Friday, September 14, 2012
There is, of course, that old saw that claims "freedom of speech" does not give you license to yell 'fire' in a crowded theater." I mean, everyone knows that line. There are limitations. But still, acknowledging that truth is only a bit less difficult than really making an application in real time.
What on earth does a culture such as our own do with Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, a man with a hefty criminal record in money-laundering and drug-trafficking, the man who--the stories suggest--is the idiot who made the film, a film which can hardly be called that, a dopey, tenth-rate digital story that has American embassies throughout the world under siege and, by motivation, caused the death four good people? What do we do with Nakoula? What do we do with free speech?
Did you see the film? It's beyond weird. If it birthed riots, it would be hilarious--crude and awful. It's junior-high in absolutely everything except hate-mongering. I take that back--it's vastly worse than junior high. It's idiotic. It's imbecilic. It's reprehensible. It's pathetic. It's too stupid to be called evil, but it is nonetheless.
But what do we do with Nakoula's freedom of speech? What do we do about an American ethic that's almost as precious to us as Mohammed's face and reputation is to Islamic extremists? And how on earth--literally, on earth--do two kinds of people, so radically different, ever learn to get along?
Nakoula is a Coptic Christian, which shouldn't, I hope, make him any kind of hero. Gadzillions of Americans think he's a pig-headed idiot and simply assume that his brain is as fried in hate as it could be in the meth he's been arrested for peddling.
But Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, American, has all the benefits of American citizenship, including freedom of speech. Here in the U.S. of A., he can peddle hate and not be touched.
Meanwhile, the fierce piranha in the Middle East, the bloody fanatics that kill Americans and burn embassies, are little more than animals. It's a stretch to call them humans.
And here we are, as a nation and a culture, bloodied by the damned extremists on both sides. Here we are in the middle of fiery muddle of sheer madness, because of a ridiculously ham-fisted film somebody stuck up on You Tube. This is crazy, but it's also deadly.
I'm about ready to hit "publish" here, and I'm very much aware of the irony of what I'm thinking. And what I'm thinking is that what's going on here, emerging right in the middle of industrial-sized vats of hate boiling up all around us is the dark underbelly of the internet and the democratization it has created. This immense blessing--an information highway that has already begun to reshape forever almost everything we do--can be a monster.
Yes it can. Watch the flames again today, created by animals who know nothing but hate.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:54 AM