The Guilt Of Inciters

Posted September 14th, 2012 at 3:17 pm (UTC-4)

The “Innocence of Muslims” And The Spread Of Internet Rumor

Doug Bernard | Washington DC

Once again, the world is learning the hard way that in the tinderbox of religion and politics, the Internet can be gasoline.

This week’s shocking attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and the subsequent killing of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. embassy personnel, has left the world a more confused and angry place. For the moment, protests that began in Egypt are spreading to U.S. embassies around the world; all seemingly over a 14 minute video that claims to be excerpts from a film called “The Innocence of Muslims.”

Bangladeshi Muslims burning a U.S. flag during a protest in Dhaka, against the film “Innocence of Muslims.” (AP Photo/A.M.Ahad)

Fingers of blame are being pointed in all sorts of directions; among them are those aimed squarely at the Internet and social networking sites for hosting clips of the “movie” that has hurt and angered so many Muslims, and then speeding its spread through social media. It’s just a fact of life now that, given the right moment, a bit of video that has languished in obscurity for months can rocket through the web to millions of people within an hour or two – hardly enough time to even know what it is or where it came from, let alone what it means.

Yet the Internet is also helping to answer those questions, however slowly it’s coming. And much of what people thought they knew about “Innocence of Muslims” simply isn’t true at all.

The producer, a man who called himself Sam Bacile, is apparently Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a bank fraud convict who has used at least a dozen false IDs in the past. Nakoula, as Bacile, told the Wall Street Journal that he was an Israel real estate agent who had gone into hiding in the Middle East. It turns out that Nakoula, whose identity has been confirmed by federal authorities, is a 55-year-old Egyptian-American who in 1997 was convicted of intent to manufacture methamphetamine. He resides in Southern California and is said to be in his house, surrounded by a platoon of reporters.

The original casting call for “Innocence of Muslims” was for a film then titled “Desert Warrior” and billed as a “historical desert drama set in the Middle East.” Its director is said by crew to have been beyond incompetent; its script changed daily but never had a word to say about Islam or the prophet. Actors such as Cindy Lee Garcia say Bacile lied to them about the film’s intent – and then poorly dubbed over much of their original dialogue with inflammatory dialogue (analysts at On The Media have documented many of these clumsy dubs, and what the actors were actually saying.)

“Bacile” told the AP he raised $5 million dollars for the movie from Jewish donors, but anyone who has seen even 30 seconds of the shooting on YouTube can attest that it looks like it cost $5. Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center doubts both the price tag and the involvement of any Jewish contributors. “The fact someone out there ascribed this to Jews is classic anti-Semitic blood libel,” he says.

Even calling it a movie feels like an untruth. The Los Angeles Times reports that “Innocence” played just once earlier this year in a seedy theater on Hollywood Boulevard to an audience of less than 10. “The acting was amateurish, the dialogue clunky and the costumes no better than those sold for Halloween,” write Phil Willon and Rebecca Keegan.

They’re being generous, judging by the two clips posted on July 2 by YouTube user “sambacile.” As of Tuesday Sept. 12th, the video only had generated 55,000 views (rising to 2,600,000 by Friday.) Although production values vary from nation to nation, its hard to imagine anyone connected to the web could view them as anything other than amateur nonsense. “The movie is disgusting, offensive, and clearly intended for no other reason than to anger people,” writes Libyan journalist Sarah Abdurrahman. “It is unfortunate that there were some out there who took the bait.”

In short, nearly everything about “Innocence” looks like a fraud, and one apparently designed solely to stir up as much hurt and anger as possible. Mission accomplished. The Internet undeniably has helped spread that outrage with lightning speed to many more millions that might ever before have heard about it, much less actually viewed it. However, the web is now also helping to shine a light on that fraud, and dispel as many of the rumors as possible, for those willing to listen.

As we’ve noted many times before, the Internet by itself is neither good nor evil; it merely amplifies the tendencies and qualities of those using it.

Next week, we hope to look deeper into the role and responsibilities of social media in playing up, or knocking down events such as this.



10 responses to “The Guilt Of Inciters”

  1. […] …'Innocence Of Muslims' Filmmaker Could Go To Prison For Using The InternetLAistThe Guilt Of IncitersVoice of America (blog)'Islam is a cancer – period': How 'blasphemous' internet […]

  2. Malek Muhammad Towghi (Baluch) says:

    This trash and vulgar film will be another tool in the hands of the ultra ‘Politically Correct’, particularly of the academia, to suppress genuine and factual critique of Islam.

  3. anonamous says:

    Unfortunate that such a terrible excuse for opposition would be accepted as an affront to the religion of Islam. It proves that certain demographics are only looking for an excuse to be violent. Islam is not the cancer, freedom of speech is not the cancer. Lust for violence is the cancer, which transcends all levels of media, culture and religion.

    Let’s focus on the real problem at hand, ‘Ignorance of the human race.’

  4. eric orenge says:

    its so sad that people take to streets without checking out the film and understand what it all about…i think it is time people stop relying on internet propagated incitements from people who have mean agenda’s in mind.

  5. Kevin says:

    Intelligent Muslims know better than to condemn America for this film. They know that anyone can produce anything and post it on the internet and not to blame an entire country for something one independent thinking, ignorant resident produces. The film is garbage and should just be ignored. The protesters in the Muslim world know it’s garbage and choose to destroy and assault and even murder. Their reactions to it the film shows they choose to be easily motivated by lies. They know better.

  6. Ali, Sarfaraz says:

    One way of looking at things is to put them vice-versa i.e if same was been said about my beloved, how would had I felt that (while in position to react duly).
    I feel Western nations are unduly taking advantage of their upper hand at this juncture of history by adopting a currishing, snarling and rude behaviour, that itself indicate decline of those nations. Peace be upon Muhammad and on all His Messengers.
    Ali, Sarfaraz

  7. I am sorry for what happened to the American ambassador to Libya.
    but I also understand why they want to do it all.
    I just like them, I’m so angry and resentful.
    but I realize that anger can not solve anything.

    dhika pearl
    232 secondary school jakarta

  8. I am sorry for what happened to the American ambassador to Libya.
    but I also understand why they want to do it all.
    I just like them, I’m so angry and resentful.
    but I realize that anger can not solve anything.

    dhika mutiara
    232 secondary school jakarta

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