Filmmaker not to blame for Middle East violence

By Jessica Cabe

A picture is worth a thousand words.

And, apparently, a moving picture is worth nine lives and counting.

Innocence of Muslims, a low-budget film depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a womanizer and child molester, sparked violent protests and attacks across the Middle East.

I could go on all day with questions regarding these events, but as a communications minor and someone interested in arts and entertainment—and as an American citizen raised with a protective passion for our First Amendment—one question in particular has plagued me since the first attack:

Should this filmmaker, recently revealed to be Coptic Christian Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, be held at all responsible for the violence that has ensued?

Legally in the United States, it is a fairly simple answer: No.

“The United States does not have hate speech laws, only hate crime laws,” said communications professor Robert Miller. He said any attempts to pass hate speech laws would almost certainly fail because of the First Amendment.

Leaders across the Middle East, including Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Lebanon’s Shiite Muslim organization Hezbollah, have called for the U.S. to take action and suppress the film. Miller said this is simply not a possibility.

“The American government is prevented by its own constitution from engaging in the kind of political censorship that an official suppression of an offending film would entail,” he said.

Even though Nakoula will not be held responsible for four American deaths in our court system, I have heard mixed opinions from friends and family over whether he should feel any guilt for creating the film.

I watched the 13-minute trailer for Innocence of Muslims on YouTube, and it is inarguably trash. The film should have never been made. But it is, in fact, just a movie, and Nakoula should not feel guilt for any violence that has ensued because of his film.

Americans are raised to respect and even love the First Amendment. Freedom of expression has faced many foes in the course of the nation’s history, including the U.S. government itself, but I am one who takes a liberal stance on the topic. Expression is what drives discussion, learning and growth, both for individuals and for mankind as a collective. Even though Innocence of Muslims sends an ignorant, offensive and unfounded message, it has resulted in international discussion which will ultimately benefit people worldwide.

The violent protestors are, in effect, the only ones who should be blamed for the death and destruction in the Middle East. Actually, there is incredible irony in the situation.

According to a Friday Associated Press article, Nakoula claimed he made the film because he was tired of Muslims running around killing. Instead of reacting in a way that would prove Nakoula wrong—peacefully protesting—extremists across the Middle East have only reinforced the filmmaker’s point.

Rational humans understand that the extremists participating in these violent protests are not representative of the entire faith of Islam. I do wonder what the prophet would have to say about the senseless loss of life that has occurred in his name.

I leave you with this: D.W. Griffith, the “father of film,” created The Birth of a Nation in 1915. The film’s highly offensive plot is based on Thomas Dixon Jr.’s novel The Clansman. It portrays blacks as barbaric, lustful monsters, and warns against the consequences of Abolition. This film practices hate speech.

However, it also changed filmmaking forever. Griffith got his nickname due to his use of parallel editing in The Birth of a Nation, which means the audience members see two situations playing out on screen and are able to understand the situations are happening simultaneously because of the use of cross-cutting.

Innocence of Muslims holds no artistic merit, but suppressing this film will set a dangerous precedent that could not only limit unpopular speech, but also artistic growth.