Political Animal


September 13, 2012 5:44 PM The Phantom Director

By Ed Kilgore

This story has been coming into focus for at least a day (with considerable help from Sarah Posner and Jeffrey Goldberg), but now the FBI is confirming that the supposed California Israeli-American “Sam Bacile” who was said to be responsible for the nasty video pastiche Innocence of the Muslims doesn’t exist, and the name appears to be a pseudonym for a Coptic Christian living in California, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula. This dude has a rap sheet that includes a federal bank fraud conviction and a string of aliases. His compadres in making the “movie” appear to be an another Copt living in America, who claims he wasn’t aware of passages that went beyond documenting persecution of his coreligionists, and a shady but talkative California wingnut who’s spent a lot of time leading “protests” at mosques, Mormon temples and abortion clinics. Then, of course, there’s the wonderful Terry Jones, the Koran-torching Florida cleric who claims not to have played any role in the flick’s production, but promoted it probably more than anyone other than Middle Easter radical Islamists.

I’m sure a lot of Jews are relieved to be freed of association with “Sam Bacile,” and from the laughable claim that this piece of crap video was produced via multi-million-dollar Jewish financing. But this is a real problem for Copts, who face real persecution in Egypt. Coptic leaders there and in the U.S. have hastened to condemn the anti-Islamic slurs.

The whole mess is a reminder of how easy it is to cause big trouble with bigotry in the YouTube era. Past famed examples of troublesome anti-Islamic “insults” (e.g., Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and the Danish cartoons of the Prophet) were published by respectable outlets and actually read by their intended audiences. But it’s not clear whether much of anyone saw the amateur idiocy of Innocence of the Muslims before the trailer was translated into Arabic and sent like a germ warfare missile onto computer screens in the Middle East.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Th on September 13, 2012 5:54 PM:

    Sam Bacile said he had nothing to do with the movie. He said it was his brother Im.

    (sorry, couldn't resist)

  • davidp on September 13, 2012 5:58 PM:

    The whole affair was so tailor-made to fit the narrative of 2012 as a re-run of 1980, one really wonders whether there isn't some hidden hand behind the making and publicizing of the film. A nice little crisis in the Middle East to make Obama look weak; what could be more convenient?

  • Bob M on September 13, 2012 6:00 PM:

    I wish the world were that intelligent, David.

  • c u n d gulag on September 13, 2012 6:05 PM:

    There is no, none, zero, zilch, notta, 0, difference between some Muslim fanatic and a Christian one - sans, maybe, the suicide angle.
    Though, a lot of our Christian "warriors" "know" that if they die in the cause of Christianity, their spirits will be automatically raised to Heaven, to sit beside Jesus and the Father.

    I'm sick to death of religious idiocy and fanatisism.

    I really don't understand why people of one religion can't leave people of other religions the fuck alone.
    But, then, I'm from the rational world, so how could I possibly understand?

    It seems to me, that these people argue about Owners Manuals.

    It's as if a Ford owner and a Chevy owner, both wanting to get to the same destination (Heaven), want to kill one another because they think their Owners Manuals, and the way their ride will get them to their destination, is inarguably superior - and that to think otherwise, is punishable by death.

    Look, religious followers of the Bible, the Koran, etc. - you have fine, literate owners manuals for your religious cars.
    Why can't you religious morons just leave one another to enjoy your life's ride in the car of choice?
    You don't see Ford owners wanting to annihilate Chevy owners off of the Earth.

    But, like I said, I'm a member of the rational community, so what the fuck do I know?

    I'd say let them kill each other off, but they hate us non-believers as much as one another - and would probably gang-up together to get rid of us first, before they decide to take out one another.

    Religion is an opiate that causes masses of people to behave completely irrationally, and against their best interests.

    Religion and race, are the ultimate "wedge issues."

  • Mimikatz on September 13, 2012 6:11 PM:

    The best and most thorough analysis is by Juan Cole at http://www.juancole.com/2012/09/romney-jumps-the-shark-libya-egypt-and-the-butterfly-effect.html

    He really lays it all out, who is involved in the film, and then in the protests. A must-read.

  • j on September 13, 2012 6:11 PM:

    Yeah, how about that Mountain Meadow massacre thing, perhaps Willard should issue us an apology on behalf of all mormons.

  • schtick on September 13, 2012 7:22 PM:

    Well, let's stop letting them hide here in the US. Let's deport them to say.....Egypt or maybe Libya.

  • Celui on September 13, 2012 8:00 PM:

    Because the idiot fringes of many religions do, in fact, act irresponsibly and with intentional damages, hiding their exclusionary practices in the guise of Scripture, it's important right now to remind ourselves that for many who consider themselves 'believers' in their respective religion's teachings, the greater good is the goal of their belief system. This obviates killing, of course, and it demands that we use political tools such as the budget as means of responsible stewardship of this world's resources for the betterment of all peoples. I can't say that I ever agreed with the 'hostage believer' model, say the unfortunate Asian 'Rice Christians' who 'converted' to Christianity in the face of starvation. Too many of us have forgotten the Sermon on the Mount or comparable teachings in the other Abrahamic religions, and have become 'me-first' believers. I am not promised everything for which I might pray; but, maybe I should be praying for strength to find ways to help my fellow man. My own 'brand' of Christianity has as its corporate identifier the phrase: "God's Work, Our Hands." Our hands don't carry arms and bombs, they carry food and find ways to help others heal. Our hands don't exclude others who may be different from us; our hands reach out to all, regardless of race, sexual orientation, age, educational background, and economic resources. Our hands look for ways to influence decision-makers to open doors, not close them; to maintain the social safety net that protects the health of the elderly, the young, women and anyone else who may need assistance. Rather than looking for ways to turn people out on their own, 'Our Hands' are called to reach out and take hold of others.

  • g on September 13, 2012 8:56 PM:

    There's a story somewhere (maybe will find later) that the filmmakers booked a rental theatre in Hollywood to screen the film, and had posters printed in Arabic to advertise. In addition to "The Innocence of Muslims" as a name, they also considered "The Innocence of Bin Laden." The screening was apparently cancelled.

    This makes it more sinister, because one can imagine marketing to Muslims a film with a name that seems sympathetic, only to insult a theatre full of people.

    Slimy people, really. And now putting the Coptic community in Egypt in jeopardy.

  • Northzax on September 13, 2012 9:11 PM:

    People who take freedom of speech, with no regard for the easily foreseen consequences (or even worse, embrace them). What the rest of the world has to deal with is a population that has neer experienced this freedom. We can look at this film (has anyone actually watched it? I certainly haven't) and say 'well gee, this guy is a horse's rear end.' and isolate all the evil that comes with Internet freedom and free speech from the overwhelming mediocrity and the occasional great. Someone who has spent their entire life living in a world where media is controlled by the government looks at this and says 'if this movie got made, and published obviously the government supports it' because there's no other way. We take it for granted that freedom of speech and the press is a basic right. We don't know how lucky we are.

  • TCinLA on September 13, 2012 9:29 PM:

    This news is further confirmation that this is looking like an Israeli false flag disinformation set-up.

    Consider that in May, Obama first told the Israelis publicly that the U.S. was going to stop any attacks on Iran, and then went on to impose stiff provisions against trade with Iran - not what Netanyahu wanted (remember that it is the right wing politicos in Israel that want this war with Iran - the Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces, the heads of Mossad and Shin Bet, and their predecessors, are all opposed, as are the Israeli people according to polls. Netanyahu and the political right wing want this despite all that).

    In June Netanyahu makes noises implying he wants to find a way to intervene in the American elections, and rumors start to fly about an Israeli "fall surprise" which most people think would be a unilateral strike on Iran.

    Then (coincidentally) in July, the video of this "movie" is posted on YouTube but nobody pays attention to it.

    Then(coincidentally) in late August, General Casey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells the Netanyahu government that the U.S. will not be "complicit" in an Israeli strike against Iran. Netanyahu and the rest of the Israeli right wing are "outraged" that he uses that word, which implies that what they are doing is criminal.

    And then (coincidentally) a week later an Arabic version of the movie goes up on YouTube.

    And then (coincidentally) an "obscure" Coptic Christian in the US publicizes it and (coincidentally) an "obscure" Islamic fundamentalist imam "finds" it and publicizes it in Egypt and Libya.

    Consider that almost all Israeli agents that were recruited in Egypt in the days of Nasser, Sadat, etc., prior to the Camp David agreements were Copts. Consider the that this guy Nakoula Basseley Nakoula has a proven reputation as a con artist and that he is associated with another Islamophobe Copt on the east coast who is supposed to have e-mailed the Arabic version to journalists in Egypt. Also that this Christain Islamophobe Klein is also involved, along with Terry Jones. All marginal "haters" who would love the opportunity to do this but none have the kind of history that would make one think they're organized enough to plan and carry out such a project.

    As I writer, I can tell you that when you're writing fiction, if you use a second coincidence past the first that gets the story going, critics tell you your writing is weak. How many coincidences are there above??

    Let's also recall that the Israelis have regularly manipulated both Christian and Islamic fundamentalists (the Mossad founded Hamas in the 70s to discredit the PLO, among others; there is the regular cultivation of the "Christian Zionists" who believe Armageddon is coming) for decades.

    And let us pay attention to the question: whose interests are served? If the US ends up with bad relations with the new government in Egypt, even closes off giving aid to them, and also distrusts the Libyans, plus the American right wing gets a big reason to bash Obama on foreign policy (defending Israel above all others and such), whose interests are served by all that??? I submit this event is Netanyahu's "fall surprise."

    The deaths in Benghazi can't be laid at any pre-planner's feet, but when one plays with matches and people are later killed in the fire, lack of intent is not a defense.

    If you doubt all this, Google "The Lavon Affair" - this is just like that.

  • trex on September 13, 2012 10:30 PM:


    Nice analysis. I'm inclined to agree your scenario is not unlikely. Just ask: who benefits from this film and the ensuing mayhem. It sure as hell isnt the Copt community as the filmmaker would have you believe, as they are now more at risk than ever as the ostensible perpetrators of incendiary propaganda.

    The only potential benefits accrue to the right-wing in this country and the right-wing in Israel.

  • boatboy_srq on September 14, 2012 9:34 AM:

    @c u n d gulag on September 13, 2012 6:05 PM:

    There is one critical difference between Muslim fanatics and Xtian wingnuts (especially US Xtian wingnuts). The Muslim isn't all that afraid for his/her personal safety, and martyrdom, while extreme, is an acceptable end.

    The Xtians, in contrast, have zero problems getting other people killed - but suggest that they so much as shut their mouths from time to time and they're so oppressed by that restraint that it's an affront to their "faith" and their existence. There's absolutely no willingness to incur a personal cost for their words and actions. And causing deaths and mayhem elsewhere isn't tragic: it's confirmation of their preconceptions, and casus belli for all-out offensive against the anti-Xtian as a prerequisite for Teh End Tyme.

    Put simply, Xtian = wanker.

    @TCinLA: Any chance that we can find the fingerprints of Likud/Mossad in this mess that you suggest are there? If 2012 ends with a BHO win and a Bibi no-confidence vote 2013 might just be that little bit quieter - plus tarring the GOP with the Likud-tail-wagging-the-GOP-dog brush would make those events just that bit sweeter.