Gilles Peterson Digs America (Brownswood Usa)
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Music for the Weekend: Higher Ground by Ellen McIlwaine.
I’ve been asked by a lot of folks about my thoughts on the whole Anti-Islam “film” ‘Innocence of the Muslims’ made by Sam Bacile nee Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and whether the film should be banned OR whether Nakoula should be tried for creating a document of hate with the intent of doing harm. Which is exactly what has happened, as respected US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stephens, along with three other Americans, were murdered this week by an angry mob responding to the film.
So I remember watching D.W. Griffith’s ‘Birth of a Nation’ in college with the forewarning that the film was entirely racist with its depiction of the Klu Klux Klan as the heroes of a nation being ravaged by black men (or white men in blackface). The film was also praised as a cinematic masterpiece, one that has come to define modern cinema in terms of technique, style, and storytelling. It’s been a long standing debate as to whether ‘Birth of a Nation’ should indeed be lauded as a deserving masterpiece or be reviled for being the racist piece of shit film that it is. I personally think it is a work of art, and I hate its message with every ounce of my being. But it has a right to exist, and not just because of its artistic merits.
For this blog post I actually did watch Nakoula’s ‘Innocence of the Muslims’ and trust me, it is no ‘Birth of a Nation.’ In fact it’s an outright piece of shit, and a cinematic abomination. It cannot be revered as art in any stretch of the mind, but that’s not the point. Under the First Amendment, Nakoula had every right to make and distribute this film, and there’s nothing we should do to stop that. The film should not be banned, nor should Nakoula be tried for hate crimes. He put his opinion - no matter how myopic and bigoted - on tape and put it out there. That’s his soapbox. That’s his right.
Yelling ‘fire’ in a crowd, or just plain nonsense?
But people have died as a response to this film, and ultimately that is not the film’s fault. The fault lies upon the deluded people who used the film as a convenient excuse to strike - they likely were looking to strike at some point, and a little seen piece-of-shit movie made by a hatemonger who happened to be an American citizen provided a convenient excuse to commit atrocious acts of murder. That’s the nature of our information age - even the tiniest, most obscure pieces of the fringe can be accessed and spread with the same reach and immediacy as Reuters or the Associated Press. The Danish cartoons that depicted the Prophet Muhammad were published in an obscure newspaper that nobody read, and yet it made international news and incensed a lot of people who, in a different time, wouldn’t even know said cartoon even existed. But that’s the new rules of media that we have to play by.
There have however been many news reports from Libya and Egypt showing that the overwhelming Arab population condemns the attacks and are arm-in-arm with the United States, but these reports are not being promoted enough. Strange - I guess the world loves conflict, and peace makes for a boring news day. But let’s be honest - the Arab world themselves are no strangers to incendiary videos, as there are multitudes of extreme fringe groups who create videos calling for the destruction of America, the enslavement of Western women, and the ridding of opposing Islamic/ Christian/ Jewish sects. Hell, I challenge anyone to find a country that doesn’t have a segment of fucking lunatics who make videos calling for someone to die or burn in Hell. They’re everywhere, it’s just that the majority of the world is sensible enough to know that these people are talking absolute nonsense.
In that regard there is Freedom of Speech -which must be upheld at all costs - but along with the Freedom of Speech comes the Freedom to Ignore. Just because someone’s blowing incendiary rhetoric out of their mouths, I’m in no way, shape or form obligated to listen or respond to them. The majority of the world understands this, because majority of the world is reasonably sensible. There is a small minority of the world that is lost and rudderless, and looking to create chaos without reason. Unfortunately they are the ones who occupy 90% of our news media, which makes them appear to be much larger segments of our population than they actually are.
But the First Amendment also assumes a general public that is civil and prudent, an assumption that will always lead to failed expectations and disappointment. People are emotional, and they believe strongly in things. It takes a big person to hear someone lob shit at their beliefs and take the higher ground and simply walk the other way. Most of us are capable of this, many of us are not. That’s how fights start. And there are many, many fights every day, every hour, every minute in this world.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula is a piece of shit for making a (really bad) movie rooted in hatred, but he’s only guilty of being a piece of shit, which is not against the law. His movie didn’t instruct Muslims to kill Americans - his film is his own personal twisted doctrine against Islam, and not an American policy perspective on Islam, nor is it a document of how Americans feel about Islam. People are just mad that such a film was allowed to be made in America, which is a bunch of baloney. As aforementioned, every country has its share of lunatics that make divisive, racist films, and the Arab world is one of the biggest offenders of it. If we start policing what films are ‘safe’ and what can possibly cause discontent, then we’ve lost. But in the end, Nakoula broke no tenets of the Constitution in distributing his film, and he is no way legally responsible for American deaths in Libya. Is he morally responsible? Yes, I think so. But that judgement is between him and Satan.
Have a great, safe weekend, friends.