A convicted fraudster with a funny name (Nakoula Basseley Nakoula) and an even funnier pseudonym (Sam Becila) makes a Z-grade movie, that is to say, a really bad movie. The Taliban uses this as pretext to kill the American ambassador in Libya on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. Across the Arab world, religious Muslims take to the streets to burn American and other flags, thus expressing their anger over the Western world. Arab leaders react to the violence albeit belatedly—there are problems with freedom of opinion, and other Western imports, they seem to suggest.
Sometimes I too think there should be laws restricting the release of Z movies like ‘The Innocence of Muslims’—but less because of what they say but because of how they say it. Having watched the infamous anti-Islam trailer on YouTube, I think it is about time to consider enlarging the alphabet to get an even lower grade than Z. The movie is that bad—no, it is worse.
Had it not come to the Taliban’s attention, it probably would never have made it past the threshold of a few hundred clicks. Indeed, according to the Guardian, it has been around since the beginning of the year, and on YouTube since the beginning of July.
That the Taliban would find it necessary to revert to such poor material to mobilize its supporters says something about the state of the terrorist organization—namely, that it finds itself in a state of disintegration.
This is not to say there are not serious issues at stake with regard to the limits, if any, of freedom of opinion and artistic creation; the question whether religious insult is equivalent to discrimination; or what defines hate speech and how it should be legally tackled.
But serious issues deserve to be framed and addressed within a narrative of reason rather than farce. Sam Becila’s video is for the trash not the courtroom.