Freedom of Speech

Muslim Innocence

Judging purely from the 14 minutes available online, Muslim Innocence - the movie that sparked outrage in Libya and Egypt, leading to the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others – is the cinematic and ethical equivalent of toilet paper. It’s exactly the kind of mess a small minority worships these days. It’s myopic and angry, spewing forth from an ignorant source claiming as loudly as possible to be an expert. It wouldn’t be a shame if it had never been made, but it was, and that’s why it needs protection. The First Amendment isn’t for convenience, and it isn’t for stuff like Lilo and Stitch. It is designed specifically for speech that people get angry about. Because of the violent response to the film by a mob, and partially because it doesn’t have the natural protection of professionalism, there’s a deeply burning gut reaction to get rid of it. One critic even suggested we burn every copy (a comment that, appropriately, is also protected), but while it’s easy to understand that kind of immediate emotional response, it’s also necessary to take a deep breath before re-agreeing that art (no matter how awfully made and no matter the subject) deserves freedom.

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“The regime used to suffocate you in a lot of ways, but these past few weeks have awakened something that was dormant in a lot of Egyptian people. It’s going to be harder for any government to put that out.” That’s a quote from Marwan Hamed, a Cairo-based filmmaker who spoke with The L.A. Times’ Steve Zeitchik on the heels of a massive revolution in Egypt that saw a de factor dictator out of office and the spectre of democracy on the horizon. The country has a long way to go, but it’s not far out of bounds to expect Egyptian filmmakers to start utilizing the freedom of speech and creative freedom that’s suddenly sprouted from Tahrir Square.

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There’s been a lot of outrage flying around the cinematic world recently. Protest in the street and write strongly worded letters all you want, but if you really want to be offended, check out this flick.

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