Hillary Cheered Broadway's Book of Mormon, Condemns Innocence of Muslims
On Thursday of last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the video project Innocence of Muslims, the one that may or may not have provoked riots worldwide, "disgusting and reprehensible."
Although Clinton could have seen no more than a 13-minute trailer for the video, she condemned it in no uncertain terms: "Let me state very clearly -- and I hope it is obvious -- the United States government had nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message."
One would think that Clinton might have had a similar reaction to a musical comedy by the name of The Book of Mormon, a satirical, scandalously potty-mouthed riff on the Mormon religion. What follows is one of the show's printable lyrics, this from the song "All-American Prophet."
You all know the Bible
Is made of Testaments old and new.
You've been told it's just those two parts,
Or only one, if you're a Jew.
But what if I were to tell you
There's a FRESH third part out there?
That was found by a HIP new prophet
Who had a little...
Donny Osmond flair.
Apparently, Secretary Clinton has flexible standards. The Associated Press reported soon after The Book of Mormon's opening that "[t]he show has been greeted not by protests but rhapsodic reviews and standing ovations from crowds that have included celebrities as diverse as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, actor Jack Nicholson and composer Stephen Sondheim." Indeed, the show has been the biggest hit on Broadway these past two seasons, winning nine Tony Awards along the way.
True, when the show premiered in 2011, the media were shocked. NPR accurately called it "blasphemous." The Washington Post called it "acidic." The New York Times called it "more foul-mouthed than David Mamet on a blue streak."
But the media did not stop there -- not at all. In context, NPR called The Book of Mormon "blasphemous, hilarious and oddly endearing." The Post called the show "one of the most joyously acidic bundles Broadway has unwrapped in years." And the Times called it, foul-mouthed or not, "a newborn, old-fashioned, pleasure-giving musical."
Although some likely found The Book of Mormon as "offensive and reprehensible and disgusting" as White House spokesman Jay Carney found Innocence of Muslims, the Obama administration chose not to denounce it. Nor could I find any protest from Carney when his former employer, TIME Magazine, praised The Book of Mormon as "bright and enjoyable, and good enough to make even a grumpy critic's 10 Best list."
Nor did the White House ask the FBI to interview everyone associated with the show, from the set designers to the producers, as it has done for Innocence of Muslims. "We cannot and will not squelch freedom of expression in this country," said Jay Carney. "It is a foundational principle of this nation." That bromide should reassure those people now being grilled by the FBI.
The media, even more than the White House, have been almost comically hypocritical about Innocence of Muslims. When Washington Post reviewer Ann Hornaday called the film "vile," she stopped there. It was not "vile, but." It was just simply vile.
Hornaday struggled to rationalize her contempt for its producers. "The jumble of cheesy-looking scenes and badly dubbed dialogue on display," she concluded, "look less like promotional scenes culled from a fully realized motion picture than a primitive piece of cynical agitprop." That is all true enough, but the left's openly voiced hatred for this project has little to do its with its admittedly awful production values.
The Huffington Post, whose reviewer was "praying" that The Book of Mormon would be "a huge hit and lead the way for more original shows like it," was now leading the way to expose the culprits behind The Innocence of Muslims. The publication has been running banner headlines that read "'Innocence Of Muslims' Filmmaker Identified By Law Enforcement" and "'Innocence Of Muslims' Shot On Hollywood Set, Film Permit Connected To Christian Charity." If the FBI asked the editors to hand out pitchforks and publish a map to the filmmaker's house, they likely would have complied.
The response by the media and the Obama administration would not have surprised Christopher Hitchens. Hitchens discovered the moral emptiness of his colleagues on the left when he labored to shelter his friend, Salman Rushdie. Rushdie, a westernized progressive, provoked a deeply serious death threat from the Iranian mullahs for his artful book The Satanic Verses.
In his memoir, Hitch-22, Hitchens relates his surprise upon finding the "postmodern Left in league with political Islam." He cites one prominent leftist after another denouncing Rushdie for having disturbed the status quo. The moral cowardice of his friends on the left depressed him almost as much as the sight of crowds in British cities demanding not only "less freedom," but also "the destruction of an author's work and even the taking of an author's life."
For the left, Hitchens came to understand, the sensitivity to Islam had much less to do with respect for religion than it did fear of offending its allies in post-colonial anti-Americanism. The "undercurrent of menace and implied moral and racial blackmail" paralyzed them. Given Rushdie's status as one of their own, more or less, leftists could not exactly demand his head. But the producers of Innocence of Muslims enjoy no such grace. If they can be tied to a "Christian charity," even an Egyptian one, the folks at the Huffington Post will be leading the lynch mob.
By contrast, the Mormon response to the Broadway show that profanes their faith has been exemplary. Church elders have said that "the musical might entertain you for a night, but the Book of Mormon, the scripture, will save your life." Individual Mormons have been lining up across the street from the theater -- not protesting, but handing out copies of the actual Book of Mormon.
According to TPM, a leftist blog, Mitt Romney has been "echoing [the] White House position" on Innocence of Muslims. "The idea of using something that some people consider sacred and then parading that out a negative way is simply inappropriate and wrong," Romney said. "And I wish people wouldn't do it." But this is hardly an echo. Wishing people would stop is not quite the same as dispatching the FBI.
The real difference, though, between Romney's response and the White House's, certainly the difference between his and Hillary's, is that he could and would have said the very same thing about The Book of Mormon.