The outrage industry

Published: September 22, 2012

The writer is a lawyer and partner at Ijaz and Ijaz Co in Lahore saroop.ijaz@ tribune.com.pk

Those of us having nervous imaginations have sometimes wondered what would it be like to have Islamabad surrounded by thousands of militant jihadists raising death chants. There remains no need to speculate any more, now we know. It is not pleasant and all of this for a pathetic video made by some lunatic in California. The video and the idiots that made it do not merit a moment of our consideration. The video is deeply hurtful, however, we are increasing its capacity to hurt us by letting it consume us, not to mention making the filmmaker rich in the process and giving an incentive to the next nut job to attempt something similar. Unfortunately, not only the thousands of usual suspect protesters and religious groups, but the media and all major political parties including those in government disagree. They not only felt that we should all be protesting but also gave a holiday, named “Yaum-Ishq-e-Rasool” (Day for the love of the Prophet (pbuh)) to facilitate the protest. First, about the name, does that mean that we are exempted from the devotion for the rest of the year; of course not, yet, that is the only implication that would make the counterpoint plausible. This is what happens when governments bureaucratise matters of spirituality and belief. Secondly, if the government feels that there is enough of a terrorist threat to shut down cellular phone service on a particular day, why would it also announce a holiday and encourage people to join public protests on the same day?

Most political parties and the government announced that they would join the protests because they are afraid. Pandering to religious extremism does not have a confidence inspiring historical record. There is also some confusion about what are they protesting against? Surely, some of them know that the United States government does not micromanage low budget videos uploaded on YouTube and is barred by the First Amendment to the Constitution to censor. Similarly, of course, the entire Pakistan is not pitting itself against a third-rate hate-monger; that would be giving him way too much importance. The television channels that covered the protests and the aftermath if they didn’t then at least came very close to inciting violence. The prevailing strategy is to go with the flow; no one wants the protestors diverted outside their office. The intention might be of self-preservation; however, it will not work.

I recently heard someone use the term “outrage industry”, while referring to some Muslim countries. The presence of such an industry in Pakistan is obvious. It thrives on meticulously looking for things to be offended by and when they find it, which they eventually do, they will disseminate it to the public at large and of course be offended. They will look up mediocre caricatures published in an insignificant newspaper in Denmark and give them global publicity. One analogy that comes to mind is that people in Pakistan who accuse someone of blasphemy will not repeat, but in most cases, embellish and completely fabricate blasphemous remarks and actions and hence are the real blasphemers. This mindset cannot be appeased by joining in the protests with them or declaring a holiday or banning YouTube. They are in the business of being “outraged”, they cannot afford not to be outraged, even if you take away every possible cause of outrage (a supremely impossible task), they will still manufacture an excuse to be outraged, and most likely it will be against you. Remaining on the commerce part of the industry, I am sure that someone is making money by manufacturing and selling those US and Israeli flags to be burnt on protests such as these.

The religious groups have run out of things to say except tired clichés and shrill slogans. They need an enemy to sustain their reservoir of hate and define them by negation. Their pointless nihilism is on display while burning cinema houses and chambers of commerce buildings. It will be a shame and it already is if the government and other political forces give them life support. Another depressing and malicious thing about this “outrage industry” is the skewed selectiveness of their causes. Rimsha or the killing of the Shia is not a favourable cause since it is not as easy to provoke and rile people up on them. It is far easier to play on one of the most sacred, emotional and religious attachment of the majority. At some level, are those organising, facilitating and leading these protests of vandalism and hate not guilty of the exact same charge that they level on the idiotic filmmaker?

Leading protests to the US embassy does not make sense. The United States government has already denounced the movie in strong terms. In any event, the US government is not responsible for every video made by its citizens. We, as Muslims, are rightly demanding the right not to have our religious sensibilities hurt and our traditions be respected. However, a corollary and a starting point of any such demand is that we respect the traditions of others, in this case, the First Amendment and the freedom of expression.  Diplomatic immunity remains a common tradition of the entire civilised world. Additionally, the calm and justified argument for not stereotyping Muslims because of the actions of a few fanatics is severely compromised when we decide to stereotype an entire country on the flimsy basis of a dubious video made by one of its citizens.

The problem with attempting to placate this outrage industry is the problem with all censorship and appeasement; ultimately you lose. The outrage will only materialise once the outrageous act has taken place and hence cannot be accounted for in advance. This becomes particularly tedious when the canvass is as broad-ranging as a rag in Denmark to an obscure movie uploaded on YouTube. Even if all internet, mobile phones and television is banned, they will still find something to be angry and violent about; do not indulge them. It also undermines the project of hopefully the majority of Muslims who resist such hate speech without bogus hysteria and violence.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 23rd, 2012.

Reader Comments (43)

  • jagjit sidhoo.
    Sep 22, 2012 - 11:57PM

    One thing most of us learnt in school, if kids tease you and you show irritation you will be teased more.

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  • Rastionalist
    Sep 23, 2012 - 12:15AM

    well written piece as always. Its so hurting see our crime time show anchors promoting hate speech on their shows

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  • Max
    Sep 23, 2012 - 12:19AM

    The term “outrage industry” does not comprehend the situation. I will go one step further calling them “purposeless mafia of bigots.”

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  • lalai
    Sep 23, 2012 - 12:30AM

    Not a single percent drop in the sales of Coke, Pepsi, McDonald, KFC or Hardees yet we lost 30 odd lives on Friday and property worth approximately 76 billions in Pakistan. We cant carry on in this world with this nonsense.

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  • Tj
    Sep 23, 2012 - 12:39AM

    Finally a sane voice

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  • Truth Detector
    Sep 23, 2012 - 12:42AM

    For the first time I am saying this, Saroop. I agree with you 100%. A nice piece. For us, living in US, it has become a double edged sword. Yesterday, I was thinking, I have no hope left for Pakistan.. not much has changed today, unfortunately. These politico-religious leaders ignite public sentiment and then disappear from the scene. They ( leaders) are the worst offender.

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  • Parvez
    Sep 23, 2012 - 1:12AM

    Now that is how an intelligent person thinks.
    The people who create this outrage, do so for a reason and I believe it has not the slightest to do with religion but more so with politics and power. Having come to that conclusion the blame for the destruction caused, lies with all the political parties who cosy-up with them to further their political interests. The political parties vision is short term while there vision is long term.Recommend

  • Nadir
    Sep 23, 2012 - 1:26AM

    The US is responsible for everything that happens in the US, the same way Pakistan is responsible for everything that happens on its own soil………errr wait!

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  • Cautious
    Sep 23, 2012 - 1:29AM

    Well said. Rather than your govt calling for a day of protest they could have called for a day of reflection and prayer asking God to provide guidance and forgiveness – but that’s apparently isn’t in the cards.

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  • Arifq
    Sep 23, 2012 - 1:31AM

    Totally agreed, do not indulge them! Great job Saroop

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  • David
    Sep 23, 2012 - 1:32AM

    “does that mean that we are exempted from the devotion for the rest of the year” … Brilliant counter-point!! Surely this is the quote of the year! And to be honest, the Pakistanis seem to be working hard at it… with each and every day adding more and more to their own self-destructionRecommend

  • imme
    Sep 23, 2012 - 1:50AM

    True and very much true that we are marketing that clip through our own stupid , senseless actions

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  • Ejaaz
    Sep 23, 2012 - 1:55AM

    “The problem with attempting to placate this outrage industry is the problem with all censorship and appeasement; ultimately you lose.”

    The outrage industry served its purpose in the past when the different religious communities lived in physically nearby. Hold the civic peace hostage often enough and you get what you want. It worked for us in the past, but unfortunately in the day of the internet, it is hard to get the same effect. We have only held our own civil society hostage, and destroyed our own stuff. We can still make it work, if we get enough Muslim countries to penalize some economic or political asset of the offending persons country. We should be able to get an International law against offending the feelings of Muslims anywhere.

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  • Dasmir
    Sep 23, 2012 - 2:51AM

    Pakistan has given enough fodder to the enemies of Islam to make more such films,cartoons and books and youtube clips.Expect deluge now.

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  • Arindom
    Sep 23, 2012 - 4:58AM

    AS long as Pakistanis donot export from their ‘hate industry’ the world doesnot care.

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  • Overseas Pakistani
    Sep 23, 2012 - 5:37AM

    Let’s first look in the mirror and stop teaching our kids and our masses wrong and insulting things about the Shia, Ahmadis, Hindus, Christians before demanding that the world respect tenets of our faith. Our sense of entitlement regarding how people should treat us without any expectations from us is really quite astounding!

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  • T4U
    Sep 23, 2012 - 7:29AM

    saroop, I am disappointed to read that you also are hurt from this movie. Things do not hurt us, its our view that hurts us. If I think that this is just an immature guy who does not know what he is talking about , I will not be hurt, though I may feel sorry for HIM! If you felt hurt then what you need to do is to grow up rather than wanting the rest of the world to come down to your level of utter emotional dependence. As adults we are required to be emotionally independent otherwise you will always be getting hurt!

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  • Zalim Singh
    Sep 23, 2012 - 8:40AM

    good article. but nobody seems to have seen it.

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  • mahakaalchakra
    Sep 23, 2012 - 9:16AM

    Breaking News: Terrorists attack in Afghanistan. Terror attack linked to Pakistan. Muslims claim to be oppressed by others at the planet earth. Muslims mob starts riot, act like savages. Tomorrow, sun will rise in the east again and there will be 24 hours in the day tomorrow.

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  • wonderer
    Sep 23, 2012 - 9:22AM

    The “outrage industry” seems likely to thrive. There is no dearth of “lunatics”and “idiots” who are on the lookout for such business propositions. Expect many more of such videos, cartoons and other material to enter the lucrative market.

    Is the Muslim world capable of handling such an onslaught? Certainly NOT without looking sheepish. Pakistan is not likely to celebrate many more “Yaum-Ishq-e-Rasool”. Are we still not sure that many more “lunatics” and “idiots” live among us than any where else in the world? What can we do? Nothing. It is already too late. We have been sleeping for far too long.

    What needs to be done now is to get ready for the mayhem that will surely overtake us in the not too distant future. No marks for guessing where we are headed.

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  • Salim Ansari
    Sep 23, 2012 - 10:23AM

    I tell …. I know many who are starting to say the partion was a bad thing. It better to live as different flowers in flower bunch. Peoples learn to live with thoughts that are different.

    Same type of flowers in a flower bunch means same thoughts only without variety.

    Sorry if you did not like what I said. But is truth.

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  • Murthy
    Sep 23, 2012 - 11:14AM

    Very thoughtful article. I used to wonder, and, in fact, I have made comment to the effect on some article in a Pakistani newspaper, whether there are people in Pakistan constantly on the lookout for something to protest and go violent against. The article has provided the answer. Pakistan has a thriving “outrage industry’. I must thank the writer for giving a clear picture of what is happening right now in Pakistan.

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  • sabi
    Sep 23, 2012 - 11:47AM

    First come first serve
    1; Judism outrage industry flourished under Roman Empire-Rise and fall together
    2;Christianity:outrage industry boomed under powerfull monarchs-Got bankrupted by democracy.
    3:Islam;outrage industry established during muslim rulers in india got its boom under Zia dictator.Like first two, it has a fall, when God knows.
    Excellant piece, kudos.

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  • Satya S issar
    Sep 23, 2012 - 11:51AM

    If you want proof of a nutty situation created out of a meaningless film look no further.You are not making new friends by burning your own properties and banks and businesses.

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  • Parvez
    Sep 23, 2012 - 1:56PM

    This is how an intelligent mind thinks, great stuff.
    A few minutes a ago I received a small message from my school buddy in America telling me to read Zbigniew Brezinski’s (who needs no introduction) book ‘ The Grand Chessboard ‘( the covert war against Pakistan ) in which he argues that the only way to break Pakistan is through civil insurgency. As it can not be directly attacked, its own enery should be used against itself. How true this is when seen in the light of Fridays incidents.

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  • foqia
    Sep 23, 2012 - 2:06PM

    Just read your article in the Express Tribune. Hats off to you for writing such a clear and bold article. I totally agree that government should not have caved in and given a holiday. You give an inch to these guys and they takeover everything. Best to not give any such concessions. It works against the government in the end. Truly felt proud of someone having the guts to call a spade a spade.

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  • foqia
    Sep 23, 2012 - 2:07PM

    Just read your article in the Express Tribune. Hats off to you for writing such a clear and bold article. I totally agree that government should not have caved in and given a holiday. You give an inch to these guys and they takeover everything. Best to not give any such concessions. It works against the government in the end. Truly felt proud of someone having the guts to call a spade a spade.Recommend

  • Emnosh
    Sep 23, 2012 - 2:31PM

    Why do Pakistani Muslims expect the world to respect their sensibilities when they are continually teaching their people, right from childhood, hatred against Hindus, Christians and Jews, through Pakistan Studies ?

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  • Parvez
    Sep 23, 2012 - 2:36PM

    Now thats how intelligent men think.
    My school buddy living in America recommended I read Zbigniew Brezinski’s book ‘ The Grand Chessboard ‘ in which he argues that in the covert war against Pakistan the only way to break Pakistan, as it can not be directly attacked, is through civil insurgency, its own energy must be used against itself. Fridays incidents proved this absolutely right.

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  • mateen
    Sep 23, 2012 - 5:18PM

    Excellent piece of writing. Indeed religion to certain elements is more a profession than a way to please God. To exert their importance such element always look for such issues and some how they manage to find. Moderates, political parties instead of giving free hand over such issues to these ugly creatures, better try to marginalize them. No pandering, no appeasement from ruling elite, no alms from traders in future whose properties were burnt down.

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  • Menon
    Sep 23, 2012 - 5:29PM

    You are absolutely correct sir. Religion, Outrage and terrorism fall in the category. Every one manipulating the innocent and unaware people to make themselves should be stripped of their ill gotten gains, prosecuted and put in jail for life.

    The wealth should be used rehabilitate and educate the innocent and the unaware. The time has passed way beyond to stop talking about religious nonsense in public. Keep your belief personal, I respect yours and you respect mine. Let us move on, there are lot more important and critical issues to be solved before it eradicates us from the face of the earth.

    All of these protests and destruction is giving the lunatics more encouragement to plant their next outrage.

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  • Enlightened
    Sep 23, 2012 - 7:09PM

    Excellent write up. Unwind this outrage industry quickly before it unwinds whole of Pakistan.

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  • Enlightened
    Sep 23, 2012 - 7:12PM

    Excellent write up. The outrage needs to be winded up quickly before it winds up whole of Pakistan.

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  • gp65
    Sep 23, 2012 - 8:46PM

    @Ejaaz: “We should be able to get an International law against offending the feelings of Muslims anywhere.”

    OIC has been passing a non binding resoluton in UN sice 1999 on defamation of religion. Western world ha sbeen voting against it. Even amn others over a period of time, those who were voting in favour have started to abstain and those who were abstaining have started to vote against it. I think getting anything more than what already exists is unlikely. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DefamationofreligionandtheUnitedNations

    The debate has shifted to protecting the believer (or an individual who may hold any belief including atheism or agnosticism) rather than protecting any specific belief. The Wester countries are committed to doing that.

    PArt of the reason the support for this resolution is reducing is that in Muslim majority countries there is no protection for the believer or even for any belief other than Islam. What is sought from the world is not being reciprocated.
    Thanks.

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  • choptocut
    Sep 23, 2012 - 9:45PM

    The Best Article. Keep it Mr. Ijaz. Enlightening insights..

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  • jagjit sidhoo.
    Sep 23, 2012 - 10:05PM

    @Ejaaz: A better option would be to make documentaries about the good teachings of Islam make sure they get wide publicity not only in the west but also in the Muslim world. I do not know much about Islam but i am quite sure that the teachings of one of the great religions of the world do not advocate the type of actions that the Muslim youth have been getting publicity for.I think the Muslim youth need to be educated about the finer points of their own religion, they have not shown respect for the teachings of their religion in the recent past. Respect in the rest of the world will follow. Respect is not commanded but earned.

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  • Sep 23, 2012 - 11:41PM

    A lot of rage at the crappy film and no outrage over the self instigated destruction.Lack of self criticism leads to hypocrisy.

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  • Lala Gee
    Sep 24, 2012 - 1:08AM

    Free Speech!

    Make a speech advocating ‘Jihad’, or challenge ‘Holocaust’, or pass a few hateful comments against Jews or Christians in any campus, your rights to free speech will be quickly languishing behind bars along with yourself, especially if you are a Muslim.

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  • Christian
    Sep 24, 2012 - 4:51AM

    Mr Saroop, you said movie is “deeply hurtful”. I feel bad for you it it is hurtful, leave alone deeply hurtful, let me give you an advise:

    I am a Christian and live in the United States. We have Letterman, Stewart and others who make fun of Jesus all the time and I enjoy their jokes, they do not offend me, you know why? Because the Jesus that I know is too BIG and too above us that no mortal human being can offend. My Jesus is a big boy who can take care of himself , I do not have to take care of his honor, He is the one who takes care of me. If I start to think that I have to take care of him then THAT will be blasphemy for me. I would suggest you to think of your Mohammad in that regard otherwise not only your would be “deeply” hurt but you will be actually degrading him (in my view) by begging Google or US Govt.( that has nothing to do with what a free US citizen does) to remove this particular clip. Hope that helps and you start to ridicule people who think that they have to defend your prophet as if he is BIG he will not be affected by mortals and would need you to act on his behalf. If he is the Big Prophet then he would be taking care of you instead of wanting you to protect his honor.

    May Jesus Bless you ALL!

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  • jagjit sidhoo.
    Sep 24, 2012 - 9:04AM

    @Christian: Pearls of wisdom

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  • gp65
    Sep 24, 2012 - 7:13PM

    @Lala Gee: “Free Speech!
    Make a speech advocating ‘Jihad’, or challenge ‘Holocaust’, or pass a few hateful comments against Jews or Christians in any campus, your rights to free speech will be quickly languishing behind bars along with yourself, especially if you are a Muslim.”

    Lala Gee, please provide reference to a Muslim being put behind bars due to denying holocaust on a US campus. I suspect that the stuff you are referring to happens in the same parallel universe where in a separate article you had indicated that most of the US women move around half naked.

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  • Jim Fox
    Sep 25, 2012 - 11:56AM

    @Lala Gee:
    Free speech does not include advocating murder, nor denying facts

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  • Badu Ja
    Oct 1, 2012 - 7:36PM

    The problem with Pakistan is that less than half a percentage of its population is able to read and understand a rational article like this and unfortunately still some are not able to make to make sense of it and intent on denying facts and advocating murder.

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