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Film, attacks acts of the weak-willed

Posted: September 14, 2012 4:33 p.m.
Updated: September 17, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.

Those who know of this rather obscure quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson tend to take it as meaning that the only thing keeping a person from their full potential is the strength, or weakness, of their own mind.

I think we can extrapolate Emerson’s thought to humanity as a whole: that nothing is sacred when humanity is weak. By that, I mean that individuals, groups or even entire nations can allow themselves to fall into the belief that evil acts are the answer when they are too weak-minded to rise above our basest instincts.

Both ends of the spectrum -- the individual and the mob -- have been examples of this in terms of the fallout from the release of a “film” whose content led to the tragic death of a United States ambassador and two others in Libya last week.

Let’s start with the individual. The man purported to be the mastermind behind The Innocence of Islam is so weak-minded that he either masked his identity, has gone into hiding, or both. His name is, reportedly Sam Bacile, who has, according to various news stories, identified himself as an Israeli Jewish real-estate developer.

But, as Los Angeles Jewish Journal editor-in-chief Rob Eshman put it, “Nobody has heard of this guy.” USA Today reported Thursday that another man, Steve Klein, a Hemet, Calif., insurance salesman “said Bacile is not his real name and that he is proud of the film” and “has no regrets” about the Middle Eastern violence sparked by the film.

My question is this: did that mean Klein is denying he’s Bacile, or that he knows Bacile but that’s not the producer’s real name? In fact, no one’s even sure of the spelling: Bacile, Bassil or Bassiel.

CNN reported Friday morning that the FBI believes the man to really be Nakoula Basseley Nadoula, convicted in 2009 of bank fraud. Federal documents show even more aliases. CNN also described Klein as an anti-Muslim activist.

Even the “film” itself is mysterious. Most people caught wind of it after a 14-minute “trailer” that ran on YouTube was dubbed into Arabic. Cast members have said they were misled; their lines redubbed to reflect the producer’s anti-Islamic leanings.

Was an entire movie even made? Or is this all one huge anti-Muslim propaganda effort created precisely to incite the kind of violence we saw in Benghazi, Libya?

Which brings me to what’s happened in Cairo, Egypt; Benghazi, Libya; and other areas seemingly transformed during the Arab Spring of the last 18 months.

The one true fact I knew as of Friday morning is that U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens is dead -- along with Foreign Service veteran Sean Smith and two ex-SEALS, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods -- killed in an assault on the American consulate there. Details on exactly how he died have been rather confusing, though.

Initial reporting indicated that protesters outside the consulate managed to storm the building and attack Stevens and the others inside. Then we heard he had died as a direct result of a rocket-propelled grenade used by the protestors.

By Friday enough time had gone by that facts became a little clearer: there were definitely protesters, but it appears a group of “heavily-armed militants” infiltrated the protesters and attacked the consulate. They did use at least one rocket-propelled grenade as well as more conventional weaponry and got inside within 15 minutes.

It doesn’t appear the grenade itself killed either Stevens or Smith. Instead, the entire compound ablaze, they apparently hid in a “safe room” and may have died from smoke inhalation from the fire. I’m unclear, even as of Friday, of how Doherty and Wood died.

But what was the weak-minded group that attacked the compound? It doesn’t appear to have been the protestors. And let’s be clear here: Americans should be very understanding of anyone’s right to protest. That’s freedom of speech as long as it doesn’t cross the line to violence. At that point it becomes revolution, as in 1776 (which history consider good), or terrorism, as in 2001 (which certainly was evil).

In fact, 2001 might be the better reference because it appears al-Qaeda may have had a hand in this. Or at least a pro al-Qaeda group.

The attack appears to have been well-planned -- either taking advantage of the protests or instigating them as cover. In fact, some have noticed that while protests against The Innocence of Islam have popped out in more places, the protest at the Benghazi consulate was the only one in Libya.

In any case, the men who perpetrated this act were as weak-willed as their 2001 predecessors. They failed to be of strong enough mind to find another way to reach their goals than to kill other men, including one who, by all reports, was working hard to make Libya a better place for its own people.

Various outlets, including Kuwait-based Al Jazeera, reported that authorities in Libya had arrested four people believed part of the Benghazi attack. More arrests were promised.

That’s good, because there is no reason to blame Libyan officials or the Libyan people. They are showing their strength of character in going after the cowards who did this.

Indeed, we should all be grateful for those Libyans and others holding up notes to TV news crews saying “Sorry ... this is not the behavior of Islam and (our) prophet.”

They are the ones who have maintained their integrity and remembered what is perhaps even more sacred than the mind: life.

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