Protests against a 14-minute YouTube trailer for Innocence of Muslims, a low-budget U.S. film that tramples the religious sensibilities of Islam, have spread from Egypt and Libya to Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan, Indonesia, and even Australia. The Obama administration, most of the foreign policy community, and the mainstream media take the protests largely at face value: A tawdry film by "Sam Bacile" (almost certainly Egyptian-American ex-convict Nakoula B. Nakoula), with the probably unwitting aid of B-list soft-core porn director Alan Roberts and a group of unknown actors, was the spark that set off the sometimes-violent demonstrations. Though GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has condemned the film using similar terms, some conservatives aren't buying this simple explanation. Here are five reasons the Right is siding with a shady financial fraudster over the government, the "experts," and the protesters themselves:
1. They don't think Nakoula is responsible for the violence
Incredibly, "Obama and Hillary Clinton have fallen in with the absurd claim that violence has broken out in 11 Muslim countries... as a result of a 14-minute YouTube video," says John Hinderaker at Power Line. Instead of admitting their own culpability, "the Obama administration cracked down on the Christian who made the film," which is no more critical of Islam "than many Hollywood productions have been of Christianity." There is "dwindling reason to think" that this one movie "should be accorded any major role in the recent attacks," says Nick Gillespie at Reason. The dumb film was just a pretext for ratcheting up simmering anger after "five, 10, and 50 years" of U.S. meddling in the Middle East.
2. Conservatives are defending the First Amendment
Just after midnight on Saturday, when most of the media had gone home for the night, law officers from the Los Angeles sheriff office escorted Nakoula from his home to what was described as a voluntary interview with probation officers. His ostensible offense: The terms of his release from jail prohibited him from using the internet without permission (by putting a film trailer on YouTube, for example). This is an obvious crackdown on free speech, and "Obama should resign," says Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit. "By sending — literally — brownshirted enforcers to engage in — literally — a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the president," Obama has violated his oath to uphold the Constitution. "It is a betrayal of his duties as president, and a disgrace."
3. They are peddling in conspiracy theories
It's a little "odd (and profoundly partisan)" that Reynolds, a law professor, thinks it's alright to use a completely warranted parole violation inquiry to justify "conjuring, multiple times in the post, images of Nazis paramilitaries," says Steven L. Taylor at Outside the Beltway. "This strikes me as inappropriate, to be kind." But it's part and parcel of conservatives' tendency to veer into "fantasyland" regarding Obama, says TIME's Joe Klein. The latest example: A video apparently showing Libyans pulling slain U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens from the consulate where he was killed. In the conservative realm, this is proof that the mob, shouting "Allahu Akbar" (God is great), dragged Stevens through the street, and the "dam of Obama/Clinton lies" is starting to crack," in the words of Power Line's Hinderaker. According to the translation of the video in The New York Times, the crowd thinks Stevens is dead, someone yells that he's alive, and the crowd erupts in "Alive, Alive! God is great," then takes him in a car to the hospital, where he is pronounced dead.
4. They're using anything they can to sink Obama in November
"I was all set to take a swipe at the Obama team for not being strong enough in their response to last week's horrors in Libya and Egypt," says Leslie Gelb at The Daily Beast. "But the more I dug into what they said and did," the more it became clear that "the Obama administration deserves none of the slurs hurled its way by Romneyites." It's time for Romney himself to decide, says Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog. "His base has made the filmmakers into martyrs" and Obama into a weak, constitution-tramping tyrant. Romney has already denounced the film, but will he stand with the mainstream or "with the wingnuts and hatemongers? Choose, Mitt."
5. They believe the film is basically right about Islam
Remember, this "offensive, adolescent, and puerile film targeting Islam" was "created by a tiny handful of fringe Christian extremists," says Brian D. McLaren at CNN. And just because it was exploited by "irresponsible Muslim media outlets" doesn't mean we can ignore the "reality of evangelical Islamaphobia," ginned up by "so-called Christian television and radio." The near-pornographic depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in this movie is "sub-Christian — beneath the dignity of anyone with a functioning moral compass" — but it's uncomfortably close to the beliefs of some more mainstream evangelical Christians.