You know that it has hit the fan when you start to see alternative conspiracy theories in an attempt to deflect attention from the real conspiracy. There are at least two:
1. the Saudis (or here) stirred up the cartoon issue in the Muslim world in an attempt to deflect attention away from the deaths that occurred during the Hajj; and
2. Danish Imams created the controversy by spreading the cartoons to the Middle East.
Juan Cole takes care of the Saudi conspiracy by considering the timing issues in how the protests arose. In fact, if we look at the timing issues, we can see how the real conspirators, who were all non-Muslim Europeans, worked. The intention was to provoke the kind of response in the Middle East that we are seeing now. The initial European salvo was to solicit the material and publish it in a Danish newspaper. It didn't work. In fact, there were peaceful Muslim protests - putting the lie to allegations that there were no protests until the issue was artificially raised later - and an attempt to use the Danish legal system to confront the issue. Danish Muslims behaved in exactly the responsible way that the current critics of the violence say they should have behaved. In response, they got nowhere with the legal system - apparently it is only illegal to make fun of Jews (with a predictable response to Eurohypocrisy from Iran) - and a lecture from the Danish Prime Minister, threatening protestors with legal repercussions and essentially telling them to go fuck themselves (here you can see the close connection between the conspirators and the Danish political establishment). The official Danish response, that nothing can be done because it is a free speech issue, has been proven to be a lie as the same newspaper had rejected cartoons insulting to Christians on the basis that they would offend its readership and "provoke an outcry".
Since the cabal of Europeans did not get the response they wanted from publication in Denmark, they decided to escalate, first by publishing in Norway, and then by publishing throughout Europe. This re-publication was all based on the completely bogus explanation of expressing solidarity with the free speech rights of their beleaguered Danish colleagues. Of course, free speech was never the issue. The cabal wanted to provoke the kind of violent protests in the Middle East that it felt would be useful in promoting ant-immigration policies in Europe, and defending the Israeli violence against the Palestinians. They would have kept publishing until they got the response they wanted. It wasn't either Danish Imams or the Saudis who created the problem; it was entirely the work of a group of European extreme right-wing editors.
Aseem Shrivastava rips the free speech issue to shreds:
"Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen says that he cannot apologize for his country's free press.
Free press? How come we hear so little from the same free press about European governments helping the US ferry people - on no fewer than 800 flights over four years, according to Amnesty International - to be tortured in places where it is legal to do so? How is it that nobody in the European free press is talking much about the fact that Iran stopped any further discussion of its nuclear program because the three EU leaders who were parleying with them reneged on their side of the bargain, by not ensuring Iran security in the event of a foreign invasion?
We hear nothing from the free press about the fact that the success of Hamas in the recent elections may have more to do with its schools and health clinics for beleaguered Palestinian communities (while the generous 'international community' has abandoned them) than with its purported Islamic fundamentalism.
The 'free' media in the West do not bother to investigate the events of September 11, 2001, or allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency itself may have been involved in the Bali bombings of 2002. It does not make any demands of the Bush administration to release the more than 1,700 pictures and videos of tortures and humiliations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo that the Pentagon has kept away from the public eye.
We have to hear from bloggers on the Internet about the US forces in Iraq kidnapping women and girls related to suspected insurgents. Needless to mention, no dead American soldiers are shown on the TV screens of the Western media (though there is no bar on showing those killed by suicide bombers in Baghdad). How often is it remembered, not to speak of responsibility taken for the fact, that genocidal UN sanctions prosecuted by the West killed more than a million innocent people in Iraq in the 1990s? The free media in the West keep secret from the public the fact that the US has for years given asylum to proven terrorists such as Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada, wanted by Latin American governments for blowing up planes and suchlike. They are exempt from the 'war on terror'.
Above all, the media do little to ask for the impeachment of the consummate liars and mass-murderers who occupy elected positions in more than one Western democracy today, even as they pretend to teach lessons in political morals to less fortunate countries.
Free press? Or cowardly media eager to please the wealthy masters?"
'Free speech' is being used as another weapon in the West's attempts at dominating the Middle East. Just as in the use by Bush of the term 'democracy' - apparently something you get only if you vote for the 'right' party - 'free speech' is being used as a cover for the continuation of American-European-Israeli colonialism. 'Free speech' is one of many tools in the West's PR campaign to justify what it does in the Middle East (see here).
The violent response, of course, has been stirred up and encouraged - at least to the extent that authorities let it be known that protest wouldn't be stopped - by various governments who saw it as a safe way for the poorest people to vent some frustration. Needless to say, the protests have become the entire focus of media interest on the issue, just what the original cabal wanted. Most commentators, even 'liberal' ones, are criticizing Muslims for again taking the bait. On the other hand, had the response followed the original Danish lines, we would never have heard of this issue. Letters to the editor to newspapers in Cairo would never have been reported on in Europe. The problem, as usual, relates to power. Muslims in the Middle East are used to being shat on from a great height by both Europeans and Americans. The only thing that seems to warrant any attention for the outrages commonly imposed on Muslims is violence. So violence is what we see.