Inciting hate with deception: Is the blasphemous film a hoax?

Ben Radford has an interesting alternative explanation to one of this week’s biggest stories:

Is Anti-Muslim Film a Hoax?

A 13-minute amateur trailer for the film “Innocence of Muslims” depicts the prophet Muhammad as a womanizer, child molester and criminal. Though the clip had been available for at least several weeks on the Internet, protests over the film last week erupted in nearly two dozen countries, and several American embassies were attacked. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed.

Much remains unknown about the anti-Muslim film and those behind it, leaving many to wonder if “Innocence of Muslims” is really a deadly hoax

So far, it certainly seems that way. It was clearly intended to fool and mislead people. Several of the actors have come forward to say that they were deceived about their participation in the film. They were told the movie they were making was a low-budget film called “Desert Warriors,” whose original script had no references to either Islam or its prophet. In a statement to CNN, the cast and crew involved said that they “are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. We are shocked by the drastic rewrites of the script and lies that were told to all involved.”

Source: Benjamin Radford

There is little to no evidence that the film actually exists! It had not been distributed, marketed, nor promoted anywhere except as this trailer. It certainly was made with “deception and malice”. While it raised the very contentious issue of freedom of speech and the right to blaspheme internationally, if the whole thing is a sham, this makes project even more despicable. It’s a disgrace it has received the reaction that it has. In that way, perhaps they achieved their goal with many nasty consequences.

CNN piece that reports the staff and crew were misled

  20 comments for “Inciting hate with deception: Is the blasphemous film a hoax?

  1. Ryuthrowsstuff
    September 19, 2012 at 3:50 PM

    According to a number of sources the film screened in California once on June 23 . That indicates that there might be a full version. But few if anyone attended the screening. It unknown exactly what was screened, but it was done under the title “Innocence of Bin Laden” so its presumable the re-dubbed version as opposed to the original material shot, but still an earlier version. Its also unlikely that a 14 minute “trailer” would be screened in isolation so we can assume it was a longer cut as well. Here’s the pertinent Wikipedia section, which lays out some details and sources I’d not come across:

    It’s been pretty well established that something screened. What exactly we won’t be sure until one of those 10 people who supposedly attended, or a theater employee speaks up. But it was unlikely to be identical to what’s on Youtube.

  2. Jessica
    September 19, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    I’m confused, are you criticizing this stupid and lame film because it offends a certain portion of radical, religious zealots who wish to kill anybody who offends their make-believe prophet?

    Am I reading this right?

  3. September 19, 2012 at 7:08 PM

    It’s not just that it offends. It’s that it was specifically made to incite.

  4. Gary
    September 19, 2012 at 9:22 PM

    Not much difference between shouting “fire!” in a theater and shouting “Mohammed sucks” in a mosque. It’s meant to cause physical injury.

  5. September 19, 2012 at 9:38 PM

    No. I just do not hold that blaspheming on purpose is a productive way to get your point across. My opinion. Especially when the result could be disastrous as it was. Besides, it was a cheap shot.

  6. September 19, 2012 at 9:40 PM

    There will be collateral damage and one must be responsible.

    But, this is not a post that really focuses on that. So, I’d appreciate that this remain civil and not turn into a discussion about anything other than the claim that this was a hoaxed film.

  7. Jim
    September 20, 2012 at 1:04 AM

    I haven’t watched the trailer, but the Koran and Hadith do depict Mohammed as being a child rapist and a misogynist, at least by my standards. I think people are more upset that he’s being portrayed at all, which is absurd. I doubt the filmmakers know anything about Islam and the title suggests they are anti-Muslims rather than anti Islam. Nevertheless, when people are destroying property and even causing physical harm over a crappy little online video, we shouldn’t be focusing on the video. And, sometimes, blasphemy is a wonderful way to make a point. Recall P.Z. Myers and the Eucharist scandal.

  8. September 20, 2012 at 7:57 AM

    The film appears to be poorly done and never had a theatrical or even straight to dvd release. It certainly wasn’t done for financial or entertainment reasons and its educational value seems to be about zero.

  9. Massachusetts
    September 20, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    My understanding is that it’s not uncommon for film makers to produce trailers without a feature film to back them up, as an exploratory and speculative venture. Investors may enjoy the trailer and back the project. Also, trailers are a genre unto themselves. They are, generally speaking, enjoyable to watch and brief, and have nostalgia value with time. For a politically motivated cause they may offer a soap box in a brief, easily distributed format that people are likely to watch due to their length. They can piggy back at film festivals perhaps, as well. It wouldn’t be surprising to me at all if this film didn’t actually exist. It’s possible the producers tried to make a longer film but didn’t have the expertise or backing to do that, so settled on a trailer to get their message out.

  10. Massachusetts
    September 20, 2012 at 9:08 AM

    When you insult Islam in this manner you know people are going to die. That much is patently obvious. It may not be illegal to do so in the US, but it’s highly immoral and unethical for that reason alone, not to mention the whole idea that it’s a good thing to be respectful and tolerant of one another.

  11. Massachusetts
    September 20, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    Sorry, I think I went over the line and ventured into the ethics. I didn’t see Sharon’s post on that. My apologies. You can delete my post if you want.

  12. Jessica
    September 20, 2012 at 10:35 AM

    Free speech means that we have to protect speech we don’t necessarily like.

    My comment will probably be deleted but I couldn’t live with myself without at least responding to your clarification.

    Anyway, given that this is a skeptic news site though — shouldn’t there be some acknowledgement that RELIGION itself is what incites people to violence and that is at the core of the problem here and not whether a stupid film trailer should or shouldn’t be made? I mean you can say the same thing about those “offensive” comics in the Netherlands or France.

    Plus, there is new information out which suggests the trailer wasn’t even responsible for the protests. Nobody knows because the issue is so complex.

    Personally, I don’t think one can pick and choose what religions are “responsible” to offend and discount (via Atheism) and which ones aren’t. Not sure if that is a widespread belief or not.

    Anyway, carry on. Thanks for the post and clarification.

  13. September 20, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    I agree with the free speech comment.

    While I may have opinions, this is a site that uses skepticism as a process. That requires evidence, not opinion. If there is evidence that “religion incites violence” then let’s have it. Instead we have a complicated cultural issue similar to do guns result in more violence, or violent media? Or candy? Or drugs? There are complicating factors that prohibit broad brush generalizations. It is not scientific to make unsupported generalizations.

    Skepticism does not equal atheism. Let me me perfectly clear abut that. And there are secular themed sites that discuss religion in such a context. This is NOT one of those. It is outside the scope.

  14. Jessica
    September 20, 2012 at 12:20 PM

    I understand what you’re saying but without the zealotry of certain religions, in this case ideological Islam, the dumb trailer wouldn’t be blasphemous or offensive and it wouldn’t matter if the video was a hoax or not IF that was indeed the reason people became unglued.

    I don’t know if the video was a hoax or not. I might very well be. I’m not sure who made it or why or what their intentions were. At best, it’s just strange. I would love to find out why it was made though.

    And you’re right, not all skeptics are Atheists. But for those of us who are, or at least for me (I can only speak for myself here), the “hoax” aspect is less compelling. Does that make sense?

  15. Jessica
    September 20, 2012 at 12:21 PM


  16. September 20, 2012 at 12:38 PM

    Yep. Makes sense. I’m trying to stay on focus and which is why I recommend someplace else to discuss the Islam cultural aspect.

  17. Ryuthrowsstuff
    September 20, 2012 at 2:53 PM

    The crew and actors that have spoken out have described a full shoot for a longer product than a trailer. The question is more about what was done with that footage.

  18. oldebabe
    September 20, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    I had the opportunity to watch `trailer’ . It was mainly hard-to-understand (for me) scenes of overdressed (in robes and head gear) persons sort of thrashing about. I deleted it, so didn’t see any more than perhaps the first 3 minutes, before it had become the basis of international attention, violence, and murder.

    It’s unbelievable to me that what I saw was intended to be a show of upcoming attractions of a legitimate movie… it was essentially a bunch of nothing crap, and not what I would have considered anything anyone would want to see… from the part I saw, anyway…adolescent porn, maybe, if one had a lot of imagination…but…

    How did some such film get found, and adjusted (?) to inflame and sent to the Middle East for Muslim interpreters to re-interpret for their believers, except by willful intent to do harm?

    So two questions: was this taking advantage of some really poor amateur filming to incite those already looking for trouble, or deliberately creating it. Both questions moot now, really., don’t you thin?

  19. oldebabe
    September 20, 2012 at 3:57 PM

    …think, I mean.

  20. Massachusetts
    September 20, 2012 at 9:26 PM

    The film is much longer than a real trailer would be, actually. Trailers are a two or three minutes long, and this is about 5 times that length. It seems likely that it’s the final product.

Comments are closed.