Or was it something worse?
The murder of US ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other US diplomats at the hands of rioters probably wasn’t just another case of Islamists-gone-wild. The circumstances surrounding this horrific incident — the riot was in reaction to a “film” supposedly made by a mysterious Israeli-American director under what is probably a pseudonym — point to a carefully staged and well-thought out event. The question is: staged by whom?
Let’s take a look at the film itself, entitled Innocence of Muslims. Media accounts of the movie’s content universally describe it as “crude,” “insulting,” “amateurish” — in short, not exactly a candidate for the Academy Awards. Yet this fails to really capture the spirit of the film, which can only be described as leering: there is an exhibitionistic quality to the “script,” which dwells on matters sexual. The movie, which claims to portray the life and times of the prophet Mohammed, consists of a series of sexualized vignettes interspersed with scenes of violence. News accounts refer to the “wooden” acting, and I think this is literally true: the actors come off like puppets in a Punch & Judy show. There is the same slapstick quality to their actions and particularly the bantering that passes for dialogue. It’s all centered on sex — Mohammed’s alleged pedophilia, how he and his followers raped the villages they conquered, and naturally accusations of homosexuality loom large.
My favorite scene is when two of Mohammed’s followers are having a conversation about “did you know Mohammed is gay?” “Well, I knew about” Mohammed’s alleged sex partner, “but Mohammed? Is he submissive or the dominant one?” Mohammed, who has been sitting there listening to the conversation, leans over and says: “Both!”
Innocence of Muslims is the Grand Guignol of the Islamophobes: viewing it is like reading the comments section of Pam Geller’s blog, or Robert Spencer’s JihadWatch. On a somewhat higher level, the excerpts we have seen resemble nothing so much as a dramatization of the “theories” of one Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who averred in his 1973 book, The Arab Mind, that Arabs are peculiarly susceptible to sexual humiliation. As Seymour Hersh put it in his 2004 investigation into the horrors of Abu Ghraib:
“The notion that Arabs are particularly vulnerable to sexual humiliation became a talking point among pro-war Washington conservatives in the months before the March, 2003, invasion of Iraq. One book that was frequently cited was The Arab Mind, a study of Arab culture and psychology, first published in 1973, by Raphael Patai, a cultural anthropologist who taught at, among other universities, Columbia and Princeton, and who died in 1996. The book includes a twenty-five-page chapter on Arabs and sex, depicting sex as a taboo vested with shame and repression. ‘The segregation of the sexes, the veiling of the women . . . and all the other minute rules that govern and restrict contact between men and women, have the effect of making sex a prime mental preoccupation in the Arab world,’ Patai wrote. Homosexual activity, ‘or any indication of homosexual leanings, as with all other expressions of sexuality, is never given any publicity. These are private affairs and remain in private.’ The Patai book, an academic told me, was ‘the bible of the neocons on Arab behavior.’ In their discussions, he said, two themes emerged —‘one, that Arabs only understand force and, two, that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation.’”
Shame and humiliation — followed by murderous rage. Precisely the reaction that greeted the posting of Innocence of Muslims online and led to the deaths of four Americans, and the first such incident involving an American ambassador in quite some time. If someone was deliberately setting a fire in the Middle East, this was the fuel that would burn hottest.
In her response to the attacks, Hillary Clinton was clear that this had nothing to do with the Libyan government “or the Libyan people.” How did she know that so soon after the event — before even a preliminary investigation had been launched? Which is to say she didn’t know, but was merely hoping.