Media endangers entire neighborhood to pursue thoughtcrime suspect

posted at 4:01 pm on September 15, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

When Princess Diana was killed in a car crash after a high-speed race through the streets of Paris with paparazzi, her family understandably claimed that the media had killed the mother of the future King of the UK.  At the time, I considered that a little hyperbolic, although hardly unwarranted hyperbole, as the actual proximate causes of death were a driver under the influence making a rash decision to outrun photographers and a decision not to use seatbelts. But over the last couple of days, I wonder whether the American media may get someone killed — and perhaps more than a few people — with their irresponsible stakeout of “Sam Bacile.”

First, let me introduce you to my hometown of Cerritos, California.  My family moved there in 1970, just a few years past its unincorporated status of Dairy Valley.  At the time, we had a few operating dairies within the city, as well as at least one small horse facility, along with new retail and residential building.  I graduated from Cerritos High in 1980, five years after the facility had opened, and we still had a dairy or two operating, although they were on their way out.  The incongruous exurban outpost in the Los Angeles metro area soon transformed into a pricy center for retail and the arts.

Not too many famous people came from my little corner of the world.  Our biggest celebrity is probably Lela Rochon, who graduated a couple of years after me.  Lela started her career as a Spuds MacKenzie girl and went on to star in movies such as Waiting to Exhale, Why Do Fools Fall In Love, Any Given Sunday, and an especially delightful role in Harlem Nights with Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy.  I didn’t know Lela in high school, but I did know Lee Marvin’s biographer, Dwayne Epstein, who also went to Cerritos High and whose book Point Blank will come out early next year.  Mike Allen of Politico also hails from Cerritos, and then you have Yours Truly, which shows how little star power the old hometown really has.

In fact, the most notoriety our town ever had was for a horrible tragedy, the Aero Mexico plane crash of 1986.  I had moved out of Cerritos by that time, but by chance happened to be at our then-family home when the crash occurred.  It killed 67 people in the air and another 15 on the ground, in a neighborhood that looked as though it had been bombed.

Why bring that up?  It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw this report from local TV station KTLA in the media’s pursuit of “Sam Bacile,” the man behind the YouTube video that provided an excuse for rioting in a number of countries:

Take a look at just the first minute or so of this report.  Look at all of the media trucks in this sleepy little neighborhood, and not just KTLA’s.  If anyone interested in taking revenge on Nakoula Besseley Nakoula wanted to know where to find him, it wouldn’t take long in this small city, especially with some media reports noting Nakoula’s distinctive front door.  And while some people wouldn’t care about Nakoula’s fate, the kind of people looking to take revenge on him aren’t really known for their precision attacks and avoidance of collateral damage.  This media swarm puts that entire neighborhood at risk, now and probably for a very long time.

And for what?  Is Nakoula a serial killer? A child molester?  No, he’s a man with poor taste who made a video that insulted some people who can’t deal with criticism, even the laughably inane and inept criticism of this 14-minute cheesefest that makes Plan 9 From Outer Space look like Citizen Kane.  However, in the US, making really bad movies and engaging in even inept theological and historical commentary isn’t a crime at all.  The media are undermining the same guarantees of free speech that allow them to operate without government interference, and they’re putting people’s lives at risk while doing so.  They’re not going to be happy until there’s another crater in Cerritos.

Meanwhile, while the media provides moment-to-moment coverage of Thoughtcrime Enemy #1 this week, the feds are interrogating him as to whether his filmmaking might violate his probation on unrelated matters:

A man purported to be a filmmaker involved with the anti-Islam video sparking violent unrest in the Middle East and North Africa was escorted by deputies from his Cerritos, Calif., home shortly after midnight Saturday morning, reported.

Media and law enforcement had been staking out the home at the end of a cul de sac in the Southern California city for about 48 hours when Nakoula Besseley Nakoula emerged wearing a coat, hat, scarf and glasses.

L.A. County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore confirmed to NBCLA that Nakoula, 55, was taken to the Cerritos sheriff’s station for interviewing by federal probation officers aimed at determining whether he violated the terms of his 5-year probation by uploading a video to the Internet.

“We are in an assist mode,” he said.

Nakoula is no saint, as the report makes clear:

A federal grand jury indictment in February 2009 charged Nakoula in an alleged bank fraud conspiracy. The indictment accused him and others of fraudulently obtaining the identities and Social Security numbers of bank customers at Wells Fargo and withdrawing $860 from bank branches in Cerritos, Artesia and Norwalk.

Nakoula pleaded no contest in 2010 and was ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was also sentenced to 21 months in federal prison, but was released early. The terms of his parole included being barred from assuming aliases and using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer. …

Los Angeles County District Attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons confirmed that Nakoula also served a year in jail after pleading guilty to possession of meth with the intent to manufacture in 1997.

Here’s the question: would any of these people care about Nakoula’s probation status had the video not purportedly caused riots?  If so, isn’t this pursuit more about the kind of speech in which Nakoula engaged than in what kind of activity he may have conducted with computers and the Internet? This is dangerous ground for free speech, and the media is making Cerritos into dangerous ground in a much more literal sense.

Update: Commenters rightly argue with an assumption I didn’t mean to make in my last paragraph. I don’t think a six-month old video “caused” the riots, either. It was just a pretext. I’ve added “purportedly” to make clear I’m arguing the current claim rather than the reality.

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when your neighbors, “the police” come to your home and tell you you are “inciting” i hope some of you will remember your freedom.

tm11999 on September 16, 2012 at 8:12 AM

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit: WHY BARACK OBAMA SHOULD RESIGN.

…the FBI showed up outside their jurisdiction for a reason given by their superiors. The question then is who ordered them there.”



How high does it go?

petefrt on September 16, 2012 at 9:35 AM

The other obvious question is why were the media trucks in place for a simple probation violation. Do media trucks normally attend such arrests? Then, too, why did the Feds think it was so important that they had to make this “voluntary” appearance in the middle of the night? Eric Holder, please call Congress and explain?

RickCaird on September 16, 2012 at 9:39 AM

I’ve been hearing idiotic claims of “abuse of free speech”…made by the media no less! First, I don’t know what that means in reality. Second, it is clearly a set-up to justify prosecuting/persecuting people who’s speech upsets the powers that be. And what happens when those powers are in the hands of people not approved of by or in cahoots with the media? What about the media’s abuse of free speech? Can we criminalize that?

swinia sutki on September 16, 2012 at 9:48 AM

This is what tyranny looks like.

claudius on September 16, 2012 at 9:51 AM

RickCaird on September 16, 2012 at 9:39 AM

Yes, a Congressional investigation, for openers.

petefrt on September 16, 2012 at 9:55 AM

1.)I have no doubt that the reason this guy is getting attention now is because of the film he put out.

2.)Regardless of the Obama administration’s motive, this guy is still in violation of the terms of his parole (which required that he not use any aliases or access the internet) and thus should be put back in jail.

Treating this guy like an innocent victim when he’s a repeat offender is stupid. Saying this is about free speech when the manner in which he engaged in it violated the terms of his parole is stupid. The Obama administration is using those circumstances to their political advantage no doubt, but they’re operating entirely within the confines of the law.

Had this occurred with a guy with no criminal record, you’d have a legitimate case. But this guy is dirty in a situation where there are no heroes.

My advice to the pundits is this: stay focused on Obama’s middle east policy, and don’t get wrapped up in this.

Stoic Patriot on September 16, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Instapundit: “Probation is not a law enforcement function, it’s under the court. If his probation officer wanted to question him about the use of a computer, that broke his probation fine. But that wouldn’t include questions about making an anti-Islamic movie. It’s irrelevant. That means that the FBI showed up outside their jurisdiction for a reason given by their superiors. The question then is who ordered them there.”

petefrt on September 16, 2012 at 10:20 AM

Remember when the British Government rounded up the Monty Python Cast for questioning after they made, “The Life of Brian”?

Remember when the director for “Saved”, Mark Waters, was taken in for questioning after Christians stormed the streets of Hollywood and looted and burned the place down?

hawkdriver on September 16, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Wow, this guy had to pay $790,000 in restitution for stealing $860?

Cindy Munford on September 16, 2012 at 10:25 AM

From an Insty reader:

MORE STILL: Reader Jack Moss writes: “Probation is not a law enforcement function, it’s under the court. If his probation officer wanted to question him about the use of a computer, that broke his probation fine. But that wouldn’t include questions about making an anti-Islamic movie. It’s irrelevant. That means that the FBI showed up outside their jurisdiction for a reason given by their superiors. The question then is who ordered them there.”

This isn’t about his probation, about his past history nor about any other thing that he has embarrassed the Obama Administration that finds him as a handy scapegoat for the Administration’s own incompetence and failure in foreign policy.

What we see is tyranny, make no mistake about it.

ajacksonian on September 16, 2012 at 10:28 AM

What we see is tyranny, make no mistake about it.

ajacksonian on September 16, 2012 at 10:28 AM

If I could assign a book for the entire country to read, I’d make it “The Gulag Archipelago” by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

Not because I’m actually afraid we’re so close to being hauled off to such camps, (yet) but for the flimsy excuses the Soviet Government used to take citizens in for questioning as Solzhenitsyn related. Almost always attacking free speech with other trumped charges.

hawkdriver on September 16, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Stoic Patriot on September 16, 2012 at 10:10 AM

This is a Jack Ruby moment…

ontheright on September 16, 2012 at 10:51 AM

For the couch potato, who nevertheless doesn’t want to be sent to a reeducation camp for failing to comply with the exercise requirements of FLOTUS’ “Let’s Move!” programme, you absolutely must see:

Pic of the Day: Let’s Move! Totally Duuuudddeee.

M2RB: David Bowie

Resist We Much on September 16, 2012 at 11:08 AM

Note what is said about press endangering lives by their presence in the neighborhood. Our whole form of government, living, customs etc. are being changed. By whom? For what? How far will this kind of thinking go? Catholics raging because someone said a joke about the pope? Masons blowing up buildings because an insult was perceived to their leader? Liberals blowing up bridges to demonstrate their rage? Oh, scratch that last one.

Herb on September 16, 2012 at 11:27 AM

Ed must be under the influence. This thread was some of the most incoherent rambling I have seen on this site, something about graduating high school with Princess Diana.

Rusty Allen on September 16, 2012 at 11:31 AM

I agree..this was def not Ed’s best story. The directors comment was He knew people would die once it hit internet..While it was originally uploaded in July..The Arabic translation apparently did not come out until Sept 11th. I do not believe it was “The Movie” that caused all this mess…but i do believe this man is both of these two things..Stupid and Reckless. Id rather us save our Ambassadors and Marines..Ship this loser off to Libya and let them deal with him. I have zero sympathy that he Voluntarily went in for questioning..he was not HAULED off as some reports have stated. When you do something you know will incite violence, prepare to pay the consequences.

All Things Conservative on September 16, 2012 at 11:46 AM

As much as I agree with the general complaint,
it’s clear what fuels much of the passion here to defend this particular dude.
Regardless, the only thing the govt should be doing here is offering protection if requested.
A directive should have gone out instructing that these unrelated charges should not be pursued or addressed in any way. The world should see and know the vile pri*ck suffered NO consequences as a result of his film.

verbaluce on September 16, 2012 at 11:53 AM

The world should see and know the vile pri*ck suffered NO consequences as a result of his film.”

The guy might be a pr!ck and his silly film is probably vile, as is a lot of what passes for “art,” but it was NOT the cause of the assault on the American Embassy in Cairo.

* On the FOURTH of September, 2012, all Egyptian security sectors received letters warning that Sinai- and Gaza-based Global Jihad cells were planning attacks on the American and Israel embassies in Cairo.

No mention of any outrage at a film.

* Egypt’s General Intelligence Service warned that a jihadi group was planning to launch terrorist attacks against the US and Israeli embassies in Cairo, according to a report Tuesday by Egypt Independent, citing a secret letter obtained by Al-Masry Al-Youm.

No mention of any outrage at a film.

* On the EIGHT of September, 2012, the Egyptian website, El Fagr, posted a statement by Jihadi groups in Egypt, including Islamic Jihad, the Sunni Group, and Al Gamaa Al Islamiyya wherein they threatened to burn the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to the ground.

No mention of any outrage at a film.

* On the NINTH of September, 2012, the US State Department had credible information that American missions may be targeted in Cairo and Benghazi; yet, no warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert and ‘lockdown,’ under which movement are to be severely restricted.

No mention of any outrage at a film.

* On the TENTH of September, 2012, Raymond Ibrahim at reported the threat and linked to the site. He also translated the post from El Fagr:

“The group, which consists of many members from al-Qaeda, called [especially] for the quick release of the jihadi [mujahid] sheikh, Omar Abdul Rahman [the “Blind Sheikh”], whom they described as a scholar and jihadi who sacrificed his life for the Egyptian Umma, who was ignored by the Mubarak regime, and [President] Morsi is refusing to intervene on his behalf and release him, despite promising that he would. The Islamic Group has threatened to burn the U.S. Embassy in Cairo with those in it, and taking hostage those who remain [alive], unless the Blind Sheikh is immediately released.”

No mention of any outrage at a film.

As an old acquaintance, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and occasional talking head, remarked:

“The film was simply an act of free speech. The position of the United States should be clear. Violence was not caused by any film. Free speech is not a characteristic of America. It defines being an American.”

The Nattering Nabobs of Newspeak and Obama Firsters should pay attention to their fellow Progressive.

Resist We Much on September 16, 2012 at 12:09 PM

I live in Cerritos, and I don’t notice anything.

The place isn’t dairy town anymore, it’s more OC than anything else. Lots of shopping mall, huge auto center.

Cerritos last made news when it was mentioned in a Simpsons episode where Bart says “I can’t believe I missed Cerritos auto square” or something to that effect.

Mad Kimchi on September 16, 2012 at 1:06 PM

@Stoic Patriot

So are you privy to his probation conditions? Based on what? Biased media stories? How do you KNOW he posted the film? Ever think he might have been set up by the commies in the WH?

sablegsd on September 16, 2012 at 4:43 PM

Golem’s accusation is absolutely, categorically false. I had nothing to do with Spencer’s status at Hot Air and never even offered an opinion about it. The notion that I “demanded” to Michelle Malkin that Spencer be “fired” is laughable on its face. Since this commenter has decided to post libelous allegations without a shred of proof or reality about me, he’s no longer welcome to post comments at all.

Ed Morrissey on September 16, 2012 at 6:25 PM

Worry not. It’s all arranged. They’ll drop the ‘parole’ bs…and he’ll apologize, and all will buy into the hoax, reality of Obama/Hillary ineptness or ideologiotical callousness be doomed.

Schadenfreude on September 15, 2012 at 4:52 PM


cableguy615 on September 16, 2012 at 7:06 PM