DAVID ROSMAN: Makers of 'Innocence of Muslims' film should face consequences

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 | 4:37 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Have you watched “Innocence of Muslims,” the 14-minute video or the trailer?

I have. Both are so poorly done that, if it were not for its repugnant nature and that it led to a chain of events that caused retaliation against the U.S. government and American businesses, it would be considered a joke.

  A few things I now believe are factual:

  • The actors in the film believed this was a film about life in the Middle East. There have been strong suggestions that they believed it was to be soft-core pornography.
  • The actors’ voices were badly dubbed over, like watching a 1950s' "Godzilla" movie dubbed in English.
  • There have been reports that many of those who participated in the riots in Egypt were paid protesters, with the moneys most likely coming from al-Qaida and other anti-American extremist groups.
  • There are enough videos and news reports from outside the U.S. that have led me to believe that these protesters represent an extremely small fraction of those of the Muslim faith, the extremists. 

I believe the anger toward those who seek to destroy American property and kill American citizens, for whatever reason, is never justified. I also believe that the U.S. government has not helped in the elimination of this anger or to relieve the tensions.

I believe that nearly 100 percent of the protesters never saw the film or the trailer, much like Salman Rushdie’s book “The Satanic Verses” was never read by most of those who called for his death for blasphemy in 1989. My thoughts here come from conversations in the LinkedIn group for the Association of Opinion Journalists concerning the issues of misinformation and propaganda.

There is another problem I have recognized during this and earlier confrontations about religious beliefs and government. No one from either side wants to talk or learn. I have also found, during conversations with my overseas acquaintances, the rest of the world remains a bit confused concerning government, religion and American freedom of speech.

When those who are responsible for “Innocence of Muslims” say that they do not care what the world thinks of their film, especially the Muslim world, that they are not responsible for the riots and they are protected under the First Amendment, I take issue.

The Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of Dove World Outreach Center; Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Alan Roberts, the reported director and producer; and others responsible for this film, all anti-Islamist, have taken the stance that they do not take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

The mere fact that they happen to be Americans and Christians only adds gas to an already out-of-control fire. It is this guilt by association that is used to direct further resentment to the whole when it is only a small sliver of the pie that is bad.

I try to explain to my foreign friends that the First Amendment and freedom of expression are not absolute. It is here where I disagree with those whom I would normally call allies. I believe that those involved in the production and distribution of “Innocents of Muslims” (other than the actors) cross that line. I will go so far as calling their actions treasonous.

Statute says that anyone who “levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason.” As a layperson and non-attorney, like most of you, I believe those who funded, produced and distributed this film have violated U.S. code and Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution.

By producing the film and knowing the possible repercussions, including the death of American diplomats, Nakoula, Roberts and others have incited a religious war against America, have given aid to the enemy, al-Qaida, by providing ammunition for its propaganda machines, and therefore have committed treason.

There is an online petition at asking the U.S. attorney general to consider such charges. Show the world that Americans do not tolerate actions, such as this video, that are designed specifically to enhance hatred and war.

David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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Ben Nadler September 19, 2012 | 10:26 p.m.

Mr. Rosman:

If I understand you correctly you are essentially arguing here that the U.S. government should charge someone with treason for making an offensive movie. If that is the case I move to add Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, and George Clooney to the list, all of whom I find personally insufferable.

All kidding aside, this seems like a very slippery slope to start down. Once it is possible to be imprisoned (or executed? not sure how far you’d imagined this going) for offending Muslims by depicting the prophet Muhammad, then what will follow. Would writers and filmmakers be allowed to criticize any religious officials in such a climate? Surely criticizing the Pope for taking a lax stance on child molestation in the church would offend some Catholics. Would it be legal for someone to criticize sharia law? Surely this would offend some Muslims who live under its tenets.

Frankly, I think it would be hard to produce anything with a shred of meaningful opinion today without offending someone. (Your opinion here has probably offended someone, as has mine.) But that doesn't mean that the producer should be tried for treason.

The much bigger issue here, as I see it, is the hypersensitivity, and absolutist nature of religious beliefs. And this article has fallen the trap. How exactly is this badly produced 14-minute video equivalent to someone levying war against the United States? Because other people responded irrationally to it? Somehow that doesn’t quite seem copacetic with the First Amendment.

Ben Nadler

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle September 19, 2012 | 11:07 p.m.

I'd love to round up ALL the religious extremists and put them all on an isolated island together with plenty of weapons, so they could have their conflicts directly and leave the rest of the world alone to live in peace.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking September 20, 2012 | 4:27 a.m.

I think it's significant to notice where demonstations are NOT taking place, and that is the US and Europe. There's a large amount of anti-US and anti-Israel politics in this also. Once again, ir's not just that Muslims can't take a (bad) joke, or are inherently violent and extreme. It's that their religion in the Middle East is intertwined with their politics. Get the politics out of it, and it's just a religion like any other.


(Report Comment)
frank christian September 20, 2012 | 7:40 a.m.

Middle Eastern governments use Islam to control their people.

(Report Comment)
frank christian September 20, 2012 | 9:11 a.m.

Fox News just had Rev. J. Jackson on with two Americans for whom he has just secured release from a Gambian prison.

The first thing Jesse did was to thank Fox News for the assistance they had provided for the release!

Could this mean we may finally learn to "get along"? Probably not.

(Report Comment)
Charles leverett September 20, 2012 | 10:36 a.m.

Really? You really believe they should be tried for treason based on a film that portrays what they believe on religion, no matter how inaccurate or filled with stupidity it is?
I mean really?

People made a CONSCIOUS decision to kill the Americans over there. It was their decision. If you limit this, because how some people may act, then how can we ever share our opinions? I didn't see you calling to charge all the people who have offended Christians over the years, maybe helped push a few irrational people over the edge into committing needless violence. How about strong political opinions, that has and can cause irrational, wrong headed people, to go off the deep end and commit violence. Do you propose we charge those journalist for saying such provocative things? Probably only the conservatives ones right? No, as a journalist you get freedom of speech, but if someone says, publishes, records something you personally don't like their rights should be revoked.

God I hate the hypocritical nature of this article, everyday I put up with stuff that I loath (like this article) and sometimes even hate, why? Because they have freedom of speech. If someone wants to protest funerals of soldiers? I hate it, but it's their right. If someone wants to criticize my religion, I don't like it, but it is their right.
I could make a youtube video where I simply say that I believe Mohammed is a fake and promote my religion and that would cause violence. Should I then be prosecuted for that?

If this is truly how "journalist" believe, then the old media is truly dying, and it can't happen fast enough, as we are better off without it.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 20, 2012 | 11:29 a.m.

Treason? What a ridiculous proposal.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders September 20, 2012 | 1:27 p.m.

I think "we" should round up all of the Editorial Extremists and send their butts to Gitmo for reeducation. Better yet, send them on an overseas assignment first, then "we" can rendition them as well, keeping their families totally in the dark.

Because only then, can we be safe from those violent disruptors of our otherwise peaceful society.

Oh, and get their editors too! Anyone who approves of the dissemination of these hateful messages that fuel the disharmony of divide-and-conquer, well, they aren't fit to set foot in public.

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

(Report Comment)
Richard Saunders September 20, 2012 | 2:19 p.m.

Oh, and if anyone like Mr. Rosman actually cares about this "movie," well, as always, it's prudent to start out by following the money.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt September 20, 2012 | 4:42 p.m.

"The contagion of moral cowardice followed its usual course, wherein liberal journalists and pundits began to reconsider our most basic freedoms in light of the sadomasochistic fury known as “religious sensitivity” among Muslims. Contributors to The New York Times and NPR spoke of the need to find a balance between free speech and freedom of religion—as though the latter could possibly be infringed by a YouTube video. As predictable as Muslim bullying has become, the moral confusion of secular liberals appears to be part of the same clockwork."

"What exactly was in the film? Who made it? What were their motives? Was Muhammad really depicted? Was that a Qur’an burning, or some other book? Questions of this kind are obscene. Here is where the line must be drawn and defended without apology: We are free to burn the Qur’an or any other book, and to criticize Muhammad or any other human being. Let no one forget it."

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates September 20, 2012 | 8:28 p.m.

What is David smoking these days? I looked at the film out of curiosity and its a joke. If the religion of permanent offense takes offense, I say Tango Sierra! Find another reason to murder and admit you are a religion demanding respect and tolerance for your treatment of women, when you don't even understand the meaning of the words.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman September 23, 2012 | 10:37 a.m.

Well, I see that my antagonists are picking and choosing as to be negative and arrogant.

So, once again; Those involved in the production of this film knew the consequences of their actions. That this film would be seen negatively by 1.9 billion people worldwide. That radical Islamists would take advantage of the film to incite followers to attack American diplomatic facilities and endanger the lives of American citizens, diplomatic, military and civilians, worldwide.

The violation of statute is that those involved "levied war against [the United States](and adhered) to (our)enemies, giving them aid... within the United States or elsewhere..." In fact, those involved are guilty of treason.

Freedom of Speech? Yes, that is an argument, but that is not an absolute. Endangering the lives of Americans by other Americans trumps all.

And really, how unpatriotic does one have to be before the patriotic right wing can see it. I am sorry that you are blinded by politics and unable to see past your Islamophobia.

(Report Comment)
Skip Yates September 23, 2012 | 12:33 p.m.

Looks to me that YOU are the one infected with "Islamophobia".

(Report Comment)
David Rosman September 24, 2012 | 12:04 p.m.

Skip - I am? How do you figure? I have supported mosques in Missouri, Colorado and New York. I do not fear someone of the Muslim religion as I do not fear someone from the Christian or Jewish faiths.

However, with Christianity's long history of antisemitism and anti-science, dating back to Emperor Constantine, the fear of the Christian faiths should be deep within me and my fellow Jews, atheists and scientists. But it is not.

And yes, I am a Jew by birth and tradition, and an atheist, and secular humanist. They can very much coincide.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman September 24, 2012 | 12:25 p.m.

Jonathan - Congratulations on discovering that Sam Harris is a Libertarian. As with any group, the atheist community is quite diverse in their political views, from tea partiers and Libertarians, to liberals, progressives and a few whacked out tree huggers.

But his views, like mine, do not reflect the views of a specific community. In this case, Harris certainly does not reflect the positions of the politically liberal portion of atheism. And even some liberals may agree with him.

Back to the topic at hand; I still believe the producers of "Innocence of Muslims" knew the high possibility of an international backlash.

You do not wish that I insult your religion as I hope you would not insult my atheism. It is our societal belief that free speech is a freedom that cannot be limited in the United States, with a few exceptions like treason. What Americans do not seem to understand that this same sense of freedom of of expression is not held in all countries, Secular, Muslim, Christian or Jewish.

As to following the money, I will leave that to the investigators on the case. I have another job that pays me to write.

(Report Comment)

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