The unfolding chaos in the middle east over a low-budget documentary, all of which allegedly resulted in the death of 4 diplomats, including US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, has many foreign policy analysts and observers scratching their heads in a thus far futile attempt to understand how is could prompt such seemingly planned and deadly force.
Although Muslims have gone ape over a the prophet Muhammad being depicted as a cartoon and don’t appear to the most objective critics, the idea that online viewings of this silly film–albeit a purposefully negative depiction of Muhammad–could’ve been the sole motivator behind the attack is somewhat unlikely. Perhaps that’s why the consensus among many American officials is that the attacks were pre-planned, allegedly by of one of the Jihadist groups that emerged since the Nato-led overthrow of Libya’s Gaddafi regime. As much as Mitt Romney would love for this entire crisis to be an oversimplified campaign soundbite that he can co-opt into another “We built it” platitude, it’s way more byzantine and complex. After all, foreign policy isn’t for the laymen or über wealthy laymen. So it’s important to take a deeper look at not the film itself, but rather all the sordid and purposely incendiary motivations and fraudulence with which it was made.
It seems “The Innocence of Muslims,”though originally titled as “Desert Warriors,” was the carefully and well-orchestrated work of a farrago of right-wing Christian evangelicals and exiled Egyptian Coptic, along with a perennial fraudster who might make a better Bank CEO than filmmaker. And according to foreign policy observers, the trailer was ostensibly created with the full-fledged intention of destabilizing the post-Mubarak Morsi regime, one of which President Obama has successfully played hardball with throughout the crisis and gotten more under control. If there’s anything worse than a cutthroat opportunist and religious extremist, it’s juvenile provocateurs who shock for the sake of shocking. It should be noted that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the apparent real name of the filmmaker, has reportedly been brought in by police for a parole violation.
Regarding the relationship to the election, anti post-Mubarak factions and the people behind the film, here’s what Guardian writer Max Blumenthal was able to compile:
With another US election approaching, and the Egyptian government suddenly under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, Klein and Sadek joined Nakoula in preparing what would be their greatest propaganda stunt to date: the Innocence of Muslims. As soon as the film appeared on YouTube, Sadek promoted it on his website, transforming the obscure clip into a viral source of outrage in the Middle East. And like clockwork, on September 11, crowds of Muslim protesters stormed the walls of the US embassy in Cairo, demanding retribution for the insult to the prophet Muhammad. The demonstrations ricocheted into Libya, where the deadly attack that may have been only peripherally related to the film occurred.
For Sadek, the chaos was an encouraging development. He and his allies had been steadfastly opposed to the Egyptian revolution, fearing that it would usher in the Muslim Brotherhood as the country’s new leaders. Now that their worst fears were realized, Coptic extremists and other pro-Mubarak dead-enders were resorting to subterfuge to undermine the ruling party, while pointing to the destabilizing impact of their efforts as proof of the government’s bankruptcy. As Sadek said,“the violence that [the film] caused in Egypt is further evidence of how violent the religion and people”.
For far-right Christian right activists like Klein, the attacks on American interests abroad seemed likely to advance their ambitions back in the US. With Americans confronted with shocking images of violent Muslims in Egypt and Libya on the evening news, their already negative attitudes toward their Muslim neighbors were likely to harden. In turn, the presidential candidates, Obama and Romney, would be forced to compete for who could take the hardest line against Islamic “terror”.
In brief, it’s a very scary day in America when a bit of money and a vastly fraudulent scam, involving some of the most such disingenuous and destructive people on the planet, can incite a worldwide “clash of civilizations” crisis in the greater middle east and endanger western leaders. Move over, Citizens United: you now have some serious competition in the totally shameless and deliberately destructive department.
Michael is a comedian/VO artist/Columnist extraordinaire, who co-wrote an award-nominated comedy, produces a chapter of Laughing Liberally, wrote for NY Times Laugh Lines, guest-blogged for Joe Biden, and writes a column for MSNBC.com affiliated Cagle Media. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, and like NJ Laughing Liberally Lab if you love political humor from a progressive point-of-view. Seriously, follow him or he’ll send you a photo of Rush Limbaugh bending over in a thong.