An obscure Israeli film-maker in the US makes an obscure hate-filled amateurish film against the Prophet Mohammed. The film is released in June and no-one gives it a second thought. It sinks without a trace into the dustbin of history as it rightly should. Its trailer struggles to get even 100 views on YouTube. Nobody has time for such mediocre rubbish.
Then a curious thing happens months later in September, more precisely on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Protests over the film break out in Egypt. A violent attack in Libya claims the life of the US ambassador, among others.
Suddenly the obscure becomes front page news.
Suddenly the anonymous name of Sam Bacile (is that even his real name?) becomes notorious the world over.
Suddenly everyone wants to know more about the film, "Innocence of Muslims". The attackers have unwittingly given more than 15-minutes of fame to the very person they hate and consider their enemy. And what about YouTube views for clips and trailers of the above? They are now in the tune of millions!
It would have been a better idea to quietly approach YouTube to ban the clips and lodging an official complaint with the US government. Then the movie and filmmaker would have been off the radar for good. But now the protests have spread to the entire Arab world.
The same thing had happened with author Salman Rushdie decades ago when his "Satanic Verses" got much much greater publicity then it might have done otherwise. The author was turned into an international celebrity.
Even now when most people have forgotten about Rushdie and stopped reading his books, the Jaipur Literature Festival protests put him back firmly in the limelight.
The UPA is protesting against all the criticism that is coming from all quarters and the results have been exactly the same. While the government has no need to resort to violence, its actions haven’t gone down well with anyone.
Baba Ramdev was a non-political figure. The government turned him into a political leader by first recognizing him and then engaging him in talks when there was no real need and later cracking down on the Ramlila Grounds to arrest him.
They did the same thing with activist Anna Hazare. Hazare has been doing development work and fighting against corruption for decades now. But the single act of arresting him and sending him to Tihar Jail gave him such popularity that he had not seen in his whole life.
The latest case in point is the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi. While nobody denies his passion in his fight against corruption, most people do concede that some of his cartoons are in bad taste and could be considered offensive.
But by arresting him on the laughable charges of sedition, he was turned into a martyr going into jail and a hero coming out of it. He got his moments of fame and was seen mouthing his philosophy on all the TV news channels you could think of and his cartoons were circulated in the Net as never before. He finally found the respectability he had been looking for thanks to the arrest.
Protesting articles against the Prime Minister in Time magazine and the Washington Post also got the entire Indian middle class scurrying to read those pieces. The news sites must indeed have been happy with the protests as they ended up getting more page views!
Jagdish Tytler set out to target BJD Chief Minister Biju Patnaik over Coalgate. But now all the attention is now focused on the Congress protest where a policewoman was beaten up and Tytler’s role in the whole affair.
Another example is Chief Minister Narendra Modi: After Godhra, the mainstream media, certain NGOs and activists protested and went after him with such vehemence that it ultimately backfired on them.
Many major riots have taken place in India and most of the CMs slowly sink into oblivion after that, but Modi has been kept firmly in the national limelight. So much so that a pro-Modi lobby got formed and he ended up developing a fan base of millions. The protests only ended up severely polarizing the nation.
From “He shouldn’t be Chief Minister” it became “He can’t be Prime Minister” and now it’s “Will he become PM one day?”. Modi seems to be having the last laugh.
Sometimes when a fire is burning, some forms of protest instead of dousing it, end up adding fuel to it and fanning the flames even further.More by this author
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