The Chinese (allegedly) have a curse: May you live in interesting times.

These are interesting times.

It is hard to overstate the significance of what it means when the free exercise of our First Amendment rights while not breaking any laws leads to this:

A Southern California filmmaker linked to an anti-Islamic movie inflaming protests across the Middle East was interviewed by federal probation officers at a Los Angeles sheriff’s station but was not arrested or detained, authorities said early Saturday.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was interviewed at the station in his hometown of Cerritos, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Don Walker said.

Federal officials have said they were investigating the activities of Nakoula, who has been convicted of financial crimes. If the probation department determines Nakoula violated terms of his release, a judge could send him back to prison.

Let’s recap: The man made a film.  He posted it to Youtube.  People across the ocean used it as a pretext for rioting and murder that were anyway preplanned.  Yet the Obama Administration actually, really, seriously asked Google to have the video taken down (request thankfully denied).  Then the feds sent goons to interrogate the man, hoping to find some technical grounds on which to punish him for interrupting the president’s campaign narrative.

Now let’s climb into the Wayback Machine to see how a filmmaker from another era, whose output provoked murderous violence in this country, was treated by the government.

In March 1991, an amateur filmmaker testing out his new video camera captured the beating by several LAPD officers of a man we’d later come to know as Rodney King.  The filmmaker’s name was George Holiday.

The next morning, he called police and tried to find out what the black guy had done to be beaten so badly. Cops refused to say anything.

Shaken by what he’d witnessed, Holliday felt someone should know about it.

That Monday morning, he called KTLA-TV. He told them what he had and he offered to bring the tape over that afternoon.

Holiday’s footage became the first viral video.

It led to the indictments and trial of the cops involved.  A year later, when they were acquitted, citizens inflamed by the film that they’d seen dozens of times immediately began turning Los Angeles into a war zone.  Over the next six days of rioting, 53 people were killed and more than 2,000 were hurt.  Property damage totaled hundreds of millions of dollars.

And never did the DOJ or FBI show up at Holiday’s door.  For that matter, neither did the LAPD.

Of course, that was 20 years ago.  When we still had a First Amendment.

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula

The “filmmaker” with L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies. Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times