The protests are continuing to spread around the world, ostensibly over not an anti-Muslim movie, but the trailer for an anti-Muslim movie, that it’s not even clear very many people actually saw. That’s just one thing about this whole episode that bothers me…
Some of the questions disquieting my mind:
1. Who paid protesters to go into the streets in Egypt, and were there other paid protesters elsewhere?
If the eruptions of rage over an obscure movie seemed over the top to you, too, I’m glad I’m not alone. It’s not just that I don’t think Muslims are that reflexively irrational (and I don’t) — the protests also really seem kind of ginned up somehow. After all, the trailer was posted two months ago and only on September 11, people figured out it was there, based on what? A Youtube webcast by 50-churchmember-having wackjob pastor Terry Jones??? Well, along comes a CNN report saying some of the protesters in Egypt admitted under questioning to having been paid to participate. By who? And to what purpose?
Which leads me to nagging question #2:
2. Why the sudden eruption two months later?
As I mentioned above, this was a trailer — not even a full film — that was uploaded two months ago. Why the sudden eruption of global outrage?
Related: a “who’s who” of the “Innocence of Muslims” movie (which we still don’t know actually exists)
3. Who paid for the movie itself, and why did they try to make it look like it was sponsored by Jewish financiers/Israelis?
Well I suppose the answer to the second part is obvious — to further inflame the Arab street. The filmmaker initially lied both about his identity, and about his religion, claiming to be an “Israeli Jew” named Sam Bacile. But this film was apparently backed by an Egyptian Coptic Christian, not a Jewish American or an Israeli at all, and the supposed “filmmaker”, Nakoula Bassely Nakoula, is a common criminal (and federal snitch) out on probation (he claims he wrote the movie in prison), who duped the actors in his film, and who is looking more and more like a bumbling flunkie, rather than a religious war-provoking zealot mastermind. I mean, what kind of derp uploads a viral video to Youtube when the terms of your parole explicitly state that you are to stay off the Internet? And this guy, who went to prison for bank fraud, clearly didn’t have the multimillion dollar connections to be in the orbit of the Media for Christ guy, fellow Copt Joseph Nassralla Abdelmasih on a daily basis. From Daily Kos:
Joseph Nassralla and Media for Christ (M4C) applied for the filming permit for Desert Warrior (per San Gabriel Valley media sources). M4C has IRS non-profit status and files 990 returns. The 2011 return shows a budget of 1 million dollars, and assets that could be used to produce the film.
The film used Hollywood forms: Casting Calls, Permits, SAG categorization. The film used modern green screen techniques, and sound editing and overdubs.
The Media for Christ (aka ATVSat.com ) website is a video blog production. Klein and others use it for their platforms.
Nassralla knows how to roll a production. There is no evidence that the incompetent Nakoula has any experience — his indictment for check kiting schemes makes clear that he was not sophisticated in avoiding detection or recognition.
Joseph Nassralla has a very deep media trail, mostly on account of his featured roles in the various Pamela Geller promoted anti-Mosque events in New York City.
So who put the money behind the film? Was it all Media for Christ? Shouldn’t somebody be looking into that?
4.Who was the intended audience for the supposed movie?
“Innocence of Muslims” was reportedly dubbed into Arabic “by someone the filmmaker doesn’t know…” but it was made in English, in Los Angeles, with American actors. A film downing the head of a religion most Americans don’t subscribe to, and sadly, which many Americans already see in a negative light, makes no sense. And if the idea was to win Muslims away from their faith, why show the trailer in some L.A. theater, rather than debut it among faithful Muslims somewhere in America? Or if it was intended for an international audience, why not dub it into Arabic right away — by someone the filmmaker DOES know? Though it allegedly cost $5 million to make, the 14-minute trailer was supposedly played ONLY ONCE, in a mostly empty theater in Los Angeles. For a movie with a million-dollar budget, there was no marketing campaign other than that. No commercials. No distribution plan that can be deciphered. What, the plan was for small-time pastor (but global provocateur) Terry Jones to do all the promotion on his Youtube channel? Really? You’d really spend that kind of money making a film with no marketing plan? It all just seems really odd…
5. What about the timing?
I hate to get all tin foil hat on you, but The River Wanders makes a damned good point in this post:
In the Fall of 2008, in the leadup to the Presidential election, approximately 100 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Petersburg Times, distributed millions of DVDs of the anti-Islam documentary, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” Altogether, including a separate direct mail campaign, 28 million DVDs flooded into swing voter states.
The newspapers, inexplicably, did not inquire into the details of who had produced the incendiary film or where the big money came from to place it in millions of big-name newspapers. The nonprofit organization named on the packaging of the DVD as the entity behind the film, the Clarion Fund, Inc., had no known history of operations and had a virtual office address in New York City with no physical presence and no employees on site. Documents submitted to the IRS to obtain its tax-exempt status show the Clarion Fund demanded total secrecy from its vendors.
The film portrayed Muslims as violent people intent on killing Westerners. The first half of the film is filled with scenes of suicide bombers and human carnage; the second half intersperses clips of Hitler, Hitler Youth, or Hitler analogies intermittently with Muslim crowds and young children with fists in the air calling for death to westerners. Once at the beginning and again at the end, the film reminds us that not all Muslims ostensibly want to kill us but quantifies the amount that do as 100 to 150 million – without any effort to support this assertion.
The newspapers that carried the DVD in the final days of a Presidential race, where one candidate was already being smeared for Muslim ties, were rebuked by outraged readers in letters to the editor and on-line forums.
And now, seven weeks before the 2012 election, an inflammatory film trailer suddenly catches heat around the Muslim world, leading to violence, and pressure on the Obama administration to react? Could all be coincidental, but shouldn’t someone be looking into that, too?
Is Mitt Romney asking these questions? And more importantly, shouldn’t he be being asked about them?
Given the fact that there are more than a few people who seem intent on ginning up anti-Muslim hysteria, who also happen to be orbiting Mitt Romney, I think it would be fair for the media to ask him whether he’s prepared to distance himself from some of these supporters given some of their apparent connection to the film. I don’t expect that question to be asked, but I think it would be fair — and in fact, it would be warranted — if someone did.
Related: Meet the fiery cleric who may have influenced the anti-Muslim film (L.A. Times)
Luckily, some news outlets are beginning to back off the “movie caused the protests” meme and report on the Benghazi mayhem in which our Ambassador and several others were killed for what they were: a coordinated attack by militants/terrorists who would have sought to do something like that even without a wack movie trailer to urge them on. But there are still a lot of questions that remain unanswered. And now al-Qaida is apparently involved. Let’s hope the FBI and the Obama administration can get to the bottom of this quickly, and put a stop to it before more people get hurt or killed.