Online propaganda is speech. But it’s also part of the global rise of lethal empowerment. It’s easier than ever to kill people. In Muslim countries, mass murderers favor bombs. In the United States, they prefer guns. In Japan, they’ve tried sarin nerve gas. The Oklahoma City bomber used fertilizer. The Sept. 11 hijackers used box cutters and passenger planes. Then came the letters filled with anthrax.
Derision is that much harder to control. The spread of digital technology and Internet bandwidth makes it possible to reach every corner of the globe almost instantly with homemade video defaming any faith tradition. It can become an incendiary weapon. But it has a weakness: It depends on you. You’re the detonator. If you don’t cooperate, the bomb doesn’t explode.
This isn’t just a Muslim problem, though that’s been the pattern lately. On YouTube, you can find videos insulting every religion on the planet: Jews, Christians, Hindus, Catholics, Mormons, Buddhists, and more. Some clips are ironic. Others are simply disgusting. Many were posted to bait one group into fighting another. The baiters are indiscriminate. The promoter of the Mohammed movie founded a group that also protests at Mormon temples.
The hatred and bloodshed will go on until you stop taking the bait. Mockery of your prophet on a computer with an Internet address somewhere in the world can no longer be your master. Nor can the puppet clerics who tell you to respond with violence. Lay down your stones and your anger. Go home and pray. God is too great to be troubled by the insults of fools. Follow Him.
William Saletan's latest short takes on the news, via Twitter: