By Kevin Williams – Guest Op-Ed
A few weeks ago, we all learned about the terrible attacks upon our Embassy in Cairo, Egypt and our Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Our Ambassador Christopher Stevens, a good man by all accounts, and Sean Smith, Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty were murdered in Benghazi by Islamist extremists led by an Al Qaeda member released from Gitmo (Prisoner #557). As bad as these events were, what was almost as bad was and is the Obama Administration’s lack of focus on the real threat involved. Instead, they responded to these incidents by blaming them on an obscure, poorly-made film called The Innocence of Muslims. Actually, it was just a fourteen-minute film trailer, but that isn’t the point.
From jump, the scape-goating of this YouTube film trailer and its filmmaker for the murder of our Ambassador and his staff (as well as nearly twenty other riots in Europe and the Middle East) doesn’t pass the “scratch and sniff” test. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t pass the “Remember the Maine” or “Gulf of Tonkin” tests either. It has become obvious that Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, President Barack Obama, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice and their many surrogates and spokesmen needed and spun a cover story and reason for Benghazi, et al. I’d bet that most Americans didn’t expect our current Administration to trade away our very “American” concept called Freedom of Speech in exchange for some political and election year “C.Y.A.”
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The above words guarantee that short of endangering others by shouting “fire” in a theater… we can and should say what we want to as best we can. It is why every American is able to say what the heck we want to, either verbally, written or through an art medium without repercussion by law enforcement officials or any suppressor. Even though the decades-long war on Free Speech by many on the Left has succeeded on many levels due to the Mainstream Media’s enforcement ability, we as a people still have the right to say what we feel or think at any moment. Little movies like Innocence of Muslims have a right to be made and be seen, just as much bigger films in the past like Citizen Kane (1941), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Last Tango of Paris (1972) faced censorship and banning issues. These films were still seen by the People and their respective filmmakers, Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese and Bernardo Bertolucci all went on to make more films and had fruitful careers and lives.
Lives. An important word to remember, because our Federal Government went out of its way to vilify the filmmaker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and put him at risk just like the late Theo Van Gogh who made a ten-minute film about violence against women in some Islamic societies called SUBMISSION (2004). In November 2004, Mr. Van Gogh was riding a bicycle when he was stopped and murdered by a jihadist named Mohammed Bouyeri. Mr. Bouyeri shot him eight times before stabbing him with a five-page note affixed to a dagger in case anyone was confused. The note credited the murder to Theo Van Gogh’s film and his views regarding the Islamic religion.
Some in our Mainstream Media camped out at the INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS filmmaker’s house, publicizing his name and address and in doing so, they put this man’s family and neighbors at jeopardy. Was this responsible journalism? Of course not. Was it responsible government to make this film such an international and possibly deadly issue? Definitely not. Our Federal Government eventually asked YouTube and other on-line websites to remove the film from public view. These requests were denied.
The way that our Secretary of State, President and other Administration members tried to spin the actions of thousands of foreign militant and paid protesters should be frightening to any champion of civil liberties for all. The pressure exerted by our Federal Government to shut down this obscure, six-month old film after building it up to the infamy of “Triumph of the Will” (Leni Riefenstahl, 1935) was schizophrenic, self-serving and dangerous. No matter what the message or quality of this little film or the filmmaker’s shady past, he has an artistic freedom, a voice and the American right to Free Speech and Freedom of Expression on his side. Unfortunately, our current national leaders chose not to respect all the above, but to use this man to shield themselves from any blame in the deaths that came in Benghazi.
It should be obvious to most anyone that this film was plucked from Los Angeles, California (and the internet) and transported to the Mediterranean Sea. If our Government would do this to a Filmmaker of Faith with little, observed talent… what would or could this same Government do to a Left-wing Filmmaker of no Faith and plenty of talent? Or a filmmaker who tries to make a film that is just Pro-American or simply holds themes not in vogue with individuals living in the White House or controlling Capitol Hill.
Just recently, some pro-Israel signs in the New York City Subway system were defaced by private citizens. But after being defaced, these signs were then targeted for removal by the same Government agency which sold the signs’ Sponsor its advertising space for them in the first place. Rather than go after the “Defacers,” the Government agency decided to ban what it called “divisive speech that may incite violence.” First, a movie and its filmmaker gets attacked and fileted by our Federal Government. Now, a pro-Israel group gets attacked by an Egyptian activist and her comrades and then undercut by a local Government. Free Speech loses, political correctness and political expediency wins.
I am reminded of the famous Martin Niemoller quote, “First they came for the socialists, but I wasn’t a socialist… Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” No melodrama here, but the silence in our National Media and especially in Hollywood has been deafening. My gut tells me that a lot of folks are more concerned than they are letting on, but they have a donkey in the current election and they want to win in the short-term more than protect their own Free Speech in the long-term. Sadly, like in the famous quote, it will be too late for their Free Speech to survive unless they think more like an American and less like a political partisan.
The INNOCENCE OF MUSLIMS filmmaker is now in jail and looking at a two to three-year prison sentence for violating parole because he used a computer in the making of his film. While he shouldn’t have violated parole, isn’t it unseemly and cowardly to pick up the guy for questioning and then imprisoning him… for making a crummy film trailer about Islam. Our Administration blames this filmmaker for inciting riots half-way across the world, when there is no evidence whatsoever to prove this. Some honest members of the Press, like Fox News’ Kirstin Powers (a Democrat) and the Administration’s Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta (another Democrat), saw this effort for what it was – a cover story and bad one at that. They called the Libyan events what they were… terrorism.
Libyan President Mohamed Yousef el-Magariaf said that this was a pre-planned attack by Al Qaeda and an act of terrorism, but the Administration sticks to its story. For some reason, “terrorism” seems a word that our President will not mention regarding this incident. “Terrorism” also seems to be a word that much of our Mainstream Media is afraid to ask about in their coverage of Ambassador Steven’s assassination while they help assail a small filmmaker and his right of Free Speech. While these Media Members “go along to get along,” they are not seeing that their future and their right of Freedom of Speech have been attacked also.
Will these Media Members figure this out before their own heavy-handed Government and the foreign terrorists who want to take away their right to free speech put them out of business?
Kevin Williams directed and produced the documentary feature film FEAR OF A BLACK REPUBLICAN after working in a variety of production roles on films such as A BEAUTIFUL MIND, SIGNS, HACK, SURRENDER DOROTHY, LIKE MIKE, I.Q., and JERSEY GIRL. In addition, Kevin served as the Founding Director/Artistic Director of the Trenton Film Festival in Trenton, NJ. He also teaches Documentary and Narrative Filmmaking.
Kevin has been interviewed or appeared on many in many Media sectors including newspapers such as the Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star; TV Shows such as Current TV’s THE WAR ROOM WITH JENNIFER GRANHOLM, Christian Broadcasting Network’s THE BRODY FILES and Al Jazeera’s INSIDE STORY; and radio stations/programs ranging from NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, the MARK DAVIS RADIO SHOW, the BOB GRANT SHOW, VICTORIA TAFT SHOW, the MICHAEL ERIC DYSON SHOW, THE VOICE OF RUSSIA – AMERICAN EDITION and many others. He is also a Contributing Writer for Politisite and Big Hollywood. He is a proud alum of Tulane University (MBA degree); La Salle University (B.S. degree); and New York University (Certificate in Film).