The latest in a long line of vigilante attacks in retaliation for a perceived slight to the Ummah resulted in the deaths of several American diplomats, including the American Ambassador to Libya. The spark that triggered this latest fire is an amateur video linked to the provocative American Christian Minister who gained notoriety when he threatened to burn a copy of Quran. After seeing scenes from the offensive video, rioters in Egypt and Libya stormed the American embassies in their countries. The Afghan Taliban has called on militants to take revenge for the video.
I can’t speak to how offensive the video is since I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen it because I’m not interested in watching offensive videos, so I don’t go looking for them. So my first question when hearing this news was, how did these rioters know what was in this video? Did the American embassies broadcast it in those countries? Of course, they didn’t. People became enraged after “a scene from the film was also was broadcast on the Egyptian television channel Al-Nas”. Not only that, but it was never even aired in the US.
The New York Times reported that the film excerpt had drawn little attention since being posted in July, but was picked up after a version dubbed into Arabic was put online last week.
Bacile said the film was produced in English and he doesn’t know who dubbed it in Arabic. The full work has been shown once, to a mostly empty cinema in Hollywood earlier this year, he said.
I was stunned when I read this report. If the film was so offensive, why did they dub it in Arabic and broadcast scenes from it? The more I read about the situation, the less makes sense. According to news reports:
For several days, Egyptian media have been reporting on the video, playing some excerpts from it…with ultraconservative clerics going on air to denounce it.
If these ultraconservative clerics were so offended by the video, why did they keep showing it over and over? This also raises some interesting questions, doesn’t it? If attacking an embassy is justified for airing videos that defame the Prophet (PBUH), should the devout and faithful defenders attack the Egyptian embassies? Should they be attacking these clerics for projecting the defamatory videos? Without them, nobody would have had their religious sentiments hurt.
It also raises the question of what these clerics hope to gain from showing this video and inciting anti-American anger. Could it be the case that they are using the video to provoke anti-American sentiments so that their own power is strengthened? How convenient that this Israeli Jewish American businessman has handed them such an offensive video to do it!
Oh, and just who is this Israeli filmmaker? Well, other than a couple of phone calls, there seems to be no trace of this man.
Consider all the contradictions: small ones, true, like in one account he is 52 and in another he is 56. To the AP he is “a California real estate developer who identifies himself as an Israeli Jew” and to the Times of Israel he is “Jewish and familiar with the region.” And what about that bit at the end of the statement to the Times of Israel—that “even Jesus” should be “in front of the judge”? That sounds like someone who is trying to provoke more than just Muslims. A lot of things don’t add up here about the claimed identity of the filmmaker.
UPDATE: A detail I failed to note earlier this morning from the AP story: “Israeli officials said they had not heard of him and there was no record of him being a citizen. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not permitted to share personal information with the media.”
As the mystery unfolded, reporter Laura Rozen checked the California real estate licensing records and found no trace of anyone named ‘Bacile’.
An offensive video appears from nowhere produced by a mysterious man that nobody can find and ends up dubbed in Arabic and shown on Egyptian TV by ultraconservative clerics who use it to stoke anti-American sentiments among the masses. How bloody convenient.
UPDATE: Another journalist trying to locate the mysterious ‘Sam Bacile’ uncovers even more…
As part of my search for more information about Sam Bacile, the alleged producer of the now-infamous anti-Muhammad film trailer “The Innocence of Muslims,” I just called a man named Steve Klein — a self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, California (whose actual business, he said, is in selling “hard-to-place home insurance”), who has been described in multiple media accounts as a consultant to the film.
He said the man who identified himself as Bacile asked him to help make the anti-Muhammad film. When I asked him to describe Bacile, he said: “I don’t know that much about him. I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He’s not Israeli, no. I can you tell this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved, Terry Jones (the radical Christian Quran-burning pastor) is not involved. His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.“
UPDATE 2: Professional media producer Sarah Abdurrahman found that the audio track was manipulated.
If you watch closely, you can see that when the actors are reading parts of the script that do not contain Islam-specific language, the audio from the sound stage is used (the audio that was recorded as the actors were simultaneously being filmed). But anytime the actors are referring to something specific to the religion (the Prophet Muhammed, the Quran, etc.) the audio recorded during filming is replaced with a poorly executed post-production dub. And if you look EVEN closer, you can see that the actors’ mouths are saying something other than what the dub is saying.
UPDATE 3: The phone number used by the person claiming to be ‘Sam Bacile’ was traced to an Egyptian man living in the US named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. The phone number was originally given by another Egyptian man named Morris Sadek.
UPDATE 4: Al Jazeera reports that the film was promoted on Egyptian TV by hardline host Khaled Abdallah on 8th Sept. Posted on YouTube 9th Sept.
The Arabic version of the trailer received heavy media coverage in Egypt last week, including by controversial hardline TV host Khaled Abdallah, who reported on the film on September 8.
A clip of the show was posted to YouTube on September 9, where it has received almost 400,000.