As regular readers know, I rarely, if ever, venture into politics here. I do so now with some trepidation, but I take the plunge with some personal stake in all of this, traveling to Egypt as I do in three weeks. I am decidedly not feeling safer to be going. Read on below the fold or forget about it. Nothing overtly partisan, I assure you; this sort of thing has gone on under both parties.
First, I don’t believe for a second that the movie in question was the motivation behind the recent embassy attacks in Libya and Egypt. There is no frickin’ way that random mobs of people just noticed this thing on Sept. 11 and decided to go cause some trouble. That’s utterly absurd; it was grabbed as an excuse, nothing more.
Second, the Times article tries hard to make it look like a normal sort of thing. He went “voluntarily”. He had “parole issues”. Just a run-of-the-mill non-arrest with half a dozen officers “descending” on a home after midnight. I don’t buy that for a second. If they just want to talk to the guy “voluntarily”, um, why not sit around his kitchen table instead of parading him out in public? No, this was a perp walk, letting everyone know that they got this guy.
IMO, if you’re not chilled to the bone seeing this, you should be. Yes, diplomacy on the part of our State Department requires some tact. But this is political scapegoating at its worst and it sends a clear and unambiguous message to the world: Violence works. Kill an ambassador or two and we’ll start “taking people in for questioning” for exercising their First Amendment right.
So no, I don’t feel any safer going to Egypt. If I’m targeted, it’s because the extremists were given the green light to do so, knowing that they can just blame a filmmaker or a cartoonist or whoever else they can find as an excuse at the time.
If you don’t mind this guy being led away for making a stupid film, imagine how you’d feel if a Hollywood director was led away in similar fashion “for questioning” because he made a film making fun of Christians. Or a comedian making jokes that some Christians find offensive. Or perhaps a pro-choice filmmaker being led away after an abortion clinic bombing. As the link above notes, if you reward something, you’ll get more of it. This is not good precedent.
UPDATE: Edited a bit.