Anti-Muslim provocateurs like Terry Jones often the last to pay any price for their actions
There's a lot to lament in this latest explosion of unrest in the Middle East, from the killing of a respected diplomat in Libya to the crass attempts by politicians to find electoral advantage in a world crisis.
But what bothers me most: Thanks to online and social media, those who spark this unrest with extremist, anti-Muslim actions are often the last to pay the price for their actions.
Consider Gainesville pastor Terry Jones, whose burning of the Muslim holy book the Koran has resulted in riots overseas and deaths. Mow his name is linked to support for an anti-Muslim film which may have sparked the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other Americans.
According to this story, Jones released a video wearing a black t-shirt embossed with the word "infidel," declaring his intention to create International Judge Muhammad Day. He planned to "charge" Muhammad of being a false prophet.
Jones also supported the film Innocence of Muslims, also known as Muhammad, a movie assembled by a man claiming to be an Israeli in California which attacks basic philosophies of the Muslim faith. All the public has seen so far of this film is a 14-minute trailer, but protests began in Egypt and Libya after an Egyptian Christian activist posted the footage on his Facebook page and clips in Arabic began circulating worldwide.
What all these provocateurs have in common is that they are in America; on the other side of the world from the countries where their actions are sure to cause protests, violence and killing.
Instead, it is embassy guards, diplomats, military personnel and Westerners abroad who find themselves endangered by those who would stir the hornets nest from a safer distance.
To be sure, these men have no idea if someone in America might track them down and the filmmaker, "Sam Bacile" is reportedly in hiding (one supporter interviewed by The Atlantic's Jonah Goldberg said the name is a psuedonym). Journalists are also questioning who this Sam Bacile is, if he's raised the $5 million he claims to have used in making the film and if he is being truthful about his religious and cultural heritage.
The New York Times has reported "it is unclear" if a full movie even exists, noting that talent agencies, film commissions and production companies in Los Angeles had not heard of the project.
Of course, those who choose to kill deserve the most condemnation and punishment. Some news outlets are reporting that organized terrorists in Libya may have used the protests as a cover; either inciting them or taking advantage of the chaos to carry out a murder they had planned anyway.
If so, it provides sad evidence of how extremists on one side are using the provocations on the other as an opportunity -- mortal enemies finding mutual benefit in acting out their hate on the word stage.
Those who incur deadly fatwahs for substantive, if sharp debate of the religion's tenets -- like the threats author Salman Rushdie faced for his book Satanic Verses -- are another matter. As plenty of smarter folks have said, no one should have the right to assault someone else because they feel insulted or deeply disrepected.
But what of someone like Jones, whose past actions in Koran burning stunts already sparked protests which ended in deaths?
Certainly, he has a right to say what he likes about Islam and doesn't seem to have broken any laws.
But doesn't a man who pushed buttons, knowing what will come next, deserve some blame when the worst comes to pass?