In terms of sheer film value, there is nothing particularly ground-breaking about Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West. It is yet another B production with larger than life ambitions. The movie bills itself as an eye-opener, an exposé on the Muslim world, a sort of "what the mainstream media won't tell you about Islam" (why won't they tell us? to whose benefit will they not tell us?)
In order to fill that mainstream media gap, the film's makers do not seek the counsel of the world's top academic authorities on the subject matter at hand, nor do they send an investigative reporter to engage the Muslim world and try to understand the issues at play from the horse's mouth.
Instead, they go about the dubious task of scouring MEMRI and other digital web archives for the most extreme footage emanating out of the Muslim world, stringing it together into a forced singular narrative, throwing in some flashback Nazi footage, ominous narration, a string of hysteria-inducing talking heads (a who's who of notorious Islamophobes at that), and some creepy music for good measure.
The result is a one hour ode to disingenuous storytelling.
Editorial and letter writers nationwide have called the film “propaganda” and even compared it to Leni Riefenstahl's 1935 pro-Nazi film "Triumph of the Will.” One writer called it “misleading and dangerous.” (Broward-Palm Beach New Times, 9/20/08)
Jeff VanDenBerg, director of Middle East Studies at Drury University, called the film “a blatant piece of anti-Muslim propaganda.” (News-Leader, 9/17/08)
While debunking the mischaracterizations in this hate film is necessary for what it's worth, it is important to note that the real breaking story is not so much the film itself as it is its distribution.
How and why did a film with content that would fail to earn a passing grade if it were a community college history class report, and quality that barely would if it were a film student project, end up securing tens of millions of dollars in distribution costs? More surprisingly, how did 70 respectable US newspapers agree to take part in the distribution of 28 million copies of what is essentially hate material, without verifying its source of funding that to this moment remains a closely-guarded secret?
The Clarion Fund
The Clarion Fund, a shadowy group with no listed officers, no known office space, and unpublished financial disclosure forms (form 990) financed the massive distribution of the Obsession Hate DVD, numbered at some 28 million copies. There have been speculative reports suggesting links between Clarion and Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas Jewish-American magnate, who is known to have personally passed out copies of the DVD, as well as with Aish HaTorah an educational and advocacy group based in Jerusalem. Neither report has yet been confirmed.
Clarion seems to be reveling in the secrecy. When the New York Times, one of the 70 US papers to distribute the hate DVD was in negotiations with Clarion, they requested a physical address per their policy. Interestingly, Clarion purchased what is known as a "virtual office identity package" which can go for as low as $75 and so was able to supply a physical address without really having an office anywhere.
Americans are asking, who would pay such an astronomical amount of money in order to distribute an anti-Muslim hate film like Obsession to tens of millions of America? Why?
The answers are yet to come. [update]
The 'Obsession Experts'
Those interviewed in “Obsession” constitute a veritable who’s who of Muslim-bashers. Speakers include Walid Shoebat, who once told a Missouri newspaper that he sees “many parallels between the Antichrist and Islam" and “Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil.” (Springfield News-Leader, 9/24/07)
Others interviewed in the film include Nonie Darwish, a self-styled “former Moslem" who wrote that "Islam is cruel, anti-women, anti-religious freedom and anti-personal freedom in general,” and Daniel Pipes, who warned a Jewish convention of the "true dangers" posed by "the presence, and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims." (American Jewish Congress, 10/21/2001)
Another “Obsession” interviewee, Brigitte Gabriel, told the Australian Jewish News: “Every practising Muslim is a radical Muslim.” She also claimed that “Islamo-fascism is a politically-correct word...it's the vehicle for Islam...Islam is the problem.”
When asked whether Americans should “resist Muslims who want to seek political office in this nation," Gabriel said:
"Absolutely. If a Muslim who has -- who is -- a practicing Muslim who believes the word of the Koran to be the word of Allah, who abides by Islam, who goes to mosque and prays every Friday, who prays five times a day -- this practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America."