Thomas Wictor

Sorry, “experts.” The Islamic State video is a hoax

Sorry, “experts.” The Islamic State video is a hoax

Last night I posted “The Jordanian Pilot was not Burned Alive,” in reference to the Islamic State video Healing the Believers’ Chests. In response, several self-described video effects (VFX) experts sent me messages.

First, let me explain why the Islamic State pretended to burn Lieutenant Moath Youssef al-Kasasbeh instead of beheading him.

Executions in Islam are part of the judicial process for capital crimes. Today, beheadings are most common capital punishment, but there are other forms of execution in Islam. In general, burning someone alive is reserved for a Muslim who betrayed Islam[.]


Several Muslims have contacted me saying that in the hadiths, Mohammed once commanded his men to burn two enemies alive, but then he rescinded the order because punishment by fire was reserved only for Allah. However, I’ve found another another of Mohammed’s orders that was not rescinded.

The Prophet said, “No prayer is harder for the hypocrites than the Fajr and the ‘Isha’ prayers and if they knew the reward for these prayers at their respective times, they would certainly present themselves (in the mosques) even if they had to crawl.” The Prophet added, “Certainly I decided to order the Mu’adh-dhin [call-maker] to pronounce Iqama [second call to prayer] and order a man to lead the prayer and then take a fire flame to burn all those who had not left their houses so far for the prayer along with their houses.”

Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 1, Volume 11, Hadith 626

Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh was considered a munafiq, a hypocrite who only pretended to be a true believer. The hadith quoted above calls for the burning of hypocrites.

In addition, Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh was accused of betraying Islam by joining a coalition of “crusaders and Jews.” Strange that the Sunni Muslim Kurds don’t think that fighting the Islamic State is a betrayal of Islam.

On to the VFX experts and their polite disagreement.

This is from a friendly Israeli.


No idea where this guy is from.




They both referred to pixel blending, also called frame blending.

It can create anomalies, like the messed-up fingers on the man’s left hand.


A slight problem: The footage of the flames in Healing the Believers’ Chests wasn’t slowed down. Neither of these two VFX experts even bothered to watch the video before telling me I’m wrong. This has happened to me all my life: Highly experienced professionals get angry that a rank amateur like me has dared to enter their hallowed domain and say something that goes against the conventional wisdom.

I don’t care that they call themselves experts. They’re wrong. The visual blunders in Healing the Believers’ Chests are due to screwed-up computer-graphic imagery (CGI), not pixel or frame blending. I think it was a clumsy attempt to create heat haze.










I watched the “death” sequence at least thirty times to make sure I was right. And I also watched about twenty videos of people actually being burned to death. So unlike my two critics, I didn’t go off half-cocked. I researched it. My two critics also said that making realistic fire with CGI is almost impossible.

Tell that to Ron Howard, who used CGI flames in Backdraft…twenty-four years ago. Tell that to Allstate Insurance.

The experts also informed me that it would be extremely difficult to animate flames on Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh. They would have to use motion-capture markers.


That’s not true. There’s plenty of motion-capture technology that doesn’t use markers.

Here’s another.

The Islamic State filmmakers have an unlimited budget. They took Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh prisoner on December 24, 2014, and released Healing the Believers’ Chests on February 3, 2015. I’m no VFX expert, but it seems to me that this is enough time to make a crappy propaganda film riddled with errors.

For example, here’s Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh in his fuel-soaked shirt, the combustible liquid not burning and his hair not even singed.


It’s so obviously fake that all of us who don’t call ourselves VFX experts can see it. By pointing this out, I embarrassed the experts, so they attacked the messenger. That happens a lot. Though you’d think that being an expert would make people more secure, it usually has the opposite effect.

But to make sure I’m right and the experts are wrong, today I watched Healing the Believers’ Chests again, and I found more IRREFUTABLE proof that it’s a hoax.

First we have the Smoke Edge, marked by the red arrow.


The smoke doesn’t go past that wide bar.





There’s smoke to the left of the cage; obviously the Islamic State VFX guy masked off the close-together bars because it was too hard to make the CGI smoke go through them. The sky is blue and clear between those bars. And do the flames REALLY look authentic to you? To me they look incredibly amateurish.

Next we have the Flame Edge, marked by the red arrow.


At the bottom of the cage, the flames don’t go beyond that bar. On the right are the “flames” that look like spaghetti with tomato sauce.





Another mask was used. The flames should not be stopping at that bar, as any person with average intelligence would know.

In this screen grab, Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh is simply standing there.


I once made an ocean in a bottle using turpentine and water dyed blue.

Unfortunately, I filled the bottle outside in the winter. When I brought it inside our house to show my mother, the fluids warmed up. Since I’d filled the bottle to the brim, the expanding liquids shattered the glass. Turpentine went all over the kitchen; the vapor hit the pilot light of the gas stove, and the kitchen exploded. I lost my eyebrows, eyelashes, and all the hair on my arms and legs. After we got the fire out, my mother told me that I’d dived through the space between the counter and the overhead cabinet.


I have no memory of that. All I remember is the deafening explosion and the searing heat, and then I was in the dining room. Unless you’ve been burned, you don’t really know the panic it causes. I can’t believe that while Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh would just stand in the cage with his head in his hands.

These next two images of Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh’s body are censored. I need to show them in order to prove that even after the Islamic State murdered him, they used CGI flames.

The red arrow marks the edge of another CGI-flame mask. The flames don’t go beyond that bar of the cage.


In the following image, the red arrow is the CGI-flame mask, the green arrow is the top of Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh’s thigh, and the blue arrow is the burned edge of his right trouser leg. The cloth that covered the top of his thigh has been completely consumed.


That screen grab PROVES that Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh was burned in a kneeling position. The top of his thigh is exposed, and the cloth on the right side of his leg is still intact enough to be seen.

This final screen grab shows Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh on his back, right before the terrorists bury him in rubble. His left knee is marked by a red arrow, and the green arrow identifies the underside of his trouser leg.


Another view of the cloth that was under his left knee (red arrow).


Absolute proof that he was burned in a kneeling position. His left leg protected the cloth of his left trouser leg, preventing it from being reduced to ashes. Remember that the Islamic State wants you to think that he was entirely engulfed in flames. Even his shins were burning.


It’s a lie. The video is fraudulent. I don’t need any more “experts” in VFX contacting me with belligerent messages. THIS IS NOT A WELL-MADE VIDEO. Look at this absurd “fire suit.”


Those are just daubs of orange and yellow. They bear no resemblance to real flames. And in this screen grab, the bare skin of Lieutenant al-Kasasbeh’s right forearm is on fire, but later it’s perfectly intact. The video is clearly a fabrication. People with billions of dollars made it, but it’s shoddy. ANYBODY can see that. When they dumped rubble on the cage, it collapsed. You can see a roof bar (red arrow).


It’s silver; that and the fragility indicating that the cage was made of aluminum, not steel. Also the bar isn’t blackened by smoke, further proof that the flames are CGI.

If you think this is somehow making me rich and famous, think again. For security reasons I can’t tell you how my life has changed since I started defending Israel. I don’t regret my decision to do this, but I miss not looking over my shoulder all the time.

So save your unpleasant messages. I have more than enough on my plate.

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