Friday, March 28, 2008

TDAXP is right. Everyone should watch Fitna.

He's also right about one of the reasons :
Watch it, because people who kill over cartoons don’t want you to.

I caught it via his blog, but disturbingly, to underline Dan's point, it has gone from LiveLeak today.

Simplistic, biased and allegedly inaccurate as it may be, Fitna is something that a society and culture which values freedom needs to be able to keep in circulation; available to anyone who chooses to see it when they want. And the internet is meant to be our technological guarantee of that ideal. Right now it seems that a lot of governments and individual organizations are running scared. Who, really, wants to be associated with and host the damned thing and put their citizens and employees and businesses in danger?

You may have to resort to Bittorrent to watch it, as though it were an illegal download.

And that is a great failure of our politics, society and courage.

Of course, the Western governments (and ambitious politicians like Geert Wilders) have helped pump this fear of the "islamo-fascist" bogeyman to such an extent that any threat, however idle, is given credence enough to cowe us into submission. To such a degree that the bravado of the rightists looks (almost) appealing in comparison. That's undoubtedly part of the twisted dynamics at work here. The rightists pump the fear to make their own defiance look heroic; living out a fantasy ideology that mirrors the islamicists' own. And, in doing so, they lionize and embolden those who they claim to oppose.

Nevertheless, the underlying reality is troubling; there is a case to be answered rather than dismissed. It really appears that we face a constituency that rejects the basic values of an open society within which people can express themselves, argue for their different opinions, live their preferences, without fear of violent reprisal.

It's unlikely that LiveLeak were spooked by their own shadows. Somebody must have felt justified to make the (seemingly inevitable) threatening call or email or web-posting. As though it were the most natural thing in the world to issue death-threats when you feel your religion or culture is being criticized.

That banal normality - we would have been surprised if the threat hadn't come - is the true measure of the hole we're in. We no longer live in a world of specific causes and effects, but a condition of implacable enmity between value-systems; where fundamentalist Muslims are organized to interpret every cultural complaint against Islam as an attack, an opportunity to be offended, a call to action and counter-attack.

And we do not know what to do about it.

I have always been, and remain, an opponent of the "war on terror" and of the West's attempt at militarizing the problem. Such an approach, in lolspeak, is "full of fail" : it has given Osama the war he wanted and rallied a large part of the Muslim world against us. (Had there been even an iota of success from this doomed warmonger's strategy, then Wilders' film and its warnings would have been unnecessary and meaningless. The European Muslim community's own immune system would be suppressing the crazies.)

I feel little more sympathy for the far-right's attempts to stop Muslim immigration into Europe and send Muslims home. (Although I accept that this is not so disastrously counter-productive as bombing the middle-east - and may even have slight pragmatic benefit in keeping the peace.) It is a sign of utter defeat, saying, effectively, that our liberal values, the examples we offer in our rich and vibrant societies to immigrant Muslims are inadequate counter-attractions to a dead-weight fundamentalism.

But if not that, what other solutions do we have? Particularly we leftists and liberals? We can understand a far more complex web of causes, effects, social and historical forces, but such theories are little use unless they also can lead towards solutions.

Because it is hard to see that Wilders is not right in this : there is a problem. There is a struggle for the hearts and minds of Muslims in Europe. And we are not winning it. The most liberal of countries encounters rising homophobia, misogyny and attacks on freedom of expression which ought to be unthinkable. Of course, the rightist Wilder exploits this in his propaganda, to win our sympathy. But the underlying events are no less ugly for that. We can't judge the message by the messenger. And can't ignore the problem because it's difficult.

Ultimately, you should watch Fitna because you will be disturbed by it. Unless you have already simply taken sides in the "clash of civilizations", you dread what that phrase imports and want to resist its coming. Fitna should renew your sense of urgency.

Update : Fitna is still on Google Video. Catch is ASAP.

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