There is an exception to the free speech principle that we reflexively add at the beginning of every discussion of the topic. We all say "...of course, it is not ok to yell 'Fire!' in a crowded theater."
That is the precise analogy of what happened on this just-past 9/11 when as yet unknown parties saw to the wide distribution of the infamous anti-Mohammad video trailer, conveniently dubbed in Arabic. Predictable results and horrible consequences ensued: death and destruction that is going strong into its third day.
In fact, Oliver Wendell Holmes coined the phrase in a decision that was later overturned in favor of a more restricted version "which limited the scope of banned speech to that which would be directed to and likely to incite imminent lawless action (e.g. a riot)."
Who did the translation and dubbing, who posted the trailers to Youtube? Who decided to do it on 9/11? Answers to these questions are urgently needed given the dangerous train of subsequent events. More reflections on the other side of the magical Kos mirror
While the video itself is not the central issue, its provenance is part of the bigger story. An AP item from Thursday afternoon the 13th confirms suspicions that were voiced yesterday: The self-identified producer of the video, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, is in fact the director as well, under the moniker Sam Bacile.
But the video would be unknown to the rest of the world if it were not for the fact that some person or group saw to it that a nasty bit of trailer was dubbed in Arabic and re-posted globally in the days leading up to the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Per the article in The Lede linked above, an Egyptian-American Coptic activist, Morris Sadek, wrote a blog post in Arabic on the trailer. Mr. Sadek is good buddies with our old acquaintance, Florida pastor Terry Jones, who infamously bragged of burning copies of the Koran a while back. So perhaps it is as simple as that.
But we are trained to ask "Cui bono?". Who could imagine themselves or their cause being the beneficiary of this ongoing disaster? The care to make sure the video was in Arabic, the timing of the global reposting indicate that someone was trying to stir up the biggest possible trouble just now between the US and the new states emerging out of the Arab Spring. Private grudge rooted in personal history? Perhaps. But we need to pull up this whole incident by the roots and lay it out for further investigation. I'm pretty sure the intelligence agencies have already done this, but a broader public awareness of the back story is just as important, and that is a job we'll have to do for ourselves.
Fri Sep 14, 2012 at 1:14 PM PT: Update x 1:
Since the goal of this diary is to piece together a fuller picture of the whole disaster, here is a piece from yesterday's NYTimes about another fine person involved in the production of the original film. Another noisy self-promoter is how Mr. Klein comes across to me. The more vital parts of the story are the parts that reveal the social network effects and how they played out: What blog posts or news stories in the Muslim world went viral when & where. Harder to analyze, but I thing our attention is on the wrong or at least uninteresting end of the stick when we focus on the film's origins.