In Two Presidential Elections, An Anti-Muslim Film Has Emerged Exactly 7 Weeks Before the Polls Open

By Pam Martens: September 14, 2012

The incendiary anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims, is being widely blamed for sparking anti-U.S. demonstrations in the Middle East, leading to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three others in Libya. 

This morning, according to NBC News, a Federal law enforcement official has confirmed that the shadowy Sam Bacile, the producer of the film, is really Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an ex-con on probation for financial crimes. 

Nakoula produced an amateurish documentary that was screened in one tiny theatre, with a trailer released on the internet.  That limited circulation stands in sharp contrast to another Islamophobic film that was broadly circulated in 2008 by mainstream newspapers with financial backing from a nonprofit group with ties to the Koch brothers.

In the Fall of 2008, in the leadup to the Presidential election, approximately 100 newspapers and magazines in the U.S., including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer, and St. Petersburg Times, distributed millions of DVDs of the anti-Islam documentary, “Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West.” Altogether, including a separate direct mail campaign, 28 million DVDs flooded into swing voter states.

The newspapers, inexplicably, did not inquire into the details of who had produced the incendiary film or where the big money came from to place it in millions of big-name newspapers. The nonprofit organization named on the packaging of the DVD as the entity behind the film, the Clarion Fund, Inc., had no known history of operations and had a virtual office address in New York City with no physical presence and no employees on site. Documents submitted to the IRS to obtain its tax-exempt status show the Clarion Fund demanded total secrecy from its vendors.

The film portrayed Muslims as violent people intent on killing Westerners. The first half of the film is filled with scenes of suicide bombers and human carnage; the second half intersperses clips of Hitler, Hitler Youth, or Hitler analogies intermittently with Muslim crowds and young children with fists in the air calling for death to westerners. Once at the beginning and again at the end, the film reminds us that not all Muslims ostensibly want to kill us but quantifies the amount that do as 100 to 150 million – without any effort to support this assertion.

The newspapers that carried the DVD in the final days of a Presidential race, where one candidate was already being smeared for Muslim ties, were rebuked by outraged readers in letters to the editor and on-line forums.

Margaret Lewis of Durham, North Carolina fired off a letter to The News & Observer of Durham, North Carolina: “I cannot believe that I was sent the hate-inflaming, fear-mongering video disk ‘Obsession’ in my newspaper! What will you enclose next? KKK robes?”

In October 2010, I researched the backers of the film and wrote an article on the episode for CounterPunch.  I found the following:

“The 28 million DVDs were produced at a cost of $15,676,181 by Artist Direct Media which does mass manufacturing of CDs and DVDs with volume discounts. The big media buy for Sunday newspaper insertions ran up the tidy tab of  $719,436 and was conducted by NSA Media, a unit of the global ad giant, Interpublic Group, parent of McCann-Erikson. That figure seems decidedly on the light side so there may be other funding sources involved that have not yet surfaced. (NSA Media is a powerful ad buyer, representing some of the biggest print buyers and consumer brands in the country, which might help explain why so few questions were asked by the largest newspapers about this unseemly project.) 

“The full tab, and then some, was paid by the super secretive libertarian nonprofit, Donors Capital Fund. In 2008, Clarion Fund became Donors Capital Fund’s largest grantee by a large margin, receiving $17,778,600. That sum constituted 96 per cent of all funds received by Clarion in 2008 and 9 times its revenue in 2007. 

“Donor’s Capital Fund is a ‘supporting organization’ to Donors Trust, a sister nonprofit. Both promise the pursuit of taking over social welfare needs with private funds rather than government solutions; they want small government… 

“There are shades of Charles Koch all over Donors Capital and Donors Trust. Two grantees receiving repeat and sizeable grants from Donors Capital are favorites of the Koch foundations: George Mason University Foundation and Institute for Humane Studies. Another tie is Claire Kittle. A project of  Donor’s Trust is Talent, a headhunter for staffing nonprofits with the ‘right’ people. Ms. Kittle serves as Talent Market’s Executive Director and was the former Program Officer for Leadership and Talent Development at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. 

“Then there is Whitney Ball, President of both Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust. Ms. Ball was one of the elite guests at the invitation-only secret Aspen bash thrown by Charles Koch in June of this year, as reported by Also on the guest list for the Koch bash was Stephen Moore, a member of the Editorial Board at the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Moore is a Director at Donors Capital Fund. Rounding out the ties that bind is Lauren Vander Heyden, who serves as Client Services Coordinator at Donors Trust. Ms. Vander Heyden previously worked as grants coordinator and policy analyst at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation. 

“Legal counsel for the Kochs has declined to respond to two emails with a week’s lead time seeking clarification of the relationship the Kochs have to Donors Capital and Donors Trust.” 

Prior to the mass DVD distribution in newspapers, the former lefty turned radical right head of the nonprofit, Freedom Center, David Horowitz, promoted the film through a college road show.  Touring as part of an “Islamo-Fascism Awareness” program offered to 100 college campuses, Horowitz made the film “Obsession” available for viewing.  

It is now just seven weeks before the Presidential election.  It was exactly seven weeks before the 2008 election when the 28 million anti-Islam DVDs saturated swing voter states. It’s time to get to the bottom of exactly who is funding and marketing these films.

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