If the intent of whoever was behind the mystery film was to disrupt US diplomatic missions around the world, mission accomplished.
The overdubbed video clips have taken on a life of their own and it's no longer about the video, but anger directed at the US for no reason other than it's the in-thing to do in places like Tunisia and Egypt. At a time when the economic conditions in those countries isn't improving after regime change, protesting against the US (and throw in the anti-Israel sentiments expressed in some) is a safe way to divert attention away from the inability to improve the economic conditions as fast as everyone wants.
Blaming the US is better than trying to create jobs in those countries. Claiming that the US engaged in blasphemy or somehow supports blasphemy is easier than trying to understand that free speech is a universal right and includes the right to say things that other groups might not like or want to hear or see, but it doesn't give anyone the right to blow stuff up or riot and destroy property. Free exercise of religion means not imposing your religious views on others, or other nations for that matter.
Those behind the film are agent provocateurs who sought to sow discord and create conflict. They achieved those goals, and now the US and those regimes in the Middle East and elsewhere these protests/riots are going on have to deal with the fallout.
One has to also wonder who benefits from the repercussions of these protests/riots/attacks. Iran definitely comes to mind, as do the regimes that replaced longstanding brutal regimes that did not tolerate dissent. This is something that has to be explored at greater depth.
Riots and protests are spreading to other countries, and the list now includes Tunisia, Lebanon (which happens to be where Pope Benedict is visiting on a diplomatic trip), Yemen, Bangladesh, and the German embassy in Khartoum Sudan has been torched. Jordan has also seen protests. Here's a map showing where those protests are underway.
But you know who hasn't seen the film or the clips - most of those protesting. It's a ginned up controversy and the film's creators/backers are still not fully known. And what's known about those involved thus far indicate that the producer was a convicted criminal and a shady character - a grifter being a most charitable term, while the director was incompetent and may not have known the plot/dialogue and the actors didn't know what they were doing or that the film was overdubbed afterwards to completely change the meaning and context of the scenes.
This situation smells, make that reeks, of the trajectory followed in the cartoon jihad that cost more than 100 lives across the world and resulted in embassies of several countries being attacked.
Once again, we have an obscure publication that gets picked up and within days is turned into a rallying cry for rioting and protests by Islamist leaders decrying the blasphemous acts and portrayals - urging death to those involved. Instead of the targets being embassies of the Danes, the nation of the Jyllands Posten, which published the cartoons originally, it's US diplomatic facilities are being targeted (and also Germany). In some instances, it appears that local governments are backing protests, while others - as in Libya - the government is actively trying to block the attacks/protests.
It may also be useful to try and distinguish between the terror attack that killed Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans in Libya and the protests/riots in Egypt and elsewhere. The attack in Libya appears to have been a preplanned attack to coincide with 9/11, while the protests elsewhere appear to be more closely related to the outrage over the mystery film. The film outrage may have spurred protests in Libya as well that were exploited by the attackers, but the scenario has blurred together into one mess that will take quite some time to sort out.
Labels: blasphemy, diplomacy, Egypt, foreign policy, free speech, Germany, Libya, Middle East, propaganda, protests, religion, terrorism, Tunisia, USA