Fazal Rahman, Ph.D. Completed September 27, 2012
Muslim reactions to the recent defaming and slandering film against Muslims, Islam, and Prophet Muhammad have complex nature and causes and need to be examined and understood in their proper socio-historical context. The US and Western news media, politicians, academics, and intellectuals have, by and large, failed to do that, and instead, have engaged in the application of techniques of fragmentation, abstraction, condescension, chest-thumping about and trumpeting of “free speech”, and erroneous and ignorant assumptions about Muslim cultures and mass psychologies. In this article, some of these matters have been analyzed, utilizing the example of a CNN interview on this topic.
The recent slanderous and defamatory film of Prophet Mohammad has provoked demonstrations by Muslims in numerous countries, in which scores of people, most of them Muslims, have been killed, and various types of property damaged and destroyed. The US media and politicians have almost exclusively focused on the four Americans killed in Libya, as if the scores of lost Muslim lives were irrelevant. As expected, these events also produced a flood of writings, analyses, commentaries, speeches, and interviews in the mass media.
The reactions to the film among the Muslims have complex causes and are of complex nature. Almost all the American and Western mass media, politicians, government officials, academics, and intellectuals have attempted to paint reductionist and simplistic pictures of these, fragmenting and abstracting this matter from its socio-historical context, and viewing and presenting that fragmentation in isolation from that context. That approach is flawed and the flaw is of such a fundamental nature that it reproduces itself in all the assertions, deductions, and conclusions. It is like trying to detect a virus with a simple microscope.
The film acted as a catalyst for exploding the long accumulative historical simmering of resentment and rage against the injustices; military invasions and wars of aggression; massive and whole-sale state terrorism; domination and exploitation of the huge energy and other resources of the Muslim World and the installation and support of despotic rulers and dictatorships for that purpose; all-round cultural, educational, politico-economic, and mass media invasions; and crucial support of the regional tentacle of imperialism in the Middle East, the Zionist Jewish State of Israel, that had come into being on the basis of mass murders and displacement of the native population of Palestinians, just like the US, which had come into being on the basis of genocide and displacement of the Native Americans. These are all past and current historical facts and are interrelated components of the socio-historical context, mentioned above. Almost all the Muslims are aware of these, to variable degrees, regardless of their educational levels. As in numerous other events and cases, the events triggered by the desecrating and defaming film are being fragmented and abstracted from that concrete context. Such fragmentation and abstraction are systematic and methodical in the political discourse and mass media in the US and are used routinely as effective weapons of falsification, disinformation, and mutilation of reality and interconnected facts-with the demonic purpose of killing the truth and justice-while maintaining the appearance of objectivity and factuality by the presentation of selective, mutilated, disconnected, and one-sided facts and images.
On September 22 and 23, 2012, the CNN weekend news anchor, Don Lemon, interviewed a Jewish rabbi, Shmuley Boteach; a Christian bishop, Jim Swilley; a Muslim scholar, Haroon Moghul; and a Muslim comedian, Dean Obeidallah, about that film and the nature of reactions it provoked among Muslims. During the interview the issues of free speech and cultural differences between the West and the Muslim World were also brought up and discussed. As that interview is quite representative of the coverage of the mass media of such international events and of the American mass psychology, it would be useful to discuss its nature and purpose, various methods of its organization and structure, and the type of invitees to the interview, in some detail here.
Description and analysis of the issues and the interview
1. Lemon divided the interviews in such a way so that the Rabbi Boteach and the Bishop Swilley would appear jointly, while the Muslim scholar Moghul and comedian Obeidallah would be interviewed individually and separately. That division was an important tactic, which let the former two get away with all their self-righteous and self-confident omissions, fragmentations, abstractions, distortions and perversions of some historical facts and events, hypocrisies, and dishonesties, without being challenged or taken to account. Of course, Lemon himself neither had the ability nor any intention of identifying, examining, or challenging these flaws in their assertions and utterings, and he made sure that no one else did that either.
2. Moghul was the only interviewee who attempted to place the events triggered by the film into some socio-historical context, pointing out that these were related to the US foreign policy in the Muslim countries and also to local politics and alienation and marginalization of the masses. In response to the erroneous assertion of Lemon that there were no counteractions to the violent demonstrations from Muslims, he pointed out the huge counter-demonstrations that took place in Libya against these. Moghul tried to present a very knowledgeable and competent assessment of the events and their causes. However, Lemon continued to bombard him with a diversionary question: Whether the Muslims could accept the depiction of Prophet Muhammad in any manner or whether it was off-limits. This question was diversionary in this particular case, because the film has presented defamatory, desecrating, and slanderous images of the Prophet and that should have been the real question: Whether anyone has the right to engage in such practices and whether Muslims could accept such practices. The answer to both parts of the question is self-evident: No, no one has the right to engage in such practices and these are not acceptable to Muslims.
3. Another phrase that Lemon kept on throwing at Moghul, and throughout the interviews with others, was “free speech”, proudly and erroneously claiming that everyone was free to say, write, or present whatever he wanted and that it was protected by the constitution and laws in the US. Try that in a court of law against a judge who makes unfair and discriminatory rulings and decisions (quite common in the US), tell him exactly what you are thinking of his actions, and see what happens. Contempt of court, jail, and fines. Or slander or libel some person who can afford to take you to the court and see what happens. There are specific laws and punishments against such types of free speech. Why is there no mention of even using such limited laws against the person(s) who slandered, defamed, and libeled the sacred Prophet of Muslims, and caused such great disturbances, deaths, and damages? Throughout its history, the free speech of the First Amendment of US Constitution has been repeatedly and legally violated by the government authorities, whenever they wanted to repress and suppress the movements or labor unions that advocated radical changes in the politico-economic system. For example, on numerous occasions, bans were placed on the street speeches of activists and leaders of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)-a powerful and large radical labor union-during the second decade of the Twentieth Century-and speakers, who insisted to exercise their right of free speech, were arrested and sent to jail. Eventually, the IWW was decimated by brutal government repression. In the US, freedom of speech was suppressed during the First World War, as well as in the early 1920s. In 1940, the Smith Act prohibited the speech and political activities of those who advocated the overthrow of US government. Later during Joseph McCarthy witch hunts, free speech was also greatly restricted. After 9/11, there have been various restrictions on the freedom of speech.
Real free speech can only originate in really free minds. The mass mental apparatus in the Advanced-Capitalist-Imperialist-Technocratic-Society (ACITS) of US is highly controlled by and enslaved to the powerful social forces of the political economy, ideology, mass psychology, and culture of capitalism and imperialism. Nothing is immune to that control and slavery, including the religions, religious institutions, and religious leaders. Real free speech is impossible is such societies, because the existence and development of real free minds are impossible in them. This does not mean that all the individual minds and speech are equally or similarly unfree in these societies. Both in theory and in reality, obviously, there are variations in this regard. However, these variations constellate around their common center of gravity, as described above. As a product of the collective enslaved and unfree mind, as described above, the so-called free speech is only an illusion of free speech and, in reality, is enslaved and unfree speech, in the vast ocean of which, the small springs of authentic and real free speech, the products of authentic and real free minds, get smothered and drowned out of sight. This reality suits the powers-that-be perfectly. They do not have to censor the products of the true consciousness legally or overtly. The vast ocean of collective false consciousness, produced by the combined powerful social forces of the political economy, ideology, mass psychology, and culture of capitalism and imperialism, and reinforced by the mass media, does that automatically.
4. Lemon also showed some clips of some vulgar and crude jokes about Jesus by some American comedians, which were not slanderous, desecrating, or defaming like the anti-Islamic movie. These could only sound funny to people whose sense of humor expresses itself in producing sheeple-herd like laughter at regular intervals at the comedy shows. He tried to present that as civilized behavior, in contrast to uncivilized expression of rage of the Muslim demonstrators. This was a mindless comparison of apples and oranges. As far as “having fun” with the prophets is concerned, it is an expression of extremely bad, vulgar, and crude taste. It seems that some comedians are becoming so desperate that they are now resorting to daring and shocking jokes to extract laughter even from the sheeple, in order to continue making their millions from the advertisers. Frankly, the sight and sounds of some of these comedians invoke pity rather than laughter.
5. Among the other interviewees, Obeidallah, the Muslim comedian, was very tamed and tended to complement almost everything that Lemon was saying or implying. The joint interview of Rabbi Boteach and Bishop Swilley also went smoothly, with various clichés, condescending views on Muslims, self-congratulatory praise for the Western civilization and Christian and Jewish religions and people, and approving nods being exchanged. Bishop Swilley was quite restrained in such a chauvinistic exercise. However, Lemon and Rabbi Boteach were not, and, except to the eyes of the sheeple, made very shameful spectacle of themselves. Rabbi Boteach got really carried away and revealed himself to be an absolutely deluded, conceited and deceptive hypocrite by admonishing Muslims for being so ungrateful for the US and Western military invasions of their lands in Iraq and Afghanistan, which he asserted, were for establishing democracy and prevention of violence against women etc.! All three of them repeatedly condemned the violent and irrational behavior of the Muslim demonstrators and their lack of appreciation or understanding of the importance of free speech, but had nothing to say on the recent and ongoing and incomparably greater and genocidal violence against Muslims of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Libya, in which around 3 million of them have been slaughtered and countless millions of others injured; the whole fabric of their lives and livelihoods torn apart; forcing millions to flee to other countries as refugees; causing colossal damages to the individual and state properties, infrastructure, and economies; etc., by the “civilized” West, under the leadership of “super-civilized” USA. They also had nothing to say about the continuous genocidal and expansionist wars and invasions of the territories of the Palestinian people by the Jews, who were unloaded onto Palestine by the European Christian nations, which hated and persecuted them in their own countries, but now support them, as their tentacle in the Middle East. That tentacle has its own insatiable tentacles and continues to grab whatever it can from the little that is still left in the Palestinian hands, by theft, robbery, plunder, and mass murders. All these great and ongoing events and facts were totally omitted and ignored in the discourse on Muslim violence and freedom of speech. What a shining example of the freedom of speech and civilized speech by the CNN and its selected commentators! Such gigantic facts, events, crimes, and sins are off-limits in the political discourses in this country, especially on the TV and other news and analyses media. And yet, Lemon had the guts to keep on asking the Muslim interviewees repeatedly whether the depiction of Prophet Muhammad was off-limits to the Muslims!
Was Rabbi Boteach’s above-mentioned magical perversion of the above-mentioned gigantic crimes and sins of US and Western imperialism in Afghanistan and Iraq into good and benevolent deeds a civilized or free speech? Or was it an absolutely uncivilized and sinister speech, a diabolical lie, coming out of an enslaved and unfree mind? What would be the reaction of the victims of those most horrible aggressions or their relatives, if the Rabbi spoke to them like that? Would they be uncivilized if they reacted violently?
6. It is certain that if Moghul had been included in that interview, and if he was given some time, he would have exposed the discriminatory double standards, omissions, distortions, perversions, hypocrisy, and dishonesty of all three in that interview. By organizing the separate interviews in the manner that he did, Lemon made sure that that would not happen at all and prevented the real interconnected facts and truth from developing and emerging. On September 23rd, in response to some criticism of his bias from some of his audience, he again resorted to interviewing the timid and complacent Muslim comedian, Obeidallah, instead of the independent-minded, knowledgeable, and competent Muslim scholar, Moghul. As expected, Obeidallah again did not create any ripples and responded complacently, with the usual clichés.
7. Lemon is not the only one at the CNN who is using such strategy and tactics at the CNN. Everyone is doing that and many are much more experienced in their usage. Also, CNN is not alone in this. All the other TV networks and other news media are employing the same or similar methods. The basic purpose of these strategies and tactics is to restrict the discourse within certain pre-established boundaries, through self-censorship as well as censorship, from which the most important questions and views-based upon interconnected facts and comprehensive and critical knowledge, information, and insights, which are in opposition to the system-are systematically, methodically, and routinely excluded. Such is the reality of the “Free Media” and “Free Speech” in this ultimate Orwellian society. Under the façade of great diversity of names and images, there is a most rigid underlying uniformity, which various anchors, editors, and others in the news and analysis business internalize and rarely, if ever, dare to violate, in order to survive and progress in their professions.
8. Lemon and his complicit interviewees also brought up the issue of cultural differences between the Western and Muslim societies, in relation to reactions to events like Muslim demonstrations against the film. As mentioned above, Lemon showed clips of sheeple laughter at the jokes of some comedians about Jesus. Comparing apples and oranges, and twisting and exhibiting total ignorance and shallowness about this issue, they reduced it to the self-serving and self-congratulatory difference of “civilized” and “uncivilized” reactions of Westerners and Muslims to such events! This whole interview was full of condescending racist and religious discrimination. Lemon is a Black. Overwhelming majority of blacks are still suffering multidimensional forms of discrimination and oppression in the US, the basis of which lies in the economic and professional discrimination and oppression. He is one of the relatively tiny minority of blacks, who have been allowed to cross the classist and racist barriers into the whites dominated professions. Unfortunately, most of such blacks have acquired white brains and white tongues and that is one of the major reasons for their success in the system. President Obama is the most glaring example of such blacks. He seems to be outdoing the White presidents in almost everything, including the constant mechanical showing of his teeth and smiles.
9. There is a real, huge, and fundamental difference between the culture and mass psychology of ACITS of the US (and of the West), on the one hand, and the culture and mass psychology of Muslim societies, on the other, in regard to this matter. That difference consists of the presence or absence of the Sacred and the Drive for Sacred. The Sacred and the Drive for Sacred have greatly diminished or vanished in the US, which is one of the major causes of the already developed and developing environmental, ecological, socio-cultural, and human nature disasters and crises. In Muslim societies, the Sacred and the Drive for Sacred-and their reflection in the mass psychology-are still very much alive and very powerful, in spite of all the cultural and other invasions and distortions of the Western Capitalist Civilization. Jerry Mander had made a profound analysis of this great problem in his 1992 book, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations. Sierra Club Books. ISBN: 0871565099.
The focus of the Drive for Sacred in Muslim societies is on the religion, Allah, His prophets, and especially on Prophet Muhammad. There is very little in the existing socio-natural reality of the Planet Earth at the current stage of evolution that can orient that drive towards itself or satisfy its requirements and needs. Hence its above-mentioned almost exclusive orientation. In the West in general, and the US in particular, that drive has been suppressed, deformed, relatively inactivated, and replaced by various capitalist-imperialist-materialist drives, like greed for money and things, insatiable appetites for the satisfaction of ever-increasing needs and desires, hedonism, widespread obsession with pornography, “having fun” with everything, technocracy, etc. Even though, many of these forces also counteract the Drive for Sacred in the Muslim societies, the unity of spiritual and phenomenal life in them also counteracts the effects of these forces, in spite of the obvious and not-so-obvious contradictions. The resolution of these contradictions will eventually determine the fate of the Sacred and the Drive for Sacred in these societies. Following the paths of ACITS will lead to the same fate for these as in the ACITS. In the former socialist societies, communism, Marx, and Lenin had been substituted for religion and prophets as the orienting foci for the Drive for Sacred. After their betrayal and restoration of capitalism there, these foci have been lost and now they are following the paths of ACITS. The emergence and explosion of colossal social, cultural, political, ethical, environmental, and human nature problems in these societies is already self-evident and these are going to get much worse.
The Drive for Sacred is inseparable from the Feelings of Sacred. Throughout the history of Western Philosophy and Western Civilization, a progressively increasing gulf and dichotomy has been created between Reason and Feelings, in which Reason has been elevated maximally and Feelings downgraded and suppressed. The unity of the inner life of humans, of the Intellect and Soul, has been torn apart. Under capitalism and imperialism, the Reason and Intellect have been reduced to Capitalist Technocratic Rationality and the Soul and Feelings totally subordinated to it. This has been a most sinister development as it deforms both Reason and Feelings, both Intellect and Soul. The Drive for Sacred is one of the casualties of this demonic process.
10. Nothing is sacred in the ACITS of US. Neither truth, nor justice, goodness, beauty, reason, feelings, intellect, soul, or any other higher human qualities and values, all of which have been subordinated to the powers and interests of Capital, which twist, distort, and pervert them to fit into their own requirements. After centuries of such mutilations, these are now deformed beyond recognition. Human mouth and speech have been deformed into efficient talking machines-tools of deception and hypocrisy-vomiting out mechanicalized words at the speed of light. Religion itself has also been subjugated and deformed by these forces. Its lip service to the sacred is nothing but hollow mechanical rituals and appearances, in contradiction with its soul and essence. Christianity has a long history of deformations, first under feudalism and then under capitalism and imperialism. Under these systems, it worked hand-in-glove with the feudal, capitalist, and imperialist states in all their domestic and international crimes and sins, e.g., class oppression, slavery, racism, colonialism, neocolonialism, robberies, plunders, and thefts of whole countries and continents, like the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, numerous countries in Asia and Africa, etc. The key point is that religion itself has been corrupted and eroded and could not prevent the erosion of the Sacred or the Drive for Sacred.