So much for #Muslimrage
Last week’s wave of protests and attacks on U.S. embassies launched a million op-eds (along with an instantly notorious Newsweek cover) about the return of “Muslim rage,” the failure of the Arab uprisings, the collapse of Obama’s foreign policy, and the inevitability of the clash of civilizations. When a satirical French newspaper leaped forward to run some more hopefully offensive cartoons, everyone braced for another round of violent protests across the region. But a funny thing happened on the way to the apocalypose: almost nothing. There were a few tiny demonstrations, but most Arab countries (in contrast to Pakistan and Lebanon) saw no mass rallies, no burning embassies, no screaming for the television cameras.
The fizzling of the protests against that awful YouTube film was obvious before today, of course. As has been widely noted, the protests last week were actually quite small — vastly inferior in size and popular inclusion to the Arab uprisings protests last year, and small even in comparison to the ongoing pro-democracy or other political demonstrations which occur on a weekly basis in many Arab countries. The killing of Chris Stevens and his colleagues, and the dramatic images of broached embassy walls and al Qaeda flags, radically inflated Western perceptions about the magnitude of the protests.
By far the biggest story of popular mobilization today came in Libya, where tens of thousands came out in Benghazi in an inspiring rally against militias and against the attack on the U.S. consulate. Thus far, millions of opeds have failed to be produced in response. That’s a pity. The failure of the Arab world to follow its assigned script really deserves as much attention as did last week’s outburst. I wish that the relative fizzle of today’s protests and today’s large rally in Benghazi denouncing the attack on the U.S. consulate and militia violence would get even one-tenth of the media attention lavished upon the supposed meaning of last week’s embassy attacks.