Last week's demonstrations in the Arab Muslim world have already cost lives, many lives, beginning with that of American Ambassador Stevens, a friend of Libya and architect of its liberation.
They have made another collateral victim, and what a victim, since it's a matter of the Syrian people in its entirety, bludgeoned as never before, bombarded with renewed vigor, while nations just waiting for this pretext to rid themselves of their recent and timid vague impulses to intervene remain indifferent: "If that's the Arab Spring," they murmur in the chancelleries, "if that's how they thank those among us who, like Ambassador Stevens, believed in this liberation, why open a new front, a new Pandora's box?"
Even in France, the fanatics who came to demonstrate before the American embassy in Paris and in so doing to boo an ally of France as well as the values upon which the Republic is founded did more in one evening to discredit the image, not only of immigrants, but of French Muslims than the years of day to day discrimination and racism, xenophobia, and narrow-mindedness. Obviously, the immense majority of France's Muslims do not identify with this minority of manipulated bawlers -- but who knows that? Who understands it?
In short, when all is said and done and we are able to see more clearly, we will have to assess the impact of this political and human disaster, this hopefully temporary glaciation of the revolutions in Tunisia, in Egypt and, perhaps, in Libya.
But just now I would like to come back to a moment in the sequence of things that is already quite clear and which, to my surprise, has scarcely caused any reaction on the part of commentators.
It is the morning of Sept. 12.
The lifeless body of Ambassador Stevens has just been found in Benghazi, this grey, unrecognizable face that leaves all who knew him utterly distraught.
And a man, Sam Bacile, who declares himself to be the author of the film that set off the spark, grants an interview to the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal in which he presents himself as an "Israeli-American living in California," aided, in his endeavor, by "fifty Jewish donors" who remain anonymous.
The story is picked up by the rest of the press.
And then by radio and television stations in the United States, Europe, and worldwide.
For forty-eight hours, there is no questioning the fact, which surprises no one, that these "fifty Jews" financed a film whose sole object was to insult Muslims and ignite a firestorm that would spread throughout the world.
Here, they tell us Sam Bacile is "aghast at what he has done... "
There, they go one better by adding that there were not fifty but a hundred fellow Jewish conspirators who backed him financially.
There, we see them, we almost get them, for they are the same ones who demonstrated against Mel Gibson's film eight years ago.
And then, we're subjected to idiot analyses that conclude that the aim of the «conspiracy», two months before the American elections, was to weaken Barack Obama, reputed to be less "Zionist" than his rival.
Up until the day when we all learn that Sam Bacile does not exist.
That the author of this ham-handed -- and ignominious -- film is not a Jew at all, any more than he is an Israeli, but a Copt.
That the fifty or one hundred Jewish donors do not exist any more than Sam Bacile does, since the endeavors of the man who made the film were backed by a handful of Christian fundamentalists, probably aided by a small-time swindler and an author of porno films.
In short, the press wakes up from its forty-eight hours of folly to discover that it has repeated, in a loop and without the least verification, the tale of a manipulator, a tissue of lies, a montage, and disseminated the echo of the story all over the planet.
The problem is, the deed is done.
And experience proves that manipulations of this kind, if not rapidly and resoundingly demolished, have a shelf life that, like the light from dead stars, far outlives their factual denunciation.
So, where is the demolition?
Where are the mea culpas, the excuses that should be as spectacular as the launching of the rumor was?
Where is the Associated Press's lead story that attempts to defuse the manipulation with an account of how the journalists of the agency, followed by the press the world over, allowed themselves to be led into this trap with such incredible guilelessness?
And the media that specialize in counter-investigation, counter-information, and fact checking? What are they waiting for to provide us with a blow-by-blow of these hours of collective intoxication in which everyone plunged, head first, into a story worthy of the crudest chapter of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion"?
When the embassy fires will have died down there will remain the other fire, that of the spirits, invisible, insidious, and, if we do not act quickly, all the more devastating.
And that is why putting out this other fire, allowed to spread by the unquestioning acceptance of this myth of the Israeli-American filmmaker financed by these fifty or a hundred imagined Jews, is, today, an urgent task for those who are charged with the responsibility of informing the public and edifying its conscience.