Getting Causation Correct in the Riot Coverage

By Jeffrey Goldberg

"The Movie That Sparked the Embassy Attacks" is The Daily Beast headline over a story about "The Innocence of Muslims," the idiotic video that many Muslims (and others) find so offensive. Variations of this headline appear in many places across the Web, and much of the coverage of the ongoing crisis assumes that it was a film that caused this violence. But the film did not cause violence. Violent men caused the violence. The movie did not spark the embassy attacks. The embassy attacks happened because groups of Muslim men decided that they would attack American embassies. The belief on the part of an unknown number of Muslims that the appropriate response to blasphemy is violence is what caused the violence to erupt.

I've been getting a lot of mail from Muslims who are condemning the violence, and I'm getting a lot of mail from Muslims who are justifying and rationalizing the violence. One such e-mailer asked me the following: "How would you feel if a Muslim made a movie saying that Moses was a pedophile?" I wouldn't care. My faith is strong enough not to be imperiled by idiotic trolling. And my faith doesn't allow me to hurt a person because another person has offended my sensibilities. The thing is, Islam doesn't allow such a thing, either. And yet, it happens.  

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2012/09/getting-causation-correct-in-the-riot-coverage/262352/