MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough created a controversy on Monday by suggesting Muslims and Arabs protesting the infamous, and infamously bad, anti-Islamic video hate America because of their religion and culture. “You know why they hate us?” he said. “They hate us because of their religion, they hate us because of their culture, and they hate us because of peer pressure. And you talk to any intelligence person, they will tell you that’s the same thing, and all those people who think we’re going to go over there and change them are just naive.”
Joe is specifically blaming Islamic religion and Arab culture, which isn’t necessarily true, but there are some connections – just not the type he’s suggesting. Before throwing his baby out with the bathwater, consider this:
Islam is not the problem. The Koran teaches more or less useful, peaceful lessons about loving your neighbor and doing good – at least you can interpret it that way. The Koran is no different than most holy books in that sense. It is all in the interpretation and who does the interpreting. Fortunately, the vast majority of Muslims follow the peaceful part and leave the troublemaking to a relatively small percentage of over-zealous firebrands. Violence is not a Muslim thing, it is a human thing.
Using Religion to Stir Up Trouble
Just as some fundamentalist Christians make weird and violent interpretations of the scriptures, some Muslim clerics who do the same with the Koran. There is little difference between a preacher who advocates killing abortion doctors or spewing Westboro Baptist’s, “God Hates Fags” lunacy and a Muslim cleric launching a fatwa against the U.S. because we “allowed” a nutty, money-laundering, soft porn maker to insult Muhammad and Allah. Both are prostitutions of religious teachings. But, that doesn’t mean that media, and especially politicians, don’t use religion to stir up trouble in the service of their own agendas.
In the current case, a gaggle of extremists wanted to advance their agenda. They could’ve made a more genuine argument by pointing out the many pitfalls of American policy and the damage they’ve been dealt by the World’s Only Remaining Superpower™. However, that’s a complicated, tough sell. Bar charts, pie graphs, and lectures from historians about American policy’s effect on the Arab/Israeli/American quagmire are yawners. It’s much easier to get the kids busy making fire bombs and laying in a good supply of rocks and protest signs, then light a match. Poor, uneducated people who’ve heard nothing but lies for centuries are fertile targets for a little rage.
Middle Eastern governments have a variety of reasons for keeping America’s feet over their citizen’s fires. For some, like Egypt’s Mubarak, the reason was not appearing to be an American puppet. The current Egyptian government is in turmoil over sectarian divides and is a still morphing “democracy” sitting atop shaky legs. They don’t want their people probing the fault lines too vigorously for fear of an everlasting Arab Spring, summr, fall, and winter.
Until recently, Pakistan put on a love America storyline for westerners, but told Pakistanis all their problems come from Washington. In Afghanistan, Karzai wants to deflect attention from his unfortunate appetite for airplane loads of $100 bills. If he doesn’t distract his people, they might want some of those pallets of money themselves. Libya is in shambles and the government so weak they couldn’t help the U.S. even if they wanted. It is easier for them to float the idea that the U.S. could’ve made everything easy had they just invaded the place and thrown Gaddafi out – but since they didn’t go bomb their place, not ours. And, stop asking questions.
State-run media is an excellent way to do propaganda easily and cheaply. For example, state-run media helped convince 75% of Muslims in Egypt that 9/11 wasn’t carried out by Arabs. The numbers are similar in other Middle Eastern countries. Some believe Israel did it while others believe the Pentagon flew a plane into the Pentagon. Hell, lots of U.S. citizens believe this birther-like claptrap and, as reality shows starting Snooki prove, we barely control our media at all.
You’ll Get More Rocks Than a Gravel Pit
Muslim countries are devout countries, certainly more devout than secular countries like the U.S. If you want to whip up a demonstration or crack a few heads with plausible deniability, you go to the “source” – the Koran. Convince the populace the Koran says kill people because of a YouTube video and you’ll get more rocks than a gravel pit.
It happens in this country too, look at Pat Robertson. He can pretzel the precise Bible passage he needs to justify what he wants. If your only contact with the outside world comes from episodes of the 700 Club, chances are you’ll believe anything Pat says – especially when he says, “The Lard wants ya’ ta’ sign yer life savin’s over ta me.”
Once the clerics have the crowd by the Koran so to speak, it isn’t a big jump to say the U.S. heaved the insult and won’t do a darn thing about it. That’s an easy sell because people don’t understand the concept of free speech, they’ve never had or heard of it. They don’t understand that crackpots like the filmmaker are a dime-a-dozen in this country and most of them will do something embarrassing to any religion. They aren’t singling Muslims out, they rag on Christians too.
So, a few TV shows plant the evil America seed. A few clerics and a politician or 6,000 pick up the ball and find a weak Robertsonian connection between a small and stupid act and the Great Book. They pluck a passage from the Koran that suits the situation and stir vigorously. All of a sudden thousands are in the streets screaming in rage, torching American flags, and burning embassies. Then, countries become like dogs – when one starts barking, they all bark. Pretty soon half the world is burning over a YouTube video with poor production values.
So Joe’s right…sorta. Islamism plays a half-role, but only because it is there – not because it is bad. Someone needs to manipulate the Koran to get the fireball rolling.
The people who do it know what they are doing and do it anyway. A dead ambassador is a small price to pay for looking good to the folks at home. It could’ve just as easily happened here, and sometimes does. Just as boys will be boys, the powerful will be the powerful and will do or say anything to stay that way. Just ask Mitt Romney about Obama’s “disgraceful” handling of a difficult and somewhat intractable problem.
“Cue camera. Line up the rocks…annnnnnnd, ACTION!”