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February 6, 2006
Well-Planned Spontaneity

The ruckus over the Prophet cartoons continued to inspire violence over the weekend, with two Danish (Lebanon, Syria) and one Norwegian (Syria) consulate burnt down in Southwest Asia, victims of angry mobs. The idea that these mobs formed spontaneously and erupted in anger gets disputed by today's Guardian (UK), which calls the protests the result of some "well-planned spontaneity":

It was one of those unpredictable Lebanese Sunday mornings. The ski slopes in the mountains overlooking Beirut would have been crowded with skiers enjoying the brilliant winter sunshine. Walkers were out along the Corniche, strolling in designer tracksuits. Downtown, the chic restaurants were preparing for lunchtime. And there were a few men on scooters riding around town broadcasting an imminent protest.

It wasn't long before the heavily-laden coaches and minivans began to arrive from Beirut and the rest of Lebanon. They were all full of young, often bearded men who wore headbands and carried identical flags with calligraphic inscriptions in Arabic such as: "There is no god but God and Mohammad is his Prophet" and "O Nation of Muhammad, Wake Up." ...

The police seemed to know the demonstrators were coming and had turned out in force with barriers, barbed wire fences and several large fire trucks. ... By 11am, the Lebanese police and army were firing tear gas at the crowd. The protesters threw volleys of stones. Some stuffed cotton wool into their nostrils to stifle the effect of the gas.

One group overturned a car and set it alight. Sunni clerics in robes tried to calm the young men down. They were ignored. One cleric, Ibrahim Ibrahim, said his pleas were met with stones and insults. "They are hooligans," he said.

The police finally withdrew and allowed the crowd to burn down the Danish embassy. Although they set the building alight, they had time and the forethought to bring a large banner to place on the building before it burnt down, announcing that the protestors were ready to offer their children in sacrifice to Mohammed. (That is a strange expression of human sacrifice for a monotheistic religion, but a theme that has become much more pronounced in radical Islam since the rise of Islamofascism thirty years ago. It's almost as if Islam got the story of Abraham and Isaac but missed the ending entirely.) That message delivered, the mob then went into the most affluent Christian neighborhood and began vandalizing property all along the way, smashing windows and damaging vehicles.

Suddenly, the protest stopped. The police and Islamic clerics couldn't stop it -- but one of the leaders announced that the demonstration was over and that the crowd needed to go home. And it did; the streets were cleared within minutes, leaving the area back in police control and the residents of the area to clean up after the violence. The protestors went back to the buses that brought them into the area, similar to tourists trying to attend a cultural event.

In fact, the tourist notion sounds like an apt analogy. This demonstration and the arson at the Danish embassy was nothing more than tourist-style outrage on behalf of radical Islamists. They have no real street following; instead, they have to bus their people into the area in order to get any attendace whatsoever, and their swath of destruction got as much planning as a three-star tour of the Holy Land. The only aspect missing was the color brochures and the timetables.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 6, 2006 7:19 AM

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