Considering the sensitive nature of the topic, I’d like to say that the views expressed here are my own, and do not represent those of the company as a whole.
No doubt many of you have already seen the video embedded above. Purported to be a trailer for a full length film entitled The Innocence of Muslims, the 14 minute video is one of the funniest and most preposterous things I’ve seen on the internet in quite some time. At least, it would be if it hadn’t allegedly been touted by murderers as the impetus for the killing of four American citizens in Libya following its translation to Arabic and dissertation through Libyan news networks. Whereas in the past the deplorable and inexcusable retribution of Islamic extremists for “artistic” work has come down on artists who were willing to stand by their legitimate beliefs (think about the murder of activist director Theo van Gogh in 2004 by an extremist who was incensed by van Gogh’s transcription of Koran verses onto a woman’s naked body), this terrible occurrence is made all the worse for two reasons: the punishment was dealt to innocent Americans who had absolutely nothing to do with the film, and also the film – as far as I can see – is a troll. It’s not real, and it was never meant to be.
Over the past decade we’ve been repeatedly exposed the the dangers of so-called trolling, which has resulted in death (usually by suicide) more times than you would think. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen it play out on such a global scale as this. While his motives and indeed his identity remain anonymous (a favorite, and essentially necessary trait of the best trolls), the director “Sam Bacile” – a name quickly and obviously revealed as false – is a devious manipulator, and a prankster who’s imbecilic work has unfortunately resulted in grave consequences. We’ve all seen a lot of (or at least a few) anti-Muslim propaganda videos, and propaganda videos in general on the internet. Oftentimes they are ridiculous, sometimes insane, and always full of lies or the manipulation of fact. They get passed around for that reason. But I put forth that never have I seen one that’s this stupid, this unstructured, and – to be honest – completely lacking in bite. For all their problems, they usually manage to be convincing within their own incredibly tiny world. Meaning, they’re perfect for further incensing people who already believe in them, or are gullible. This does not even vaguely feel like that.
The director claims that 5 million dollars was spent on a feature length version of this film, but I highly doubt that has ever, or will ever exist. I also highly doubt that he had the “100 Jewish Donors” that he claims, or any at all, for one very important reason: this movie is not what it claims to be. If you watch carefully (well, not even that carefully) it’s clear that none of the actors or people involved are aware that they’re making a video about Mohammed. Perhaps only the editor – and the one person who supplies all the over-dubbing, presumably Mr. “Bacile” – does. At no point is any reference to Mohammed or Islam made by an actual actor. In each instance their voice is dubbed, and their lines are visibly altered from what their lips are saying. Nor do any of the “vaguely Arab” facts or names that the actors spout have anything to do with Islam or the Koran. The people were participating in a dumb video, yes, and one that involved unfortunate “brown-face” makeup. But I really think they were not aware they were making an anti-Islam/Mohammed screed. Part of the reason I believe this is that I happen to, very vaguely, know someone who is in this video.
Believe me, I was as shocked as anyone this morning as I watched it, wondering to myself “who would ever agree to be in this?”, when I saw the face of someone I’m familiar with from my film school days. He was, and I suppose is, a small-time actor who would very kindly work in students’ movies for free. I don’t know him particularly well, but enough to know that he’s an extremely personable, kind, almost granola-y guy who – while he’s dabbled in a few “offensive” things like Troma pictures – I very highly doubt would participate in a feature length mocking of an entire religion. So with these things in mind – the deception of the cast and crew, the fake name, the patently false boasts about origin and funding, the inherent ridiculousness of the video – I reach the question: who exactly is this trolling? Unfortunately, I’m starting to suspect that this video may come from someone who was actually attempting to make fun of these over the top conspiracy/anti-Muslim videos, not actually make one with more grave consequences than any before.
Someone who didn’t have the vitriol or the balls to tell his collaborators what they were actually working on, probably because he didn’t believe in it him or herself (though this video screams “idiot male”). Would I be stunned if this was devised as a Tim & Eric aping avant garde satire designed to attract the attention of people like Florida pastor Terry Jones (oh you remember, the fucktard who burns Korans), who – how shocking – has been running his idiot mouth in support of it all day? So we could all laugh at him for touting such swill? Maybe not.
The only kind of true, real, immense asshole who would really have the beliefs to make something like this legitimately would love to stand by it. So isn’t it a little suspect that “Sam Bacile” is an absolute ghost? What other reason could he have for trying to distance himself from it so intensely – after bragging in the past – other than that horrible, irrevocable realization that the joke had gone too far. I’m not Sherlock Holmes. I’m not even Encyclopedia Brown. I could be wrong. In some ways I hope I am, though I guess it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, the issue is that 4 innocent Americans were killed by ignorant people (or person) who have a fundamentally broken rubric for reacting to art or discourse or even ridicule.
But the one way to prevent it from happening again is to carefully examine the things that lead to it, no matter how stupid they may appear. This is not about shifting blame or depriving free speech. It’s about being conscientious of actions in the face of extreme circumstances. Especially in this case, considering the way I believe the person behind the video may have manipulated others into supporting them. I would never, ever tell someone not to walk, unless they were standing in the middle of a minefield. I’m sure a lot of hate is being spouted by liberals (in who’s ranks I count myself) towards the apparent hyper-conservative bigots behind this. Watch out though. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it bounced back.- Whole Milk