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

Believe Me

I was going to do my next post about President Bush’s new book, Portraits of Courage, or the wonderful new PBS miniseries I watch this week, Africa’s Great Civilizations, hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. And I wasn’t even thinking I’d write anything today but then I woke up to the latest craziness from our so-called President and I was like, “Wow! Just, Wow!” watching the reaction of Trump Supporters on Twitter to his reckless and disgusting behavior.

The madness began with a series of tweets from @realdonaldtrump accusing former President Obama of tapping his phone, Trump Towers, and who knows what else.

trump-tweets-wiretap

After making these very serious charges, with no evidence or source cited whatsoever, he then went after Arnold Schwarzenegger; because a petty feud over the future of The Apprentice TV show is apparently every bit as  important as allegations that Obama abused his power.

trump-tweet-arnold-schwarzenegger

Some people, myself included, pointed out the fact that Trump’s baseless accusations are the very definition of McCarthyism, but unfair and unbalanced Sean Hannity was quick to accept the “truth” as the Dear Leader told it, asking the infamous Watergate question:

sean-hannity-wiretap-trump

A wide host of similarly fanatical and uncritical Trump Supporters followed suit. @bradcrain seemed to be convinced that Obama has already been convicted and the “DEMS” just couldn’t handle it.

brad-crain-wiretap

In this up is down version of reality, Trump’s people are the ones showing their true colors. Rude, willfully blind, and childish colors. Honestly, what kind of people read unsubstantiated allegations and say to themselves, “How can I best use a meme to spread this disinformation?” I don’t know but Riya sharma and @chrisk2000 are two more of them:

busted-meme

warrantless-wiretapping-meme

This is the same pool of people who label everyone who disagrees with Trump as a, “liberal” or “communist,” including conservatives like myself, and then laughs at us for being unable to think properly. Truly crazy.

Worst of all are individuals like @BigStick2013, who embellish fake news with their own lies.

bigstick2013-fake-news

I told Mr. Drain The Swamp that there was “NO news” in the article he linked to, and certainly nothing about anything found at Trump Tower or the White House. All the article did was recaps Trump’s tweets and concluded that, “It is not clear what information Trump based his Tweets on.” For daring to point out the truth to BigStick Swamp Drainer, he blocked me.

What is happening here is a very sick manipulation of our already polarized public, designed only to further divide us and do harm to America, and every patriot should condemn it! Instead, disingenuous fools like Buck Sexton (who’s apparently a radio talk show host) are trying to spin this in ever more creative ways.

buck-sexton-silly-wiretap-tweet

  1. Trump did not claim that Obama used FISA (The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) against him. Trump claimed wiretapping of an unspecified nature, carried out by unspecified agents, and told to him by unknown sources.
  2. If the FISA Court was used to tap Trump or any of his people, that would have come from a Justice Department investigation, which would need to make their case to the FISA Judges and show evidence that Trump and/or his team had done something wrong.
  3. There is no universal agreement in the press that Trump conspired with the Kremlin but it has been clearly established by the intelligence community and outside security experts that Russian hackers did try to interfere in our election. Even many of Trump’s key people have admitted this.
  4. There was zero evidence offered from Trump in his very unclear charges.

In short, the items Buck is pretending to equate are not equal. Not even close. Sadly, this is the kind of intellectual sloppiness that passes for logic in far too many public debates and a Yuge reason why we have a President Trump in the first place. I can only hope that we will learn from this and do better in the future.

Let’s get on with the inevitable and appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate the allegations against the President and the allegations made by the President. I am confident that his uniquely horrible character will be exposed in the end, Believe Me!

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.

It ain’t just a river in Africa

There was a tweet I saw a couple months ago when Trump won the Republican nomination that made me laugh but now haunts me. If you’ve seen the Netflix show, Stranger Things, you’ll understand. “This is the Upside Down and We Are Barbara. We Are Barbara!”

this-is-the-upside-down-and-we-are-babara

If you don’t get it, think of it this way. We are all partying on the Titanic and the iceberg just scraped by. We have no idea what we are in for.

Throughout this ridiculous election session I, along with millions of others, have been living in denial. “Trump couldn’t possibly win.” No matter how much he continued to win we kept telling ourselves this. “Surely the American people can’t be this racist, this sexist, this xenophobic, this dumb, this crazy.” Last night we found out how wrong we were.

I can only hope at this point that Trump’s actions will prove to be less radical than his rhetoric, and that the dreaded “establishment” he ran against will somehow be able to keep him in check. Neither of these possibilities seems likely at this point and I fear millions of Trump voters will soon be forced to admit that they too were living in denial about what a Trump Administration really means.

I’m still in shock but it’s being to turn to disgust. I’m upset at the poor choices the major parties gave us and the pathetic efforts of prominent Republicans and Conservatives to  do more to stop this madness. I’m also upset with myself for not doing more. Sure, I wrote and spoke out against The Donald from the start but I should have been yelling on the street corners and rooftops. I know, you’re thinking that probably wouldn’t have worked, but most everyone a year ago thought that a Trump candidacy probably wouldn’t work and look at how that turned out. A good argument can be made that Trump has proved the wisdom of the old old Spartan war cry: “He who dares, wins.” May we learn from this and prepare to fight again another day.

UPDATE:

Since writing this yesterday I have been thinking about how easy it is for people to dismiss my words as more hyperbolic rhetoric. We’ve all become so used to politicians being denounced as corrupt, immoral, evil, the worst thing since Hitler, etc., that we’ve become numb to it. Sure, he’s bad, but so is she, and it all become the same meaningless computation in which everything is equally bad. Should a candidate come along who is uniquely unqualified and dangerous this is dismissed as another, “boy who cried, wolf,” non-event.

I understand why Secretary Clinton and President Obama felt they have to play nice and tell us to give Trump a chance. They figure there is nothing to gain from harping on the problems they have identified with the man at this point but this also makes their previous words feel like just another game; just more rhetoric; just name calling, rather than reality. I was very disappointed in Mitt Romney, who correctly identified Trump as someone who should never be given power, and invoked John Adam’s famous warning that democracies die of suicide. His efforts were too little, too late, to stop the Trump Train but now they have been completely wiped out in a single tweet:

romney-trump-tweet-after-election

One statement I did find myself identifying with was Van Jones question on CNN about how we explain this to our children? He is right to call this, “a nightmare,” and not just for minorities. I too don’t know what to say to my son. Even when children are too young to understand all the horrible things that Trump has said, they still know that Trump is a bad man and bad men should not be president. I wasn’t happy when Obama won in 2008 and 2012, because I voted for the other guys, but I never bought into the denunciations that he was unAmerican or maniacal. In fact, he seems like a very good man and I was proud to tell my son, “That’s our President. And we respect the presidency.” But now, how can I point to a President Trump (the words still sounds like a bad joke), who embodies everything I do not want my son to be, who does not respect other human beings on so many levels, and tell my son to respect him?

It genuinely sickens and frightens me that a man who courted the White Nationalist (i.e. hardcore racist) vote and has excited them like no other candidate in my lifetime, was actually voted into office. Even if Trump does not live up to their expectations, what will they be inspired to do? Just look at what they are saying and ask yourself, “Why are they so happy about this election? What does it mean to them? And what will that mean for us?” I know that in his victory speech, Trump tried to play the role of unifier, but who can actually believe any of this? We all know that’s not who he is.

I realize that 99.9875% of the population is, “So over it,” and just needs to move on with their lives, but I can’t pretend that this was just another election. I think the Titanic analogy is an apt one. The Titanic was built to withstand a direct hit by an iceberg, just as our Republic was built to withstand the power-hungry machinations of a single man, but under the right (or wrong) circumstances, you never know what will happen, because these protections depend on certain assumptions about the danger at hand and Trump clearly doesn’t follow standard assumption of normal behavior. Will Trump sink the Republic and kill more than half of us? Probably not. But will he be just another president, and maybe even a good one? Certainly not. Believe me!

Implicit Bias

Campaign 2016 VP Debate

I’ve largely avoided the constant stream of commentators telling me their spin on Tuesday night’s VP Debate but I couldn’t help overhearing and seeing a few reoccurring talking points: Governor Pence was the Winner (even before the debate began), he seemed more Presidential, in control, and calm. This in turn raises questions of whether or not Pence’s performance helps Trump or hurts him. Does is simply draw greater attention to Trump’s horrible behavior and inability to control himself? And what about Pence’s ability to straight up lie about everything Trump has actually said? Is that Presidential?

Personally I kind of liked Senator Kaine playing the attack dog role and ripping into a few key points, like Trump’s refusal to keep his word and release his taxes. No matter what you think of either man’s performance, however, or the importance of this matchup to the overall election, there was a moment that stood out to me and seems to have been largely overlooked. I did find some mention of it when I searched for it but it certainly wasn’t in the main headlines and soundbites I encountered.

At one point, Pence was rebuking Secretary Clinton for talking about, “implicit bias” (i.e. racial bias) and making the argument that if two people are of the same “race” then it is (as Pence seems to see it) self-evidently impossible for racism to be a factor in how they treat one another. Specifically, Pence said: “When an African American police officer is involved in a police … shooting involving an African American, why would Hillary Clinton accuse that African American police officer of implicit bias?” I’m sure that made many of Trump’s supporters let out a little cheer at home. “Yeah! You can’t be racist again your own race. Stupid liberals. You tell-em Pence!”

This line of thinking is actually a huge (or is it “Yuge”) part of the problem and proof of the implicit bias we all live with. The very concept of race is false. There is only one human race. No skin color or nationality or religion or artificial subdivision, no matter how pseudoscientific it sounds, can be biologically defined as a, “race,” separate from other, “races.” We have all been raised to believe that, “blacks” and “whites,” “African Americans” and “Caucasians,” are distinct races, even if we are also told that they are equal before the law and before God. This fundamental misconception of the world continues to haunt us and lead to all manner of problems (all manner of implicit biases) and the fact that so many people can’t even see this makes these problems dramatically worse.

In Nelson Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom he talks about his life as an ANC Activist, before he was imprisoned, traveling around Africa to generate support of the anti-apartheid, pro-democracy cause in South Africa. At one point he admits that he got on a plane where the cockpit door was open and he could see there was a black pilot. Mandela’s first thought was, “We’re going to die,” because blacks can’t be pilots. He quickly realized how silly he was being; how he had bought into the very lie he was fighting against. He did not think of blacks as pilots because he had never seen one and subconsciously accepted the idea that pilots are white. If Mandela, arguably the greatest international symbol in the world against racism, could not completely escape the confines of this false worldview and the implicit biases that flow from it, why should we think a black police office, or any of us can be free from such tendencies.

One of the implicit biases that is most prominent throughout America is the idea that black men, particularly young black men, are more prone to violence, more incapable to controlling themselves, and less trustworthy than white men. You can say, “I don’t believe that,” and I hope you don’t! But that doesn’t change the fact that we have been inundated with this message in our homes and in the media for generations upon generations. Even when you try to be consciously aware of this fact and reject it, you cannot so easily escape from its effect on the way you think and act. Now, take an police officer – “black,” “white,” or whatever artificial “racial” label you wish to put upon him – put him in a stressful situation, and tell me he’ll be free from implicit bias just because the fellow citizen in from of him is of the, “same race.” It’s ridiculous.

Pence may have fired up the base of Trumps supporters by not being as bad as Trump but he only proved to me how clueless the political right has become. As I have tried to argue before, these are not, “real conservatives,” and I won’t be a party to their willful ignorance.