Obama and Clinton practice amateur film criticism in Pakistan
The Associated Press reports that the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan is paying $70,000 to run television ads in which President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are shown denouncing the “Innocence of Muslims” video, with their words subtitled in Urdu. This is supposed to distance the U.S. government from its commitment to freedom of speech (well, they say they’re distancing themselves from the movie, but it works out to the same thing) so that angry Islamic mobs don’t vent their fury upon the embassy. A horde of 2,000 has been trying to penetrate the embassy enclave on Thursday.
The embassy has been sending out emails with links to online video of “ordinary Americans condemning the anti-Islam film,” which was meant to “give foreign audiences an idea of what Regular Americans and their religious leaders thought of the video,” according to State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland. Be sure to thank the Obama Administration for presuming to tell the world what you think of the trailer you haven’t watched for a movie you haven’t seen!
Alas, this email hasn’t been penetrating the Pakistani public to the extent desired, which may be a tribute to the power of their spam filters, so a TV advertisement had to be cut. “As you know, after the (anti-Islam) video came out, there was concern in lots of bodies politic, including Pakistan, as to whether this represented the views of the U.S. government. So, in order to be sure that we reached the largest number of Pakistanis, some 90 million as I understand it in this case with these spots, it was the judgment that this was the best way to do it,” the AP quotes Nuland saying.
Why did the Associated Press put “anti-Islam” in parentheses when relaying these remarks? Is that an editorial insertion by AP writers Munir Ahmed and Rebecca Santana, or did Nuland make parentheses with her hands when she said “anti-Islam?” And if so, was anything written on her hands?
And was there really any serious concern in “lots of bodies politic” that some obscure video produced by a little troupe in California, one of whose performers has gone so far as to sue the director for lying to her about the nature of the film, represented “the views of the U.S. government?” Even as political spin designed to defuse tensions, the idea that our titanic super-government must denounce individual films created by private companies, just to make it clear that they aren’t semi-official statements from the State Department, is an absurd waypoint on the path of American decline. Far from somehow gaining restored or enhanced respect in the world under Barack Obama, we’ve been reduced to compulsory film criticism.
I wonder if the Administration will feel compelled to distance itself from the upcoming “Zero Dark Thirty,” a big-budget Hollywood production made with a highly controversial degree of access to our national intelligence apparatus, telling the story of Osama bin Laden’s death. These “spontaneous protest mobs” have a habit of writing things like “there are a million Osamas here, Obama” on the walls. Won’t it be dangerous to give them the idea that a provocative film the Obama Administration actually helped to create expresses the views of the U.S. government on such a touchy subject?