“This is about a trailer. We are the movie”
Posted on September 15, 2012
Well, the entire world has officially gone crazy. You all know by now that the US Ambassador to Libya was murdered in Benghazi in an act of violence that was at least concurrent to protests against a film trailer that ridicules and slanders the Prophet Mohammed.
Now, there have been protests against the film in over 20 countries across the globe, and several, including demos in Cairo, Tunis, Sanaa, Khartoum and Bahrain, have been aimed against US diplomatic compounds. For more information on the logic of this, have a read here.
According to a rough tally of news reports, 30,000 Muslim protestors turned out to embassies in the last couple of days – or +/- 0.002% of the global Muslim population. So, really, the story should be how few people actually felt compelled to try and storm consulate buildings as opposed to those who chose this particular way of manifesting of displeasure. If no one had died, I suspect that is what we might be talking about.
But, of course, people have been killed by this. And I don’t think we’ve ever seen a media reaction so frothy, so entirely over the top and so, well, outrageous. It is as if the correlation between that idiotic trailer and the reaction it provoked from a tiny percentage of the demographic it was undoubtedly designed to offend is the same order of magnitude to the reaction in the press and online to the protests. One film = 30,000 protestors = 10,000,000 articles.
The amplification is so pronounced that, regrettably and inevitably, someone was always going to swallow things that aren’t true.
Take for example the report that appeared on Tayyar.com, the voice-piece of the Free Patriotic Movement, one of those Lebanese Christian political entities that emerged from paramilitary organizations during the civil war (nothing personal: they all did). The piece quoted AFP as reporting that a Libyan Interior Ministry source had told the news organization that US Ambassador Christopher Stevens was sodomized before being killed.
The editor of Tayyar, a man named Soheil Hajjar who, as well as editing the site, appears to answer the phone, answer press inquiries and possibly also makes the coffee, told me that the offending article was genuinely sourced, although failed to provide the original AFP file that it alludes to. Whatever, it’s still up, so I guess they are standing by it.
AFP, on the other hand, completely disassociated itself from the dispatch. “That is totally false and disturbing. We would never put anything like that out there,” I was told by the Nicosia Bureau, which heads up their Middle East coverage.
Now, given the choice between a world renowned news wire and the propaganda spout of a Lebanese political party, I know who I would trust. But that doesn’t make such a good story, does it?
A colleague noticed that the Washington Times - publication with very clear political/ethical leanings, let’s leave it at that – had picked up and ran the falsified news report, which it then “updated” (read: checked and found to be bogus”).
Former Republican senate candidate Joe Miller posted the report on his blog.
Point is, we in the media need to try and keep some sense of context in our reports. I get that in the age of 140 character communiques and instant information gratification such perspective is not always easy to get across.
So the least we can do is try and check our facts. In the words of @Psypherize: “The movie defaming Muhammad PBUH wasn’t a movie, it was a trailer. We are the movie.”