In following all of the upheaval in the Middle East, starting with the needless death of Ambassador Stevens and three others in Libya, violent protests Tunisia, Sudan, Yemen and ongoing protests in front of multiple embassies, I noticed a phrase being used that I found particularly disturbing.
In reporting on the video that is fueling the ongoing violence, some journalists used the phrase “anti-Islamic activists” and included Terry Jones, the nut burger pastor from Florida, as part of this group. I started to wonder, has 9/11 been subtly framing the reporting on this incident, or have we as a society forgotten what the word activist means?
Pro, Anti, and Activist can be tacked onto just about anything, but that doesn’t mean it belongs there. Activism, the way I understand it, means doing something (protesting, boycotting, campaigning) to change something (social, economic or political) to something different (better). For example, a person who is anti-abortion can protest outside a clinic to change minds (social) or write their legislature to change laws (political) and this makes them an activist. Misguided in my opinion, but an activist nonetheless. If you want a refresher, this website has some interesting links and background history on activism.
So what is a person making a movie trailer about a Islam, ridiculing its major religious figure, trying to change? It’s a far stretch to say this is political activism, but lets stretch for a minute:
If you are a political activist/social critic trying to rally supporters by exposing damning information that is withheld, obfuscated or overlooked by mainstream media, you would still have to have a desired outcome for other activists to take action on. Otherwise it is exposing information for titillation sake, which makes it tabloid news not activism.
The trailer-maker – I think we really should stop insulting filmmakers by referring to him that way – stated his goal as exposing the hypocrisy of Islam because “it is a cancer.” By any stretch of the imagination I still can’t consider him an activist.
The purpose of his trailer (which its reported that almost none of the protesting Muslims have seen) appears to be to portray Muslims as violent and insult their Prophet so as to provoke protests and violence. Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood use all opportunities to promote unrest, so now Muslim protesters are chanting “Death to America, Death to Israel” across six countries. The snake eats its tail and the trailer-maker can now say “See, I told you they were violent and want to destroy America.”
There are all sorts of free speech & hate speech nuances with this incident, not to mention the way it is playing out with Romney’s statements, and the GOP are circling the wagons, I suspect I will revisit this topic again.
Here’s hoping I will be using the past tense for all further discussion.