Asymmetrical Information - Megan McArdle

09.12.12

Who Is Sam Bacile?

The man behind the film that touched off yesterday's riots doesn't seem to exist.

The shadowy filmmaker behind the video that seems to have triggered last night's tragic attacks on US embassies in Cairo and Lebanon is now the most sought-after figure in the media.  The AP reports that he is an Israeli real-estate developer living in California.  On Twitter, others were reporting that no one of that name holds a California real estate license.  Jeffrey Goldberg investigates:

I just called a man named Steve Klein -- a self-described militant Christian activist in Riverside, California (whose actual business, he said, is in selling "hard-to-place home insurance"), who has been described in multiple media accounts as a consultant to the film.

Klein told me that Bacile, the producer of the film, is not Israeli, and most likely not Jewish, as has been reported, and that the name is, in fact, a pseudonym. 

. . . I asked him who he thought Sam Bacile was. He said that there are about 15 people associated with the making of the film, "Nobody is anything but an active American citizen. They're from Syria, Turkey, Pakistan, they're some that are from Egypt. Some are Copts but the vast majority are Evangelical."  

That's really interesting to me, because I just watched the beginning of the . . . well, let's call it a "film", for want of a better word.  My first thought was, "Wow, everyone in the movie is clearly of western European descent, but boy, do they have great tans."  Then I realized that the makers of the "film" had tried to make the pasty, Caucasian actors look Arab by slathering a little Black Opal Truly Topaz on most of the exposed skin. (There are gaps).

I had presumed they were driven to this because no actual Arab was willing to participate in this ludicrous, offensive, and ludicrously offensive video extravaganza.  And yet, Klein claims that a veritable rainbow coalition of Middle Easterners and Pakistanis was involved in its making.  

Back to Bacile.  So--not a real estate developer? Not Israeli?  It's fairly weird that no one knows anything about this person.  And even more disturbing that someone would claim he's Israeli if he isn't.