Mocking Religion

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.

0 thoughts on “Mocking Religion”

  1. This is a case of a Right making a wrong. Much as in Flynt vs. Falwell, I hate having to defend the Rights of scum, although I do. It should be noted, however, that Nakoula, like Floridian pastor Terry Jones who earlier threatened to burn a Koran, was obviously DELIBERATELY being an agent provocateur. They have a MORAL culpability. They KNEW what would happen if they stuck a stick into the hornet’s nest, just so they could say “SEE! What BARBARIC Muslims!” (which reactive Jihadi-sympathizers ARE) And, of course, the reactive American nationalists ALSO reacted in a predictable way in tandem with 9/11; “Offend America?! Hulk SMASH!!” so that they could get the short-term emotional satisfaction of Righteous Revenge. Long-term strategic moves are SO wimpy and weak! And, as much a tragedy as this whole situation has been, someone just pointed out to me, this is a TYPICAL day throughout the Middle East into Afghanistan and Pakistan; truck bombs kill XX, suicide bomber kills YY, schoolhouses burned, acid thrown in faces, “honor killings,” revenge killings, attacks on their own police forces, Sunni vs. Shia. SUPPOSEDLY Americans because of our “exceptionalism” should know better.


  2. I have to say that I haven’t read too much detail about this incident, so my question is how did anyone come to hear about the film? Did the producers promote it in the Middle East, whether for financial gain or to sow religious discord?

    I did watch some of it on YouTube and found it dire as much as it was offensive. But the saddest part is the reaction and violent response. Angry people looking for something to be angry about and this fits the bill perfectly.


    1. SP- I don’t know. Initially, the film was supposedly made by an Israeli Jew, then it comes out that there was an Egyptian Coptic (Christian) who seems to be the inspiration. Lots of different name attached to the filmmaker too. It’ll be come clear in a few days, I suspect. But yes, if it weren’t this film, it would be something else.


  3. The US Constitution very carefully distinguishes between Free Speech and incendiary speech. If this scumbag who made the movie and worked to make it noticeable can be shown to have done so in order to push his own ideological agenda, then he deserves maximum punishment. It’s in the Constitution.

    In fact, according to the so-called “Patriot” Act, his actions are defined as terrorism. But somehow I don’t think this convicted felon will be charged with anything substantial. He’s not Muslim, you see.


  4. It’s horrible that this movie was made to begin with. Just as Muslims are quick to state that the extremists don’t represent the majority of Muslims; Muslims shouldn’t automatically assume a rouge “Westerner” would represent the majority of Christians/Jews. You are correct though that if it hadn’t been this film, it would have been something else. The Libyan government states this was a planned attack…so that sheds a whole different light on the situation.


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