First, the public servant whom some Libyans murdered in a city saved from mass slaughter by US-backed intervention: Now the facts we have: in Libya four Americans have been killed by a mob, including Chris Stevens, the US ambassador, after an attack on the embassy in Cairo over an incendiary online movie trailer that is almost a parody of religious bigotry. About the film [WSJ]:
The movie, “Innocence of Muslims,” was directed and produced by an Israeli-American real-estate developer who characterized it as a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam. It has been promoted by Terry Jones, the Florida pastor whose burning of Qurans previously sparked deadly riots around the world. …[The] film [is] about the Prophet Muhammad, portions of which in recent days have been circulating on the Internet. Contravening the Islamic prohibition of portraying the prophet, clips from the film show him not only as flesh and blood—but as a homosexual son of undetermined patrimony, who rises to advocate child slavery and extramarital sex, for himself, in the name of religion.
Burn this movie! Based on the 13-minute trailer posted on YouTube, the mysterious anti-Islamic hate “movie” that provoked protests should never have been made — it’s not only the most offensive but the most thoroughly inept piece of “filmmaking”’ I’ve had the misfortune to watch in 30 years of reviewing films …
On a scale of one to four stars, I’d give it a minus 10. Burn this movie.
The attempt by Christianist and radical Jewish fundamentalists to demonize Islam and Muhammed does not in any way justify the kind of violence we have seen. Peaceful protests? Sure. But murder of innocents? No context makes that in any way anything but categorically intolerable. Blake Hounshell steps back:
For me, the embassy assaults are a sobering reminder not only of the deep anger and dysfunction that plagues the broader Middle East, but of the enormous difficulty the United States has in dealing with this part of the world. The level of distrust and fury toward America is not the sort of thing you heal with a speech or two. And to make matters worse, there will always be groups that exploit things that have no connection whatsoever to U.S. government policy, like this anti-Islamic film.
Ambinder says what needs to be said:
On Twitter, the first instinct of a lot of Americans was retributive justice. But the U.S. government’s sensitivity about the mood of the violent protesters is maddening but necessary. Being aggressive would cause more unnecessary dying.
Those who use the gift of institutionally and legally-protected free speech to exploit and prey upon the vulnerability of certain people to violence ought to be shamed.
At the same time, the people who killed people; protesters, thugs, militants, whomever, are ultimately responsible for their actions. If the U.S. government is going to discourage our own idiots from provoking people, then the governments of Egypt and Libya should act to corral those within their own nations who would storm an embassy on the pretext that a film offends. Well, barely, a film. A piece of anti-Muslim bigotry that was made to make the filmmakers feel good and others feel bad. If, as an American, I feel embarrassed that so many of my fellow Americans are bigots, I would, as an Egyptian or a Libyan, be even more horrified that the majority in my country seemed unable to stop (and barely condemn) the even more deplorable violent religious extremism of a minority.
On that note, Lynch looks at the official reactions in both countries:
Stark contrast – Libyan leaders stepping up to condemn attacks, while in Egypt Morsi invisible and MB planning more protests
— Marc Lynch (@abuaardvark) September 12, 2012
Details and video from the violence in Egypt here. My take on the Romney reaction incoming …