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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.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting profile you have, interesting first (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Louisiana 1976


    How did Supreme Court decision ACA help the 23 million still uncovered? Ask the 18,000 Doctors of PNHP -- they're not waiting, FORWARD now to pass H.R. 676, the “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act .

    by divineorder on Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 12:39:11 PM PDT

    •  Interesting (0+ / 0-) such an interesting word  =)

      Been around since '09, but the Kos crowd always was ahead of where I was, so never had a useful word at the right time. Not sure this diary was it, but there will be a next one.  Such a flawed and wonderful bunch we are.

  •  It is not a precise analogy in the least (6+ / 0-)

    Go review some basic constitutional jurisprudence on the 1st Amendment and get back to us.

    Power-Worshipping Fascist

    by campionrules on Thu Sep 13, 2012 at 12:49:02 PM PDT

    •  imprecise analogy (0+ / 0-)

      Not playing a constitutional lawyer here or anywhere else.  I just observe that it is fair game to dig deeper when the consequences of speech are this disastrous.  I did not propose prosecution, please note.

      •  it wasn't the speech that was disastrous--it was (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sparhawk, erush1345, debedb

        the burning, rocket launching, and killing.  Do you mean to tell me the speech made them do this?

        •  Freedom of speech includes responsibility (0+ / 0-)

          for the repercussions of said speech.

          You're free to go to a Black Panthers meeting in KKK regalia and make a speech about how N-words are subhuman.

          You're free to go to a biker bar with lots of choppers out front and hypothesize loudly about how people who drive big, loud bikes and wear leather and sport obnoxious tattoos must be compensating for some sort of latent homosexuality.

          You're free to set up a booth in front of a major Baptist megachurch and try to convert people to a life that celebrates liberalism, atheism, and the practice of homosexuality.

          ...You're free to do all of those things.  And, legally, if anyone harmed you for doing so, they'd be in the wrong.  Yet for doing so and knowing the probable outcome, the subsequent beating you received was your own damned fault.

          This is why the civil rights activists were heroes: they knew what would probably happen to them for doing what they did and saying what they said, yet they did so anyway to highlight such injustices.  This film appears to be the vile flip-side of that coin: saying shit that you know is going to stir up a bunch of unreasonable people who are prone to violence just to make them be violent.  

          I can't help but think this film was engineered to do so, and if that was the case, then I think that the producer of the film would be legally liable to charges along the lines of inciting a riot, if intent could be proven.

  •  fails the imminence test in Brandenburg. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sharon Wraight, bobsc, Pete Cortez

    The movie didn't incite anything--the translation and subsequent co-opting of the movie by Salafists in order to inflame tensions did.

    This film retains full protection under the first amdt. and subsequent rulings.

    •  imminence test (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pete Cortez

      Translation and co-opting was kinda my point. The movie was just handy fodder.  Again, not advocating prosecution, just citizen journalism. Let's see where this came from.  Wanna say more about Salafists?

    •  Fails a number of other tests, as well. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Incitement requires statements that affirmatively exhort the proximate act.

      I think the diarist might have a more interesting point if they went the route of "fighting words," but I doubt it's an argument that'd prevail.  It's not as if that test hasn't been applied to instances of flag desecration.

    •  Looks like there was another player. (0+ / 0-)

      From The Washington Post:

      Instead, the man who translated the film into Arabic, sent it to Egyptian journalists, promoted it on his website and posted it on social media was an obscure Egyptian-born Coptic Christian who lives near Washington and proudly touts his ties to Jones.

      Morris Sadek describes himself as a human rights attorney and president of a small group called the National American Coptic Assembly, based in Chantilly, Va. Sadek says on his website that he is a member of the Egyptian and Washington, D.C. bar associations who has “defended major human rights cases” including the late Coptic Pope Shenouda III, who died in March.

      But fellow Copts depict Sadek as a fringe figure and publicity hound whose Islamophobic invectives disrupt Copts’ quest for equal religious rights in Egypt.

      “Mr. Sadek is a maverick who belongs to a very narrow extreme current of Coptic activists,” the Washington-based group Coptic Solidarity said in a statement. “He likes to use inflammatory and abrasive language to insult Muslims and Islam. As his actions agitate more the Islamic extremists, some people wonder if he is not in fact working to fulfill their agenda.”

      Don't think you could run Mr. Sadek up on incitement, since he did not exhort anyone to violence.
      •  Other players (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Indeed. I cited the LedeBlog post that outlined Mr. Sadek's role, though the Washington Post link you provided adds a lot more to the story, thank you.

        I'm not interested in running up charges against anyone. Just hoping we can get to a fuller picture of the lead-up to the events of the last three days in Egypt, Libya and Yemen.  

        In an earlier reply, bevenro pointed to a story at the Atlantic Wire Link. Per that article, an Egyptan by the name of Sheikh Khalad Abdalla broadcast a clip from the trailer on the al Nas satellite TV station. The real proliferation of the content spiraled up from that point on.

        I guess at the end of the day it's the latest rerun of one of the oldest stories about the human race--how quickly hate proliferates and generates its own counter-force hatred. On and on....

  •  also--you do realize that Holmes invoked the (0+ / 0-)

    sedition act of 1918 as part of his support of the 'clear and present danger' test?  Are you sure you want to take this route?

    I do agree with you that an investigation of recent events is necessary--and of course it is underway.

  •  I just can't agree with this position. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Even if all of your points are correct and it was the hope of those who  put this out to incite Muslims, how is it illegal?

    I think the flim was a horrible idea.  As horrible as a pastor burning Koran's or a preacher calling Mohammed a murderer, sexist, fraud or some type of monster.  But, offending my sensibilities can't be considered illegal.

    We have seen people say horrible things about every religion and group on earth. When Catholics protested Mary painted in elephant dung, or a best seller told a story of Jesus having a child, they were told to relax.  Judaism has been used historically to promote claims of killing children and benig responsible for killing Jesus.  Almost every faith on earth has been mocked.

    If we as a society say that if our words are used to create violence, you can be put in jail, there won't be enough jails to house all the guilty.  Hell, even many DKoser's would be rounded up.

    As much as I hate attacks on people's faith's, these can't be limited simply because of the fear that some group may react badly.  

    •  can't agree (0+ / 0-)

      As a first-time diarist, I now have an exquisite appreciation for the power of the lede.  All comments so far take my point to have been to prosecute this speech act. That was not my point, but I see how it could be read that way given the opening paragraph.

      No, I'm much more interested in us collectively finding out the who & why of the dubbing and reposting. To understand what purpose was behind those acts, not to make a legal case of it.  This dubbing and reposting was, I believe, calibrated and timed with the hope of provoking just the reaction we are now witnessing.  Wouldn't it be good to be sure we understood the back story on that?

    •  I think you (as well as a bunch of others here (0+ / 0-)

      including myself) are arguing a bit at cross-purposes...

      I initially took the 'Fire' analogy to refer to the film itself, which was made, fairly quietly, in mid-July.

      There is a separate aspect going on, though--the translation into Arabic over the last couple days, the posting on YouTube, the use of this by a few vocal Salafi extremists to inflame not only Muslim-Western tensions but Muslim-Coptic tensions within Egypt--and a coordinated attack--which, apparently, wasn't REALLY about the film at all.

      •  cross purposes (0+ / 0-)

        Sometimes if there were no cross-purposes there would be no purpose at all.  

        But yes, agreed, including on your final point that the coordinated attack in Benghazi was only coincidentally or opportunistically related to the global posting and reposting of the dubbed trailer.

  •  Let's not let muslim leaders off the hook (0+ / 0-)

    It's one thing for uneducated ignorant masses in Egypt for thinking US is affiliated with the movie. But these masses were incited by leaders who knew better. At some point, these leaders had the responsibility to explain clearly how in the age of internet any troublemaker can create an inflammatory video regardless of the government's opposition. But they egged the masses on leading to mob violence.

    And it's about time these masses learned that in the age of internet there will be all kinds of videos offending all kinds of people. THe world will burn if everyone behaved like them.

    I don't think free speech has limits no matter how distasteful as long as it is factual or you parody it in the form of fiction. If you lie , you can get sued for slander and that should .  In this case, the guy was clearly out to provoke something huge considering he pretended to be jewish knowing very well that word is like a red flag to the masses of egypt. So there might be creative ways to sue this guy. Who can sue him, I dont know. What you can sue him for, I do not know yet. But you can make his life a living hell by finding out the other mistakes he has made in life and prosecute him for that.

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