunch of violent children?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                No. It’s that there are two distinct acts. One is the killing of US Ambassadors. The other is distributing a film with the intention of inciting violence.

                I’m not sure who you’re referring to by “we”, but it appears that the filmmakers had the belief that their film would incite violence.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                So, even if no violence had occurred, then we should still have prevented the distribution of this anti-religious propaganda?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                I don’t see anyone suggesting that the film should have been censored. I do see suggestions that it should be the subject of condemnation: “This is a bad movie, badly written, badly performed, and it makes a lot of false claims. It’s just an insult, something so disrespectful and ignorant that the filmmakers ought to publicly apologize for making it in the first place. Our laws do not allow the government to punish people who say such things, but everyone should know that this film does not speak for America in any way.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Would a movie like Life of Brian (well acted, well written, well performed, making a lot of references to historical blasphemous criticisms) have been more okay?

                Pointing out the poor aesthetics of the film seems immaterial to me.

                A book like The Satanic Verses was exceptionally well written, very well researched, and… well… I don’t know whether to call it “respectful” or not given its subject matter… but the things you mention in your statement don’t seem to me to be the reason there were riots nor does it seem to me that prior addressing of the things you mention would have resulted in any different outcome.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Jay, just so I can sort out your position, here are some questions:

                1.) Do you think it’s OK to criticize the people who made this film?
                2.) Do you think it is possible for the film to be an immoral act, depending on the intention and the content?
                3.) Do you think the film could be said to have played a role in inciting riots?

                If you answer all three questions yes, then we’re likely on the same page. Having not seen the film, or even the trailer, I can’t with any degree of certainty apply 1 or 2 to it specifically, though.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                Perhaps comparing Islam to Christianity is apples-to-oranges itself, thus making Muslims response and Christians response apples-to-oranges inherently.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Pointing out the poor aesthetics of the film seems immaterial to me.

                It is, but so what? It’s an emotional appeal, not a rational one.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Do you think it’s OK to criticize the people who made this film?

                There are several kinds of criticism. I’ll just throw out two for the sake of argument.

                “This movie is jejune, tedious, poorly acted, and has horrible costuming.”

                “This movie contains statements that will cause people to engage in riots.”

                The former is a kind of criticism that I am 100% comfortable making. I’m sure we read similar criticisms every week (or every day). They also don’t strike me as particularly interesting with regards to this debate.

                The latter is somewhat more interesting (insofar as it’s pretty certain to be true) but it seems to take away from the agency of the Libyans/Egyptians/Muslims to a degree that I find really, really creepy. The closest analogy I can come up with is “did George Tiller expect to *NOT* get shot in the head?” Focusing on how Tiller performed these kinds of abortions (when few else in the country would), how there is a history of violence in this country and, specifically in his part of the country, with regards to abortion and specifically late-term abortion, and how he should have seen that as a warning from the beginning strikes me as to strain a gnat while swallowing a camel.

                Do you think it is possible for the film to be an immoral act, depending on the intention and the content?

                The discussion of whether art can be moral or immoral is an interesting one, one we’ve tabled before. Let’s jump to a conclusion, for the sake of argument, that art can be moral or immoral.

                As such, it’s possible for this movie, in particular, to be immoral. I haven’t seen the movie (or the trailer, maybe I’ll fix that tonight) so I really can’t judge. HOWEVER: it seems to me that the particular content of this particular movie is not important with regards to the response it got. Its very creation was the act that spurred the riots. Not the viewing of the movie. This strikes me as a very, very important point.

                Do you think the film could be said to have played a role in inciting riots?

                Of course it could be said to have played a role in inciting the riots… in the same way that Dr. Tiller’s profession played a role in his assassination. To concede that it played a role strikes me as to concede something much less interesting that it may, at first glance, seem that I am conceding.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It is, but so what? It’s an emotional appeal, not a rational one.

                Oh! Okay.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                I found a link to the 15-minute trailer and I can say with authority having seen approximately 60 seconds of it that this, sir, is an unfair criticism:

                This movie is jejune, tedious, poorly acted, and has horrible costuming.

                To the contrary, the costumes are reasonably good.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Jay, suggesting that a person’s actions can influence another person’s actions is hardly akin to questioning the second person’s agency. Even suggesting that one person’s actions will influence another person’s actions in predictable ways is hardly doing so. That you think it is suggests, to me at least, that you’re bringing something else to the discussion that isn’t on the table for the rest of us.

                Also, are there any actions, besides creating art, that you don’t think are subject to moral evaluation? Which ones?

                Also, like so many of your analogies, your Tiller analogy suffers from too many mapping problems for me to draw any conclusions about the current situation from it, or even the general problem we’re grappling with here. It is undoubtedly true that acting in a way that could result in someone committing violent acts, either against you or others, isn’t always immoral, but no one’s suggesting that.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                suggesting that a person’s actions can influence another person’s actions is hardly akin to questioning the second person’s agency. Even suggesting that one person’s actions will influence another person’s actions in predictable ways is hardly doing so. That you think it is suggests, to me at least, that you’re bringing something else to the discussion that isn’t on the table for the rest of us.

                It seems obvious to me that we’d start with influence, then we’d move to a question such as “if this movie was not made, would there still have been riots about this movie?” (which is what I’d ask, anyway), and from there push a tentative conclusion that without this trailer being made and advertised, the riots wouldn’t have happened and these people would still be alive.

                Would you planning on using a significantly different argument?

                are there any actions, besides creating art, that you don’t think are subject to moral evaluation? Which ones?

                While the question misstates my position, I’ll answer it anyway: Consensual sex between lifepartners. Karioke. Enjoying a glass of wine with dinner. Enjoying dinner. Yelling at the television. Using fabric softener on one’s whites. Scrabble.

                There are more but I’ll stop there for brevity’s sake.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Jay, my position on art: it is a behavior, and behaviors can be moral or immoral, by their very nature. I’m not sure why the ones you listed can’t be either moral or immoral. It seems, instead, that you’ve just already evaluated them.

                My argument about influencing other people’s behavior, particularly if we do so in particular ways, would go something like this: if we can predict that behavior x by A will influence immoral behavior y by B, and A performs x with a.) this knowledge and b.) the express intention to produce y by B, then x can be an immoral act. I’m not saying it is, automatically immoral, but it opens up the possibility. We can quibble about cases where a.) holds but in place of b.) we have wanton disregard for a.), but that’s much more difficult quibbling, and I’m inclined to take them on a case by case basis.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s more that I believe that there are matters of taste and matters of morality. Matters of taste cannot be immoral (and, I suppose, the downside is that they can’t be moral either).

                Of course, forcing someone to do something (or using force to prevent them from doing it) would be a matter of morality… but that’s not what I’m talking about.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Consider this: a piece of art that involves killing someone, skinning them, and hanging them by a hook in a gallery.

                Or if we want to be a little bit less inflammatory, stealing a body from a cemetery and doing the same thing.

                Is the creation of this work of art an immoral act? We can still evaluate the finished piece as a matter of taste (once the crime scene investigators are done with it), but the act itself can be evaluated morally, can it not?

                The other acts you describe, for example consensual sex between life partners, are listed because you’ve already decided that they fall within a category of behaviors that is moral. For example, “consensual” vs. “nonconsensual” sex.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I don’t see anyone suggesting that the film should have been censored. I do see suggestions that it should be the subject of condemnation:

                For the record I don’t think the film should have been censored. But I think DD’s question clarifies a distinction I’ve been trying to make here, namely, if the intention of the film was to incite violence, and the producers of this films had good reason to believe that distributing it to audience X in situation Y would incite violence, then I think it’s an open question whether they should be prosecuted for acting as they did.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Why get all gross and weird and, worst, hypothetical?

                Stealing bodies from a graveyard in order to provide bodies to medical schools is a fun historical example that started a chain of events that resulted in babies being irradiated 150 years later. (Seriously. Not making that part up.)

                If we want to get into societal taboos and dynamics between dominant cultures and oppressed native cultures, we can look at the display of skeletal remains (of natives, surely) that are X thousand years old in museums… and what to do when tribal chiefs come knocking and say “we’d like to put those bones back in the ground, please”.

                Is the display of a human skull in a museum a moral/immoral act?

                I’d be prone to say that it’s not… (neither particularly moral nor immoral) until the spokespeople show up at which point we need to bust out the various lawyers from the various sides and hammer this stuff out. I would like to say that it’s not obvious, though.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Dude, you have a philosophy background, if I’m not mistaken. These sorts of things always go towards the weird (mad scientists and shit).

                But I went hypothetical because I couldn’t, off the top of my head, think of any examples of producing a work of art that were so obviously immoral. If the stealing from a grave thing doesn’t get to you, then go with the killing. My point is simply that producing a work of art can be immoral. If you can admit that in the extreme cases, then we’ve got an existence proof, and my work will be done here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                if the intention of the film was to incite violence, and the producers of this films had good reason to believe that distributing it to audience X in situation Y would incite violence, then I think it’s an open question whether they should be prosecuted for acting as they did.

                The comparison I’ve made is to the inept car bomb in Times Square. From what I understand, the bomb would not have blown up, not in a million years. It was childishly put together… propane tanks that were turned on (but didn’t have the safety removed). “Fertilizer” that, when described, sounded a lot more like the bags of fertilizer you get at Home Depot (or Lowe’s… which one aren’t we boycotting again?), and firecrackers and he lit the firecrackers and it created smoke that alerted bystanders who then called the authorities.

                The question: should the guy be busted for attempted mass murder or what?

                On one level… I can see the argument that he tried to kill a bunch of people. On another, I can see the argument that attempted mass murder is waaaaay too heavy a charge for what he actually physically did.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                For a natural rights deontologist, you’re playing pretty fast and loose with the word “morality” here.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh, sorry. In the other thread I admitted that Birth of a Nation could be classified as an “evil” movie. I’m down with the possibility of art being evil.

                Though that’s more on us than on it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                In my bad weeks, I’m a nihilist. This hasn’t been a particularly good week.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                If you want, I can share a FB post that will make you even more depressed. But your week’s probably crappy enough already.Report

      • I think the point is that one should refrain from doing things where one’s primary and express purpose is to incite your enemies to violence, and especially when that intent is to incite violence by your enemies against third parties. It’s one thing to do something just because it’s something you believe in, and then have that something incite violence; it’s another thing to do something where a good part of your purpose is to incite violence.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I haven’t seen the movie so I don’t know if we’re talking about something as monumentally offensive as The Satanic Verses or something merely as offensive as South Park’s Mohammed episode.

          But… to be perfectly honest… it seems like it doesn’t matter. They could be doing a fairly straightforward take on the Mohammed thing and we’d still say “well, they should know better” using the exact same tone of voice as if they merely depicted an image of the prophet.

          Why? Because these enemies resort to violence when, in different cultures, the response would be a strongly-worded letter to the editor.Report

          • This is probably not all that relevant, but having read “The Satanic Verses” (which is, IMHO, a beautifully-written book) I must admit to having been confused as to what was so monumentally offensive about it.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              There are a number of things.

              First and foremost is the reference to The Satanic Verses themselves. These are the verses that cannot be explained as coming from The Angel Gabriel to Mohammed. (Remember the part of the book that talks about Al-Lat and Al-‘Uzza And Manat? That part.) It’s Blasphemous to talk about those verses. (That ‘B’ is capitalized, I’ll point out.)

              It also discussed Mohammed’s marriages in a way that was far, far too familiar and touched on his marriage to Ayesha, his favorite, and some of the criticisms it is said that she made of him. (For example, she pointed out that whenever he didn’t get his way, he went off to talk to Gabriel and when he came back he always said that Gabriel said that he was right. This is a touchy subject as well.)

              And, on top of that, it discusses one of the things that *I* find most interesting but others might not… when Mohammed came back to Medina in triumph, he only killed two people: both were comedians. The book talks about the comedians and either speculates about or recreates some of the jokes they made about The Prophet. Peace Be Upon Him.

              Those are the high notes, as I recall them. I can do more digging when I go home.Report

          • FYI: Here is a primer on the movie:

            It looks like it was entirely marketed to Muslims in the Middle East (and in fact seems to have been mostly in Arabic), and particularly Egypt, with the express intent of further inflaming the already terrible relations between Coptics and Muslims in Egypt.

            They weren’t trying to make a point about free speech; nor, for that matter, were they even trying to make Americans more scared of Muslims. Instead, they were trying to stoke religious war in a foreign country by spreading propaganda.

            To be honest, I’m not even certain that the outrage is over the fact that the US allows people to make films that call Muslims pedophiles so much as it is based on a (false) belief that the video is US government sponsored propaganda aimed at sparking a Coptic revolt that would overturn last year’s revolution. While this belief is obviously false, I have a hard time concluding that it’s an unreasonable belief for someone who is used to seeing propaganda films like this put out and distributed by the authorities, not obscure pastors and real estate developers from another country.

            Don’t get me wrong – it’s entirely possible that the outrage is more based on the former than the latter; but if it’s the latter, then the embassy’s initial response suddenly makes a lot more sense to me.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Also this.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              We sorta forget more than half of the Arabic speaking world is illiterate. They get most of their news by rumour.Report

            • Avatar George Turner says:

              Given that Obama confessed that the Stuxnet virus was an incredibly sophisticated cyber attack by the CIA, Israel, and Germany on Iran’s nuclear program, I would fully expect Muslims to justifiably believe the CIA and Mossad were behind a film like this, working hand-in-hand with Youtube, etc. to try an undermine the influence of Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

              Heck, if the film was really effective, even Americans would consider that a reasonable possibility.Report

            • Avatar Scott Fields says:

              Mark –

              As you state above, embassy personnel were in the best position to understand this fast-developing situation on the ground.

              As I understand it, media is largely (if not exclusively) state controlled in Egypt, so I’d think that the first presumption of many would be that the film’s message was sanctioned by the US. The embassy was trying to quash the idea that the film represented a widely held view in the US, let alone a state sponsored view.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Mark (and Burt as well):

          I think the point is that one should refrain from doing things where one’s primary and express purpose is to incite your enemies to violence, and especially when that intent is to incite violence by your enemies against third parties.

          I’m confused about this statement and some of the claims in the OP that are very similar to it. When you say “one should refrain from doing…” in the above comment, it seems to me you’re making a prudential argument: people ought to refrain from deliberately inciting their enemies to violence, and if they do so they ought to be admonished.

          But on a moral level, expressing views with the deliberate intention of inciting violence is wrong full stop, yes?, and not for prudential reasons. It’s because – at least on one level – deliberate attempts to incite violence causes harms to other, potentially innocent people. If that’s the case, then insofar as Basil was deliberately attempting to incite violence, why should his expression of that attempt be protected by a right to free speech? Isn’t this clearly a limiting case on that right?

          Of course, this question presupposes that the intention of the movie was to incite violence, something that both you and Burt have conceded. That might be a difficult thing to demonstrate – in court, say – but it seems to me that given recent events from the past the author of the film couldn’t fail to have a reasonable expectation that releasing this film would in fact incite violence.

          Why isn’t he then guilty of inciting violence, morally if not legally?Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            The filmmakers name is “Bacile” apparently. Not an herb. My bad.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            The filmmaker is guilty of inciting violence, morally if not legally. Far from excusing him of this, I indict him.

            But the guy who actually pulled the trigger is the actual murderer. Murder is morally worse and the act of killing more immediate than the incitement. It’s no defense to him that someone else did something that made him murderously mad. See Glyph’s comment below.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              I agree that the action of killing the Ambassador is distinct from the action of inciting violence. I don’t think anyone is arguing otherwise. My confusion revolved around this claim in the OP: “Freedom from prosecution does not mean freedom from criticism.” I interpreted that as implying the filmmaker and Jones are protected from prosecution because of a right to free speech. You might have had something else in mind, of course.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Your interpretation is correct.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Hmmm. Now I’m even more confused. You wrote The filmmaker is guilty of inciting violence, morally if not legally which implies that Bacile could be prosecuted and found guilty. In which case he doesn’t have a first amendment protection from prosecution.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                YOU used the phrase “morally if not legally,” Stillwater. To my understanding this phrase distinguishes and separates legal culpability from moral culpability. Moral culpability is present for promoting something reasonably foreseeable to lead to violence. Legal culpability is dubious because of the First Amendment.Report

              • Avatar Mopey Duns says:

                I do not think there are other circumstances under which this line of thinking would fly. This only really arises because so many people think of Muslims as rabid junkyard dogs, liable to attack at the slightest provocation.

                If I insulted a man, knowing he was prone to violence, even in a way calculated to produce that effect, and he murders my cousin, am I responsible for my cousin’s death? Yes, in the strictest sense, in that my speech made it possible, so it passes the simple ‘but for’ test. It is even foreseeable, in that I might know the crazy asshole will lash out somehow, although I had no idea he would kill my cousin. But the violent man is an intervening cause because he has agency and freewill. That has legal as well as moral implications. We are not automatons.

                Also (not directed to you specifically), the movie is not speech ‘inciting violence’. You actually have to single out an individual or identifiable group for persecution for that argument to fly.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Legal culpability is dubious because of the First Amendment.

                Dubious is good enough for me. That’s all I was asking Burt. I understood you as implying that there was an absolute protection against prosecution because of first amendment protections. I was questioning that reasoning. It seems we’re in agreement after all.Report

          • I think he is certainly morally guilty of inciting violence even if he is and should be protected by free speech concerns – I’m no fan of the “fighting words” doctrine to begin with even if there is proof of intent, but I also don’t see how one could meaningfully draw the legal line between “intent to enrage” and “intent to incite violence.”

            That said, under the circumstances, I’m willing to be convinced that the particular act of distributing propaganda to a foreign audience is outside the protection of the First Amendment (though still not legally prohibited) on the grounds that the distribution amounts to an act of international commerce; I’d be skeptical of such an approach, but it doesn’t raise my hackles in the way that claiming one should be prohibited from intentionally pissing people off would.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Well the guy in Tampa was doing a thing with the specific intent of pissing off people in Cairo and in the modern world with all intertoobs and twitters and etc everybody will know about it. Doesn’t , of course, mean the rioters aren’t wrong and all. But i think its fair to call out when someone is going out of their way to poke someone else in the metaphorical eye.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Is it wrong to feel that they both need to grow the fish up?

        The loudmouth drunk at one end of the bar should stop insulting the mother of the Muslim at the other end.

        And the Muslim at the other end of the bar, needs to stop socking some random guy who was just walking out of the bathroom every time the Muslim’s mother gets insulted.Report

      • Avatar cfpete says:

        Gainesville, FL not Tampa – which should make his protestations even less relevant.
        Saw the guy at Publix two weeks ago. Picking out yogurt and talking on his cell phone.
        Had to do a double-take.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy says:

        “I am less sympathetic to the argument that someone in Tampa shouldn’t do a particular thing in Tampa because the people in Cairo will react and riot and do all this crap.”

        Here is where language is tricky. Do you believe then that Jones SHOULD have done what he did? That’d be a hard argument to be sympathetic to, I think. Jones absolutely shouldn’t have done what he did. It was a deliberately provacative, antagonistic, and offensive gesture. Folks should not engage in such actions. Of course, they have every right to do so and no one should prevent them from doing so through any means outside of non-coercive dissuasion.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Do you believe then that Jones SHOULD have done what he did?

          I’m a fan of religious criticism, I guess. Certainly to the point where I see silencing it as worse than engaging in it.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            Oh, I don’t think it should be silenced.

            I suppose my point is that “should” and “shouldn’t” are difficult terms. Jones absolutely has and ought to have the right to do what he did. But, as I understand it, it was an act that carried with it a lot of negatives and few, if any, positives. As such, it makes it hard to justify the act. Even if we say that he has no responsibility for the killing, there are still a slew of negatives associated with his act. The best types of criticism provoke positive change. I’m not sure Jones’ does that or that he even intends it to do that. Which is why I’m not sure “criticism” is necessarily the ideal descriptor for it. Whatever it is called, though, it absolutely deserves first amendment protection.

            Of course, the rioters and murderers have a great deal more negatives to their actions and likely zero positives.Report

          • Avatar Dan Miller says:

            Nobody has tried to silence Jones, though. He’s free to continue promoting movies, and nobody in this discussion has proposed any forceful measure to stop him from doing so.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            I’m a fan of religious criticism, I guess. Certainly to the point where I see silencing it as worse than engaging in it.

            Sure. Certain types of criticism deserve different types of engagement, though.

            Disclaimer: haven’t seen the movie.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

              Assume the worst, PatC. Then what?

              This First Amendment thing is something furriners don’t really get. Even Europe doesn’t universally have freedom of speech or the press. Therefore I assume many consider it the fault of the government if “hate speech” toward Islam is permitted.


              By Mark Steyn, who knows a bit about the subject himself;

              At a certain level, the trial of Geert Wilders for the crime of “group insult” of Islam is déjà vu all over again. For as the spokesperson for the Openbaar Ministerie put it, “It is irrelevant whether Wilders’s witnesses might prove Wilders’s observations to be correct. What’s relevant is that his observations are illegal.”

              Ah, yes, in the Netherlands, as in Canada, the truth is no defence. My Dutch is a little rusty but I believe the “Openbaar Ministerie” translates in English to the Ministry for Openly Barring People. Whoops, my mistake. It’s the prosecution service of the Dutch Ministry of Justice. But it shares with Canada’s “human rights” commissions an institutional contempt for the truth.

              As for “Wilders’s witnesses,” he submitted a list of 18, and the Amsterdam court rejected no fewer than 15 of them. As with Commissar MacNaughton and her troika of pseudo-judges presiding over the Maclean’s trial in British Columbia, it’s easier to make the rules up as you go along.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

            “I’m a fan of religious criticism.”

            I haven’t seen the movie, but surely you’re joking Jaybird?

            Suppose some crazy neo-nazi or right winger or extremist Muslim group made a movie implying that Judaism is evil, it seeks the end of Christianity and Islam, and Jews are secretly conspiring to kill us all, etc.

            In the U.S., everyone has the legal right to make such a movie.

            But no one should make that anti-Semitic movie, even if they believe its claims, because of the social harm it is likely to do. (The same is true of truly vile racist movies, etc.)

            This is really obvious stuff. There’s a difference between academic, well-meaning criticisms of religion, belief in God, or even the specific tennants of Islam and these kind of movies.

            I firmly agree with the original statement from the embassy in Egypt and can’t see why anyone would crititique it on any grounds.

            The embassy basically said: In the U.S. everyon in every person of every religion has the right to say anything or make any movie. But the U.S. gov’t, representing all of the U.S. people, including Islamic citicizens, respects the religious beliefs (or atheistic beliefs) of all people, and wants to work peacefully with all people of the world. Obviously most Americans don’t believe in Islam, but only some hate Islam and Muslim people. They have that right to hate anyone they want, but the people of the U.S. and we the representatives of the U.S. do not hate you, nor do we wish to offend your religious beliefs. If anything we look forward to discussing your religion and the many religions held by people in the U.S. in peace and harmony, with openness and mutual respect.

            They gave a diplomatic, friendly statement. That’s one of the things diplomats do. They say diplomatic things.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Shaz, I don’t criticize what the embassy said, even for a second. I pointed that out above (or below… somewhere).

              My problem is with how there are riots in response to Mohammed political cartoons, books about Mohammed, movies about Mohammed, cartoons about Mohammed.

              The argument always goes to how Matt and Trey should have known better, Rushdie should have known better, the political cartoonists should have known better (and the paper’s editor CERTAINLY should have known better) and on and on and on.

              Next month or next year there will be another insult to Mohammed somewhere. And there will be riots.

              I imagine that you will get sick of defending the riots in the Middle East long before I will get sick of defending comedians, artists, and writers.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                No one is defending the rioters. They are acting immorally.

                But some of the people who are trying to make their criticism of Islam as offensive as possible are acting immorally, too. It’s just a different sort of immoral act (less immoral than destroying property and killing, IMO) that is wrong for different reasons, and in different ways.

                It’s not like there can only be one immoral party here. There can be lots of people all doing different immoral things all at the same time.

                Here’s my main point: Aren’t some criticisms of Judaism, framed in certain ways, anti-semitic, overly offensive, and immoral?

                If so, then some criticisms of Islam are too.

                No one is saying all criticisms of a religion are immoral. But when you critiique you can point out that you respect Muslim people, lots of good things are in the Islamic faith and tradition, but you think X, Y, and Z are false, pernicious, etc.

                Heck, that’s what we expect of morally acceptable critiques of homosexuality. There’s a difference between “gay-bashing” and a sympathetic, aiming-at-not-offending attempt to argue that homosexual sex is immoral. The former is an immoral use of your right of free speech. The latter is misguided (from my point of view) but not immoral.

                The same is true with critiques of Islam. There is Islam-bashing and sympathetic attempts to suggest that such and such is incorrect about Islam or some Islamic belief.

                This is obvious, no?

                Maybe the movie is a sympathetic critique. I doubt it.

                Some of the Danish cartoons were not. Some of them were more racist, really, than religiously offensive.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Remember The Satanic Verses? Have you read it? It’s really good.

                It’s not only a really funny book, it also offered a theological criticism of Islam. A pretty good one, actually.

                There were riots.

                Did you see the Family Guy episode of South Park? It was pretty funny.

                There were riots. There was even a car bomb (a fundamentally faulty one, granted) set in Times Square.

                I’ve gotta say, I’m not sure I need to watch the movie at this point to figure out whether its criticism of Islam is really good or really ham-handed or something that only a Coptic Christian would think to come to the conclusion that the content of the movie doesn’t matter.

                It insults Islam. Therefore there will be riots.Report

              • It insults Islam. Therefore there will be riots.

                Not necessarily. I mean look, there is no denying that Matt and Trey got death threats over their South Park episode, and there’s no denying that the creator of Everybody Draw Mohammed Day also got death threats. But I’d also be willing to wager that they got fewer death threats for their actions than, say, the President of the United States (whoever that may be at any given moment) gets in an average week.

                What is interesting to me is that Everybody Draw Mohammed Day and the South Park episode, despite each being widely disseminated and available, and indeed several orders of magnitude more publicized in the West than (a) this film or (b) the Danish cartoons, did not in fact cause riots. Again, a few nutcases and longstanding terrorists issued death threats, but unfortunately that’s fairly typical whenever one does anything controversial on a widely controversial scale.

                It seems to me that both those saying “Matt and Trey shouldn’t do this because it will cause riots” and those saying “the fact that this will cause riots proves our point” were wrong, and for the same reasons.

                It also seems to me that the two incidents in the last decade that did, in fact, cause riots due to their depiction of Mohammed were a set of cartoons in an obscure Danish paper and a movie trailer by an unknown filmmaker that played to an audience of approximately zero in the West before it caused riots.

                The distinction between the two that did not cause riots and the two that did strikes me as significant to determine. To that end, I will note that the Danish cartoons deemed most offensive by far were not, in fact, Danish cartoons, and the current fiasco was started by a movie equally interested in committing a fraud, albeit from a completely different vantage point.

                The Satanic Verses do not fit this pattern (if it is one), granted. But that was 25 years ago, and the world done changed a lot in the last 25 years.

                There’s something important that we’re all missing here. No, I can’t put my finger quite on what.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, there was also the (fundamentally flawed) car bomb in Times Square. Perhaps that was such a dumb and half-assed bomb that it shouldn’t be mentioned at all… but if the intentions of the filmmakers to cause a riot is particularly notable, it seems like the intention of the car full of manure, fireworks, and propane tanks is as notable.

                When it comes to the movie itself, I understand that the trailer was posted in June or July… and then, on September 11th, there were riots in Libya and Egypt. There’s something itching in the back of my head that says that the riots (and the attack on the ambassador) are something that would have happened on that particular day whether or not the movie was posted/advertised or not (and we’d be arguing about some other heretofore unknown internet sensation (created, surely, by a Zionist)).Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                MarkT, I think the world vis-a-vis Islamism had certainly changed in the last 25 years and for the worse. Pim Fortuyn is dead, murdered. Many other critics live in hiding.

                The Rushdie affair was a creature of the Iranian mullahs, who are Shi’a and non-Arab. But bin Laden was Sunni and Arab.

                Although the bin Laden project in full died in Iraq when his New Caliphate showed its true colors, the Islamist revolution begun in Iran has spread to

                —previously pan-sectarian Lebanon where Hezbollah now holds the key

                —Gaza, where Hamas was democratically elected

                —the Arab Spring, where Egypt, the largest Arab nation, is now teetering toward rule but the Qutbian* Muslim Brotherhood

                —and even “secular” Turkey, whose century-old Western-style Kemalism** is on the ropes

                But before we open ourselves to charges of “Islamophobia” [too late]:

                I do think bin Ladenism as a call to world jihad and restoration of the Caliphate failed of its own brutality. However, some Muslim version of “Christendom” is in the cards, not as a Muslim United States but as socio-political philosophy. Islam isn’t going to take it anymore—“Crusader” troops on Muslim soil, disrespect of The Prophet (pbuh), the role of woman in the home and in society at grave threat.

                Lending money at interest. Crime. Drugs. Impiety. Atheism! All the diseases of the West.

                I suppose, like all every Rx for the human condition, the current vision of Islam as the cure for what ails man will fail. However, with the impossible poverty and tyranny that has accompanied “stability” in the Arab world—say Egypt where the homeless live in mausoleums—who cannot be willing to take their chances with the most devout religion in the world, one that fasts for an entire month and prays 5 times a day???!!



              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t blame the Palestinians for electing Hamas. The other “real” option was the bums who had been in power for the last however many years.

                They threw the bums out.

                Now when it comes to actual governance? From what I understand, Hamas listened to the people who were paying protection. If you pay protection and somebody answers the phone when you call and they send somebody who resolves the problem? You keep paying protection. You might even feel grateful. Hamas, from what I understand, held up their end. The Muslim thing is secondary… especially when the other option is the other Muslim party.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Helpful detail re Hamas, JB. I’m defending Islamism per the oppressed’s POV as well.

                I suppose, like…every Rx for the human condition, the current vision of Islam as the cure for what ails man will fail. However, with the impossible poverty and tyranny that has accompanied “stability” in the Arab world—say Egypt where the homeless live in mausoleums—who cannot be willing to take their chances with the most devout religion in the world, one that fasts for an entire month and prays 5 times a day???!!Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                There’s something important that we’re all missing here. No, I can’t put my finger quite on what.

                It’s the Network Effect.

                Somewhere, out there, right now, there’s probably a video that would get me to want to break someone’s kneecaps (I’ll not mention the potential content that could spur this). As long as I and other people who would be similarly effected don’t know about this video and don’t share this video and don’t reach a critical mass of telling each other “Dude, that guy needs to be kneecapped!” and nobody has means or opportunity and there’s no mob of people going along all chanting, “Break his kneecaps!” I’m probably going to be able to let Civilized Pat be in charge.

                The right set of circumstances, it’s entirely possible I’d bust the guy’s nose. The right-right-right set of circumstances, I could see worse outcomes.

                If this is true for a neo-pacifist like me, it’s probably the case that for people who aren’t inflicted by pacifism that stuff like this can happen.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “If you pay protection and somebody answers the phone when you call and they send somebody who resolves the problem? You keep paying protection.”

                And after all, that is what a government is supposed to do, in a reductionist sense.

                “Somewhere, out there, right now, there’s probably a video that would get me to want to break someone’s kneecaps…”

                Welp. See, when someone says something like “I might have such a severe emotional response to aesthetic input that I would cause physical harm to the source of that input”, I don’t see that as a problem with the source of the input.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I don’t, either, Duck.

                Although in my particular case, the sort of things that would make me feel that way would be things that would be… ah, sources of input that would get you 5-20 years, probably. So while I’m perfectly willing to admit that I can be drawn into barbarism, and that barbarism still isn’t okay and I ought to be punished for barbarism should I give into it… it’s not like I’m going to kneecap somebody for putting up kitten videos.

                Does that excuse my response? Hell, no.Report

              • Avatar wardsmith says:

                Piss Christ. How many riots? Case closed.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I’m not sure anyone is saying that, but if they are, I think they’re wrong. I was saying that I don’t think we should intentionally throw rocks at hornets nests with no intention other than to stir up some hornets, while a bunch of people are hanging around directly beneath the hornets nest.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                Middle eastern, Islamic countries have a too-large portion of the population that are prone to riot. No doubt. No one is defending this group of rioters, regardless of whether they are rioting over a really offensive, truly immoral piece of propaganda or whether they are rioting over some fair, honest, morally acceptable criticism of Islam, or Egypt, or Arabs, or whatever.

                Rioting is bad.

                But lots of Islamic people the world over don’t riot. So we shouldn’t say “Muslims will” riot ot be angry or whatever. That’s too gross a generalization to make. It’s like saying “Blacks are criminals” or “Jews run Hollywood.”

                And some offensive propoganda is still immoral because of the negative effects it will have in the world. Sure, maybe some Muslims (and some Christian extremists and some Jewish settlers) will riot and make trouble regardless of what anyone does. But that doesn’t mean that anti-semitic, racist, or Islamophobic propaganda is moral. It is immoral. Full stop.

                Do you think ant-semitic propaganda is morally acceptable? Do you think Islamophobic propaganda is morally acceptable. If you answer one question “yes” and the other “no” what is the difference between Islamophobia and anti-semitism that explains your differing answers?

                Or do you think this movie isn’t islamophobic in the way some material is anti-semitic.

                I would be interested to see someone defend this movie, as many here are coming close to doing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So we shouldn’t say “Muslims will” riot ot be angry or whatever.

                I didn’t.

                I would be interested to see someone defend this movie, as many here are coming close to doing.

                It’s probably easiest for me to compare it to defending bacon.

                Just because *YOU* find it really offensive doesn’t mean that you have the right to prevent me from enjoying breakfast. The fact that it’s a movie (on the internet even) means that if you don’t like it, don’t watch it.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                Are some movies, music, etc, immoral?

                What about holocaust-denying movies. Is the proper response to a holocaust-denying movie “it’s not immoral” and “if you don’t like it, don’t watch it”? Or should such movies be denounced as immoral, even while we agree that people should have the right to make such movies?

                Please answer this question.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Shaz, here is where I agree with Jaybird, I think (his position is still not entirely clear to me): movies are not immoral. Making a movie can be an immoral act, but a piece of art is an object, and objects are amoral. Only agents and their actions can be moral or immoral.

                Treating objects as moral or immoral raises way too many issues for my little brain to even begin to fathom them.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sure, they can be.

                Would you agree that morality is not only a 1 or 0 or -1 thing but actually something where we can make comparisons? X is worse than Y, Y is worse than Z, therefore we know that X is worse than Z…

                If you can, could you see how someone might see some things as worse than offensive art? (Including, for example, censorship of offensive art.)Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I would hope that most people understand that because they think something is immoral doesn’t mean it should be illegal. I would hope that, but then I look at our political dialogue, and I realize I’d be a fool to do so.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Chris, I’d be willing to go a *LITTLE* bit further and say that, oh, Birth Of A Nation is an evil movie insofar as it helped inspire the resurgence of the KKK.

                Now, with that said, do I then have to agree that we should destroy all copies of this movie? Or, how’s this, restrict its viewing to people who have official reasons to watch it?

                Or, how’s this, treat it like an NC-17 and make sure that no one under the age of 17 watches it?

                At that point, things get really sticky… though I think I’m okay with treating it like, say, an R. Watch it with parental guidance *ONLY* unless you’re savvy enough to steal it.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                I agree morality comes in degrees. Not everybody does though, Kant, for example.

                I would say hurting people in a riot is very, very immoral. Killing people intentionally, ala AQ is more immoral than that. Making a hateful movie, anti-semitic propaganda, etc., is also immoral, but usually less than directly hurting someone. Though some hateful propaganda, timed just right, could be almost as immoral as directly killing someone.

                The movie -or the act of making and distributing it as Chris points out- is immoral. Killing people is more immoral, though, yes.

                Do you disagree?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                I agree with this bit of “defending the protestors”:

                “I think the whole film is a terrible idea. I think him making it, promoting it showing it is disrespectful to people of other faiths. I don’t think that should happen. I think people should have the common courtesy and judgment– the good judgment– not to be– not to offend other peoples’ faiths. It’s a very bad thing, I think, this guy’s doing.”

                In simpler terms: “The movie is bad/immoral.”

                That’s one of the candidates for president who also happens to think that the president or embassy staff “shamefully” sided with (or “defended”) the protestors by issuing a statement admitting that the movie was truly offensive, even though the person had a right to free speech.

                Do you agree with old Romney or new Romney, Jaybird?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t think about Romeny enough to agree with him.

                For the record, I support the right of the Protesters to protest the movie. Let them march with signs. Heck, let them march wherever they are inclined to march. Peaceful assembly is something I fully support too.

                The problem comes when there are riots. The little suspicion in the back of my head that the movie is pretext rather than inspiration is not squelched by such things as bomb threats on college campuses being called in today.

                Something else is going on.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Just out of curiosity (I’ve been really busy because my band is playing a really big street festival tomorrow night and have now read about half the thread), has anyone yet touched on the fact that a talk show host went to the trouble to take a youtube video, have it translated and dubbed, and heavily promote it on his show with the intention of stirring up as much animosity, if not violence, as possible? It seems like there would be a moral question there too. Certainly, we have plenty of experience in this part of the world with sensationalist, rage-mongering talk show hosts.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                So you think It was immoral to make the movie, just like it is immoral to produce anti-semitic movies, songs, etc.?

                We agree on the right to free speech. Do we agree on whether it was wrong to make the movie?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I worry that saying “yes, of course” will make you think that I’m agreeing to something that I am not, in fact, agreeing to.

                But, why not. Yes. Of course.

                So what?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Jaybird, is there some reason you’re hesitating to say that the answers to these questions is dependent upon context, which may vary from case to case?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Not exactly… I mean, there is a level upon which hurting someone else’s feelings is, in fact, wrong. And there are people whose feelings are deeply tied to some propositions that are not, in fact, true.

                So telling them that, oh… let’s use an obvious one… that the earth revolves around the sun rather than the other way around will hurt their feelings.

                There are even ways to be spectacularly dickish when telling an earth-centric person that heliocentrism is right, that the earth is *NOT* the center of the universe, that the heavens do *NOT* revolve around you, that YOU ARE AN INSIGNIFICANT SPECK ON AN INSIGNIFICANT BALL IN AN INSIGNIFICANT GALAXY IN A PRETTY SUBSTANDARD UNIVERSE THAT BARELY HAS ANYBODY THAT CAN COOK A DECENT CHICKEN PARM!!!

                So. Is it wrong to tell someone who believes a proposition that the proposition that they believe is wrong?

                It can be.

                I mean, thinking about it, Life of Brian was a spectacularly jerky thing to do. (Hey, don’t get me wrong. I laughed. I laughed a lot.)

                But it was also wrong.

                We’ve got a movie here that is saying something very insulting to people who have among them a subset of people who are very easily insulted and who see blowing shit up as a proper response to being insulted.

                For some reason, it seems that it’s especially notable that we shouldn’t hurt the feelings of these people by challenging their propositions but, if they did not have this subset of easily offended, violent people, we’d have nothing to talk about because the movie would not have engendered a response which would have made the news which would have made us watch the movie and talk about whether making movies like The Innocence of Muslims or Life of Brian is wrong… and whether it’s wronger to make The Innocence of Muslims because we know that they know that we know that they know that we know that there is a subset of really violent people there who will riot at the drop of a youtube video.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Another part is the dynamic where you’re dealing with people who have a subset of people who respond to perceived insult with violence and see disagreement with propositions as insulting.

                And this is a case where we’re dealing with people who have a subset of people who would be insulted with a scholarly work in the vein of John Crossan (example: Rushdie’s book).

                So when you have that additional dynamic in play when it comes to a person (or group) that is going out of their way to be insulting, it adds another layer.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                I submit that it is hard to determine whether a comtroversial movie, song, joke, etc. is immoral.

                The best test (though an imperfect rule of thumb) is this: Could I make the same point, argument, joke, etc. while significantly decreasing the odds that people will be harmed (There are two kinds of harm: psychological harm in feeling oppressed or afraid or dehumanized, etc. And physical harm that has a chance of happening when someone on the fringes of society acts out in reaction.)

                But surely some movies, songs, etc. are so mysoginistic, anti-semitic, or islamophobic that they are immoral. It’s hard to draw the line distinctly between immoral and merely controversial, but there is such a line. (Beware the line-drawing fallacy.)

                This movie seems to fall into the clearly immoral category.

                Maybe you think this movie is better than immoral anti-semitic, racist, movies. If so, please say so.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I probably shouldn’t insert myself here because JB is doing an able job on his own, so I apologize if this interjection comes across as rude, and sorry for length. Feel free to ignore if this adds nothing.

                But take the question out of the realm of religion for a minute, since I think it’s fair to say that the jury is still out for many people as to whether religion has generally been a force for good in human history (for the record, on net I say yes, but I understand why others disagree).

                Let’s pick something much much more simple.

                Let’s say I make a movie called ‘Shazbot Has Bad Breath’. This movie hurts Shazbot’s feelings, and moreover costs Shazbot some dates.

                Let’s further posit that ‘Bad Breath’ can somehow be objectively assessed, ignoring that there is a range of ‘mildly unpleasant’ to DEAR GOD WHAT DIED IN YOUR MOUTH. Let’s also ignore that one man’s poison is another’s perfume, and that to some, Shazbot’s breath may be heavenly, and not bad at all (including, presumably, to Shazbot himself).

                There are 2 main possibilities here.

                1.) Shazbot has bad breath.
                2.) Shazbot does not have bad breath.

                Now, let’s go further.

                If Shazbot has bad breath, there are several possibilities. This list is not exhaustive, and note that more than one of the following can apply in varying amounts.

                1a.) I am attempting to help Shazbot by notifying him of a problem; or, I am trying to help others, by warning them about Shazbot’s breath so they can avoid breathing deeply; or, I am warning them to brush their own teeth, so they don’t end up like Shazbot. This is not clearly immoral, even if Shazbot is hurt.

                1b.) I am attempting to hurt Shazbot. This is an immoral act on my part, if I have no other reasons for doing what I did other than to hurt Shazbot. Note that even if my only intent is to hurt Shazbot, if this film results in long-term changes in Shazbot’s behavior in the form of toothbrushing (or prevents others from encountering Shazbot’s breath, or they start brushing their own teeth), this act is not an unalloyed harm, despite my ill-intent.

                If Shazbot does not have bad breath, there are several possibilities. This list is not exhaustive, and note that more than one of the following can apply in varying amounts.

                2a.) I sincerely believe Shazbot has bad breath. If this is the case, then as in 1a, I don’t see this as an immoral act – I am acting out of a desire to help, even if Shazbot is hurt. I am acting incorrectly, but not necessarily immorally.

                2b.) I am lying, for no other reason than to hurt Shazbot; I am acting immorally, and there is no theoretical action that could be taken by Shazbot (like toothbrushing) that alloys this harm.

                2c.) I am attempting to make Shazbot laugh, or myself laugh, or others laugh; or, exaggerating to make another point, perhaps political; or making fiction, or satire; in this case, I am not necessarily acting immorally, even if Shazbot is hurt.

                To me, only 2b is a clear, unambiguous wrong. That is, I am knowingly spreading falsehoods about Shazbot, with no other motive than harm, and no possibility of any other positive outcome.

                Now, let’s try to map back onto a question containing religion/history, involving claims made about a person thousands of years dead, about which we have no way to objectively measure the claims made.

                Seeing how high a bar it was for me to clearly denote ‘Shazbot Has Bad Breath’ as clearly and fully immoral without knowing both that the claims are for sure knowingly false AND there were no other motives than harm – does it make more sense why I’d say, I’m just not sure in this case, which is far more complicated than the artificially simple case above?

                And because of that, if I consider something ‘speech/idea expression’, I generally decline to pass judgement on its inherent morality (though judging its effect, factual content/sanity, and ‘jerkitude’, for lack of a better word, etc. are all fair game)?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Shaz, not to toot my own horn but I think that my answers above are much more interesting than “this movie is better than/even worse than/equal to immoral anti-semitic, racist, movies”.

                How’s this? I wrote a number of (good, if you ask me) paragraphs for you. Throw together some sentences as if I said it was “better than”, some sentences as if I said it was “even worse than”, and some sentences as if I said it was “about equal to”.

                I’d like to see what you’re building up to.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I’ll take that as a “Glyph, you’re not helping.” and leave y’all to it then. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Glyph, your comment was great. I am sorry for not saying it was awesome sooner.

                Thank you.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Thanks JB. I just felt compelled to try to explain further, sorry for doing it in yr convo, which seemed simpatico to mine with Shaz. The reasoning I provided is why I would say ‘Elders of Zion’ is clearly immoral (intentionally deceptive in claims and provenance, made with solely the intent to harm) but I am not sure about this film.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                Is there a strong analogy between telling me my breath is bad (and oh is it bad!) and an anti-semitic movie?

                I’d say there are morally relevant differences. The bad breath movie is not immoral, the anti-semitic movie is.

                This Islamophobic movie is more analogous to an anti-semitic movie than a bad breath movie.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                I was asking you a question about whether you agreed with claim X.

                I reread the paragraphs and can’t find whether you assert that claim X is true.

                You seem unwilling to debate the claim I was interested in or address it, so I will cease to discuss it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Shaz, I did. Remember? It’s up there. It’s where I said, and I’m cutting and pasting this:

                I worry that saying “yes, of course” will make you think that I’m agreeing to something that I am not, in fact, agreeing to.

                But, why not. Yes. Of course.

                So what?

                So I’ve agreed. Now what?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                We agree on all of the following:

                The original embassy statement was perfectly acceptable, good diplomacy.

                This movie is immoral and it’s makers should be shamed (though not legally punished.)

                All people should have the right to make any movie (or nearly any movie: no crush videos should be made) even this one.

                Romney’s criticism of Obama and the embassy staff was grossly innacurate.

                Please note that this is sort of “the liberals’ take” on this controversy and you agree with it entirely.

                I’ll go you one further and point out you agree with other liberals on another issue. The Danish cartoons, and this movie, and The Satanic Verses weren’t the primary cause of any riot that occured in the middle east. Rather, these movies/books were just a catalyst, a spark. (Though it is wrong to intentionally creates sparks around flamable things, especially when innocent women and children are likely to get burned.) The fuel for the fire is all of the following: a population that is under authoritarian rule, a lack of education amongst a too-large portion of that population, a history of too many people being oppressed, a history of western countries engaging in violence and oppression that kills local women and children, a too-large segment of the population that is fundamentalist (we have our fundies too; they just have a higher percentage), etc.

                I agree that a violent, anti-american protest was likely to happen at some point (and will again) in Egypt, Syria, etc. These protests will happen without movies like these. But, these movies slightly increase the probability of riots as it makes it easier for local fundamentalist leaders to get their uneducated followers (many of whom are rightfully angry at a history of being bombed and seeing friends children burn to death) whipped up. And the more you can get them whipped up, the more political power you have. That’s the real problem here. Not videos or books. But the videos and books are making the problem slightly worse.

                Indeed, if we in the U.S. (us, not the gov’t) try to reach out and respect Islamic people, and ethnic Arabs. If we say we understand their anger. If we show them that we are committed to leaving them alone and sovereign, i.e. respecting their autonomy, the toxic anger in a minority of those likely to riot will subside. It will happen slowly and only slightly at first.

                But that project of trying to repair old wounds and create friendship with populations that are disposed to hate us is hurt by two facts.

                1.) People have a habit of lumping all muslims together by saying “The Muslims hate us and the muslims rioted.” This is like saying “The Americans all hate Islam.” That’s toxic thinking and it is worsening the problem.

                2.) Some idiots here are trying to whip people into a frenzy here and abroad (in a stupid play for attention and a sort of local political power) by creating movies like this one. This isn’t a critique or a weird farce that gets people to reflect on religious belief or ethnic stereotypes. It is a straight up insult, designed to be offensive and convince uneducated fools into holding ugly sterotypes about Arabs, not unlike trying to get people to believe Jews are nasty, evil, money mad, etc.


                I am glad that you agree on all of these claims, though.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Shazbot – sorry for delayed reply, life got in the way.

                I put a fair amount of effort in my last comment into attempting to define terms, and to show that under at least one scenario, I *do* consider the ‘bad breath’ movie clearly immoral (that is, if knowingly false; and made with no other intent but to harm). I further stipulated that an anti-semitic work that would clearly fall into this category was “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”.

                My comment was an attempt to draw a simpler analogy (that still had quite a few moving parts) that was also less emotionally-charged, to try to illuminate what I see as the sticking points. You dismissed the analogy as entirely inapplicable (to you, the bad breath movie was never immoral), without bothering to offer any redefinition of terms, or critique of my reasoning or my analogy. I must therefore conclude that my attempt at clarification was futile and I don’t see us making much more progress. This post is getting stale anyway, maybe if any new info comes out we can revisit it there.

                So I will just say this here.

                Having not seen ‘Innocence of Muslims’ (I assume you have), and with the filmmakers’ intent (and much else about them) unknown (been following the story on BoingBoing, and not much more is known now than was known at the start, but maybe you have other sources and know something I don’t)…I just don’t know.

                Is ‘Innocence of Muslims’ closer to ‘Protocols’? That is, made with knowing deception and solely ill-intent to harm? If so, count me in as saying the film is ‘immoral’.

                Or, is it closer to ‘Life Of Brian’ (or Religulous, or a Parker/Stone production, or random graffiti on a bathroom wall – that is, an attempt at expressing a viewpoint critiquing a religion or religious figure, even if done in a manner that is potentially clumsy/offensive or containing viewpoints that are wrongheaded)? If so, count me as saying the film is probably not ‘immoral’, though it is certainly unfortunate that so much damage has occurred as a result. I hope one day people will stop rioting whenever something offends their sensibilities.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Though it is wrong to intentionally creates sparks around flamable things, especially when innocent women and children are likely to get burned

                See, this is where we disagree.

                These “flammable things” you point out? These are people who make moral decisions of their own.

                So even if I created a movie like “Life of Brian” for Islam, it would result in people trying to kill others.

                Let me ask you this:

                Was the creation of Life of Brian morally wrong?Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                No not all movies are immoral.

                This movie was immoral.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                Also, I agree that each person is a moral agent. (I agree that the rioters acted immorally.)

                Suppose some anti-semitic, hateful film that plays on stereotypes (The characters have hook noses and steal money through banking) racial and ethinc divisions (maybe a Christian girl is raped), etc, is watched by a million Christians. 1000 are convinced by it in some sense and become agressively more anti-semitic. 10o of that group stage an angry protest. 1 of them acts violently. Suppose the movie contains weirdly distorted kernels of truth and it is believed to be true by some of those who made it.

                That is an immoral, hateful movie, no?

                This movie is like that anti-semitic movie, not like Life of Brian. Period.

                If you wish to defend this movie as being just “religious criticism” of the sort you are a “fan of” please go ahead. That would make a good OP.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I asked you a specific question about a specific movie. Not about all movies.

                Have you not seen Life of Brian?

                See it. Then explain to me whether Life of Brian would qualify as a movie that you would say was morally wrong to make. (Don’t worry. You’ll love it. You’ll think it’s one of the funniest movies you’ve ever seen. You’ll make your friends watch it. It’s that entertaining.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                I recall being disappointed in Life of Brian, though that was when it first came out. I should probably watch it again. But I’m not sure what would make it offensive to Christians. Brian’s not Jesus. The real Jesus is there for the Sermon on the Mount, and He’s all that, even if the people in back can’t hear Him well.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Christians got The Life of Brian. It was funny as hell. Piss Christ, elephant dung Virgin Mary, not so much.

                The Last Temptation of Christ? The dumber ones found it too obvious, whereas the smarter ones found it too obvious.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Mike, I think that everybody involved with Life of Brian knew the whole “this isn’t about Jesus and any similarity is coincidental” thing was… um…

                Really? Do you think that the people who saw the movie as making fun of Christianity’s origins were stupid for thinking that?

                Don’t get me wrong, I laughed. (“What does he need a bomb for?” is a joke that is a *LOT* funnier after 9/11, though, don’t you think?)

                TVD, the elephant dung criticism was always deflected by people who pointed out that, in Africa, it’s a sacred art medium or something. They were always less able to defend the pictures of labia cut out from pornographic magazines fluttering around the Virgin Mary like little butterflies.

                For the record, I see a movie that says “all (people) are evil! (or stupid!, or something bad!)” as significantly different than “the popular mythologies surrounding the origins of a particular religion are bunkum because the religious figureheads are evil! (or stupid!, or something bad!)”

                A movie criticizing Islam and Mohammed shouldn’t be compared to an anti-semetic movie. It should be compared to a movie criticizing Judaism and Moses… A Dudley Moore movie, perhaps.

                If you haven’t seen “Wholly Moses!”, you haven’t missed a whole lot (“Get all of this broken bread out of here.”). Though they also made the point that the real Moses passed through the week before Dudley Moore’s character had any particular interaction with anybody.

                Maybe the next group of people criticizing Mohammed should call it “Not Mohammed!” and make a movie about a guy who isn’t Mohammed pretending to talk to angels, marrying every single single woman he encounters, and praying to Uzza.

                “Hey”, we can say. “It’s Not Mohammed!”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                ihe whole “this isn’t about Jesus and any similarity is coincidental” thing was… um…

                Something that people who weren’t paying attention and/or wanted to have a grievance would miss?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Something that people who weren’t paying attention and/or wanted to have a grievance would miss?

                While that’s certainly part of it, I’d also have to admit that if someone called it “deliberately disingenuous”, I wouldn’t have much of a counter-argument.

                Were I to make a story and name one of the characters “Schike Milling” and give him eerie similarities to you, I think that you’d be perfectly justified in being irritated if he weren’t painted particularly charitably. My saying “but he’s not you!” would probably be seen as my attempt at missing the point of why you’re upset.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                So long as the “real” Mike Schilling was also present, played by someone appropriate, like George Clooney, and he delivered a kick-ass version of Woody Allen’s moose-hunting routine, I’d be OK with it. Even if the people in the back were asking why you can’t tie a noose to your bumper, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                “The Life of Brian” is not immoral, no.

                But this movie is not analogous to “The Life of Brian” in the way it is analagous to anti-semitic movies.

                A movie is not immoral just because it implies that a religion is false, incorrect, etc. It is immoral when it promotes pernicious and hateful stereotypes against people who have been and are the victim of such stereotypes. Many Islamic people in the Arab world feel that they have been mistreated by (amongst others) Christians and Jews who hate them. There is some truth in this feeling, too. This movie plays on the ugly racial, ethnic and religious/sectarian sentiments that have made an awful situation for average Muslims that much worse. The “Life of Brian” didn’t play on those stereotypes and hateful attitudes at all. This movie is more analagous to a movie that shows stupid black characters who are out to steal elections and rape young white girls, etc.

                Do you really think this movie is analogous to the “Life of Brian?” That it is just some fun, light hearted, “done with love,” religious criticism?

                And don’t you think context matters? Imagine there had just been a religious war between Christians and Hindus killing 40 million Christians. And then a Hindu made “The Life of Brian the Christian Rapist.” And in the movie, the real Jesus appears, but Jesus rapes a young a Hindu girl. Whatever, right. That would be a pretty immoral movie to make, no?


              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Then explain to me whether Life of Brian would qualify as a movie that you would say was morally wrong to make.

                Why don’t you say that JB? You’re on record saying that movies can be immoral, yes? (Birth of a Nation.) What makes BoaN immoral and presumably LoB not? Interesting question, yes?

                It just seems to me you’re taking a murky issue, one that you agree is murky, and you’re argument is an attempt to get the other person to admit is in fact murky. But the fact that it’s murky is agreed upon by all sides. So if that’s you’re only point, then it seems you’re not arguing for anything that people disagree with.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                You think Brian was supposed to be Jesus?

                I thought Brian was supposed to be an “any-man,” a schlub like you and me, who finds himself in the same situation as Jesus (his neighbor as a child, righ?). That’s what is supposed to be funny, that the real Jesus in the story of the gospel acts with grace and wisdom or whatever, but Brian acts, well like you or I would.

                Wikipedia has all of this:

                “Shortly after the film was released, Cleese and Palin engaged in a what would become a notorious debate on the BBC2 discussion programme Friday Night, Saturday Morning, in which Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark, put the case against the film. Muggeridge and the Bishop had arrived 15 minutes late to see a screening of the picture prior to the debate, missing the establishing scenes demonstrating that Brian and Jesus were two different characters, and hence contended that it was a send-up of Christ himself.[8] Both Pythons later felt that there had been a strange role reversal in the manner of the debate, with two young upstart comedians attempting to make serious, well-researched points, while the establishment figures engaged in cheap jibes and point scoring. They also expressed disappointment in Muggeridge, whom all in Python had previously respected as a satirist. Cleese expressed that his reputation had “plummeted” in his eyes, while Palin commented that, “He was just being Muggeridge, preferring to have a very strong contrary opinion as opposed to none at all”.[8] Muggeridge’s verdict on the film was that it was “Such a tenth-rate film that it couldn’t possibly destroy anyone’s genuine faith”.
                The Pythons unanimously deny that they were ever out to destroy people’s faith. On the DVD audio commentary, they contend that the film is heretical because it lampoons the practices of modern organised religion, but that it does not blasphemously lampoon the God that Christians and Jews worship. When Jesus does appear in the film (on the Mount, speaking the Beatitudes), he is played straight (by actor Kenneth Colley) and portrayed with respect. The music and lighting make it clear that there is a genuine aura around him. The comedy begins when members of the crowd mishear his statements of peace, love and tolerance (“I think he said, ‘blessed are the cheese makers'”). Importantly, he is distinct from the character of Brian, which is also evident in the scene where an annoying and ungrateful ex-leper pesters Brian for money, while moaning that since Jesus cured him, he has lost his source of income in the begging trade (referring to Jesus as a “bloody do-gooder”).
                James Crossley, however, has argued that the film makes the distinction between Jesus and the character of Brian to make a contrast between the traditional Christ of both faith and cinema and the historical figure of Jesus in critical scholarship and how critical scholars have argued that ideas later got attributed to Jesus by his followers. Crossley points out that the film uses a number of potentially controversial scholarly theories about Jesus but now with reference to Brian, such as the Messianic Secret, the Jewishness of Jesus, Jesus the revolutionary, and having a single mother.[22]”

                Note that the makes of “LOB” are explicit in saying that they don’t mean to disrespect anyone. They grew up Christians. They love Christians. They have respect for Jesus and Christianity. They are parodying organized religion, but in an explicitly respectful way.

                Would and could the makers of “The Innocence of Muslims” say the same thing in an honest way? Is it not clear that their movie is horribly disrspectful and even hateful? (Its distributors are on the Southern Poverty Law list as established hate group people.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Sure. Movies like BoaN can be evil, the movie that the guy in California made was evil, and why wouldn’t we put Life of Brian in the same vein?

                Is it because we know that the people getting inspired to action by the first two were going to be inspired to violence and the people inspired by Life of Brian would just be… bitchy about it?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Is it because we know that the people getting inspired to action by the first two were going to be inspired to violence and the people inspired by Life of Brian would just be… bitchy about it?

                What do you think the right answer is?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                @Stillwater: from Ayaan Hirsi Ali

                Utopian ideologies have a short lifespan. Some are bloodier than others. As long as Islamists were able to market their philosophy as the only alternative to dictatorship and foreign meddling, they were attractive to an oppressed polity. But with their election to office they will be subjected to the test of government. It is clear, as we saw in Iran in 2009 and elsewhere, that if the philosophy of the Islamists is fully and forcefully implemented, those who elected them will end up disillusioned. The governments will begin to fail as soon as they set about implementing their philosophy: strip women of their rights; murder homosexuals; constrain the freedoms of conscience and religion of non-Muslims; hunt down dissidents; persecute religious minorities; pick fights with foreign powers, even powers, such as the U.S., that offered them friendship. The Islamists will curtail the freedoms of those who elected them and fail to improve their economic conditions.

                After the disillusion and bitterness will come a painful lesson: that it is foolish to derive laws for human affairs from gods and prophets. Just like the Iranian people have begun to, the Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans, and perhaps Syrians and others will come to this realization. In one or two or three decades we will see the masses in these countries take to the streets—and perhaps call for American help—to liberate them from the governments they elected. This process will be faster in some places than others, but in all of them it will be bloody and painful. If we take the long view, America and other Western countries can help make this happen in the same way we helped bring about the demise of the former Soviet Union.

                We must be patient. America needs to empower those individuals and groups who are already disenchanted with political Islam by helping find and develop an alternative. At the heart of that alternative are the ideals of the rule of law and freedom of thought, worship, and expression. For these values there can and should be no apologies, no groveling, no hesitation.

                It was Voltaire who once said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” As Salman Rushdie discovered, as we are reminded again as the Arab street burns, that sentiment is seldom heard in our time. Once I was ready to burn The Satanic Verses. Now I know that his right to publish it was a more sacred thing than any religion.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                his right to publish it was a more sacred thing than any religion.

                Exactly. In the beginning is the word.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                The mere fact that someone reacts violently to a movie does not make it immoral.

                The “Innocence of Muslims” would be an immoral piece of hateful propaganda regardless of it’s effect. If an anti-semitic hate film convinced people to be more anti-semitic, or if it causes Jews to feel dehumanized, or if it creates racial rension and violence, that is merely a symptom of its horrible immoral nature. But if horrible, hateful movie didn’t get seen, or didn’t have the effect of maximizing hate and stereotypes (perhaps because it was just too badly made, or whatever) it is still an immoral movie.

                You seem intent on implying that “The Innocence of Muslims” is not an immoral movie, rather people had a bad reaction to (Why else are you worried about whether “LOB” would be immoral if people reacted badly to it?)

                I get that you have admitted, to your credit, that ” TOM” is immoral and hateful. And LOB is not. So what are you debating now? Are you trying to say that maybe TOM is not so immoral?

                Please correct me if I’m wrong about your flip-flopping on the morality of TOM. What are you trying to argue for?

                I should point out that it is not easy to know when movies, jokes, etc. cross the line of racism. A black comic can use the N-word. Others can’t. That’s how it is. You can’t just say, all uses of the N-word are immoral. Context matters in determining morality of certain expressions, jokes, movies, etc. And context is too messy for easily stated necessary and sufficient conditions. Certainly, you can’t say that all religious criticism or claims about race and culture are immoral. But some “so-called” religious criticism is just rank, awful anti-semitism or Islamophobia or whatever. Separating the clear cases of hateful racism and anti-semitism from interesting, friendly critiques is easy. But spelling out the necesary and sufficient criteria that determine what is and isn’t immoral here is really hard.

                Is that what you are arguing?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Shaz, my argument is that it’s immoral… so what?

                So’s adultery.

                So what?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Shaz, my argument is that it’s immoral… so what?

                JB, from my pov, you’re argument hasn’t been that it’s immoral. You’ve conceded that it’s immoral while arguing something else, something that Shaz (and me, ftm) aren’t entirely clear about.

                I mean, you’ve argued that art can be offensive without being immoral. You’ve conceded that art can be offensive and immoral. As Shaz outlined above, you seem to (appear to) agree with his and other liberals views about both the correct description of the state of affairs as well as the relevant moral properties in play. issues in play.

                So if you think that there’s still a disagreement here, there’s a communication breakdown somewhere along the way. But I don’t think it’s on Shazbot’s part.

                From my pov anyway.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                I’m a bit confused over why you’re asking me “so what?” How do you expect me to answer that?

                I was bothered by your claim, in response to a worry about whether this movie should have been made and whether it should have been distributed (in part) by Jones, that “I’m a fan of religious criticism.”

                I took that to imply that you thought that “TOM” was morally acceptable, mere “religious criticism” analagous to “LOB.” After much discussion, you agreed that you thought “TOM” was immorally islamophobic in a way analaogous to immorally racist and anti-semitic materials.

                I agree that the primary cause of “anti-western” riots in the middle east is that there is a too-large segment of the population that is undereducated, there is a history of tyranny, and there is a too-widespread belief that westerners hate Islamic people. Riots will happen regardless of racist cartoons and racist, Islamophobic movies.

                But every time a westerner makes a movie or cartoon (which they have a right to do) that is hateful and anti-semitic it confirms the fears of the class of undeducated and already-hating-the-west and they become more ady to hate and fear the west. (Much of which is also inflamed by errant drone bombs, a history of war and oppression, etc, regardless of whether you think all that violence was morally justified.)

                Ideally, each person in the middle east would realize and choose to believe that the west isn’t that bad and that they shouldn’t hate the west. Many do make that choice. But when you’re dealing with hundreds of millions of people, you should expect some of them to make mistakes.

                With a racist movie, everyoneshould see through it and not react by becoming more racist (or not feeling dehumanized if you are in the targeted racial group.) But the fact that people shouldn’t react badly to racist material is not a defense of the people who create the racist material.

                It seems to me that you want me to answer you’re question “So what?” by saying that “The Muslims aren’t to blame.” But I believe that the individual rioters acted immorally. I also believe that racist Islamophobic propaganda makes these riots more likely to happen. I also believe that racist, anti-semitic, and Islamophobic material is immoral regardless of whether it has the effect of causing riots, or dehumanizing people, or maximizing ugly racist sentiments.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                Thanks Stillwater. That helps.

                Also, I hope I’m not coming across as rude. It does seem that Jaybird wants to disagree with the OP, or me, or something. I am a bit frustrated about this confusion, but am interested and glad that Jaybird has been so friendly. Please forgive me if I am sounding like a jerk.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You’re welcome. For my part, I don’t think you’re coming across as rude or anything like that. Frustrated, maybe.

                My guess is that JB is uncomfortable with a line of argument that he thinks is being advanced, but he’s not entirely clear on what’s making him uncomfortable. Because of that, he’s probing you for answers to questions that might help him discover what it in fact is.

                That can be frustrating.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I touched on part of the problem when I talked about heliocentrism.

                There are a lot of facts out there that exist in conflict with a lot of Truths that people hold.

                To what extent is telling them things that are in conflict with their Truths our problem vs. their problem?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                To what extent is telling them things that are in conflict with their Truths our problem vs. their problem?

                Well, interestingly enough, that’s what this entire subthread – and other thread on this post – have been attempting to answer!Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Really? Because it feels like Shazbot just wants me to say that a movie that insults the Prophet is evil in the same way as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and for the same reasons.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I decided to rot13 this next part just in case.

                Jr’er nyy rayvtugrarq crbcyr urer.

                Jr xabj gung gurer vfa’g n Tbq. Vs, va bhe jrnxre zbzragf, jr ner jvyyvat gb pbaprqr gur rkvfgrapr bs znlor n fbzrguvat bhg gurer, vg’f abg cnegvphyneyl vagreiragvbavfg naq vg’f *PREGNVAYL* abg na Nyynu gung jbhyq fraq bhg na Natry Tnoevry gb npg nf n ohqql/nqivfbe gb Zbunzzrq. Gb trg qbja vagb gur avggl-tevggl, jr xabj gung Zbunzzrq jnf rvgure ylvat be penml orpnhfr jr xabj gung ur pbhyq abg cbffvoyl unir orra gryyvat gur gehgu… naq vs jr’er jvyyvat gb ernq orgjrra gur yvarf jura vg pbzrf gb pregnva cnegf bs gur Xbena, jr xabj gung ur unq rabhtu bs uvf snphygvrf gb znxr fbzr uneq onetnvaf jura ur arrqrq gb znxr fbzr uneq onetnvaf… ohg, rira fb, gur qrongr vf ba jurgure Zbunzzrq jnf zber bs n yvne guna n ahgwbo be zber bs n ahgwbo guna n yvne.

                Ntnva: guvf vf fbzrguvat gung jr, nf zbqrea crbcyr, xabj. Creuncf jr znl or gbb cbyvgr gb fnl fhpu guvatf va choyvp. Creuncf jr pna fbsgra gurz ol gnyxvat nobhg “Cbrgvp Gehguf” naq “Qrrcre Zrnavatf” naq ubj gur HF Cbfgny Freivpr trgf 50,000 yrggref gb Zbunzzrq rirel Enznqna naq qbrfa’g gung vaqvpngr gb hf jung Enznqna vf nyy nobhg, ernyyl?

                Ohg, zhpu yvxr Fnagn Pynhf, jr unir gb qrny jvgu gur uneq gehgu gung, grpuavpnyyl, ur qbrfa’g rkvfg, abg rknpgyl.

                Ohg jr’er qrnyvat jvgu n fvghngvba jurer jura jr fnl guvatf yvxr gur nobir jura vg pbzrf gb Vfynz, vg zvtug or orfg gb chg fhpu fragvzragf oruvaq n gval ovg bs rapelcgvba. Nf zhpu nf Fnagn vf abg erny, uvf urycref irel zhpu ner n zvabevgl bs gurz unir qrzbafgengrq gung gurl’er abg nobir tvivat crbcyr pbny va gurve fgbpxvatf.

                Naq jurarire gurer vf ivbyrapr va erfcbafr gb n pevgvpvfz bs gur cebcurg, gurer vf nyjnlf gnyx nobhg jurgure gur gnyx vf rivy be fubhyq unir orra nibvqrq gb cerirag gur ivbyrapr.

                Cneg bs gur qlanzvp jura qrnyvat jvgu Vfynz vf gung vg’f abg ragveryl zrybqenzn gung V jbhyq chg guvf pbzzrag oruvaq rapelcgvba jura n cerggl vqragvpny frg bs fragraprf ovgpuvat nobhg Puevfgvnavgl abg orvat erny (gurer ner frevbhf nethzragf bire jurgure Gur Uvfgbevpny Wrfhf rira rkvfgrq. Vg’f gehr! V guvax vg’f fnsr gb fnl gung vs Wrfhf arire rkvfgrq, Puevfgvnavgl unf ybfg n tbbq puhax bs nethzrag va vgf snibe, qba’g lbh?) be Whqnvfz orvat n cbbe eryvtvba (V qngrq n Wrjvfu crefba va Arj Lbex… ure tenaqcneragf qvqa’g yvxr zr orpnhfr V jnf abg Wrjvfu. Ubj vf guvf abg nxva gb enpvfz? Naq yrg’f abg rira trg fgnegrq gnyxvat nobhg Vfenry!)… pevgvpvfzf bs gubfr gjb eryvtvbaf jbhyqa’g arrq gb or rapelcgrq. Abg sbe n frpbaq. Vg jbhyqa’g rira bpphe gb hf gb unir gb or arprffnel.

                Ohg gb gnyx nobhg ubj Nyynu qbrfa’g rkvfg be Zbunzzrq jnf n yvne be n ahgonyy? Gung’f fbzrguvat gung zvtug orfg or uvq… vs abg fbzrguvat gung’f fghcvq gb fnl va choyvp va gur svefg cynpr.

                Naq gung qlanzvp fcrnxf IBYHZRF.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                I’m still confused Jaybird.

                Imagine Mr. X makes a virulently anti-semitic movie. A real nasty thing.

                Would it be relevant to say, in a discussion about that movie that “There are a lot of facts out there that exist in conflict with a lot of Truths that people hold.”

                Do you mean there is some truth in Islamophobic, hateful material?

                I doubt you mean that.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Now THAT’S Leo Strauss to a “T.” The Forgotten Type of Writing = rot13!

                Not only that, but JB’s esoteric message here is precisely what Strauss proposes is usually what needs to be hid, the preposterousness of revealed religion!

                Ooops, I just done gave it all away. Apologies to Strauss, Locke, Machiavelli and of course Jaybird.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                One of my points all along is that the movie is not immoral because it states that Islam or something in it is false. Nor is it immoral because it is perceived to conflict with religious dictates.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                What makes the movie’s immorality notable is the pile of bodies, Shaz.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                I’ll repeat it here. Once the conversation becomes encoded, I am out.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                What makes the movie’s immorality notable is the pile of bodies, Shaz.

                Now you’re arguing disingenuously.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How’s this?

                When people have created and passed out anti-Jewish propaganda in the past, it’s resulted in people killing Jews.

                This is a case of anti-Muslim propaganda and… the result is Muslims killing people?

                There’s more going on here.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                The comparisons are another aspect of why this makes me so uncomfortable, aside from what I have already written.

                I know we keep saying that we are not comparing the two actions (making the movie, and the riots) – different actions, different moral standards etc.

                But I can’t help but compare (when we start referring to a movie as a ‘trigger’, it’s sort of inevitable – action/reaction) and my mind recoils from the inherent comparison.

                This may well be my problem, and it may be emotional not logical. (Not saying it is Jaybird’s issue).

                If Billy writes ‘Bobby is ugly’ on the chalkboard, and that results in all the children throwing stones at Bobby on the playground, I have no problem saying Billy shouldn’t have done that (and, the kids should not have thrown stones, obvs).

                If Billy writes ‘Bobby is ugly’ on the chalkboard and that results in Bobby responding in kind by writing ‘Billy is ugly’ on the chalkboard; or even an arguably understandable non-lethal response like punching Billy in the nose, I think Billy and Bobby both deserve detention, Billy for being a jerk, and Bobby for responding by either being a jerk in return to Billy, or by resorting to violence against Billy.

                But if Billy writes ‘Bobby is ugly’ on the chalkboard, and later Bobby is found throwing stones at random people who are walking by the playground, well…

                Bobby’s ‘reaction’ in the latter case is so completely disconnected/out of proportion to the ‘trigger’, that it has the effect of making the alleged ‘trigger’ orthogonal in my mind. It feels ridiculous to pay more than cursory attention to the ‘trigger’ in the face of the bigger problem.

                Had Bobby done nothing, or reacted in a way that I think is understandable, I could more easily class Billy as immoral in some meaningful way.

                But because Bobby responded with random violence against others, my mind says ‘Billy was probably being immoral – true, but trivial even if true. Let’s move on to the nontrivial issue, Bobby throwing rocks at strangers. That is a real problem and it needs to be dealt with now.’

                The fact is, at some point, all of us are Billy’s, whether we mean to be or not – we are going to offend someone, intentionally or unintentionally, with our words/ideas. We can’t do a whole lot about the Billy’s (perversely, it becomes EASIER to evaluate when the Billy’s are clearly in the wrong if the Bobby’s keep their cool; because then Billy’s potential immorality doesn’t get completely eclipsed by Bobby’s ‘reaction’).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                When people have created and passed out anti-Jewish propaganda in the past, it’s resulted in people killing Jews.

                When you want to ignore the moral agency of the murderers, you’re ignoring a lot.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is it my turn to complain about disingenuous counter-arguments now?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Feel free. I don’t think I called your counterarguments disingenuous, though. That was Still, I think. Me, I thought it was wrong then, so I’m using it disingenuously now, but I figure if you took it seriously then, you’ll take it seriously now.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Also, it’s not very difficult for me to imagine a situation in which Christianity or, say, ethnic Germans (or Hungarians, or Russians, or whatever) are attacked in a highly offensive piece of art, and the response by those who are attacked is to kill Jewish people. Because you know, at a certain point in European history, the response to just about anything negative was to kill some Jewish people.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh, absolutely.

                That why it seems to me that the response to the anti-Muslim sentiment in this movie is significantly different to the point where anti-Semitic comparisons break down.

                This movie has resulted in Muslims rioting and committing acts of violence against non-Muslims.

                Something else entirely is going on here.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                And what do you think that is?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It feels like “we shouldn’t upset people by criticizing their religion who are this easy to upset by criticizing their religion.”

                These arguments surfaced after the Mohammed cartoons, after the Mohammed episode of South Park, and you can even find a few of them after the Satanic Verses incident back in the 80’s (the pieces I found made reference to how we should have known that this response was perfectly predictable).

                I also suspect that there will be another riot at some point in the near future… a year, maybe two, where another knucklehead is going to do something crude and stupid that will hurt the feelings of the most inclined toward violence sub-sets of people and we will again see arguments discussing the importance of prior restraint when it comes to insulting the feelings of the most inclined toward violence sub-sets of people.

                What might make that more interesting is whether we’ll have more (inevitably French) violence against art mocking/criticizing Jesus in the meantime and the arguments about who should have done what to prevent this violence from being referred to in the passive voice.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Damn this subthread is long. I put this in the wrong place:

                I’m not sure anyone is saying that, but if they are, I think they’re wrong. I was saying that I don’t think we should intentionally throw rocks at hornets nests with no intention other than to stir up some hornets, while a bunch of people are hanging around directly beneath the hornets nest.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                I am not inclined to look up “rot13” but feel that the conversation is slipping off the rails. (Tom’s presence in a sub-thread is always a bad omen.)Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Shazbot, rot13 is a simple substitution cypher (Rotates alpha characters 13 positions). If you click on the link and paste JB’s text in the box, it will translate it for you.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                Don’t mean to be rude, but why the hell would I bother deciphering this? Usually I don’t listen to people who speak to me in code.

                I believe I am finished with this conversation.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You certainly don’t have to.

                There are, however, things that might cause violence if heard outside of certain circles. In an effort to prevent that in what is effectively a public forum, sometimes it’s best to speak in something akin to a whisper.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                flagesmann 1X9

                The eagle is in the henhouse.

                Repeat. The eagle is in the henhouse.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Haldeman Dean Colson.

                The Pope refuses to look in the telescope. Repeat: The Pope won’t look in the telescope.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:


              no one should make that anti-Semitic movie, even if they believe its claims, because of the social harm it is likely to do.

              Not to get all Rorschach from Watchmen for a moment, but I think I disagree with how sweeping this statement is, and the filmmakers’ intent and beliefs do play into it (so it’s really the ‘even if they believe its claims’ piece I am focusing on).

              If someone genuinely believes that Judaism, or Christianity, or Islam, or Unitarianism, or veganism, or Green Bay fanhood, or whatever – is a corrupting force in the world, a lie – then they *should* make a film that they believe helps expose that lie.

              Even *if* cities could burn.

              Because for all we know, he’s right. Only the evidence presented, the strength of the ideas, the reaction and counter-reactions, and time, will tell for sure. I don’t know how we draw a line between ‘academic’ criticisms and rabble-rousing/muck-racking. Change occurs via both avenues, some good, some bad.

              There was a *lot* of violence that ultimately resulted from Luther nailing his ’95 Theses’ up. Some people believe that the end result was still to the good. So can we say Luther should not have done that, now that we know how much Catholic and Protestant blood would eventually come to be shed?

              (I am not comparing the Theses to this film; I am simply saying an idea cannot be judged by the world, until it is first expressed; and again, I am a free speech near-absolutist, so this colors my thinking).

              The only thing we can say is, don’t kill people because you don’t like what they have said (or written, or filmed) about your religion/ideas/country/family/whatever.

              Make a film of your own, instead.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Because for all we know, he’s right.

                That’s not true. In fact, I don’t think even you believe it.

                First, the sincerity with which the belief is held is irrelevant wrt determining whether that view is true. Second, “for all we know” is a limit on what we know, not how we (think we) know it. If all the best evidence suggests that a belief is false, then we’ve answered the “for all we know” worry. Third, any belief which justifies harming or killing innocent people, or even arguably guilty people, must meet a very highg burden of justification, which isn’t met simply saying “for all we know that belief is true”. And the reason is that what we do know is that deliberately harming/killing innocent people is rarely (if ever) justified, and deliberately harming/killing arguably guilty people requires demonstrating their guilt (amonst other things).

                So, I would say you have this backwards: just because a person sincerely believes proposition P doesn’t mean they are justified in acting on P.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I think ‘acting on P’ is the crux.

                I don’t see making films as ‘acting’, I see them as ‘idea expression’. I see expression as (nearly) always justified, because idea expression is a prerequisite to society judging the worth of that idea (and again, I do not claim society will always make the right choice – see: Elders Of Zion, Protocols Of – only that stopping the expression on grounds violence could result, also means that the 95 Theses might never have been nailed up.)

                ‘Acting’, is killing people. The film does not kill people, nor does it (as I understand it) call for killing people, in any way. On what grounds do we say this film should not have been made, and Life Of Brian (or Satanic Verses, or Last Temptation, or ‘Piss Christ’, or Religulous) should have?

                If the filmmaker believes he is truth-telling, he should tell that truth.

                And, the rest of us should tell him he’s being a total douche-pickle, if that is the case.

                ‘Religulous’ may one day be the ’95 Theses’ of the 21st century. Maybe lots of religious people and atheists will die warring against each other between now and then. Lots of people think Maher’s right. Lots of people think he’s wrong.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                So a propaganda piece directed at scapegoating blacks, or Jews, or the Chinese for the evils of the world is not immoral?

                Are you suggesting these horribly harmful, racist, anti-semitic, Islamophobic movies, songs, and propaganda are not immoral because the people who made them believe what they are saying?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Well, the word ‘scapegoating’ (as well as ‘propaganda’, at least in common parlance) implies that the person who makes the piece knows the charges are not true, so that’s out – that’s clearly immoral, because the speaker is lying (he knows the object of his piece isn’t truly responsible for these evils).

                If he believes he is telling the truth, it can be harmful – even hugely so – but not inherently immoral, in part because after all, he might turn out to be correct. We all thought Sinead O’Connor was nuts, when she ripped up a pic of the pope and accused the Catholic Church of abusing children; and look how THAT one turned out.

                And I believe that repressing the expression is more overall likely to lead to violence ultimately, than is its expression (and therefore opportunity for rebuttal).

                Additionally, making the call of ‘he’s lying’ gets dicier when the piece in question is fictionalized at all, which in the case of any sort of satire, moreover featuring a person thousands of years dead, is inevitable.

                Who today can say what the ‘truth’ is in re: Mohammed? Maybe he was a saint; maybe he was a scumbag; maybe a bit of both. Even if we knew with 100% certainty the facts, which is impossible, the same fact can be interpreted differently by different people, and anyway people have poetic license to exaggerate, parody, etc. etc. to make the point they want to make, or to make people laugh, or to make people mad, or to make no point at all.

                Again, the ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me’ (expression vs. action) distinction is critical to me. Whether it is an artificial line or not, I have to maintain that distinction, rather like believing, of necessity, that humans have free will and can make choices, rather than just being completely beholden to electrochemical deterministic biological forces (which is probably the case in actuality). Without this belief I see no possibility of human society, at least none I’d want to live in.

                I want to see roving mobs on all sides with cameras in hand, rather than with sticks and stones.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

                So, if some racist or Nazi or hater of jews really believes the pernicious things they are saying and “propaganda” (call it whatever you want), then they are acting in a morally acceptable way?

                If you believe that the answer is “yes,” I think we have reached a argumentative impasse.

                I think Nazi, racist, anti-semitic, islamophobic, etc. speech and media is immoral regardless of whether the people who make it believe it. That’s kind of a brute moral intuition for me. Maybe you disagree and are morally okay with hate-speech. Interesting if you truly believe it, but a bit scary for me.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Well, I think ‘okay with it’ is overstating the case. We have a right, nay, responsibility to correct an ignorant SOB, loudly and repeatedly. But, we can’t correct him until he says his piece first.

                For the record, I hate Illinois Nazis. 🙂

                Look at it this way – if Catholics had rioted over Sinead O’Connor, would she have been wrong to do what she did? I say no, *even if she knew they’d riot*.

                And if she had been mistaken, and simply sincerely believed that child abuse was going on in the Church when it was not, I would still have trouble construing her actions as ‘immoral’ (though they could certainly be classed ‘ignorant and ill-advised’) since she is still acting in a way that she believes is necessary to help children.

                It’s only once malicious intent AND deception comes in that I clearly feel she would have been acting immorally w/r/t to what I see as a piece of ‘speech/thought’ not ‘action’.

                When it comes to the realm of clear ‘action’, I am much more comfortable discounting intent (though even there, I don’t discount it entirely).

                Unfortunately ‘intent’ and ‘deception’ are hard to prove in ‘speech’ cases like this.

                Like I said, I am sort of a near-free-speech absolutist, I think the First Amendment is just about the greatest idea humans ever came up with, because it makes it much less likely that we mistake the next Luther or Socrates or Galileo or Sinead O’Connor or Bill Maher as the next Sam Bacile (or whatever his real name is), and burn ’em at the stake before they can explain themselves, or before time and events can prove them right or wrong.

                That the Sam Baciles (potentially) get away with it in the here and now, is the price we have to pay for that. 🙁Report

              • Avatar Shazbot2 says:


                Do you agree that anti-semitic hate speech is immoral, regardless of whether the people who put it out there believe it to be true?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I’m not sure that I believe that speech *itself* can be either moral or immoral; only action can. I do make the classic ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater exception (and even then, if you genuinely believe there is a fire, if you are simply wrong, I have a hard time calling that ‘immoral’, because the intent to help, however misguided, is present. If you are just pranking, then that is clearly morally wrong since people got stampeded on the basis of a knowing lie).

                I should also point out that I have not seen this film.Report

      • Avatar George Turner says:

        Just to make sure you folks know, Pastor Jones had nothing to do with making the movie, he just gave it a promotion on his website. I doubt he knew the movie even existed a couple of weeks ago.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Given that Pastor Jones is something of an established conduit at this point, “just promoting it on his website” is kind of an important factor.Report

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Not nearly as important as posting a 15 minute trailer on Youtube, in Arabic, and making sure Egyptians saw it.

          Just trying to nip this errant “Pastor Jones” distraction in the bud. Sure, little hate parties are fun and Jones is easy to hate, but he’s almost completely irrelevant to this dust up, as are Terry Jones, Shirley Jones, Quincy Jones, and all the other Joneses.

          Due to this distraction, nobody has even mentioned that the guy who actually made the film is Israeli, which might, might have some tiny bit of political dimension in that region, where there’s some sort of lingering resentment, a few territorial disputes, and a bit of paranoia.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      the mob specifically responsible was a militia

      If it’s a militia, it’s not, strictly speaking, a mob. And it’s reasonable to suspect that it had purposes for attacking an American embassy other than indignation about a movie. At this point, there’s almost nothing about the film’s creators, purposes, or consequences that we’re certain of. (Yes, it did reveal what a weasel Romney is, but it’s not like that was in doubt.)Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Did I mention that it was a militia before the whole thread devolved into “but the filmmakers are eeeeeeeevul”? Yes, yes I did…

      Just highlighting that…no real reason.Report

  9. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    It should also be noted that 7 homicides occured over the weeked in my city. I wonder what (beyond the obvious reasons) is more affecting about Americans killed by non-Americans than Americans killed by Americans.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      I think in this case the fact that it’s embassy staff, who are by international convention and reasons of humanity supposed to be protected from this sort of thing.Report

      • There’s more to it than that, I think, though that’s part of it. It’s also that it is intended as an attack on all Americans, and in some ways it really is an attack on all Americans. An embassy is obviously the symbolic manifestation of our country; but beyond that, it’s also something that serves significant practical purposes on our behalf, purposes that have little to do with potentially controversial issues of international politics – it’s who Americans of any political stripe can call if they run into trouble with the locals while in a country, a place that may help Americans navigate business relations in the country, and a whole host of other stuff. Now, are Americans lining up in droves to go to Libya or do business with it? Probably not; but the embassy at least helps to ensure that the option of doing so exists.

        That doesn’t necessarily mean that the proper response to the attack is to start lobbing cruise missiles somewhere, but I think it’s certainly appropriate to make a uniquely big deal about this in terms of what we choose to discuss.Report

    • Avatar CK MacLeod says:

      It should also be noted that 7 homicides occured over the weeked in my city. I wonder what (beyond the obvious reasons) is more affecting about Americans killed by non-Americans than Americans killed by Americans.

      Not to single you out, Mr Gach – since you seem like a congenial and thoughtful guy – but it’s worth pondering exactly why this “rational” response utterly fails to confront the human reality of events like these, on both sides. Rationalism of this type is not how people discover and embody meaning in their lives. When someone close to us dies, we do not usually find it very comforting to consider how many other people died that day around the world and ever. When someone with whom we identify, whom we understand as part of our extended national family, and as our representative, is harmed, to respond “merely rationally” is to deny the meaningfulness of the bonds, the same bonds that hold the nation together as a nation. This goes for “the Islamists” as well as for “us.”

      It’s on this basis also that Romney’s lashing out at the Obama Administration at this time will be taken as obscene by those who, affronted, draw together in a re-affirmation of that collective bond. Romney’s initial, unjustified, and dishonest statement, and his “doubling down,” ironically re-affirm the very concept he’s violating. Obama & co. have supposedly, according to Romney, sided with the murderers. It’s the kind of thing you can say and possibly believe (one never knows with Romney) if you’re so twisted by morbid political pathologies that you’ve already placed the President and his party outside your alternative collective identity, “your” rather than “our” America.Report

  10. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I find the politics of the Middle East to be absolutely depressing for the reasons of this episode.

    Everything seems to be a perfect cluster of provoking reaction.

    Christian and Jewish Extremists release a film showing that Islam is nothing but violence and thuggery.

    Then there are riots and violent reactions which seem to prove the point.


  11. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    We’ve reached a Beirut Moment. When the USMC barracks were bombed in Beirut, Reagan behaved in a cowardly manner.

    Will Obama send his operators after the bastards who murdered our ambassador? I strongly suspect he will but not right away.

    Benghazi doesn’t represent all of Libya. At an emotional/tribal level, Libya is three different entities: 1) East, which is to say Benghazi, Senussi. 2) the West, headquarters in Tripoli, and 3) the South, which has produced many of the Wahhabist troublemakers we now see making news in Mali, tearing down the ancient tombs of the marabouts. Don’t forget, last year’s civil war began in Benghazi and it’s been an armed camp ever since. Libya still sorts itself out by tribes and so does the new Libyan government.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Will Obama send his operators after the bastards who murdered our ambassador? I strongly suspect he will but not right away.

      Honestly I have to wonder at this point whether or not people are paying attention to his track record or they’re actually believing the crap the GOP’s putting out. Being an enemy of the United States has been a decidedly dangerous thing under the Obama Administration.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        not as much as under the Bush Admin. but maybe that’s because most of them are now dead.Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          That depends if you count killing actual enemies or just a body count. Obama’s shown he’s not shy about chasing down terrorists, especially with drones.

          And I’m not sure it’s productive comparison. Drone warfare began in earnest under the Bush43 administration. If Obama uses more drones, well, that’s mostly because Obama has more drones than Bush43 ever did. The drones are evolving and so are the ROEs for using them.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      Reagan behaved in a cowardly manner.

      Nonsense, he invaded Grenada he next day. What’s a braver reaction to getting your ass kicked than beating up some random little kid?Report

  12. Avatar william lenneman says:

    It is important to note that the film was directed,produced and financed by Israeli Jews #deportsambacileReport

  13. Avatar George Turner says:

    BTW, here’s a posting on one of the staffers who was killed, by one of his friends and fellow gamers. 🙁

  14. Avatar Morat20 says:

    After correcting a friend (he claimed that the Cairo embassy was apologizing even as they were invaded) and pointing out that the tweet he found so unbeliebable had been issued hours before, as the usual bland pap embassies issue whenever the locals are stirred up about the embassy’s own nation (for any reason, good or bad)…

    he doubled down, claiming the embassy was still tweeting a litany of “Oh god, we’re so sorry!”.

    So I read it. The sum total of relevant tweets: (paraphrased slightly) “Religious tolerance is a cornerstone of American democracy” and “Neither invaders nor angry messages will cause us to forgo our support for freedom of speech and distaste towards bigotry”.

    Which is, suffice to say, not exactly as he breathlessly claimed. I gave up at that point. He was living in another world, where Obama was of course going to kowtow to a violent crowd and embassies magically filled with Obama clones would be simpering before their violent Muslim overlords.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:


      Do you have a link for us lazyasses?Report

      • Avatar Morat20 says:

        That’s it. They did remove the tweet they’d issued well before any violence. (I really don’t blame them. While it may have been bland pap, idiots were being idiots about it and they have enough problems over there at the moment).

        That’s the entirety of the US Embassy in Cairo’s twitter feed. Their original comment was only geared towards religious bigotry (perhaps they felt the ‘free speech’ part was obvious enough, or perhaps they were only thinking of the problem at hand. Or perhaps just being diplomatic in not rubbing the locals nose in the fact that yes, indeed, you can say whatever you want in America even if it, as in this case, it torques people off).

        A later statement was basically aimed partially at home and partially at the locals — I’d imagine their twitter feed was full of screaming Americans who (like my friend) believed they were being spineless wimpy appeasers welcoming their Muslim Overlords.

        These three seem particularly telling as to what they’re receiving from people who might have, shall we say, bought into my friend’s particular misunderstanding:

        US Embassy Cairo ?@USEmbassyCairo
        1) Thank you for your thoughts and prayers.

        US Embassy Cairo ?@USEmbassyCairo
        2) Of course we condemn breaches of our compound, we’re the ones actually living through this.

        US Embassy Cairo ?@USEmbassyCairo
        3) Sorry, but neither breaches of our compound or angry messages will dissuade us from defending freedom of speech AND criticizing bigotryReport

        • Avatar George Turner says:

          Apparently they’ve been deleting some important tweets, like the one Romney was commenting on. Now we can’t tell who was responding to what, including the protesters who were perhaps reacting to embassy tweets that no longer exist.

          I say we have the Ministry of Truth just airbrush this whole incident out of the public record and be done with it.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            The press says the admin “distanced itself” from the embassy message. Yeah, to Politico, by an unnamed admin official. Which doesn’t count for squat. Unless somebody has more. I can’t find it.Report

  15. Avatar Will Truman says:

    I think Stillwater makes a pretty important distinction here. What Jones did was wrong regardless of whether the response to it was reasonable or unreasonable. I like to point out agreements with Still where I can, cause I’m not sure about the second part…

    The unreasonable response is not on Jones, as far as I am concerned. His moral culpability in what happened is, by my view, relatively minimal. Assigning significant moral culpability for the violence following an act that does not call for violence is to give those perpetrating and more directly encouraging the violence too much power.

    The only gray area here is the extent to which Jones wanted them to attack our embassy or something like that. That may be the case, but that’s a pretty hefty charge. That such a response was foreseeable is not, in my view, sufficient. I hesitate even to describe “indirect responsibility.”

    To go back to my original comment, though, that doesn’t make it okay to do what he did. It’s problematic even if the response had been entirely proportional and reasonable.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      To be perfectly honest, if someone came out and said “if you post that video to youtube, it’ll result in Libyans and Egyptians attacking embassies and they’ll even start killing people”, my suspicion would be that the statement would have been condemned (even, at the same time, there would have been agreement on why we shouldn’t post inflammatory content to youtube).Report

  16. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    In no uncertain terms, I denounce this latest violence. The loss of life is saddening, and this will only reinforce attitudes that ALL Moslems are violent and murderous.

    In lesser terms, I believe that the film-makers should be cited for inciting a riot. If I know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that certain words will cause a riot, and I speak those words, then I am yelling “Fire!” in crowded theater.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      So if conservative Christians react with violence with enough predictability, should criticizing them then constitute inciting a riot?Report

      • Avatar James Hanley says:

        There’s a fuzzy line between fighting words and the heckler’s veto. Notably, the Supreme Court has largely retreated from the fighting words standard, and IMO it’s because they see it as coming too close to legitimizing the heckler’s veto.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I’m not saying that Doctor Tiller was asking for it, but I am going to spend a lot more time talking about the things that Doctor Tiller did and things that his supporters did and things that his ideological brethren said than I’m going to spend talking about anything else Doctor Tiller-related.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          And you’re not going to spend that time talking about what his killer did and said, and what the killer’s supporters and ideological brethren did and said?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Hey, both sides have their hands dirty, I’m not going to deny that. Now let’s get back to talking about George Tiller.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Why? Why not talk about Scott Roeder and Operation Rescue? I honestly don’t understand, and I’m a bit creeped out by what you’re saying.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, then. Pretend that, instead, a couple of guys made a movie and posted it to youtube and, in response, people were murdered in Libya.

                Imagine if I wanted to spend all of my time talking about the guys who made the movie.

                Would you be creeped out?

                Or would you say “That’s completely different!”?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Yes, I’d be a bit creeped out. I’d say even if we disagree with their ideas, why are we focusing on them instead of focusing on those who respond to their expression ideas by killing people?

                Honestly, reading through your comments again, I can’t tell if we’re on the same side or opposite sides. Sometimes I think you overplay your particular approach, confusing matters more than clarifying.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

                (You’re on the same side.)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                So he’s making me jump through hoops to argue something we both agree on?

                Don’t get me wrong, I think Jaybird’s one of the good guys at this place. But I find it intensely irritating that he won’t clearly explain himself and say, “we’re on the same side,” but rather plays this little Socratic dialogue with someone he agrees with.

                Perhaps it’s an occupational hazard; I’m empirically minded, and I like to lay things out as clearly as possible so we know just WTF it is everyone’s saying, can clearly identify the areas of disagreement, and can pinpoint the discussion on them to see if they are resolvable. I don’t generally have patience for this philosophical/law school approach, and certainly not when it’s being used by someone who agrees with me to flesh out the argument they should be able to damn well make themselves.

                I suppose some people like that approach, but you won’t find it in a science journal, and that’s pretty much my standard.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

                To each their own. I thought it was a point beautifully made (indicating where a certain strain of logic can take us).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m always ashamed of how obvious and heavy-handed my stuff feels when I write it.

                Is it really that oblique?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Clear as an unmuddied lake. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                To me, very oblique. I’m far more comfortable with people who clearly say what they mean (hence my perpetual disdain for a certain unnamed other). I don’t see that as heavy-handed; I see it as being open and honest and trying to communicate as clearly as possible.

                That’s not to say I don’t think there’s a place for your approach–and obviously some like it more than I do. But I feel as though you manipulated me. To put it in Kantian terms, you used me as a means to your end. If you’d said, “let me play devil’s advocate,” then the approach would have been all up front, out in the open, and I would have known what was going on and wouldn’t feel so manipulated.

                I’m not asking for an apology, and I don’t want you to worry I’ll hold a grudge. But I am less likely to respond to you in the future for fear of being manipulated in that way. But any time you want to say, “Can I play devil’s advocate with you?” then I’m likely to be fine going along with this Platonic approach.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Sometimes I fund you obscure, but that one was quite clear.

                Though since it’s starting to look a lot like this was a planned attack using the film protest for cover, it’s moot.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                Who do you refer to?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                JB, my two cents if you care – I agree with you far more than I disagree, but I definitely have trouble sometimes figuring out exactly where you are coming from. Like you sometimes seem to go meta, in a convo that is already meta, and somehow end up seeming like you are arguing against yourself somewhere in meta-meta, and I get lost in the layers (‘wait, who is arguing what again?’).

                I’ll bet this method means that you kill at 3-d chess though. 🙂

                This is not a criticism – just letting you know that I for one may not be smart enough to always ‘get it’ when you take this tack, and like James, I tend toward the direct approach (and stupid jokes, obvs.)Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Stop reading Jaybird as someone you have to agree or disagree with and instead presume he’s describing something rather than passing a judgment on it.

                Then you will find that it is yourself that bends, and not the spoon.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                I guess it was my turn to be obscure.

                It was clear to me that JB was being Socratic.

                But since the killers appear to have killed because they’re just plain killers, the whole discussion about culpability is moot. It’s the killers’ fault. Period.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Lemme bring some hemlock.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Aha. Mr. Akimoto got it. The Forgotten Kind of Writing.

                Why John Locke published anonymously. 😉Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                That’s not it at all. When I don’t know where the fish someone is coming from, it’s hard to be sure you understand what they’re even asking, so it’s hard to formulate an appropriate response.

                And there’s a bit of subterfuge in the way it happened here that I really don’t admire. Nobody particularly likes being used, and I’m more wary of engaging him now. Maybe that’s on me, and I’m not the person I should be. Nonetheless it seems a bit counter-productive. Jaybird was using the back and forth to illuminate the issue, but in the end did it really shed more light than a straightforward explanation by Jaybird would have? I don’t think so–I think it ended up being more muddled and obscurantist.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Is it really that oblique?”

                Welcome to my world.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                James, let’s say that I opened with “well, let’s play devil’s advocate…” and then I proceeded to make the exact same short declarative statements.

                What would have changed on your end? Would you have asked different questions in response to my statements?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Stop reading Jaybird as someone you have to agree or disagree with and instead presume he’s describing something rather than passing a judgment on it.

                Whoa. There’s a lot in there Patrick. Are you sure you want to go down that road?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I used to get grumpy trying to figure out where Jaybird was coming from so that I could figure out what argument I was trying to disassemble.

                And then we had some comment exchange where I got snarky and he said something that struck a humanity chord and I stopped trying to read him with the intention of figuring out how he felt about what he was talking about, and just read what he was talking about.

                All of a sudden I could start understanding how he felt about what he was talking about. I was listening too hard for a conversation I thought we were having, and getting distracted by the buzz in my ear, instead of listening to what the guy was saying and letting the back picture fill itself in naturally.

                Same thing worked with Tom, slightly differently. Also Blaise. Once I stopped attributing things to Tom and Blaise and started reading what they were writing with the intention of parsing what was said instead of deconstructing an argument that may or may not actually be there, it became much easier to read them both charitably, and I stopped jumping to bad conclusions.

                It’s like those three-d pictures where you have to unfocus your eyes in order to see the image. We’re always trying to focus our eyes. We want to see the argument so that we know how to respond. Stop trying so hard, and it pops into view.


                (edited to add)

                The irony to this is that I’m prone to arguing, but I’m more prone to digging through other people’s arguments so often times I’m asking questions that might imply I disagree with them, when in fact I’m just trying to see what their justifications are, because I agree with them but I’m not sure why.

                So I think it’s not uncommon that other people misread me in the same way they misread Jaybird. It’s just a different set of people.


              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Patrick, thanks.

                From my perspective, when I see most of these arguments, I see arguments that have been hashed and hashed and rehashed 100 times (which means that I’ve probably argued multiple sides in my head 1000 times as I go throughout my day).

                The most interesting parts of the arguments are the surprising parts. The ones that have counter-arguments that have never occurred to me before. Barring encountering that, it’s interesting seeing people encounter counter-arguments that have never occurred to them before.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:

                James, let’s say that I opened with “well, let’s play devil’s advocate…” and then I proceeded to make the exact same short declarative statements. What would have changed on your end? Would you have asked different questions in response to my statements?

                We can’t know what questions I would have asked; we’re past that time and we’re in alternate universe theory now. But it’s likely they would have been different, because I would have known I was in discussion with someone who was trying to work out a position, in contrast to thinking I was in discussion with someone who was actually claiming we should direct our attention away from the murderers.

                I like knowing what the discussion is, and not feeling like somebody was trying to mislead me as to what they were on about. It’s just not how I operate, not the approach the world I operate in rewards and values. Apparently some people like it. That’s fine. Feel free to continue it with them, because it’s not for me to tell others they can’t mutually communicate in a particular way. If everyone’s in on it,no one’s being misled or manipulated. I just don’t like it and will avoid getting caught up in it again if possible.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:


                I keep trying to write a response to your comment, but I’m giving up. I’m just really stuck on the ironic contrast between what you’re telling me to do and what you’re doing in reading me.

                Simply put, if I’m supposed to try to parse someone, it would help a whole fucking lot if they didn’t give a deliberately obscurantist response. I still don’t know what the fuck JB’s point was, or what idea he was trying to bring out. I don’t even know if he had a point. What a smashing success. Maybe he got some value out of the method, but what was in it for me? All I know is that I was trying to ask honest questions, and he wasn’t interested in giving actual answers. Saying, I’m playing devil’s advocate is honest. Doing it in a way that you pretend you’re responding to their questions when you’re really doing something else, for your own purposes, not for any benefit of the person you’re responding to, there’s a certain selfishness and lack of consideration in that. That’s why I brought up Kant–I wasn’t an end, not a person JB was having a conversation with; I was just an unwitting means, to a purpose that still eludes me. Seriously, it seems something was supposed to be revealed by that method, but he’ll if I have one clue what it was. I saw nothing that couldn’t have been brought out directly.

                Fuck trying to parse that approach. I’ll stick to asking questions of people who will actually answer them, or will be transparent about their purpose when they’re not. It’s the only thing I a find myself able to respect.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “I like knowing what the discussion is, and not feeling like somebody was trying to mislead me as to what they were on about. ”

                Jaybird never misled you as to what he was on about.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                James, I read you just fine. I think you read me just fine. I think we can argue things out quite well because we can engage each other in ways that the other guy knows what’s going on and we know what we’re trying to get out of it and that’s all good.

                Even when I take up an oblique position, which I do less often with you than with, say, Mike Schilling or Jaybird, you seem to grab pretty immediately that I’m taking that oblique position for a reason, because I’m trying to challenge a preconception that I think might be there. You take that as the implicit challenge, offer your qualifier or condition and then your answer.

                I don’t normally do that with, say, Roger, or Burt, or Mark, because I interact with them differently than you. That’s my choice, to the extent that I choose to present myself different ways to different people because I get different things out of those people based upon the ways I interact with them.

                I’m not telling you how to interact with anybody, dude. You’re a grownup. I’m just telling you how I see the conflict you have with some people, from outside that conflict. I’m not saying you’re incapable of flexibility (you’re a smart dude).

                If you don’t get anything out of different ways of interacting with people (or, specific ways of interacting with people), then yeah, probably “not interacting with them” is the best.

                I’m just saying that I think things can be gotten out of interacting with people if you don’t always demand the terms upon which you interact, is all. If you don’t wanna do it, that’s cool. FWIW, my last maypole dance with you about interacting with Tom, if you recall, was a suggestion that you just don’t. I was more talking to Stillwater, there.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                @ Jaybird:

                The most interesting parts of the arguments are the surprising parts. The ones that have counter-arguments that have never occurred to me before. Barring encountering that, it’s interesting seeing people encounter counter-arguments that have never occurred to them before.

                Yeah, me too.

                And yeah, especially when I first showed up around here, I did a lot of trying to find these moments. I think I probably bugged the shit out of Jason, early on, because he was posting a lot and I found a lot of his arguments novel because I didn’t read a lot of libertarian thought and so I threw a lot of curveballs at him trying to see what was going on, there. I wonder how he actually felt about that, in retrospect.

                But I get that conversations can be both about exploration and destination, and exploring with someone who just wants to get somewhere can be unrewarding, just like trying to drag someone somewhere when they’re more interested in looking around can be unrewarding.

                Dance partner is important.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:


                I’m just saying nothing can be gotten out of a discussion if one of the parties doesn’t understand the terms of the interaction. When it appears to be one thing, but then is another, there is a lack of communication, and none of this is worthwhile if there’s not actually communication. So I think the terms should be made evident, not having one approach appearing under the guise of another. If fear of being too heavy handed leads to being so subtle that one is essentially manipulating another–even if inadvertently–that’s not good. Jaybird often does answer questions directly, and in this case at first he appeared to be doing so, and only a few rounds in did it become clear he wasn’t.

                Some indicators that advertise the terms of a particular exchange, that’s all I’m asking for. Nobody’s addressing that point, and that’s my entire point.Report

              • Avatar James H. says:


                Re: your reply to Jaybird. If there’s any impression that I’m opposed to just exploring, that’s wrong. I just think a person should make it clear when they’re going somewhere and when they’re exploring. If the signals are the same heading into both, that’s what causes misunderstanding. There are any number if ways, both blatant andv subtle, to indicate which you’re doing. For each of us, I think, it’s our responsibility to send that signal or we risk misleading others. I have a real visceral reaction to misleading people. It’s self indulgence at the other’s expense, not the kind of thing a decent person should take any pride in.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                I think it’s kind of ironic that, in this context, we’re having a subthread where the theme is becoming “I’m angry at the way you’re communicating with me, and my anger is YOUR FAULT!”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m just saying nothing can be gotten out of a discussion if one of the parties doesn’t understand the terms of the interaction.


                When it appears to be one thing, but then is another, there is a lack of communication, and none of this is worthwhile if there’s not actually communication.

                Wellllllll… not necessarily. When it appears to be one thing, but then is another, it can be that way for different reasons, and sometimes those reasons are constructive and sometimes they aren’t. And sometimes they don’t necessarily have anything to do with the guy you’re currently talking *to*.

                A lot of times I comment on comments not because I’m expecting the first person to change his mind about anything (although that’d be an interesting development in and of itself)… but because I’m registering a specific point that I think needs to be made. I don’t care if the other person acknowledges it, necessarily. I just feel I need to say it.

                So I think the terms should be made evident, not having one approach appearing under the guise of another.

                In some cases, I think the point of the conversation is to discover the terms. Sometimes we don’t even know what the terms are.

                I respect your stance, James. You’re an up-front guy and you want to talk to other up-front guys, too. That’s fine with me. But not everybody is an up-front guy and not all of the non up-front guys are that way because they’re duplicitous or because they’re trying to catch you in a gotcha. That’s just not how they roll. They’re meta. Conversation is an art as much as it is a science. We’re tradesmen, here. Some of us also get into the whole Lincoln-Douglas thing, and some of us don’t. If you want to hang with the L-D guys, that’s cool, I can be one of those guys too. If you don’t want to be meta, you don’t have to be.

                I’m just suggesting that you don’t get wound up about it 🙂

                For each of us, I think, it’s our responsibility to send that signal or we risk misleading others. I have a real visceral reaction to misleading people.

                This part. I don’t think you can say that it’s always our responsibility to never mislead others, for all {us} in {our}. That’s dictating a baseline that excludes people that aren’t P implies Q sorts of people. Don’t get me wrong, I like formal structure just as much as the next guy. I’m glad you’re hanging around here to interact with, myself. But getting away from the Ps and the Qs is important, too.

                Decision trees are nice, they’re logically closed and consistent and useful when you can keep the combinatorics at a manageable level. But there are things we can’t break down into IF this THEN that, repeated finitely times. We can’t even break them down for depressingly small values of N.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Duck’s a pretty good example of a guy who gets under my skin because I can’t figure half the time when he’s trying to make a point and when he’s not. Some of the things he says are things that I would think were funny if Mike said them, but there’s something weird about Duck’s carrier wave and mine and they just generate a flat signal and very little information gets through.

                But me getting exasperated with Duck isn’t always Duck’s fault… it might not even be usually Duck’s fault. I have to accept the fact that my inability to communicate with the guy is a failure of the pairwise communication partners, there.

                That doesn’t mean that I have to accept what he says as correct, or that I can’t take issue with individual comments, or even have a long running wrangle with me occasionally asking him to stop being obtuse (to me).

                But that “occasionally” needs to stay pretty “occasionally”, or it all by itself will start to become its own thing. It doesn’t need to be its own thing. It’s not really that important, and it certainly isn’t worth filling up *every* comment thread on which I feel like Duck is being obtuse.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think this dispute reduces to disagreements about rhetorical style and method of argumentation, yes? I’m sympathetic to James’ argument here since I’ve had the very same experiences myself, and witnessed them in conversations others have engaged in.

                For my part, the frustration comes from attempts at redirection (yes, that’s infurating), a seemingly willful refusal to accurately phrase or concede the point being made, and even worse than that the perception that the argument/discussion/whatever you want to call it is taking place on my interlocutors terms for the purpose of constructing what I’ll simply call a “teachable moment”. And that is infuriating.

                But I really should stop at this point. I’ve previously expressed these views directly to the person in question, so I think I’ve made myself clear on that score. And going any further is silly since nothing is going to, or even should, change on this front.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Anyone who’s actually read Plato knows that Socrates almost always asks yes/no questions that contain his view in them. “Would you say that…” “Isn’t it true that…” “Do you think that…”

                Being obscure, but with questions, isn’t being Socratic. It’s being a bit of a dick. Not that those two things are mutually exclusive (there are dialogues where I just want to slap Socrates).Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I want to add that I’m very cognizant of some of my shortcomings as a commenter at this site. And I’m sure there are other shortcomings I’m unaware of. And there are undoubtedly people out there who dislike my argumentative methods and rhetorical style (as well as my views). So I don’t want my words to be construed as presenting myself as or even advocating for some sort of Internet Commenting Ideal.

                I’m just expressing a view that is the subject of dispute on an open comment thread.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I think this dispute reduces to disagreements about rhetorical style and method of argumentation, yes?

                Not to me, and while I never intended to spark such a lengthy discussion, part of what’s frustrated me in the discussion is that this seems to have been the message.

                To me it’s about signaling. Pat used the example of dancing. I’m happy doing the tango, I’m happy doing the foxtrot, and we can do a polka or minuet if you want. But if you want someone to dance with you, it helps to let them know what dance you have in mind, and if the signal isn’t clear, don’t be surprised if the other person gets frustrated. It could be that they weren’t paying attention to the signals, but it could also be that you didn’t make a clear signal.

                There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the style Jaybird took, but either he didn’t send a clear signal or I didn’t know how to read it. My wife says I never notice when someone flirts with me, so me not reading the signals clearly is not an impossibility. But that’s part of why I like nice clear, evident ones–it just seems more considerate to me.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Still, we all have our flaws, and no one has a style that everyone will love. Jaybird’s style takes a while to get used to, though, and even then, I still think it’s a bit dickish. But I suspect he knows that.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                To me it’s about signaling.

                I’m with ya on that James. For my part, tho, I subsume signalling, or lack thereof, under rhetorical and argumentative style.

                Maybe I’m not understanding your point, and that’d be fine too, of course.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:


                To me, if you signal what style you’re going to take, I can make a rational decision whether I want to participate or not, because I have a reasonable basis for expecting what participation will be like.

                So if you want to be didactic, OK, I’ll make my choice about whether I want to engage with someone being didactic. If you want to be analytical, looking for fine distinctions, I’ll decide if that’s what I want to do. If you want to be questioning, without expressing a particular position, I’ll decide if I want to engage the questions. If you want to play devil’s advocate, that can be fun as well, although at times I might not be in the mood.

                Some of these are readily signaled. Didacticism is hard not to signal clearly (similarly for condescension). But some are not necessarily so obvious–devil’s advocate, for example. I hate people play devil’s advocate without signaling it, then when people take them as seriously advocating a position they get all, “dude, I can’t believe you took me seriously.” Fish ’em; they deserve their kicks.

                In the present case, I read JB as giving an honest expression of his views, so I asked for clarification. I got an answer that, from that perspective, was just bewildering, and I realized something else was going on. But heck if I–even now–understand that style. JB was apparently in agreement with me, so he wasn’t asking finely pointed questions to tease out my responses, as ones that differed from his own, but using my responses to tease out some third party position, without signaling to me that he was doing that unusual kind of approach. Let me know that you’re using my answers to tease out a position that is neither yours nor mine, and while I still won’t understand the method, I might go along. But otherwise, it’s kind of manipulative because of the lack of a clear signal that, effectively, creates a sort of lack of consent.

                As to that certain other person, in that case the style often is illegitimate in and of itself. Throwing out an obscure point in a post and not making clear what he’s trying to get at is irritating (to folks like us), but not illegitimate. Refusing to clarify one’s position, then criticizing others for misrepresenting it is simply illegitimate. Redirecting to avoid criticism is, if not illegitimate, at least cheap. Much of what he does is an apparently purposeful mis-signaling, trying to signal legitimate engagement while actually engaging in illegitimate methods. I suspect that’s where you see signaling and method as linking together.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              You’re right Jaybird.

              We should probably let Hassan Ngeze and Ferdinand Nahimana out of jail, afterall they didn’t actually make the Genocidaires kill people, we should stop blaming them.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Er, the US imprisoned those guys?

                Also, from wiki (I know, I know) on Ngeze: “Ngeze is alleged to have personally supervised and taken part in torture, mass rape, and killings in his native Gisenyi Prefecture. He was also an organizer of the Impuzamugambi militia.”

                So it sounds like he may have done more than, you know, make a film.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                This is a “royal” we meaning people writ large.

                But Ngeze and Nahimana are really the more notorious “instigators” of our times and for the most part their ICJ convictions stemmed from their role in incitement.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You’d probably benefit from finding another example.

                Maybe you could discuss Chris Ofili being murdered.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The question does remain.

                Should Ngeze be pardoned for his role in setting up the Hutu Ten Commandments et. al. and should he be thrown back in jail for his actual “ballistics” as you state, rather than his “art”.

                Because the ballistics weren’t really possible if not for his art.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Can we say that he deserves to be in jail for the torture, rapes, and murders he participated in or does the fact that he said stuff too exonerate his actions?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                I’m saying, round about, that his speech was a direct precursor to making a lot of those actions happen, and rightly were regarded the worst of his choices in the genocide.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’d go back and say that you should find an example of someone who didn’t also rape, torture, and murder if you really wanted to hammer your point.Report

              • Avatar Trumwill Mobile says:

                I’ll have to read more about it later, but talk of putting people in jail for their art puts me in an oppositional frame of mind.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Ferdinand Nahimana, to my knowledge has never actually been tied to anything other than his activities at RTLM.

                Should he be released?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I don’t know enough to say. The wikipedia page, however, says this:

                A 2010 book written by Hervé Deguine, journalist, historian and ex research director for Reporter without borders, points out that the proofs and motives invoked in Nahimana’s trial were based on very little evidence except that he founded and was one of the owners of the radio, exposing arguments and circumstantial evidence against his conviction. He concludes his book by affirming that on the basis of judicial proofs, Nahimana should be released.

                The position doesn’t strike me as prima facie unreasonable, given the above.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                As a free speech near-absolutist who is thankful for the US’s wide latitude, some of this (trying to hold people criminally responsible for words alone) makes me a bit uncomfortable.

                But let’s grant it. From the Wash Times article linked by wiki, (I KNOW, I KNOW!) “Nahimana, the founder of the radio station, was found guilty of broadcasting inflammatory music and diatribes against Tutsi “cockroaches” and exhorting tens of thousands of listeners to butcher their neighbors.” (emphasis mine).

                That’s a direct call to violence, which I supposed under certain circumstances could be construed as similar to an order from your commandant to go out and gas gypsies – that is to say, the order (speech) itself is illegal.

                My understanding here, is that these guys are accused of making a film mocking Mohammed. I have heard nowhere that they told anybody to hurt anybody.

                Is that really the same?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                If the reports about it being agit-prop by expat copts is true, I’m not quite sure it’s actually as innocent as you say it is.

                But you’re right, it’s not Nahimana, more Birth of a Nation.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                This is about the equivalent of waving a red flag in front of a raging bull.
                It is deeply and profoundly offensive, in a way that’s hard to actually quantify around here.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                You heard it right here, from Kimmi: Arabs are violent animals and we have to avoid provoking them because they can’t be expected to control themselves.Report

              • Avatar Mr. Blue says:

                Today: You cannot reasonably expect to provoke Muslims with a film degrading of their faith without their being violence. This was foreseeable, and therefore he has to shoulder some of the blame.

                Tomorrow: It turns out that it was a bunch of Ghadaffi loyalists in a staged military attack and had nothing to do the movie at all. Yet you assumed that they are so violent that it had to be a spontaneous uprising because you think Muslims are just that dangerous. Bigot.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                > (trying to hold people criminally
                > responsible for words alone)

                Oh, certainly not criminally responsible. At least, not me, I ain’t flinging that stone.

                As I mentioned on Facebook this morning, though… if I was J. Christopher Steven’s brother I could see popping somebody in the nose. Once. And then letting the cops arrest me for assault, as would be right and proper.

                This is one of those places where what I want to do and how I want the law to act intersect and cross over into the weird zone.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          Yes, because clearly it was Ambassador Stevens who was doing the inciting.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

        Should neoNazis or racists ever be charged for inciting violence using similar videos, songs, etc?

        I’d say no, but we need to be consistent in our attitudes to anti-semitic and anti-Islamic materials. (Judaism is both a religion and a cultural identity. The same is true of Islam in, a slightly different way. Some people aren’t getting that here, IMO.)Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Charged for inciting violence… there are some pretty interesting distinctions to be made there.

          I’d make many distinctions between someone getting beaten up during a concert at the behest of the band (“there’s one smoking a joint! And another with spots!”) and someone getting beaten up in the parking lot after the concert and someone getting beaten up on the street the next day and someone getting beaten up in another country by someone else in another country because they heard a rumor about the cd released by the band.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      I’m not sure this is like yelling ‘Fire’ in a crowded theater, because a shout of ‘Fire’ will incite panic, and there is no reason to expect the theater-goers not to panic.

      This is closer to ‘fighting words’, where I do feel like the person who swings first & takes it from the realm of words/ideas, and into physical action, should probably have had the maturity to walk away.

      The people rioting should reasonably have known to walk away, as we as Americans do every time someone in the ME burns a US flag or an Obama puppet in effigy, or when Bill Maher makes ‘Religulous’ or whatever.

      To expect less of Muslims means we expect them to be violent and uncivilized. It’s its own kind of patronizing.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        when you don’t have access to anything more than a rumor mill…. yup, youz gonna be stupid.
        I’ve been in high school before.Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

        Let me repeat:
        In no uncertain terms, I denounce this latest violence. The loss of life is saddening, and this will only reinforce attitudes that ALL Muslims [spelling corrected] are violent and murderous.

        On expecting less of Muslims, I don’t know. I think that we can use past behavior to predict future behavior, without necessarily being patronizing. In the past, pretty much any insult to Mohammed has led to rioting — is it beyond the pale to presume that, barring some fundamental change, a new insult will also lead to rioting?

        On the other hand, the attacks in Libya were almost certainly NOT triggered by the movie. What of the attacks in Egypt — do they seem to be from the same group as in Libya, or they more “home grown” (or are they a “hey we can riot BETTER!!! group)?

        I’m glad that sanity seems to be prevailing.


        As for George Tiller, where does posting a doctor’s name and address, with a picture of him in the cross-hairs, fall in the “free speech” domain? I personally think that Operation Rescue is culpable of inciting the attacks on providers and clinics, but that could be my liberal bias showing.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Jeff, if I said that I absolutely denounced the murder of George Tiller and then went on to talk about the types of abortion he performed being viewed as especially gruesome by pro-lifers, discussed how he should have known better to go out in public, discussed how he had previous examples of violence against abortion workers acting as a warning and yet he *STILL* continued to act the way he did…

          Exactly how much better would it make you feel if I came back again and said, seriously, I think his murder was totally wrong?

          Now, with that in mind, please re-read this one: “In the past, pretty much any insult to Mohammed has led to rioting — is it beyond the pale to presume that, barring some fundamental change, a new insult will also lead to rioting?”Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            Or, to be even more inflammatory, “I think rape is awful. But let’s be realistic, a girl who looks that good ought to know better than to lead a guy on like that, especially when he’s been drinking.”Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              I’m still stuck on the part where it was Ambassador Stevens and the embassy staffs that were doing the inflammatory rhetoric.

              The comparison really doesn’t hold water.

              There’s a difference between “blame the victim” rephrasing, and saying someone who wouldn’t have to deal with the consequences in any shape or form going around doing inflammatory shit.

              The fact that you’re trying to equate the two is just plain ridiculous.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Hear hear.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m still stuck on the part where it was Ambassador Stevens and the embassy staffs that were doing the inflammatory rhetoric.

                It wasn’t.

                They were targets because they were nearby.

                Does that make the decisions made by the people in question more understandable and explainable and things that, seriously, we here in America seriously have to take into account before we do something as inflammatory as mock Islam?

                From my perspective, it makes the behavior of the rioters even more questionable.

                I’m wondering what could get you to see that… perhaps if the movie had Mohammed embrace gay marriage? Would you see the behavior of the crowd as out-and-out wrong rather than perfectly understandable then? If the movie showed Mohammed endorse the PPACA? “My Name is Mohammed, Peace Be Upon Me, and I am going to vote for Barack Obama because he smokes weed every day” and then shows Mohammed light up a spliff?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                You keep stripping out the entirety of context to try to make your point.

                1. The protesters assembled to protest something that they were told was US-government backed and highly offensive to their religion.

                2. These protesters were then used as a cover by a radical armed militia to attack the consulate.

                3. The history of political organization and speech plus media portrayal in both Egypt and Libya has been, over the past thirty years extremely tightly regulated. The notion that someone could produce a movie without government approval is more than simply hard for people to grasp.

                4. The people who have been making statements regarding Islam (Jones and the composite known as “Bacile”) do so with the explicit intention of riling up sectarian hatreds and allegedly to even bring about conflict within Egypt between Muslims and Copts. The fact that an originally english language film was dubbed into Egyptian Arabic for the purpose of distribution there suggests a less than benign purpose.

                Calling 9/11 “International Burn Korans Day” is not a call to do anything but piss people off.

                There’s a risk of a heckler’s veto by suggesting that any attempts to criticize religion will result in violence.

                But it’s still not helpful to suggest that because not everyone is accultured and educated the same way you are, that making note of that is somehow a terrible offense against free speech or whatever. Moreover, there’s nothing inherently wrong with saying that groups that are motivated by a desire to demonize and distort a religion of 1.6 billion people to start some sort of civilizational crusade against them should be told by society to STFU.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                But it’s still not helpful to suggest that because not everyone is accultured and educated the same way you are, that making note of that is somehow a terrible offense against free speech or whatever.

                No, I would prefer that this point be made more explicit in any discussion of violence in the Middle East.

                “Not everyone involved in this riot has the same education and certainly not the same culture as you.”

                I think if we opened with that every time, it’d let everyone know the parameters of the conversation.Report

              • This.

                I want to add some other things here that seem increasingly clear to me. First, it has become abundantly clear that this movie was far more than “yahoos post anti-Islamic satire on Youtube” – instead, the story behind the movie gets weirder and weirder, creating more and more basis to believe that it’s purpose was as propaganda, quite possibly to stir an uprising of Egyptian Coptic Christians (my analysis):

                Second, it is notable that, despite the attacks in Libya, those attacks have been quickly and loudly denounced not only by the government, but also by quite a bit of the populace. The Libyan populace does not seem as outraged by the movie as the Egyptian populace.

                Third, the outrage over the movie is now leading to rioting in two of the other “Arab Spring” nations, Yemen and Tunisia, the latter of which has a comparatively secular populace.

                What Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia all have in common is that they are nations whose now-deposed autocrats were very strongly allied with the West. By and large, American support for the revolutions in those countries was fairly tepid – not non-existent, but certainly slow to develop, and never much more than words. Even now in Egypt, the US is viewed as being on the side of the Egyptian military rather than of the revolutionaries in the ongoing power struggle.

                In Libya, by contrast, Qaddafi’s relations with the West were never good, and the West’s support for the revolutionaries was full-throated and concrete.

                In the circumstances of Egypt, Yemen, and Tunisia, there are very real concerns amongst the people that the Americans want to undo their revolutions. It’s not as if the US hasn’t done exactly that in the past in other countries.

                Now you have a mysterious American filmmaker disseminating highly inflammatory anti-Islamic propaganda to an important minority group in Egypt that (a) was closely associated with the old regime and is viewed as being on the side of the military in the current power struggle, and (b) has a rapidly deteriorating relationship with the rest of the populace (through little fault of its own, I might add, but that’s besides the point for purposes of this).

                At minimum, the filmmaker’s actions are colossally hubristic, arrogant, and callous, with a giant helping of dishonesty on the side (for defrauding the actors and making transparently false claims about Muslims). This is not a filmmaker who was unaware of the politics into which he was inserting himself. He was trying to spark a counter-revolution. In and of itself, I suppose there’s nothing inherently immoral about that…..

                Except that he was aware that it would be the natural inclination of anyone who saw the movie outside of the Egyptian Coptic community to attribute it to the government of the United States. But rather than having the courage of his convictions, he chose to hide behind a pseudonym and make no effort to make clear the movie’s lack of sanction by the US government. Worse, the only people who can be directly and publicly tied to the film are actors who the filmmaker defrauded.

                He was, simply put, playing games with other people’s lives while taking great pains to ensure he would not be held accountable for his actions. He is a revolutionary (or, more precisely, a counter-revolutionary) unwilling to take the risks of being one.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                He is a revolutionary (or, more precisely, a counter-revolutionary) unwilling to take the risks of being one.

                This strikes me as a significantly different criticism than the one that surfaced yesterday.

                Now, I don’t know that making clear the lack of sanction by the US government (or anybody, for that matter) strikes me as especially important for this case but the criticism that he’s trying to start a revolution without bearing much (if any) of the cost while betraying his actors is unethical at the very least and probably deserves stronger words than that.

                I will say that there are a lot of similarities between what he seems to be hoping to accomplish and various temporary goals of the US government (at least goals it had in the past). He’s doing freelance something that I could see the Agency doing a few years back (or, I suppose, a few years from now).Report

              • It may or may not be different from the criticisms others have made, but it seems to me that it is wholly consistent with the argument I was making yesterday.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                ” I don’t know that making clear the lack of sanction by the US government (or anybody, for that matter) strikes me as especially important for this case”

                It’s really important to make that lack of sanction clear when Romney blames Obama for things that people said on Twitter, though.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                And fair enough. My problem comes fundamentally from a position of growing up within the Christian Church during a time when a vocal chunk of the cultural left embraced mockery of religion and made a lot of points about the importance of protecting the desecration of religious icons as “art”. At the same time, during various cultural clashes (abortion being foremost), a lot of things were (and are) said about Christianity in general and Christians in specific.

                When it comes to Islam, however, it seems like a large chunk of this same cultural left automatically resorts to a completely different attitude towards Muslim culture. Oh, those people are ignorant. Oh, they have a different culture. Oh, while freedom of speech is important to us, the Mohammed Cartoons are a sign of disrespect and the people who made them ought to know better, so on and so forth.

                It strikes me that there is a very, very ugly dynamic swimming underneath the water there and it ripples some very, very perverse incentives along the way.

                As someone who thinks that Islam in its more fundamentalist forms is even more poisonous than Christianity in its more fundamentalist forms, I find myself quite regularly offended whenever I see this ugly dynamic get near the surface again.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The primary problem, for me, is that you’re imposing an American cultural milieu on what is, essentially an international situation. I’d be wary of doing something that mocked orthodox christianity in say Ethiopia for precisely the same reason. The attacks, coming from a predominantly western authorship with privilege and money (with a history of exploiting and oppressing the religious minorities) comes off more as an attack upon the people and country itself than simply a critique of religion.

                Even from a simply domestic stand-point, there’s a substantial difference between critiquing an overwheening majority like Christianity in this country and critiquing a minority religion whose adherents are often attacked simply for essentially not being WASPs and painted as some sort of dangerous “other”.

                The dynamic is different. It’s like the differences in racial humor. There’s something obviously distasteful about white men making fun of minorities or women. (Even if Tosh evidently has gotten away with it)

                If you can’t see this distinction, then congratulations on being in a position where that doesn’t impact you. But it exists.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Is there a substantial difference between critiquing an overwheening majority like Christianity in this country and critiquing an overwheening majority like Islam in the Middle East?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                Get back to me when the US is occupied by say China for the next 50 years, with brutal crackdowns on civil expression and christian churches being the only instrument that actually helps the people of that country. Put yourself in that position, then have foreigners tell you that your church is evil and destructive to the world and needs to be mocked and scorned. Perhaps those very same foreigners that kept you down.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Would Russia’s treatment of Christianity in living memory provide a counter-example that doesn’t rely on being counter-factual?Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                With that said…

                President Morsi is really sending a terrible message to the US by not condemning the assaults upon the embassy in Cairo and demanding prosecution of the movie-makers. The US Administration has hedged quite a bit on the Muslim Brotherhood and its political parties being responsible stakeholders and working with the rest of the world.

                Stuff like this just makes it harder for people to take their side on anything.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Both of Nob’s observations are trenchant and worthy of thought. That they lead to an ambiguous and uncomfortable place is part of why I originally observed that there are no clear, plain, or easy solutions to a situation like this.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                The Soviet treatment of the Russian Orthodox church followed by its resurgence in modern Russia is a pretty good example, yes.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “The primary problem, for me, is that you’re imposing an American cultural milieu on what is, essentially an international situation.”

                Imagine if I said that it was important to avoid actions that might provoke violence among African-American communities, and when you called me a racist I said that you were imposing a white cultural milieu on what was essentially an interracial situation.Report

      • Avatar Shazbot2 says:

        If someone releases a really vile anti-semitic movie, and it causes a riot in some ultra-orthadox community, is that something that “is expected of Jews?”


        Rather, “The Jews” or “The Muslims” are huge communities with a massive variety of different kinds of people. When you produce an anti-semitic or Islamophobic video or song, there is some probability, someone on the fringes of that community (already disposed to craziness) will act violently or stupidly. That is one reason that it is morally wrong to produce such a grossly offensive video or song. The other reason is that there are plenty of ways of critiquing a religion or a set of beliefs that are not grossly offensive. If this video had been a lecture suggesting that though there is much to respect in Islam, that Islam gets X, Y, and Z wrong, we would be having a different debate now.Report

  17. One important note on this story: it increasingly appears that the movie was used as a pretext for the attack on the ambassador, rather than being the actual cause of the attack. The attack may have been in the works for weeks or months. The movie was obviously the impetus behind the rioting in Egypt, though.

    The other thing I’m trying to find out, but haven’t found any sources on yet, is how the movie came to be distributed in Egypt and to get dubbed into Egyptian Arabic. The closest I’ve come is a quote from the filmmaker saying that he didn’t know the person who did the dubbing, but confirming the accuracy of that dubbing, and making no attempt to counter the notion that he at minimum consented to the dubbing, nor that he sought to actively distribute it amongst Egypt’s Coptic community.

    If, in fact, it was actively distributed amongst Egypt’s Coptic community, I can absolutely see how someone in Egypt would view that as an attempt to stir up revolt by that community. As mentioned above, I can also see how someone in Egypt would conclude that the attempt was sanctioned by the US Government.

    Assuming for the moment that these are the conclusions that were largely motivating the rioters (and again, I could well be wrong about these assumptions), then those conclusions would amount to a conclusion that the world’s only superpower is seeking to overthrow the very democracy that those same protesters fought to create (and are fighting to create). This seems even less far-fetched when you consider the historic relationship between the US and Mubarrak.Report

  18. Avatar Citizen says:

    Whats the difference between inciting violence and inciting anger?Report

  19. Avatar George Turner says:

    Yep, that about sums up what I’ve seen so far. Spontaneous rioters usually aren’t walking around with an RPG and able to identify the particular car containing a foreign ambassador. Given that the movie was made back in July and the protesters happened to have Al Qaeda leadership and attacked on 9/11, I’d say this was barely more spontaneous or grass roots than the embassy attacks in Africa during the Clinton administration. They just happen to have Twitter and text messaging now, letting them call forth mobs of followers on a moment’s notice.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      It sounds (at this point) like the demonstrations in Egypt and Libya were spontaneous, and the attack in Libya was just leveraging the opportunity.Report

  20. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Well, putting on my foil helmet for a second, what if one of the agencies that has three letters decided that they wanted to throw a match in a haystack and they figured that a low-budget cross between a Muslim version of Life of Brian and, finally, a live-action version of The Satanic Verses would do that and so they go and put it on the internet.

    Then what?

    On one level, a musical comedy doing a deep satire of the life of Mohammed would be really fun to watch, if you ask me. Heck, they could even start it out by explaining that this is the life of Ahmed and *NOT* the life of Mohammed, even though there may be some apparent overlap, those are *PURELY COINCIDENTAL* and run with that. Catchy songs, a couple of bad puns, relationship humor. (A running gag could be Mohammed getting married.)

    On another: this is something that I know would result in riots, and murder, and mayhem in general… even if it were only posted to Youtube in the US and only in English.

    Would this strike me as something that I’d be vaguely opposed to?

    When I put it that way… I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      Why would the PTA do such a thing?Report

    • Avatar George Turner says:

      Some of the photos of the Egyptian protesters storming the embassy show a leader wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Perhaps he was an OWS protester who’d arrived directly from Charlotte, although the CIA might have agents who are trained to wear Guy Fawkes masks when they’re under cover as OWS protesters who are under cover as Al Qaeda leaders who are under cover as outraged Egyptian citizens.Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

        Kind of like Herbert Philbrick.Report

      • Avatar Remo says:

        Poor guy.

        He is a undercover agent of the CIA posing as a egyptian who is a undercover taliba who is there to spy for the KGB. He is also a KGB agent that has connections to the Yakuza and is a member of the Mafia, and pretend to be a egyptian.

        – What is your name?
        – Depends, what nationality are you from.

        About the Guy Fawkes mask, it has simply became a simbol of rebellion. It got associated with the occupy movement by it isnt by far only theirs.Report

  21. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    Let’s make sure we also pay attention to voices of actual Libyans and not just the militants involved.

    Ambassador Stevens served as DCM to Libya and later the special envoy to the revolutionaries during the Libyan Revolution. It’s likely those in power now owe more than a little debt of gratitude to him and the outrage is palpable. This isn’t a cheering thong happily carrying on about the death of an American.Report

  22. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Respect for religious beliefs is not the cornerstone of American democracy. I, for one, have very little respect for religious beliefs anymore. The cornerstone of American democracy is not banning any set or all sets of religious beliefs, and not privilleging one or more sets of religious beliefs over any others – or none at allReport

  23. Avatar Remo says:

    You touched MANY points that would each bring a whole discussion by themselves, i will just put one up.

    You have freedom of speech as long as you dont speech against something i like.
    What kind of freedom of speech is this?

    The whole concept of freedom of speech is very broad. What are the limits to it? Are there any limits to it?

    Can i freely address you on the street?
    Can i approach you and talk to your wife?
    Can i insult you on the street?
    Can i insult your country?
    Can i slander and spread lies about you?
    Can i criticize your actions?
    Can i criticize the actions of your religion?

    If you want true freedom of speech, you want all of those. There is no such thing anywhere in the world, and the USA is particularly restrictive when compared to other 1st world countries.

    This is not to criticize the USA freedom of speech, just to point out that it is much more abrangent than most people think. The problem is that most people want to be able to freely say whatever they want as long as someone else isn’t allowed to criticize them/their beliefs. And most people dont even realize that.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley says:

      the USA is particularly restrictive when compared to other 1st world countries.

      Is it really? We tend to say it’s not because we don’t have hate speech laws and it’s a lot harder to win a claim of slander/libel here than in some other first world countries. So I’m interested in your perspective–in what ways do you see the U.S. as being more restrictive?Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

        You can say pretty much anything you want about people, but there are laws against disparaging products. What this says about American values is left as an exercise.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Wait, what? Laws against disparaging products? What do you mean?Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              Huh, interesting. Since laws vary from state to state, in some cases the standards of proof for ‘product’ libel could be higher than ‘person’ libel, but from that wiki link it appears that in some states it’s lower (or at least, the burden of proof gets shifted to the defendant, rather than plaintiff).

              Still, since there are in fact libel/slander laws applying to people as well as products in the US, I think you overstate your case (and the resulting implied irony) just a bit; though depending on the specific person/product libel cases being compared and the states involved, perhaps not by much.

              Thanks for clarifying – I just had no idea how things like Amazon product review pages would even work, if suits were commonly brought under these laws.

              If I can’t go on there and bitch about the crappy electric toothbrush I bought, this ain’t America! And how on earth would we be able to enjoy endless Apple/anti-Apple flamewars in comment sections?!Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                I don’t have an issue with limits on what can or can’t be said in advertising. Making knowingly false statement during a business transaction (and I’d include advertising as part of a business transaction) is fraud, plain and simple, and should be pursuable. And I think companies should be free to choose what they communicate via advertising, but once they’ve chosen to communicate something, it must be accurate. So if you sell cigarettes and want to talk about flavor and don’t want to talk about health effects? Fine by me. But if you want to talk about “health effects” and talk about how cigarettes can cure cancer? No, sir. Lies of omission are fine; lies of commission are not.

                I would not extend these same limitations to individuals involved in non-advertising speech. If you want to stand on the corner and scream that Coke causes penises to grow out of your forehead, go for it.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Of course, as advertising blurs into other mediums, this could get complicated.

                I don’t know all the specifics of the Oprah case, but if she was simply speaking as a consumer with a lot of influence, I think she should be immune from pursuit. If she is personally a paid spokesman for a beef competitor, that’d complicate things.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                (puts Coke down, rubs forehead absentmindedly)Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Don’t judge my weekend plans….Report

              • Avatar Fnord says:

                Can I claim that smoking has been shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, while not mentioning cancer?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                If it has been shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease? Sure. But you can’t say that it DOESN’T cause cancer or that it cures cancer or that it is the best thing for lungs since oxygen.

                In a nutshell, you can say whatever you want, but what you DO say MUST be true. If you want to say nothing or remain mum on a particular topic, such is your right. You just can’t say something that you know to be false.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Smoking reduces the risk of many diseases associated with old age.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Because you die before you can get them?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Which is why my bipartisan act to reduce health care costs by distributing free packs to children is gaining traction!Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                You’ll still need good marketing to capture those kiddies, tho. Something like a goofy cartoon camel maybe?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Stillwater, that seems just slightly unethical somehow; but what the heck, no sacrifice is too great to get reduced healthcare costs! The best part is, we can say we are doing it *for* the children (since eventually everyone over 30 will be dead from tar-lung)!Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Can I claim that smoking has been shown to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease, while not mentioning cancer?

                As long as you provide a citation.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Would you require the citation be on the advert itself? Or available upon request? I’d defer to the latter, though could probably be convinced otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                If you are going to make a claim that is based upon science, yes, you absolutely should be required to provide a citation.

                Because there is a big difference between, “A preliminary study of 20 rhesus monkeys who smoked an average of 10 cigarettes a day developed an abnormally low rate of proteins associated with Parkinson’s disease in humans,” and “A comprehensive literature review of several longitudinal studies of cigarette smokers shows a 1% decrease in the rate of Parkinson’s disease, when other socioeconomic and environmental factors are controlled, but a 500% increase in lung cancer morbidity”.

                Scientific studies make very particular claims, and have very specific limitations. Science reporting usually generalizes the claims and mentions few of the limitations (usually buried in the tenth paragraph). Advertisements don’t mention the limitations and grossly over-exaggerate the conclusions.Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Just to play devil’s advocate for a moment, Pat, not that you and I really disagree all that much here. Still, do these scientific claims also require an adequate citation? (Note the uses of the words “cause” and “may.”)Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                That’s a fair question, Burt. To be honest, I’m not 100% certain, I’ll have to muse.


                Talking right out of my hat, without giving it full consideration… this comes into the realm of what constitutes a scientific claim. I’m not saying that to be pedantic.

                The “Surgeon General’s Warning” is actually a proxy substitution. We are no longer involved in having a private entity make a scientific claim as part of an advertisement, we have a public entity (presumably appointed specifically to provide that “literature review” functionality, and likewise presumably vetted properly for that position), issuing a claim based upon their position.

                I would think that the Surgeon General has a responsibility to fully validate and lay out the evidence behind their assessment in a readily-accessible forum, but I don’t feel that they properly need to provide a direct citation, since they are (effectively) citing themselves. “I’m the Surgeon General: Here Is My Warning. Backing information available at”.

                However, I’m not necessarily disposed to grant authoritative status to a private entity with a commercial interest in an outcome. Perverse incentives, and all that.

                Since there is a barrier to entry for becoming the Surgeon General that isn’t the case for becoming an advertising executive, I think I’m okay with allowing the first to make a broader claim without a citation built right into the advertisement and not okay with the second.

                I’m willing to revisit that if challenged, though.Report

          • Avatar Stillwater says:

            I’m curious about what Mike has in mind here too.

            As I recall, we used to have laws in the US preventing one company from even mentioning another company’s product in an advertisement. So, Coke couldn’t say in the teevee “we’re better than Pepsi”. That law was repealed, as far as I know, tho I think it’s still the case that you can’t say disparaging (or subjectively determined, I guess) things about another product.Report

  24. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    This episode reminds me a bit of Voltaire’s play Mahomet le Prophet. That one depicts Mahomet as a false prophet who leads a follower to murder one of his critics. It’s a bit melodramatic and didactic in the way that plays from that time are; it doesn’t really work as theatre anymore. When it was first performed in Lille in 1741, Voltaire got sued by Catholic authorities who also got the production shut down. He claimed it was an attack on Islam to get himself off the hook, but it was taken as an attack on religious fanaticism more generally (which it was). Anyway, there was an attempt to stage it again in 2005. This time it was cancelled due to street protests by Muslim activists.

    (Interestingly, Voltaire wrote in a letter to a friend that was found over a hundred years after the fact that he had really had in mind when writing the play Jacques Clément, the fanatical Dominican friar who assassinated Henry III.)Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      Charles IX was driven into madness and death by guilt about the massacre of the Huguenots. His successor, Henry III, was assassinated by a monk. His successor, Henry IV, was assassinated by a religious fanatic.

      But Christianity is a religion of love and peace. At least, I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        I wouldn’t call Christianity a religion of love and peace as much as a religion that was fundamentally changed by the Enlightenment and its bastards. (I’ve got an essay somewhere that talks about the change from “Why did God do this?” to “Why did God allow this?” with Lisbon as the straw that resulted in the rubes starting to change to the new phrasing.)Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      In which case, they ought to have dressed in such a way to emphasize the friar — and published a few broadsides about it (in 2005).Report

  25. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    I’ve been reading comments and doing some thinking and I believe I need to apologize:

    To anyone from the Middle East, or to Muslims in general, I am sorry. I have made comments that were rude and not well thought out. I will try to do better, and I count on this community to notify me of my failures.


  26. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Well, then, let’s start a new one down here.

    The hornets’ nest comparison is one that, it strikes me, is best avoided.

    People might start discussing what’s best done with hornets’ nests… and while “live and let live” is a magnificent and defensible position, there are others that are defensible positions as well (“what about if there are children at stake?” being a personal favorite).Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Yup, similar to phrases like ‘rabid dogs’ or the like.

      If we worry that dehumanizing language could lead to action like pogroms/genocide, well, this is ‘dehumanizing’ language, in the most literal sense of that word.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Eh, I think hornets’ nest is pretty appropriate here, not because I want to compare the people over there to insects, but because, to mix my metaphors, there is a powder keg over there that has been waiting to blow for some time. Between existing tension (on the issue of Israel, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or our long-term support of relatively unpopular dictators, along with the perception that much of this is a result of a war on Islam itself), combined with drone strikes, the instability of a region that’s just seen multiple revolutions or revolutionary movements, and a bunch of thugs (under the label “terrorirsts” or “militants” or whatever) stirring up shit (to make the global metaphor even more convoluted), you get a region that’s rife to explode, and we’re inevitably going to be one of the main targets of that explosion.

      Now, as I said way, way upthread somewhere, I don’t know how much any of the moral calculations I’ve mentioned in this thread apply to the particular movie that either sparked these protests or was used as an excuse to spark them or whatever, because I really don’t know much about the movie itself, its creation, or how it was suddenly “discovered,” but if someone were to intentionally stoke the anti-American fire over there, for no other reason than to stoke said fire, that’d be a pretty shitty thing to do. And that’s my only real point.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        We got into part of this a million years ago when it came to the burning of the Koran.

        This is something that is (two different types of) blasphemous to both Liberal American Types as well as Conservative Muslim Types. The response of Liberal Americans was to see a book burning and then to think of all of the other cultures that, throughout history, burned books. From the atrocity that was the Library of Alexandria to the atrocity that was the Nazis, there are dozens and dozens of images associated with books burning and any decent and right-thinking person knows that burning a book has a long, vile history and the fact that what’s his face did it was an affront to American sensibilities as much as it was to Muslim sensibilities.

        When a subset of the Muslim world responded with riots, it was something that made sense on the surface. *I* was upset when the Koran was burned. *THEY* were upset when the Koran was burned… common cause, right? Well… there was a subset of the subset that said something to the effect of “you burned a Koran? WE WILL BURN A BIBLE!”

        It’s at this point that the disconnect becomes most visible.

        Is there anything, anything at all, that a group of Muslim performance artists could do to get people in the US to riot? I’m not talking about violence against people or anything obviously atrocious. I’m talking about getting a group of guys to do some stuff that they could post on the Youtube.

        Is there anything they could do, anything at all, that would result in riots?

        I can’t think of anything (and I’m *TRYING*).

        As such it’s very interesting to me that there’s stuff that a group of guys could do over here and post it to youtube that would result in riots over there but nothing that they could do over there and post it to youtube that would result in riots over here.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          I’m not sure what this has to do with what I’m saying. Perhaps you could flesh out the connection a bit more explicitly?

          Look, I think people over there who are behaving badly are, in fact, behaving badly, and that they are responsible for their own behavior. I don’t, however, think that they are merely reacting to a video.

          To help make my point in the comment you just replied to clearer, imagine this situation: we’re a country with a great deal of political uncertainty, relatively weak on a global scale, and our fates, to some nontrivial extent, hinge on the foreign policy decisions of league of Muslim nations in the Middle East. This league of Muslim nations has, according to widespread perception (which is partly correct, partly not) here, been fucking us over for more than half a century. On top of that, the league’s recent foreign policy decisions have resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not millions of deaths here or among people we consider our close cultural and ethnic allies, and they continue to do things like bomb wedding parties with flying robots. Now someone in that country puts out a video mocking Jesus or Lincoln or somebody. What happens?Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Two things. The first is that a small subset of Americans will riot.

            The second is that a small subset of Muslims will discuss whether making movies about Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is throwing rocks at a hornets nest and sub-groups will discuss whether the movie ever should have been made in the first place or whether it had every right to be made and the people who are rioting in America just never developed a culture in which criticism of presidents (and certainly Presidents as uniformly loved and respected as Lincoln) could be seen as anything but a subversive enemy action on the part of people who hate America.

            Then we could talk about whether only racists would criticize Lincoln or whether it’s only likely that a person who is criticizing Lincoln would be racist.

            So, other than the riots, no real difference.

            Which is partially why the riots are so very interesting.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Oh, I think they’re interesting as well. And I think the discussion here (in this country, I mean) is interesting as well, on multiple levels.

              I remember when P.Z. Myers did something less than reverent to a communion host, and received death threats, too.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I remember when P.Z. Myers did something less than reverent to a communion host, and received death threats, too.

                And when the death threats against PeeZee were discussed, were there many “rocks” or “hornets’ nests” brought up?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                By the Soft Cultural Relativists trying to explain other cultures or by the Team God people who were defending Team God?

                I ask because I see the sides automatically and reflexively switching sides for that particular debate.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I suspect by some of both, though a lot of them were the Soft Cultural Relativists (or the people I assume you mean by that epithet).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Please understand that I am going more for a sweeping generalization than epithet.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                If I remember the incident correctly, he’d advertised that he was going to do it a few weeks in advance, and received a wide range of responses, including, “don’t do it, because you’re going to seriously piss people off and some of them might be crazy enough to do something about it.” Others were, “Seriously dude, this is a really unnecessarily assholish thing to do.” His entire purpose was, of course, to rile up Catholics. It worked. It was still a really unnecessarily assholish thing to do. I don’t think anyone really questioned his right to do it, though. Well, except people who argued that, as a professor at a state university, he shouldn’t be allowed to do it. Those people were stupid, though.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Well, in that particular case, it seems very much like PZ went out looking in a forest, ignored all the trees, and eventually found a sleeping bear.

                When he then shot with a .22, just to have it wake up pissed off and maul him. Then he stood there in his tattered clothes and talked about how dangerous the forest is, and how right he was about it, all along.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                That’s precisely what happened, I think.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                It was the one time I attempted to participate in the PZ comment threads, and it failed miserable.

                Everyone was chanting about the deadly, horrible, patriarchal forest, and how it had mauled everyone forever and nobody who was a right-thinker could think anything other than “forests are dangerous!”Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Hah… We all get the commenters we deserve, I suppose. PZ definitely deserves his.

                The back channel discussions at ScienceBlogs were fun, though.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Hos comment threads are awful. He was complaining one about some e-mai. he’d received that was as obviously fake as the Landover Baptist Church. When I pointed that out in a comment, I got accused (if that’s the word I’m looking for) of obviously being an Evangelical myself, and told that by Poe’s law it didn’t matter whether it was fake or not.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I remember the incident, I don’t remember how much violence was sent his way. I assume, and this is on me, that he “only” got death threats in his comments or in his email. (I know that death threats are violence in and of themselves but if, say, the troubles in the Middle East were limited to death threats, we’d be in clover, relatively.)Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Oh I agree, there’s a difference in degree and kind. However, I suspect that if he lived in a city where the rule of law was hanging by a thread, things might have turned out a bit differently.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          “Is there anything, anything at all, that a group of Muslim performance artists could do to get people in the US to riot?”

          Maybe build a mosque at Ground Zero? I mean, do that in an alternate version of the United States with a much weaker police presence.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP says:

      I’ve been chopping away at a few trees in this forest over the last week or two, horribly dissatisfied with the progress I’m making on a thousand-word essay.

      A few points I’m trying to make: perhaps I’ll get some incentive to finish this wretched essay and post it.

      Libya, like Iraq, has no collective memory of being governed by anyone but Strong Men. Even the old tribal authorities are incapable of forming up effective power blocs, leaving the country open to anarchic / Wahhabist elements, many of whom are arriving from Egypt and elsewhere, as was the case in Iraq.

      Libya, almost uniquely in the Arabic-speaking world, has a reasonably high literacy rate. But the troublesome parts of their society, the Berbers, aren’t so well educated. They’re susceptible to all sorts of troublemaking. They’re also viewed as pro-Qaddafy elements and are suffering considerable discrimination. The Berber tribes are the spoilers, numerous enough to delay or entirely balk the progress of the Tripoli government but not numerous enough to form such a government themselves. It should be noted Qaddafy himself was not really an Arab, but of Berber stock who moved into Arabic-speaking areas of Libya. When he was murdered, Qaddafy was on his way to just such a Berber enclave.Report