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Election 2012: Image World (6)

A. D. Coleman, 2010. Photograph copyright by Willie Chu.

 Trailer Trash

As I pointed out at the conclusion of my previous post about the suddenly infamous movie trailer Innocence of Muslims, the sponsorship, funding, production, and initial distribution of this incendiary garbage can be traced easily and inarguably to right-wing evangelical Christian operatives here in the U.S.

In other words, the Republic Party’s base, which Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan courted so ardently and now represent, has direct responsibility for the consequent Muslim protests now raging around the world over this short film. Yet, insofar as I can determine, nowhere in the media coverage of all this has anyone addressed these connections at any length. You read it here first. (Minor exception: T. J. Walker hinted at it in a single sentence on September 15.)

Mitt Romney, ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos, 9-14-12, screen shot.

Mitt Romney, ABC News interview with George Stephanopoulos, 9-14-12, screen shot.

Romney’s hypocrisy in this situation knows no bounds. After falsely accusing Obama of “apologizing” for the film, on September 14 Romney condemned the film (which he claims not to have seen), in an interview with George Stephanopoulos for ABC News, in terms almost identical to those Obama and the U.S. consulate in Libya used — all the while asserting the film’s right to protection as free speech, but without acknowledging its genesis in his base.

Since the religious right has provided ardent support for censorship of writing, art, music, and other expression that they consider variously immoral and/or anti-Christian, their two-faced endorsement of free expression through their current mouthpiece, Romney, doesn’t represent any defense of democratic values, just a cherry-picking of situations in which they consider those values to apply. Goring someone else’s ox sits fine with them, so long as their own remains untouched.

“Innocence of Muslims” (2012), screenshot.

“Innocence of Muslims” (2012), screenshot.

Once the involvement of wingnut Republicans in this calculated provocation becomes known, Romney can kiss his shot at the Oval Office goodbye. So he’s hoping the media keep so busy with the drama of the unfolding events that they don’t look into the origins of this crisis, or notice the links to Romney’s supporters.

The Obama campaign has kept mum on that score. I suspect they’re holding it in reserve, waiting for the press corps to break the story and the blogosphere to run with it. If that doesn’t happen, they can play it as an ace in the hole.

Let’s see if it comes up during the imminent Biden-Ryan vice-presidential debate and/or the second and third Obama-Romney debates, all of which will engage with foreign-policy issues.

Is That All There Is?

A question arises: Does a complete feature-length version of the film Innocence of Muslims actually exist? Mark Basseley Youssef — current legal name of the film’s producer and author of its script — claimed originally to have raised $5 million for this venture (from “100 Jewish donors,”) but I found it impossible to imagine spending $5 million on this turkey — certainly not on the 14-minute trailer, which constitutes all anyone’s ever seen of the production.

Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, screenshot, September 1, 2012.

Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, screenshot, September 1, 2012.

I ask because Innocence of Muslims has now knocked Mitt Romney on the 47 Percent out of first place on my short list of Most Important Films of the 2012 Election Campaign. The Romney documentary took the lead over the Dirty-Harry-as-Grumpy-Gramps short that Jon Stewart titled The Old Man and the Seat (despite the fact that Clint Eastwood was a sentimental favorite) because, disseminated as it was by the Republicans, it merely made Romney and the Republic Party look inept at staging their own micromanaged convention.

Mitt Romney, still from fundraiser video 5-15-12, screenshot.

Mitt Romney, still from fundraiser video 5-15-12, screenshot.

The Eastwood cameo immediately fell to second place with the release of the Romney epic. Mitt Romney on the 47 Percent has already had a significant impact on Romney’s campaign for the White House. It may never be possible to prove which of his many unfavorable aspects (or which combination thereof) denied him the presidency, but this low-budget citizen-journalism video will almost certainly be a contender.

However, while that has global ramifications, it pales by comparison with Innocence of Muslims, which, even as a trailer, has cost upwards of 50 lives, countless injuries, and millions of dollars in trashed property, and caused a geopolitical crisis. Its audience reach far exceeds that of the other films nominated, and discussion of it — including critical response thereto — has far surpassed that devoted to the second- and third-place flicks combined. No question that it’s earned its current seat at the top.

"Innocence of Muslims" (2012), screenshot.

“Innocence of Muslims” (2012), screenshot.

Indeed, production of a completed version, or distribution thereof, now seems unnecessary, and could even prove counterproductive. According to a story in The Hollywood Reporter, when it screened at the Vine Theatre in Hollywood this past summer under the title The Innocence of Bin Laden, “a theater employee told the Los Angeles Times no one attended the screening, nor did the employee watch the movie.” The YouTube video called “Innocence of Muslims 74 Min” consists of an opening montage of news footage from the Middle East, followed by the same 14 minutes in the trailer looped over and over. Is that what they showed for the debut?

“Innocence of Muslims” (2012), screenshot.

“Innocence of Muslims” (2012), screenshot.

None of the actors or crew involved in the production have confirmed ever laying eyes on a completed film. If it never got made, that’s only the first of many falsehoods promulgated by its maker, a man of many aliases and subterfuges.

Youssef, operating under one of his multiple pseudonyms, “Sam Bacile,” initially described himself as an Israeli Jew living in California, and claimed to have funded the film’s production with donations from 100 Jews. Turns out, according to an evangelical Christian who served as consultant on the film, that no one involved is Israeli or Jewish — they’re all naturalized Americans from the Middle East, some of them emigré Copts, the “vast majority” evangelicals. (See Jeffrey Goldberg’s September 12, 2012 report in The Atlantic.)

Nice touch, that, blaming this on Jews; that’s the true Christian spirit moving within Youssef.

Neil Griffith, Defending the Innocence of Muslims (2012), screenshot.

Neil Griffith, Defending the Innocence of Muslims (2012), screenshot.

With all this said, I absolutely oppose removal of this video from YouTube, or any other censorship thereof. That would send entirely the wrong message. Canadian Neil Griffith, A/K/A/ Catboy, has produced an excellent video editorial on that very subject, “Defending the Innocence of Muslims,” with which I concur entirely. (Special guest appearance therein by the avatar of Sir Winston Churchill. Recommended. It also has better production values than Innocence of Muslims.)

On top of which, what would be the point of blocking it on YouTube? We can rest assured that so many people have downloaded copies that banning it there will merely start an endless game of internet whack-a-mole. And not just in the west. The Muslim world has contributed more to this film’s publicity and distribution than any western entity; they have a vested interested in keeping it available as a reliable fan for the flames. They’ve made it an international sensation; now we all have to get used to it, and get over it. Or not, as the case may be.

For an index of links to all posts related to this story, click here.

This post supported by a donation from the Estate of Lyle Bongé.

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