The question on Facebook the other day, I’m only mildly paraphrasing: “Should the US government be condemning a movie” – we know which movie, I think – “to improve diplomatic relations?” For me, it’s an unequivocal “yes.” Not that that the audience of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s denunciation really cares. They seem to be of the opinion that the United States should arrest the filmmakers, or worse.
This leads me on all sorts of further questions. Should a government official comment on art at all? I use the term “art” loosely. In 1992, Dan Quayle, then the Vice-President, complained that TV character, Murphy Brown, deliberately had a child out of wedlock. Should he have been allowed to do that? Indeed, there are devotees who believe Quayle was right. I say yes, he should have said it, though I disagreed with him.
(When controversial art is paid for, in part or in toto, with public money, that becomes a whole new level of controversy.)
Should the Innocence of Muslims filmmaker be arrested? The film trailer is certainly crude and vile, and misleading even to some of the actors in the film, who swear Mohammed wasn’t even mentioned by name in the copies of the script THEY read. Seems as though some sort of fraud has taken place, but I’m not a lawyer.
Not all speech is protected by the First Amendment. Is this merely art? Or is this yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater, where the consequences of one’s action, chaos, was foreseeable? The Supreme Court case Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969) allows proscribing “speech” if it will incite immanent lawless action, such as riots. It would SEEM that the Danish cartoon situation of a half decade ago would suggest that the film would be received badly. But could the filmmakers foreseen such a violent outcome? Don’t know.
In any case, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the alleged filmmaker, who was convicted of bank fraud, could go back to jail because the terms of his release stipulated that he be barred from accessing the Internet or assuming aliases without the approval of his probation officer.
Should the sensitivities of religious folks be taken into consideration? I remember the uproar over the Monty Python comedy Life of Brian (1979) and Martin Scorsese The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), directed by Martin Scorcese (1988), not to mention Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004). All appear on a list of The 50 most controversial movies ever, at #14, #1, and #20, respectively. I’ve only seen Brian, which I personally found uproariously funny, not to mention clearly NOT speaking about Jesus. Didn’t see the other two, but I think people, including politicians can express their dismay without banning them outright.
And not so incidentally, I think artists should be able to make political statements, whether it be Barbra Streisand or Toby Keith. If people are annoyed by them, and decide not to buy their albums, see their films, etc., that’s the way the marketplace works.
If this is more rambling than usual, blame Facebook.