I have had a few discussions with friends of mine about the movie American Sniper. Interestingly somewhere in the middle of that conversation, the story of racist graffiti left by few artists on the set of Homeland also got mentioned. For those of you who don’t watch Homeland, it’s an American drama series which most concise summary would be that it almost always involves the good American guys saving the World from the evil guys who always happen to be Muslims (yes sadly the Communist Chinese and evil Red Russians are spared in this show!). Most of the times the distinction between Arab and Muslim is conspicuously absent which is interesting since large number of Arabs are also Christians especially in countries like Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Jordan where Christians constitute a sizable number. Muslim countries are also portrayed in the worst possible stereotype possible in Homeland. As for American Sniper, it was a blockbuster Hollywood movie about an Iraq War sniper Chris Kyle who was reported to have more than hundred kills in Iraq making him the most deadly sniper in Iraq War in terms of body counts.
When I told my friends that I don’t watch neither the homeland nor American Sniper, I was told to chill and relax and not take things seriously. Although it was a bit of banter, however I thought I should write down why I believe that programs or movies like these are extremely dangerous in the way the consistently portray 2 Billion people on this planet.
For all those who think I should chill and not take it seriously, just imagine the above picture in a movie where ISIS guys are beheading a white man and then we see a long movie based on ISIS members’ wives and families. We humanize them by showing their softer sides. They would repeatedly address the white aid workers as savages. We hear them boast about killing white western savages. Would you all sit down together and watch it with the same interest? Would you justify it as a form of entertainment? Would you ask your friends and family members who refuse to watch it to loosen up a little? NO. It would be considered a propaganda movie and rightly so. If this hypocrisy doesn’t indicate a blind morality spot, what would?
“Goddam those Iraqis for defending their country!”
American Sniper and Homeland are extremely dangerous propaganda movies. Former has American ‘heroes’ consistently calling Iraqi ‘terrorists’ as ‘savages’ and describing killing as ‘fun’ throughout the movie. Sarah Palin was one of the first people to call American Sniper a patriotic & heroic movie and Chris Kyle a true American hero. However there were a few who disagreed with her but sadly the critics are a very small minority. Michal Moore called snipers cowards who shoot people in their backs and that they are even worse when they are invaders. There was one comment in particular that attracted my attention and is actually closest to reality. The US comic and actor Seth Rogen said on Twitter that American Sniper reminded him of the Nazi propaganda movie seen in the final part of Quentin Tarantino’s second world war romp Inglourious Basterds. I couldn’t agree with him more. It is a propaganda movie and a dangerous one in an already charged up climate!
“Just replace Muslims with any other group here White Western men, Jews, Christians or Atheists, would we still be celebrating the performance of our true American Hero then?”
“It’s still just a movie!” This is where my concern really lies. It is a movie that glorifies killing, not just killing but killing while invading an independent country, invading it on the false premise of defending your own country and finally it also adds a bit of religious touch to it. American Sniper & Homeland are no comedy shows or comics. These are serious movies targeted towards mass audiences. This does and will shape opinions of millions of people in the West and also around the World. It will only help the future war-mongers in the West who always want us to be involved in open-ended wars to reap profits from them for themselves. These movies further reinforce the negative stereotypes of 2 Billion people of this World that the media of Rupert Murdoch has so beautiful created in the last 20 years in the West. American Sniper is no Syriana which was an honest attempt at trying to explain the complex situation of this World today. Syriana was a fair movie in the sense it didn’t attempt to portray anyone as savage or invaders. Most important of all, it didn’t glorify invasions or terrorism. The underlying message in these types of shows and movies is quite clear. We are the good guys and they the Muslims are bad guys. We are the civilised, educated and cultured and they are the savages. Just replace Muslims with any other group here White Western man, Jews, Christians or Atheists, would we still be celebrating the performance of our true American Hero then?
Iraq War was an illegal war that destabilized the entire region. Many independent sources put the body count up to more than a whopping 2,000,000! And this was 3 years ago. This is just the number of Iraqis killed. No one exactly knows the numbers that were raped, orphaned, and left with serious injuries. We don’t know the total number of women who resorted to prostitution because of losing sources of income because of this war. We also don’t know the total number of Iraqi children who lost one or both of their parents. We also don’t know the total number of illegal torture centres being operated by US and UK like infamous Abu-Ghuraib and Guantanamo Bay on Iraqi soil. Imagine your life turned upside down like this because a foreign country’s army invades your country to ‘free’ you. This in itself is torture and living the worst horror movie possible, but we don’t stop there! We then celebrate it with movies like American Sniper and TV series like Homeland glamorizing our actions that were illegal in the eyes of International law and which wrecked the lives of millions of people around the World. Critics are told to relax and chill. This just illustrates the hypocrisy West suffers from today. American Sniper truly illustrated the West’s morality blind spots!
The movie American Sniper got nominated for six Academy awards. The other Islamophobic show Homeland has won more than a dozen awards including two Emmy awards and has been nominated for at least 30+ awards! This is mainstream media and Emmy and Academy awards are the most prestigious awards in media. It is a dangerous trend that has been set by sanitization of killings of a mass murderer by portraying him as a great war time hero and creating a narrative of good ‘us’ vs evil ‘them’. As always these portrayals have consequences. ADC, a group that monitors harassment and racist complaints in US, saw threat incidents against anyone ‘Arab looking’ skyrocket in the immediate aftermath of the release of the American Sniper. The group also noticed an alarming rise in threats of rape and murders received against anyone of Arab descent on twitter. “Great fucking movie and now I really want to kill some fucking ragheads,” read one tweet, in a set of screenshots that quickly went viral after being collated by journalist Rania Khalek for the online publication Electronic Intifada. “American sniper makes me wanna go shoot some fuckin Arabs,” read another. Lot of people underestimate the power of Hollywood and modern media in shaping public narrative and driving people to action. It is indeed a very sophisticated form of brainwashing, the effectiveness of which cannot be denied. I rest my case with a question. Would a movie or drama series receive the same positive treatment from Western society if it was portraying Russian snipers killing the Afghan civilians as noble heroes during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan?