Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Perils of the Unreliable Narrator

Yesterday, as I heard about the US Embassy in Egypt (long before the assault on the consulate in Libya), the media reported protestors were upset by a film nobody could identify.

This morning, I learn not only about the film, but that it was produced by "Sam Bacile," who talked to the AP and otherwise was in hiding.

Now, there are legitimate questions as to whether "Sam Bacile" exists.  Huffington Post says the film exists, if not Bacile, but the only evidence they cite is the clips on YouTube.  What if the YouTube video is all there is?

Every year I teach my students about point of view in literature, and the problems and pitfalls of narrators and why we believe them, and when we shouldn't.  This entire problem may be based on a pastiche which has been taken seriously by "Egypt's sometimes-raucous, often rumor-heavy media" (Atlantic) and by Egyptians, Libyans, and (most recently, as I write) Tunisians.

It may, in other words, be outraged focused on US embassies by a lens that doesn't exist and for which we cannot find the lenscrafters.

Welcome to the interconnected world.  O, what a paradise it seems!

Update: the timeline at TPM makes the whole thing even more suspicious.  I don't know who's behind it, but you can't blame it on "zealots" and "crazies."  Not just yet.

And, in the spirit of the post (that too much too soon is too unknown), there is this:
Initial accounts of the assault in Benghazi were attributed to popular anger over what was described as an American-made video that lampooned the Prophet Muhammad, which had been publicized by Egyptian media and led to a mob protest at the United States Embassy protest in Cairo on Tuesday. But administration officials in Washington said the attack in Libya may have been plotted in advance.

While the protesters in Cairo appeared to be genuinely outraged over the anti-Islam video, the attackers in Benghazi were armed with mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. Officials said it was possible that an organized group had either been waiting for an opportunity to exploit like the protests over the video or perhaps even generated the protests as a cover for their attack.
 Buzzfeed, btw, is thinking the way I am.

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