Some years ago, fans of my old livejournal blog may recalls that I scribbled down my thoughts after reading David Foster Wallace's very, very long and highly unusual book Infinite Jest in a piece entitled "Is the joke on me?").
Wallace committed suicide on September 12, 2008, in other words four years ago last Wednesday. This week the New Yorker carried an 'in memoriam' piece on him.
Of course it's just a coincidence that this whole thing about the supposed film The Innocence of Muslims should emerge in the papers here on that day. Wallace's novel does have a plot, even though fairly few pages are devoted to it, but it is one that makes my eyebrows raise high right now. The story is about a film, called Infinite Jest. This film is so captivating that anyone who sees even a few seconds of it is drawn in, compelled to watch more. By the time they reach the end, they are obsessed. Viewers are unable to think of anything else in the world, except this film. Family, food, drink, bodily functions are all subordinate to the single most important necessity in their lives - watching the film again. Deprived of the film, addicts howl with pain, jibber incomprehensibly, scream only that they must see it. They are willing to suffer the amputation of fingers, toes or limbs if, in return, they can watch Infinite Jest. No-one who has not seen the film knows what it is about, nor what it contains since, once anyone has seen it, they can never communicate anything again, save their overwhelming urge to see it. Effectively, once anyone has seen even a glimpse of Infinite Jest, they are irreversibly insane.
We discover that the film was created by military intelligence for use as a weapon in a possible Third World War. The CIA referred to it as "The Entertainment". The novel deals with attempts to trace the source of bootleg copies of "The Entertainment" which have found their way into the community. The first victims are a Saudi diplomat and his family.
The resemblances between this present situation and Wallace's novel are striking. Like Infinite Jest, the creator of this film is hard to identify. Again, as in Infinite Jest, actors who appeared in "The Entertainment" say they were unaware of the true nature of the film, nor that they were involved in anything so strange or dangerous. In Infinite Jest, it is uncertain whether the lethal edit of the film is the one its director intended.
The Madrid daily, El Pais, reported yesterday that this new film may not even exist: Un tráiler incendiario para una película que no existe. Their investigation reveals a history every bit as obscure and misleading as that of Infinite Jest. They conclude that there is nothing more to Inocencia de los musulmanes beyond a fourteen minute trailer. Not even the title is real. This appears to have been added later as well. Those ringing up Radio Bloke's phone-in yesterday claiming to have seen it, then, cannot have been telling the whole truth.
If so many are aware of this film around the world, why had we in Britain heard nothing ourselves? Could it be that we, in the West, were not the intended audience?
According to El Pais some footage in Inocencia de los musulmanes seems to derive from an abandoned production called Desert Warrior. This had a producer called Sam Bassiel, from which the bogus name 'Sam Bacile' is clearly derived. Of course, they’ve now found someone who has a name vaguely similar to that, an Egyptian Copt, apparently, but I’d be very surprised if he’s really behind it. The name sounds made-up. It’s like ‘imbecile’ but also ‘bacillus’ or agent of infection. That, I think, is what we are really looking at.
This is Infinite Jest in reality. A film that immediately obsessed those exposed to it. A film designed as a weapon of war. By the CIA? By Al Qaeda themselves? By someone else? It’s too early to tell, but the signs are ominous. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that buses in San Francisco have lately been carrying large advertisements openly referring to Muslims as ‘savages’ (Anti-Islam ads on San Francisco buses put Muslims at risk) Perhaps it is, but if that is the message someone wants to sell, the reaction to this film as it has been reported to us would appear to fit in very nicely with their campaign. Considering that Lebanese commentators believe war between Israel and Iran is now inevitable (Netanyahu pushes for a war the US doesn't want) I'd say grab your tin-foil while stocks last.