Monday, December 19, 2011

The Lessons of "Homeland"

ALERT: If you have not seen the last episode of Homeland, this post is filled with spoilers. Forewarned is forearmed.  

Everyone has been intrigued by Homeland. It’s excellent television, with a well-crafted plot and great acting. What’s not to like?

I will stipulate that the show is fiction and that fiction does not follow the same rules as reality. Still, fictions do influence public opinion.

Once art’s aesthetic pleasures lull the mind into quiescence, it is easy to seduce it into believing things it would never accept if its rational faculties were fully functioning.

Examine the assumptions that ground the plot of Homeland.

Start with Sgt. Brody. Objectively speaking Brody is a traitor to his country. A Muslim convert and an incipient terrorist, he uses the sympathy we accord to a war hero to advance a plot to commit an act of terrorism. Still, he is presented sympathetically.

Think of Major Nidal Hasan. Do you consider him a sympathetic character? 

Yesterday’s episode opened with Brody self-filming a video in which he explained why he was going to blow up himself and murder the vice president, the director of the CIA, the Secretary of State, and numerous other dignitaries and officials.

If Brody had said that he was doing it for the greater glory of Allah or to commit an act of jihad, he would have been unsympathetic.

He did not say that.

He stood there in his uniform and claimed to be a patriot. He said that he wanted to strike a blow for justice. He was not going to kill American public officials: he would be killing war criminals.

When all is said and done, we are induced to feel sympathy for Brody, to understand his deep love for his country and for the ideals that founded it.

The show offers a remarkable rationalization of terrorism. It also implies that America is at fault for the Islamic terrorism that has been washing over the world.

Brody seeks justice for an American drone strike that killed 82 students, among them the adorable son of terrorist mastermind Abu Nazir.

In the show’s early episodes Abu Nazir was portrayed as a cruel and violent taskmaster. He tortured Brody and Walker, and forced Brody to beat Walker to death.

Apparently, Walker survived the beating.

We are told that Abu Nazir is a committed terrorist, but the only body count we hear about involves children killed by American missiles. Using Brody as a suicide bomber is Abu Nazir's just revenge for the murder of his son.

In the course of the show terrorist Abu Nazir is transformed into the solicitous father of a charming child.

On Homeland the terrorists are not really terrorists. In the show’s lexicon the real terrorists are the leaders of the American government, from the vice president to the heads of the CIA and Defense Department.

The show’s psychological premise is that an honorable American who sees the son of a terrorist murder would naturally become a terrorist himself. He would naturally want to commit treason by betraying his country. And we are told to think of it all as a blow for justice. 

As we know, Sgt. Brody was tutoring Abu Nazir’s son, Issa. He was so traumatized by the drone attack that he converted to Islam and decided that he would avenge the death of Issa.

Let’s keep in mind that Issa was attending a madrassa, the kind of schools that are, effectively, breeding grounds for terrorists.

If you were wondering why they hate us, why Muslims have been committing acts of terrorism against the West, Homeland explains it all. We are guilty of inflicting horrors on people who only wish to live in peace. Thus, we are getting what we deserve.

Since the show is involved in post-Nixonian mythmaking, the worst part is not the crime but the cover-up. In order to rationalize Brody’s terrorism, CIA agent Saul Berenson displays videotapes that show the meeting where Vice President Walden ordered the attack on Issa’s school. (It may or may not be relevant but Saul shares a last name with Lori Berenson, a young New York woman who went to Peru to become a terrorist.)

In the video Vice President Walden is being told that American forces would be firing on a school. He brushes it off and gives the order. Presumably, that is the smoking gun, the piece of evidence that exculpates Brody.

In a face-off with David Estes, director of the FBI, Berneson also declares that he also has tapes of Americans torturing terrorists.

As you know, in left wing thinking torturing a terrorist is the worst crime imaginable. Berenson dutifully declares that torture is the best recruiting tool that terrorists have.

Again, America is responsible for producing Muslim terrorism. If only we appeased the just demands of Osama bin Laden and the other Muslim terrorist organizations, most of whose charters predate the American decision to fight back, then the world would live in peace and harmony. 

Berenson himself is so patriotic himself that he threatens to hand his tapes over the New York Times. (Shades of the Pentagon Papers.) By his logic the tapes will be a great recruiting tool for terrorists.

Director Estes calls his bluff, but still, the show is clearly portraying America as a criminal enterprise.

Thankfully, our heroine Carrie figures it all out and enlists Brody’s sixteen year old daughter to talk him out of his terrorist act at the last minute.

America is not saved by government action. It is not saved by security officials. It is saved by a young, innocent sixteen year old girl.

Brody does not detonate his suicide vest because his daughter did not want him to. He loves his daughter so much that he cannot go through with it.

But then, why did it take him so long to figure this out. Why was he so blinded by his love for the son of a master terrorist that he completely ignored what the attack would do to his wife and children.

Families of traitors become social pariahs. Their names live in infamy. Apparently, Brody never thought that his terrorism would destroy his family. 

He is willing to render his family social pariahs in the name of a child who is, after all, training to become a terrorist.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s still a good show, but it is based on a vile premise.


Nick said...

I agree, up until the episode where Isa was killed I thought Homeland wouldn't go in the "blame-America" direction but it did. I was willing to accept brainwashing (especially since Brody has his own children) but the second they tried to justify his conversion it made me sick.

Hopefully this type of thinking will change, I'm still young but I remember the feeling in DC on 9/11. I really don't want to worry about the consequences of large amounts of Americans who believe their country is deserving of terrorist attacks. At least Conservatives have more kids, that's where I find my hope.

"And they call us terrorists." - Yes, Mr. Nazir, yes we do. You are scum, why would we not?

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I watched part of first episode. Decided it wasn't worth my time.

You confirmed it was a wise decision. I get plenty of Western jihadi propaganda elsewhere.

Today's WSJ has article objecting to Ft. Hood massacre becoming "workplace violence". Sheesh. -- Rich

CatherineM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CatherineM said...

I am sorry to hear this. Nick, I am afraid this thinking existed in Hollywood and the left wing long before 9/11. Michael Moore and college professors were the first to say, "we had it coming." I also just happened to read an article on the "aughts" from Jan 2010's New Yorker where the author imagines rainbows and sunshine had there been a President Gore ("he would have actually read the briefing memos and prevented the 9/11 terrorist attack"). Talk about wishful thinking.

Sadly, this kind of nonsense will continue and thought to be very high brow (the smart people know better - that the US is an evil, evil place, and your jingoism is ignorance – or as Obama says, we are no better than anyone else).

Cappy said...

Who wrote this script, Ron Paul?