Saturday, February 20, 2016
PC MC TV
The Counter-Jihad Mainstream continues to indulge many fallacious notions. One of the most common is the "those damn Leftists" meme -- that the main (or only) reason why the West remains persistently myopic to the problem of Islam, and why the West continues to whitewash Islam Muslims, is because Leftists are controlling the West.
Ancillary to this meme is the implicit assertion that The People "get it" just like those in the Counter-Jihad "get it" -- and that despite this, those Dastardly Elites who magically control all of the world's business, politics, news media, arts & entertainment, and academics are directing the West to defend Islam.
Over the years, I have seen thousands of examples of this in the still inchoate Counter-Jihad. Recently, as a kind of methadone treatment to wean me away from Jihad Watch comments, I have dipped into various comments threads at FrontPageMag (the home of David Horowitz, the markedly asymptotic Jamie Glazov, and a daily galaxy of special guests, including Robert Spencer and that Counter-Jihadist so egregiously soft even Pam Geller has found him wanting, Daniel Pipes). One analyst they feature there prominently, with his own soapbox ("The Point"), is Daniel Greenfield, whom I've often found to be a quite cogent observer of the primary problem (Islam), with a wickedly perspicacious eye. However, he handles the secondary problem (the Problem of the Problem -- i.e., the West's persistent myopia to the primary Problem) ineptly, with an obsessive focus on "Leftism".
This excessive focus seems to be a staple of the Counter-Jihad Mainstream.
I noticed a similar spasm from Spencer the other day -- as in his editorial remark to a recent story:
Apple won’t unlock San Bernardino jihad killer’s iPhone, but unlocked phones for the Feds 70 times before
-- where Spencer notes:
"Is Apple really trying to safeguard freedom and individual rights, or just pandering to its Leftist anti-American, pro-jihad base?"
This is preposterous. Does Spencer really think that a global economic giant like Apple makes decisions based merely on its Leftist base? And does he really think Apple has a "Leftist base" at all -- defining "base" in this context as the core consumers who make or break the corporate business? Of course, there are Leftists among Apple's hundreds of millions of consumers -- and no doubt also among its top echelons of its corporate structure. But to glibly dash off such a claim (couched in a rhetorical question), implying that a Leftist base is the only reason why Apple would make such a major decision, reveals a surprising glimpse into just how committed Spencer is to the Leftist Explanation for the Problem of the Problem.
The more reasonable inference to make begins by noticing the data of a consumer base for Apple composed of innumerable non-Leftists throughout the West, reflecting the Western demographics in general. That this non-Leftist base would, indeed, pose a problem for Apple were it to behave as though it were penalizing Muslims doesn't make sense, unless one has been thinking about the Problem of the Problem for a while (as I have) and has noted that the PC MC worldview with regard to the Problem of Islam is composed of millions of non-Leftists.
The only alternatives to this reasonable inference would be to claim that the majority of Westerners are Leftists, or that Leftists are a small minority but that they have supernatural powers to control all politics, popular culture, news media, academia, and businesses throughout the West and the rest of the semi-free world. These alternatives do not seem reasonable, for they don't adequately explain certain phenomena -- among which are two:
1) the existence of non-Leftists who nevertheless promote the PC MC line on the Problem of Islam (one example out of many once could cite, academic members of the Voegelin Society);
2) the fact that in the popular culture realm of arts entertainment -- specifically, the billion-dollar industry of movies and television -- the bottom line with regard to the production of fare that deals with terrorism (the action, thriller, and military espionage genres) consistently tilts in favor of whitewashing Muslims.
We then factor in what that bottom line is: money. This is what motivates producers of movies and television shows. Whatever they have determined sells, is what they will bankroll and produce. And with billions on the line, they have developed over the decades near scientific ways of determining what the public wants. I.e., if the mavens of arts entertainment concluded that the public wants more shows and movies that depict a more Islam-critical perspective, they would be producing them. It's that simple. Thus, the fact that the overwhelming majority of shows and movies dealing with plot lines revolving around terrorism severely soft-pedal the Islam factor -- or more often than not just ignore it -- this indicates that the people (or most of them) are fine with this. If the people didn't want this, the producers of the shows and movies would stop churning them out.
Occasionally on my blog, I've delved into this issue with analyses of specific movies or shows: If the reader looks at some of the essays on this link, as well as this link, and this link -- he'll get an idea of the issue as I've analyzed it. The only other analyst in the Counter-Jihad I know of who branches out in this area is Debbie Schlussel (though her copious movie reviews deal mostly with cultural issues other than Islam). (In the first link above, in the essay "Excellently crappy television...", I link to a wicked satire by Diana West of the gold standard of the TV show that dealt with terrorism, 24.)
The main problem is that TV shows and movies that are supposed to be dealing with issues revolving around terrorism -- in the general genre of spy thriller -- either ignore Islamic terrorism completely, or when they do advert to it, they tiptoe around it and end up carefully telegraphing subliminal messages of anxious deference to, and defense of, Muslims.
In addition to the examples in the links above, over the years I've seen dozens and dozens of examples, but didn't bother to note them all down and put them in a blog article. Most of the time when I see them, as I'm trying to watch something to be entertained, I merely feel a wave of weary nausea and try to ignore it (or, quite often, I fast forward or skip the episode altogether).
At any rate, I offer today three examples which I could multiply by dozens, scores, possibly hundreds over the years.
1) Person of Interest -- a show still going in its 5th season, starring James Caveziel (he played Jesus in Mel Gibson's movie) and Michael Emerson (he was “Linus” on the juggernaut television show Lost). The show's main point is counter-terrorism, with a framework around various issues of a "Super Artificial Intelligence" computer capable of doing great good -- or evil.
Typically, even though the show deals mainly with terrorists as the bad guys, not one show's villains in all of the first four seasons (which I have watched) is a Muslim, and not one terrorist group the heroes have dealt with throughout all of the first four seasons has been “Islamist” or “radical Islamic” (much less simply Muslim).
Secondly, when they do happen to mention Muslims -- once -- peripherally, they are portrayed as relatively decent, hapless, and harmless victims. Case in point: the show titled “Control-Alt-Delete” (episode 12, season 4).
This episode features the subplot of a Homeland security type agent (aptly named “Control”, played by actress Camryn Manheim) high up in rank who is depicted as ruthless in pursuit of her job, even to the point of personally torturing a young woman (who happens to be on the team of the good guys of the show) to get information vital to the national security.
“Control” slowly learns that she has been kept out of the loop by her superiors, a nefarious cabal or shadow government within the halls of Washington D.C. deploying a super-artificial intelligence network to control crime (but really to control society). At one point, zealous in her pursuit of national security, sShe had sent a team to kill four Muslim students deemed to be a terror cell plotting terrorism. She was told that they were terrorists by her nefarious superiors, who as it turns out had manufactured the evidence and thus gotten three innocent Sandwich Muslims shot dead by agents.
One of them survived and went on the run; “Control” at this point alone, finally tracks him down in a remote cabin. Gun drawn, she confronts the Muslim student inside. He's unarmed and affecting baffled, and understandably harried, innocence.
“Why did you kill my friends?” he asks her plaintively.
“That’s what we do to terrorists,” she answers, implacably, holding the gun steady.
“I’m not a terrorist!” he insists, pleading. “I’m an American. My dad works for Ford, my sister’s a cheerleader, I’m a PhD candidate in software engineering…”
[Notice the “American as apple pie” rhetoric, the same we've heard from innumerable Muslims claiming they are just Sandwich Muslims]
“Which makes you a very dangerous man.”
[A good line, and quite perceptive; however, the salience of it is ruined by the fact that the one saying it is depicted in the show as a ruthless right-wing fanatic.]
“Look,” the Muslim protests. “Two months ago, I won this competition -- the Nautilus.”
“What the hell is that.”
“An elaborate contest. Data security, steganography, cryptography. The next day, I got a text message, offering jobs to me and my friends from school. The four of us crowded into one of those office park startups -- big paychecks, stock options; we thought it was the next Google!”
“What was on your laptop, Yaseem?”
“I don’t know! But it’s not uncommon for coders to be kept in the dark -- that’s how stealth companies work.”
“That’s how terror cells work,” she says, grimly unpersuaded.
“This was a bio-informatics company creating climate change models! We’d write a piece of code, and we’d pass it on to someone else -- two days ago we sent the last piece; ten hours later, everyone was dead!”
“Except for you.”
“I’m not the bad guy here!”
“And I’m sure Tarek, Massoud, and Osman were just harmless extremists who conned their way into the United States on student visas…”
“No,” he says, getting choked up. “They were my friends! Maybe they picked us because that’s exactly what you’d expect…”
She levels the gun ready to shoot, and he pleads, desperately:
“Can you consider the possibility that you’ve been lied to…?”
After a long pause, where each is staring at the other, she shoots him in the chest point-blank and, as he slides down the wall to the floor dead, she answers:
Cut to the exterior shot of the cabin, and the sound of a second shot she fired to make sure he was dead.
And, naturally, as the audience watches the remaining half hour of the show, it becomes clear that the Muslims students were, in fact, set up by the Evil White Right Wing Cabal. If that isn't bad enough, the writers and director lay it on thick later in the episode when they show “Control” back at her headquarters in D.C. watching a live video of a drone strike somewhere in the Middle East -- her eyes looking grimly determined -- thus telegraphing subliminally to the audience how much of the War on Terror is killing innocent Muslims.
2) Covert Affairs -- a show that lasted four seasons (2010-2014). Again, the whole premise of the show is C.I.A. anti-terrorism ops, so you'd think they would have some Muslim terrorists figure into their plots now and then, to reflect the actual news of the real world...
But no, of course not. As I noted in my two essays on the long-running spy show out of the UK, Spooks (also known as MI-5), episode after episode, season after season, the show's cast of spies agents would get embroiled in fighting one kind of terrorist after another -- but they never seemed to have anything to do with Islam. There were Basque terrorists, ex-KGB, environmental terrorists, Slavic criminal networks, right wing fanatics, Tamil Tigers, evil white businessmen, and, of course, the non-Islamic terrorism that always runs trippingly off the lips of the PC MC -- the IRA.
Episode 2 of the first season of Covert Affairs -- titled “Walter’s Walk” -- actually made a good, if fleeting joke about this as the show began. Actor Sendhil Ramamurthy (as agent Jai Wilcox, obviously a token Brown Guy on the cast, and as a Baliwood-looking Indian, conveying between the lines a vague Middle Eastern vibe) is among a group of agents being briefed on the latest terrorism case. Dead serious generals and high-level officials have marshaled a Power Point presentation to give them the rundown on this latest threat to national security. The lead agent in charge (actress Kari Matchett, as Special Agent Joan Campbell), shows a couple of key players on the large screen on the wall -- two Irish gentlemen, with ties to the Irish Republican Army.
Agent Wilcox interjects at this point:
“The IRA…? Really? Is this 1987?”
Good one, Wilcox. I've wanted to ask that of numerous shows and movies over the years. Unfortunately, the show's writers and producer meant it with a straight face. Special agent Campbell answers agent Wilcox's rhetorical aside with serious intel indicating that, yes, the IRA is at it again.
“Despite the Belfast agreement, the IRA have been actively recruiting -- and perhaps planning new attacks, possibly here on American soil. Timing suggests something imminent; both those attacks occurred during Lent. We’re now 20 days in. ”
So, we can easily put the Tiny Minority of Islamist Extremists on the back burner, doncha know... Further on in the plot of this most exigent tale of the C.I.A. in 2010 saving America from the dire danger of Irish extremists, the lead hero, agent Annie Walker (played by actress Piper Perabo) is teamed up with an agent from England's MI-5, James Elliott. It eventually becomes evident that he may be a double agent, working for the radical Irish threatening America in 2010. Agent Walker, conferring with another agent on her suspicion of Elliott, notes:
“He’s on the nicotine patch, and he said ‘We’re halfway there’… 20 days into Lent.”
Her colleague points out over the phone:
“Well, being a Catholic isn’t a crime.”
“His file says he’s Anglican…”
“I hear you -- but that doesn’t mean he’s a double agent; we need something concrete.”
Then she remembers that he had handled her cellphone -- she checks it and finds a tracker Elliott had put on it. Concrete evidence confirming her suspicions, which were partially based on signs that he was a devout Christian, either Catholic or Anglican (devout enough to link his aim to kick his smoking habit with a major Christian holy day).
No Western show or movie would focus in on the mainstream religiosity of a Muslim suspect -- even with a colleague interjecting the halfhearted demurrer “Well, being a Muslim isn’t a crime” -- if it turned out he was, indeed, guilty. But apparently it's okay to do so with the IRA and Catholics (or Anglicans).
3. Brake -- an indy picture that came out in 2012.
The blurb on IMDB capsulizes the plot:
A Secret Service Agent is held captive in the trunk of a car and endures mental and physical torture as terrorists attempt to extract information for their plot against the President of the United States.
The entire film is shot inside a special cage of thick glass ingeniously constructed by terrorists inside the trunk of a car where they hold Secret Service agent Jeremy Reins (played by actor Stephen Dorff) and submit him to hours of psychological torture (as well as physical, releasing a swarm of bees in through a duct), with dialogue enacted either through a CB radio the kidnappers provided him, or a cell phone he manages to nab by straining his arm through a small hole made in the glass by a bullet from the pocket of a dead terrorist after a shoot-out with the police who had stopped the car (soon after that, the terrorist's partner manages to take the wheel and the kidnapping continues), or eventually, through a duct leading to the terrorist driving the car. That last mode of communication becomes relevant to my point here.
When one of the kidnappers first contact agent Reins through the duct, his voice is obviously Middle Eastern, thus obviously telegraphing to the audience his Muslim identity. The actor doing his voice is Sammy Sheik, an Egyptian Muslim who has had quite a TV and film career, playing roles on Homeland, 24 and The Unit calculated to carefully demarcate the Tiny Minority of Extremists -- by either playing one of them or one of the many Good Muslims who are helping us fight terrorism (or, a regular favorite trope, a character whom the white guys at first suspect of being a terrorist, but who turns out to be a decent victim of prejudice). For my analyses of 24 and The Unit, see here and here.
Later, after another half hour of agonizing suspense and trauma, when another of the kidnappers contacts him, it's obviously a white American (played by actor Pruitt Taylor Vince). Not only that, but from what he says, and the fact that he tells agent Reins that they have his wife, he conveys the impression of being the Muslim terrorist's superior in the operation. The credits at IMDB confirm this, calling him "Boss Terrorist".
Later, as the plot approaches its devolving dénouement (meanwhile, various parts of Washington D.C. according to reports agent Jeremy has heard on the CB radio have been hit by terror attacks) , it turns out that agent Jeremy's friend, agent Ben Reynolds and another white American (played by the beefy all-American actor Tom Berenger) -- who has been sporadically contacting him on the cell phone assuring him that help is on the way -- is actually in on the kidnapping of agent Jeremy. When Jeremy screams at him that he is a traitor, agent Ben responds that "it's just business" (meaning he did it for the money).
That's one of the main messages of all Western TV shows and movies (as far as I know, and I invite anyone to disprove it) -- that, if a Muslim happens to be involved in a terror plot, it's a) got nothing to do with true Islam and b) he's a pawn manipulated by evil white traitors. The second most common message is "See No Muslim, Hear No Muslim" -- i.e., that the threat of terrorism in our time emanates not from Muslims, but rather from a whole galaxy of non-Islamic groups .
The ending of Brake unravels into the ludicrous and the horrible: As agent Reins has consistently resisted all attempts to extract key information from him that would help the terrorists kill the President and his Cabinet, they decide to kill him by drowning, and his glass cage proceeds to fill up with forceful jets of water. When the cage is full and he has nearly passed out, he suddenly awakes to find himself hauled out of the trunk onto the pavement, where he coughs up water and blood and finally regains his wits -- to see all these white guys around him, including agent Reynolds whom he thought was a traitor, all congratulating him on having "passed the test". Even his lovely white wife is there, who had been enlisted to assist them in this elaborate test of his resolve to be loyal to his country. When he finally processes this, he is unimaginably relieved, then swoons and faints. When he comes to a few minutes later, he's strapped onto a gurney in the back of an ambulance. His loving wife is there ministering to him. Finally, now that his guard is completely down, she manages to get out of him the information the terrorists wanted all along -- because she and all the other white guys were really in on it all along. The last turn of events was part of the elaborate deceit. The final scene shows him dying under the gas his white wife terrorist is smothering his mouth with.
The ending ratchets up the horrifying nature of a terror plot -- and surely it is not lost on the viewer that the Muslim early on was but a pawn being manipulated by evil white guys.