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:

“…  in 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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