There’s a video getting a lot of attention right now on YouTube of several young guys getting kicked off a plane for speaking Arabic. The video is short, of a guy yelling into his camera phone about how he and his buddies are being booted for speaking a foreign language while he was on the phone with his mother, and chastising white people on the flight for letting the toss-off happen. CBSN described Adam Saleh as a “YouTube star kicked off Delta.” And that he most certainly is. You see, I have a history with Adam Saleh and his “True Story ASA” gang, and now seems like as good a time as any to share with you who they are and what it is they’re doing.
I had been documenting Union Square Park in NYC for the last decade or so, and 2014 – ’15 I would see them there trying to bait people in one way or another. For instance, trying to get New Yorkers to complain about a Muslim praying in public.
They’d lay out a rug and pray on the park path, but no one cared. So they’d have one of their friends try and drag people over saying “Yo, you gonna let him pray like this? It’s mad disrespectful, right?” and still people wouldn’t jump on board with the enthusiasm they needed for a video. The last resort was having a friend pretend to be offended and complaining, blur out his face, call it a real passer-by, and there’s your video. It’s shameful and cringe-worthy, and not very hard to figure out if you’ve got even an average eye for social studies.
Immediately when I first started seeing this “Kicked off Delta” story circulating through my Facebook feed I knew that they’d gone and done it again. I wasn’t even aware (until now) they’d already posted videos of themselves causing this kind of trouble on planes before. In the past they’ve recorded themselves counting down from 10 to 1 in Arabic loud enough for everyone on the plane to hear, and laughing while they did it. Yes, Adam is this type of guy. He needs this sort of attention. And his YouTube channel, with over a million and a half subscribers, is audience. As a videographer myself I understand the pressure to get material for a YouTube channel. I understand the urge to make something happen when nothing’s happening. And it’s clear Adam has embraced this method without regard for his own reputation, or the reps of his If-he-jumps-off-a-cliff-so-will-I friends. The host of WeAreChange did a better job of illustrating this in a video than I ever could.
I have a history with Adam Saleh and his True Story ASA gang. They got involved in my Union Square footage when my friend Joey Boots was yelling at a lady wearing fur. That video gets pretty obnoxious, but it was my introduction to these guy’s faces. That’s when Joey and I both started looking through their videos and discovering what frauds they actually are.
When I first posted my video with Joey Boots criticizing them and their methods, they immediately flagged it and got it taken down. I had a back and forth with their “legal rep” (I posted the entire exchange on Reddit), but in short their defense was that I didn’t ask permission to use their clips in my critique of them. Of course I am allowed to do that without permission, so eventually they gave up and the video remains. It’s an amusing exchange if you need a good laugh, or want some insight into their mindset.
They’re clumsy with the amount of incriminating information they leave out there, terrible actors, and no shame at all when it comes to seeking out creative ways to look victimized. I think that’s what disgusts me the most about them. So when they’re pretending things like being arrested for being Muslim, or his embarrassing fake crying, it comes off like kids playing make-believe (which is exactly what it is, I suppose).
Watching their videos, seeing them around the Square all the time, and my direct encounters with them, I can assure you these are not a group of guys you want to trust. They’re pranksters, which is not a bad thing, but they’re also liars & con men, which is. They don’t understand how playing these sorts of games & getting caught hurts the credibility of those who really are victimized in real situations.
I have a hard time picturing how this won’t come back and bite them in the ass in some way or another. Especially now with them pranking the airline industry with terrorist jokes. They’re really just a bunch of obnoxious, unsupervised kids with a popular YouTube channel, but this time they may have bitten off more than they know.