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Analysis of Sidi Gaber video suggests serious media complicity in propagating staged incident

Further to our detailed analysis of the controversial video "M[uslim] B[rotherhood] & Gama'a Islamiya throw kids off buildings in Sidi Gaber", with a long list of clues as to the fabricated nature of the video, a new film has appeared purporting to be "New video of Sidi Gaber 5 July 2013"; it surfaced on 7 July. The new film claims to cover the same 5 July incident but from an alternative angle. We provide below a detailed analysis of the new video. The conclusions drawn not only confirm our analysis of the original video but also suggest a dangerous determination by someone, or group, to "prove" the veracity of the incident; several parties may be behind this.


New video link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsm1XtjiNvY

Note that the above is the English-titled video we have found (under the account of a pro-Syrian regime individual who joined youtube less than 2 months ago). However, an Arabic version may have appeared earlier.

Description of Video:

The new "7 July video" is shot from a 180 degree angle difference from the original "5 July" version. It is also significantly less zoomed in and there is more camera shake. The angle allows a better view of the area behind the water tank and a more limited view of the area in front of it.

The video starts with Initially 3 people on top of the water tank. Fighting appears to be taking place behind the tank.

At 0.39 into the video one of the individuals at the top is pulled off the water tank; not towards the front as in the original, but towards the back, onto the raised platform behind the tank. The distance between the top of the platform and the top of the water tank is no more than 1.5 times the height of an average person.

The fighting behind the water tank involves a larger number of individuals, around 6, and takes significantly longer than the scene in the original production.

At 1.20 the video seems to cut then resume.

At 1.24 a person climbs from the platform onto the water tank. Note that those on the reservoir don't seem to attempt to stop him or kick him off; in fact, they almost seem to help him up to join them at the top.

There is then fighting at the top, more towards the side nearer the back of reservoir, yet at 1.28 a person seems to fall/jump from the front.

This is followed by a return to more casual fighting behind the water tank, including the bearded flag-carrying individual.

Then the number of people on top of the water tank increases somewhat curiously, and the chaotic scene continues with several individuals jumping off (pretending to fall?) until eventually only one is left at the top. Once down they all engage in some fighting. At 3.15 the last individual follows the jumping trend voluntarily to join the rest below.

The action occurs over an extended 2-minute period, and in the last 1.5 minutes little happens, apart from an exchange between the couple shooting the video. That section seems to have no purpose, apart from allowing the woman director and her male companion the opportunity to express more alarm and shock about the alleged scene they claim to have witnessed.

The seemingly disturbed woman shouts, "O you who have nothing to do with religion… O you who pretend to represent religion…"

To confirm the alleged incident, the companion insists that, "They took the kids and they've gone", which is not supported by anything in the final scenes. He also adds: "Yesterday, they stabbed a woman 200 times, the b*****, because she put a tamarrod [coup supporters'] sign up."

At the end, we hear chanting of, "By our souls and our blood we will protect you, O Islam", possibly to suggest again that the alleged incident was connected to an Islamist protest.

The intensity and pattern of shots heard in the background are different between the two versions of the video.

Categorical differences between the two versions circulated as one incident filmed from two angles:

This new production is "superior" to the first one in terms of the shakiness and lack of focus of the camera, preventing viewers from focusing on who is who, who is wearing what, who is pushing whom, etc.

It is also superior in terms of the acting skills of the female director, compared to the poor acting skills of the director of the original production. The alarm expressed sounds more genuine, and there are no announcements of what is going to happen as in the original video.

In the original 5 July film, the individuals only gather behind the water tank 3.50 minutes into the filming; no fighting behind the tank happens before that point, with the intense fighting only happening at 4.10. Moreover, the fighting only happens for around 20 seconds, in contrast to the second production, which has much fighting behind the water tank, for as much as 2 minutes of the film. In the first production, the entire fighting and throwing action from start to finish lasts less than one minute.

In the second production, there is a gathering of several individuals behind the water tank from the very beginning, and fighting from as early as 0.35. The "falling" also starts from as early as 0.40, except it is onto the back platform, and not towards the front of the tank, as well as from the platform onto the ground, from 0.54. Both "types of falling" (to the back and from the platform to the ground) are unseen in the first production. The first major "fall" towards the front occurs at 1.28. Fighting still continues for at least two minutes, completely different to the first production.

BEARDED MAN: in the first production this man appears on the scene, goes forward to the edge of the balcony to incite those below to cheer "Allahu Akbar", then goes behind the water tank to take part in the action for a very short time. In the second production, the same man appears behind the tank from the very beginning, where he can be seen for at least 3 minutes, alternating between taking part in the pretend-beating and standing helpfully carrying the black flag. Crucially, he forgets to incite the crowd below to cheer.

Conclusions & Implications

The numerous differences between the two videos suggest only one conclusion: that they are not two angles of the same incident as claimed, but two staged incidents filmed on separate occasions. It is hard not to conclude that they are both staged performances commissioned by the same source. The aim of both productions is the same: suggest, through the "play", the manufactured "context" and the accompanying commentary to manipulate the viewers into believing that they are watching a crime being committed; a violent crime and, more crucially, a religiously and politically motivated crime.

Those behind the productions seem to have responded to various doubts raised mainly by Islamist-affiliated media to reject the charge against "Islamist groups" and "Morsi-supporters". Such media have focused on two problematic points in the original video: the fact that the first man to be "thrown off" is not a "kid" among the "4 kids taking refuge above a water tank" but the light-green shirted man who was present below on the balcony and was not one of the 4 individuals on the tank initially; and the fact that the individual with a large beard carrying a black flag has a rather suspicious-looking beard. The reaction to these challenges seems to have pushed those behind the first production to strengthen their claims through various methods:

  1. Stage a new production which cannot be challenged easily, since it is less clear, and avoids the bad acting skills of the producer of the original video.
  2. Continue spreading the video through not only social networks but also on almost every single Egyptian TV, newspaper and website, and more shockingly on Al-Arabiya, MBC and even France24 (we have come across these, but there are other foreign media which have also fallen into sharing such an amateurish and unsupported allegation against pro-Morsi supporters).

    The France24 tweet is here: https://twitter.com/France24_en/statuses/354519483152470018

    Al-Arabiya published the story on Sunday 7 July, exaggerating the details of the video further, claiming it shows "a number of bearded men carrying black flags suspected of being supporters of the MB and deposed president Morsi" (while the video only shows one bearded flag-carrying man, with no clear affiliation): https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=558061027563526&set=a.370464582989839.74242.113791238657176&type=1&theater

    An updated story was published on Monday 8 July, reporting that a new video of the incident has been posted, and that the suspected killer has been arrested, reporting his name and profession: http://www.alarabiya.net/ar/arab-and-world/egypt/2013/07/07/الأمن-يضبط-قاتل-الشابين-في-منطقة-سيدي-جابر-بالإسكندرية.html

  3. Rushing to broadcast a live interview with the "father" of one of the alleged "dead kids" on MBC Masr, peppered with accusations against "radicals" and praise for the army and the "30 June revolution":
    Father interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aF62kI43Gqo&feature=youtu.be
  4. 4. Rush to support the poor production by hastily announcing the arrest of the bearded man accused of killing one of the "kids". His name was revealed and he was reported to be arrested (after shaved-off his beard), and identified as a "Salafi".

The last of the above measures is the most serious as well as the most telling. It proves that this poor production is not the work of freelance amateurs, nor was it commissioned by non-state actors, such as, for instance, anti-Islamist media which have shared it widely as part of the intensifying campaign demonising Islamists. It exposes the only possible conclusion that this production is commissioned (and probably executed and propagated) by none other than the security services. No other explanation is likely for the speedy and obviously staged confession of the "extremist killer", itself highly incredible, in addition to the alleged crime and video being obviously staged productions, as our two exclusive analyses prove beyond any doubt.

With official support for the story, identified police and intelligence officers reported in various media the details of the two "suspects". The reports state that the second suspect is accused of "membership of an extremist jihadist group", and also refer to "violent clashes in the area", alluding to the alleged link to pro-Morsi protests.

See here for selected links of Egyptian reports on the arrest:

  • http://www.ahram.org.eg/News/874/25/219941/الأولى/القبض-على-متهم-جديد-فى-واقعة-إلقاء-متظاهرين-من-أعل.aspx
  • http://www.alwafd.org/حوادث-وقضايا/510026-ضبط-متهم-جديد-فى-واقعة-إلقاء-الأطفال-بسيدى-جابر

  • http://dostor.org/الحوداث/حوادث/235051-ضبط-متهم-جديد-في-واقعة-إلقاء-الأطفال-من-أعلى-العقارات-بسيدي-جابر
  • http://www.elwatannews.com/news/details/221444

The above El-Watan report goes as far as claiming the alleged suspects "killed 4 kids".

The video of the "confession" of the bearded man can be viewed here: http://videoyoum7.com/?p=181730

The alleged criminal leaves his role of black flag-waving, beard-wearing and simulated fighting to assume the role of a very calm, very honest, repentant killer. The shiny-looking criminal fully and deliberately "confesses" his crime. Moreover, he demands to be executed. The confession is peppered with "Islamist" clues, in a rather obvious fashion: "The boy cursed religion, which infuriated me"; "I said you are not Muslims"; "He asked, are you going to kill us? I said: I am going to slaughter you".

The confession also claims that, "I was stabbing him with a knife on his side" (where is this in the video?). The helpful criminal even says, "Look, there is supporting stuff of what I am saying in the video, supporting its authenticit." (His confession or the video?) He talks about a second "boy" in the video who "was terrified" and "I was worried he might resist, so I hit him on his head, 3 times, so that he would be hurt. He said, 'Ah, ah, ah.' He was in a state of great horror. I said come down. He jumped off the water tank. He jumped onto his feet, he didn't fall". Then after these random unsupported details, the video is cut, and then resumes, switching subjects to talk about the Facebook spread of the clip and how "my friends called me to tell me the video was very clear. I fled, shaved my beard, and prayed for the mother of the boy killed at my hands." (At which point we are allowed to hear the screaming of the woman directing the second version of the production, whilst curiously looking at the first video.) One would have been amazed by the calm, curious details and hints in the unparalleled "deluded radical killer" had it not been for the fact that it is already plainly obvious that no such crime happened in the first place, and that the confession is yet another poor production as part of a seemingly infinite series of productions, each attempting to strengthen the credibility of the previous one and to address its production faults, failing miserably each time.

Questions:

The questions we are left with after the above conclusions are serious:

  1. With such obviously staged productions of poor quality, how has the story received such wide coverage, not only on social networks but on most Egyptian media? Is it the complicity of the media, or the readiness of many to believe anything suggested by the media and authorities, particularly if it fits with stereotypes of "Islamists" pushed repeatedly and forcefully by the media?
  2. What is the purpose of such a fabricated story and its widespread circulation?
  3. What explains the motivation behind the security services' commissioning of such a story and, more seriously, its reckless public support of the story through claims of arrests and confessions? What explains this determination to bring out new fabrications every day to protect the challenged credibility of this story?
  4. What is the role of the media in all this, the Egyptian media as well as pan-Arab channels implicated in broadcasting fake interviews with fake victims? And what of foreign channels reporting a clearly dubious story, breaking their public commitment to high standards of professionalism?

Ominous Answers

The ominous answers to the above could lie in the following:

  1. A regime feeling the need to stop being labelled as a coup/counter-revolution, by reflecting that charge onto the party challenging its "legitimacy" by directing charges of violence towards Islamists.
  2. A regime feeling the need to avoid sympathy for those challenging the legitimacy of the new order, by directing sympathy towards the alleged victims of its opposition.
  3. A regime seeking to quash existing and potential concern about current and future persecution of Islamists, by demonising the victims of its crackdown in advance.
  4. A regime impatient with those challenging its legitimacy, opting for swift discrediting, demonisation, isolation and ending of that bothersome challenge.

The urgency of the above needs by the new order goes some way to explain the hurried nature of the execution resulting in a poor production and campaign full of clues as to its lack of authenticity.

The poor nature of the production must not blind us, however, to the success of the campaign: the manipulation of people's emotions and the complicity of the media seem to have made up for the poor quality of the films. This indeed leads us to fear the worst and that we will probably see more professional forgeries inciting more division, hatred and violence in Egypt.

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