Instead of questioning President Barack Obama about the intelligence and security failures that led to the deaths of four diplomatic personnel in Libya Tuesday, the media has focused its ire on a California private citizen.
The filmmaker allegedly behind the YouTube clip known as “Innocence of Muslims,” known as “Sam Bacile,” has had his real identity outed by the press. Reporters hounded those involved with the video’s production and matched up the man’s cell phone number with a previous interview subject who denied directing the movie.
Reuters photographer Lucy Nicholson took photographs of the man’s home and his car, including his license plate number and closeups of possessions in the front seat, and they have been published by Yahoo News as of this writing. News agencies have further exposed the man’s criminal history and past financial issues.
Sam “Joe” Wurzelbacher became a household name for asking a question of presidential candidate Obama that yielded an embarrassing answer. Immediately, the press began digging for dirt on the man, who came to be known as “Joe the Plumber” — and received it, thanks to an improper database search from an Ohio state official.
The template is predictable: private citizen hurts Obama’s election chances, media destroys private citizen. So far this election season, journalistic ire has focused on Republican donors such as Sheldon Adelson and David Koch. In the case of Mr. “Bacile,” though, it’s much worse.
This man, unlike Joe the Plumber, did not even confront or intend to harm Barack Obama. He merely had the misfortune of being the one YouTube user whose content mocking the prophet Mohammed was picked up by Arabic media and exploited to whip up anti-American mobs. Yet, like Joe the Plumber, the situation created by those circumstances has embarrassed Obama, now the Commander-in-Chief.
The Middle Eastern riots for which this film was scapegoated have shown President Obama to be weak-willed, slow to act, and derelict in his duty during a foreign policy crisis. And this makes the press furious. He’s their guy; their drool over his foreign policy genius at the Democratic National Convention has barely dried up off the floor, and now some random guy eligible for a McDonald’s senior discount just obliterated that entire narrative. Therefore, he must pay.
The irony of this debacle is that the press has outed Mr. “Bacile” to hold him accountable for being careless about others’ safety. The very crowd who caution artists that the only natural conclusion to hurting Muslims’ “religious feelings” is widespread violence and killing are now providing the same Muslim world with all the information needed to track this man down.
This private individual and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney have been the outlet for the mainstream media’s rage — not at the loss of American lives but at the loss of Barack Obama’s credibility. Is that an unfair evaluation of their mindset? Absolutely not; just take a look at their actions. Obama’s press corps has yet to ask the president one question about the week’s continuing violence. Not one question asking whether the State Department considered posting extra security at Mideast embassies for the anniversary of 9/11. Not one question about his regular absence from daily intelligence briefings. Not one question about taking 16 hours to disavow a tone-deaf apology from the U.S.’s Cairo embassy.
All the questions, the hounding, the journalistic tenacity have been reserved for Mitt Romney — not a politician in control of anything but a candidate — and a private citizen who clearly did not intend to inspire any violence. In fact, CBS and NPR reporters were caught on tape conspiring to ask difficult questions of Mr. Romney, who voluntarily took questions from reporters, whereas President Obama jetted off to Las Vegas to campaign without taking any questions.
The example of Mr. “Bacile” is a new, wretched low for the American press. Any news editor with common sense knows that publishing his personal information at this time, including photos of his house and cars, is placing him in danger. And to have gone ahead and published, it’s clear that they want just that. You can feel the seething anger in their reports, the lust for vengeance. In their twisted minds, he is the problem, not America’s weak leadership.
His ideology or intentions don’t matter. What matters is the outcome they attribute to him — Obama’s damaged image. And for that, he is the enemy.
Headline image created by Gawker.