The key bit comes at the end. As you watch, bear in mind that Rushdie’s old tormentors in Iran announced just today that they’ll “search for, track, and pursue” the filmmaker. The only consolation here is my hunch that his old friend Hitchens would have recoiled at this sentiment, that a provocateur being hunted like a rat by the mob for his speech is somehow less objectionable than a capital-A Artist being hunted for his. But I don’t know anymore. Would Hitch have recoiled? This seemingly straightforward case of a man being placed in fear for his life for something he said seems to be a lot more nuanced for self-styled champions of free speech than I would have thought.
Rushdie also naturally mentions how awful the movie is, which is par for the course in any “thoughtful” public comment on it. Says Nick Gillespie:
Rushdie has said “The Innocence of Muslims” is an “idiotic…piece of garbage” but called the protests against it “an ugly reaction that needs to be named as such.”
I do not quite understand the need to pass aesthetic judgment on a work before making a free speech argument, but that seems to be a minority opinion. Does anyone else find it puzzling, though? It’s almost as if Theo van Gogh, murdered by an Islamist nut job in the streets of Amsterdam in 2004, would have deserved his stabbing death if the production values of “Submission” had been a bit lower.
Yeah, I don’t understand that either, but it makes perfect sense if you follow Rushdie’s two-tiered approach to sympathy for mob persecution aimed at low art vs. High Art. The film is cheesy and provocative, but so what? How is that germane, unless you agree with the original Cairo embassy statement in rejecting “the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others”? If hurting the religious beliefs of others is an “abuse” of free speech then let’s go the rest of the way and criminalize blasphemy, just like our “moderate” friend, the Islamist prime minister of Turkey, is now suggesting that we do. If anything, you’d think that a serious threat of violence against a speaker would get people to lay off criticizing his work for awhile lest anything they say be taken as encouragement by the mob. Instead, people are falling all over themselves to denounce his movie as some sort of atrocity. Including a guy who knows what it’s like to be hunted like a rat by lunatics.
At least his point about Islamist leaders exploiting grievances like this for political gain is accurate. If you’re wondering what that means for Egypt, this will get you started. Exit quotation from “liberal” Bill Press: “So, I think the United States ought to identify, yeah, we oughta be going after these terrorists that carried out the attacks in Libya and we are. I think we also ought to be identifying the people who made this video and go after them with the full force of the law and lock their ass up.”