Monthly Archives: September 2012

Innocence of Muslims: how fiction creates reality

I have written an opinion piece on the recent anti-Islam video protests, developing some of the earlier thoughts in this blog. It was published by Al Jazeera English, you can read it here.

I add a couple of extracts below:

“… ┬áin the “real” reality out there, messages, ideas, emotions and reactions spread virally, just as they do in our “Facebook” worlds. Contemporary identities are multiple and fragmented. There are undoubtedly numerous groups and institutions that do try to direct collective action and mobilise military, economic and social resources in pursuit of their interests.

There are also billions of people that, not unlike Facebook users, move in and out of groups, social movements, actions and protests. Sometimes endorsing a cause and then supporting the opposite cause, without a clear linear rationale. Today’s social world is not rational, certainly not in the way we assume it to be.”

[…]

“The truth is that this is not a struggle between US interests and its military establishment on one side, and the anti-US Islamist “insurgents” and fundamentalists fighting for their own interests, using alternative means of violence and political consensus, on the other. At least not in the sense in which we usually mean it. We often tend to think of these interests as the primary “stuff” of which social reality is made.

The imagery attached to these struggles, circulating in the form of videos, books and other media, is seen as a derivate of the real material struggles for power and resources on the ground and indeed it may well have been this way in the past. Today however we live in a different world where the production of images and symbols shapes who we are, what we do in our lives and how we act as political beings.

To put it more crudely, Facebook is the “real” reality, and the “physical” reality out there has just become an extension of our Facebook worlds. From this perspective, the reactions of the protesters make more sense: their anger and concerns originated in this “virtual” world and then they took to the streets.”

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Anti-Islamic film protests, global society, fiction and reality

There are few established facts around the recent wave of unrest erupted in Libya and Egypt and spreading further against the anti-Islam film. We know that the trailer of an alleged movie titled “The Innocence of Muslims” has gone viral over the last few months. Yet, nobody is sure whether there is an actual feature-length movie beyond the trailer, and what the context of its production really is. Nor does the trailer hint at any serious anti-Islam propaganda movie, it looks more like an excessively bad taste trashy B-movie produced by people with a rotten sense of humour – and certainly no more rotten than we are used to watch in so many video productions constantly circulating on tv and on the internet.

It is a clear and extreme example of the global society we live in. The production of fiction and imagery creates reality, a reality dominated by images continuously mirroring themselves in a kind of infinite regression. A society of the spectacle, as radical thinker Guy Debord put it more than fourty years ago. Gone horribly wrong, for causes that reach far beyond a viral movie or a perceived Islamist (or anti-Islamic) threat. The response from U.S. officials also well exceeds the need to guarantee “national security”. It seems more in tune with the imperative to protect the sentiments and ideas of “the American nation” around such a symbolic date (the anniversay of 9/11), less than two months away from presidential elections, and pressure on Obama to reassure Americans of his unequivocably “American” qualities.