Homeland’s Alt-Right Season

SPOILER ALERT: If you plan on watching the latest season of Homeland (2011-) and don’t want to know anything about what happened, don’t read this.

homeland out is back in

Homeland just finished its sixth season and has already be renewed for a seventh and eighth, with a planned end to the storyline there. When the show began it was sold as the story of Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis), a U.S. Marine presumed to have been lost in action until he is found during a raid on a terrorist compound, after several years of brutal captivity. But the central character of the show has always been Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), a C.I.A. intelligence genius who suffers from psychotic episodes. Carrie is the only one who suspects that Brody may have been compromised by the enemy, which turns out to be true. This doesn’t stop her from falling in love (lust, then love) with him, breaking up his marriage, and ultimately getting him killed. There are plenty more dramatic twists and turns, along with emotionally satisfying moments in the first three seasons, both realistic and unrealistic, but the Carrie-Brody love affair is the main throughline.

Season four was set in Pakistan, where we learned that the Pakistanis aren’t really our friends, and five was primarily in Berlin, where we learn that the sneaky Russians are still our enemies. Now, in season six, Carrie has come home to New York. No longer with, “The Agency,” she is a secret advisor to President Elect Keane (Elizabeth Marvel), who is opposed by some key players in the National Security establishment and elsewhere, who are will to do anything, including murder, to stop her. There is also a blow-hard, conspiracy theorist, compulsive liar of a talk show host, Brett O’Keefe (Jake Weber), endlessly complaining on his, “Real Truth,” program about how America is lost and Keane will destroy the Republic.

homeland real truth

My first reaction to the O’Keefe character was to recall Glenn Beck at his chalkboard, when he was still ranting on Fox News. But Beck now claims to regret the divisions he helped create in the American Electorate and he did not support The Donald, so he has fallen out of favor with much of the reactionary crowd he helped cultivate.

glenn beck chalkboard

Most people seem to see O’Keefe as an Alex Jones parody, though he never gets as loud and childishly angry as Jones does – and Jones’s Disinformation War followers were offended by this perceived attack on their phony hero from the get go. They, specifically, Paul Joseph Watson, writing on Jones’s website, laments the “fact” that:

The plots of earlier Homeland seasons were usually focused around Islamic terrorism, but in later series the show has kowtowed to political correctness and allowed social justice narratives to ruin the dynamism of what was once an enjoyable watch.

In truth, Homeland has always raised questions about the justness of American actions and the handling of the War on Terror (or whatever you want to call it). If that is something you want to lump under the all-purpose, and often meaningless phrase, “politically correctness,” so be it, but it’s nothing new. I have no idea what Watson thinks a, “social justice narrative,” is, since he gives no examples and puts no thought into that charge either, but I don’t see it anywhere in the show.

Watson, and many of the fans commenting on his article, also believe that the choice of a female President Elect proves, “how out of touch the producers [of Homeland] are with reality” (as if Trump won the popular vote or was somehow inevitable).

I think their real problem with the O’Keefe character is that he is too close to the real thing; a man willing to say and do anything to whip up the mob and murder truth for his own ends and perverted sense of self-importance. [Note: You can see more about Jones in my documentary, Conspiracy Theorists Lie (2015).]

alex jones on air

What I find disheartening is how much Homeland feeds into Alt-Right, conspiracy theorist paranoia; this season more than ever. By the end of the finale it is unclear who was/is in league with whom and if anyone can be trusted, including the new President. What is the real plan and to what end? Like so many shows, which I generally like, as shows (House of Cards (2013-) and 24 (2001-2010) come readily to mind), Homeland paints a very unreal and frightening vision of our government officials at work that is closely akin to the, “Deep State,” rhetoric of conspiracy wingnuts. One in which large numbers of public servants are ruthless to a fault and disinterested in morality, the rule of law, or anything outside their personal ambitions and sinister plots. My tinfoil head wearing critics scoff at me when I point out facts like this and come back with retorts like, “You’re so naive (or stupid) to think that government officials are all good and honest.” But that not what I’m saying. Not at all. I’m simply trying to put the faults of our government officials into a reasonable perspective. If America were actually such a pathetic, backstabbing, literarily murderous, Banana Republic, where vast numbers of bureaucrats and officers are constantly scheming to commit horrendous crimes and trample our Constitutional structures to the ground, then we would not be making up wild TV fantasies to entertain ourselves because we would be too busy living miserable lives and dying horribly in the nightmare clutches of a Police State.

Homeland keeps bring two classic films to mind for me: The Manchurian Candidate (1962) and Seven Days in May (1964). The first is about a communist plot to take over America, in which a soldier is brainwashed into becoming an assassin and the biggest anti-communist Senator turns out to be the real embodiment of the danger he has long been warning the people about. The second centers around a military coup, orchestrated by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, who believes the President is a “weak sister” and the nation needs to be saved from. If you haven’t see them, you should.

Homeland clearly borrows elements from these two films but it lacks the Kennedy Era sense of patriotism they champion. Homeland, like too many other shows and movies today, rarely seems to believe that America is an idea worth fighting for. Carrie is simply trying to stop terrorists from killing innocent people or trying to stop her friends from getting killed, and we’re just in it to see what Carrie will do next.

Episode 612

Autopsy of a Farewell

As we quickly approach the period that future generations will refer to as, “The Dark Time,” and we imagine the phrase, “Disgraced Former President Trump,” will enter the lexicon quickly, we could all do for a little hope and positivity.

President Obama’s Farewell Address the other night was a great speech. Thoughtful, inspiring, emotional, heartfelt. My one big criticism is that it may have been too long, with too many points, neatly wrapped up in a, “Yes We Can,” ribbon that left me wonder what it is we can actually do?

I’ve had this same conflicted feeling since I first saw Barack Obama on the national stage (specifically the 2004 DNC Stage, where he gave the Keynote Address). I could tell right away this guy would run for the Presidency but I didn’t think it would be so quick and certainly didn’t think he could win that handily against the Clinton Machine. I could not support him because of fundamental disagreements about the role of government and my belief that he lacked the executive experience, or significant DC experience, to do the job effectively. Nevertheless, I liked the man and I have liked him more as time has passed. In part because of who he is and in part because I am sickened by the often racist and stupid attacks upon. His ability to hold his head high and continue to set a good example in the face of such adversity is truly remarkable.

“Optics” matter and I am glad that my first son was born under the first African American President. I remember having a few black heroes when I was a kid in the 70s and 80s but they were athletes, like Muhammad Ali and Rod Carew, or pop stars and comedians, like Michael Jackson and Eddie Murphy. They were never men revered for their intellect or gravitas, and I never saw black people as leaders or holders of real power. What a different and better starting point this has given my boy. Without a doubt it has helped him to see all people as truly equal. Sadly, my second son, and countless other children, will likely become aware of what a President is through the funhouse mirror version of the Trump Administration; a key leader of the racist and stupid “birther” movement and a glaring example of everything I do not want my children to be.

Practical results also matter. In some ways President Obama surprised me, taking out a great many foreign jihadis, including the bin Laden raid, deep into the sovereign territory of our sometimes ally, Pakistan. More often than not, however, Obama’s results were lackluster at best. The Iran Deal was one of two key moves on which he bet his legacy and I fear it will not play out well. Arguably there were no good options on what to do with Iran but that won’t matter in the final assessment for most people when the deal goes bad. The President’s other major legacy move, of course, was Obamacare. On this one I was befuddled from the start. The President seemed to let his Congressional Colleagues stuff everything they wanted into the bill without any leadership or objections from the White House, creating a mountain of legislation that 99.9978% of us still don’t understand. And he did all this with zero support from Republicans, which was truly unprecedented for a legal initiative of that size and scope. Did more people get coverage? Yes. Did everyone I know see their healthcare expenses rise while their coverage got worse? Also, Yes. And now what? Will the “repeal and replace” keep those 20 million new people covered? Will Obama be able to argue that he at least got us that far? I don’t know. It’s such a mess.

You can argue that the Republicans were obstructionists, which is true, but then you get into this chicken and the egg game that goes back to the Bush Administration, and the Clinton Administration, and on and on, with back and forth, often petty, “They started it,” crap. Maybe, just maybe, after we live through the worst possible example of public behavior from our new Twitter Troll and Chief, we may swing back to a more civil discourse in the future but that doesn’t change the fact that Obama took the job, as W. Bush before him, to be a “uniter,” and neither proved to be up to the task. Maybe the real problem is that we expect too much from our leaders and do not demand enough from ourselves. That was certainly one of the points that I think President Obama was trying to make in his Farewell Address and certainly something I hope we all take to heart.