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

I’m voting for Evan


I have previously said that I would vote for Hillary Clinton if I felt she needed my vote to defeat Donald Trump, and I stand by that statement, but I’m confident she will take Minnesota and she has done nothing to win me over. I also wrote about the “major” (minor, it’s kind of like a “Jumbo Shrimp” sort of thing) third party alternatives and why none of them appealed to me. It wasn’t until after I made that post, however, that Evan McMullin entered the race on behalf of the Never Trump Movement and I’ve been thinking long and hard about what to do ever since.

I don’t care for Clinton (or The Clintons, for that matter) but I don’t see her as a grave danger to America – guilty of every crime in the book, including murder – the way the wingnuts continue to believe. The Clintons are pretty standard politicians, actually, who are simply better at playing the game than most. But why should I vote for, “The lesser of two evils?” Why shouldn’t I vote for someone and something that I can actually stand behind and feel good about?

Since we only have two major political parties in the US – two ideological tents under which all subgroups try to get along – we have to cram a great deal of disagreement into each encampment and that leads to profound arguments about what our chosen side, “stands for.” The “left” tends to argue about whether or not they should be liberals, progressives, or socialists? The “right” has a small debate between calling themselves conservatives or libertarians, and a major argument over what a “conservative” actually is. This fight has now boiling over into a major crisis for the Republican Party and the future of the American Right.

For many, Trump is a champion of, “real conservatism,” or at least a means by which real conservatives will, “Take our country back.” As I have explained before, this reactionary, nationalistic strain of right wing political thought has gone through a series of twists and turns throughout American History but it is a consistent stream, made up of fear, hate, and a reflexively anti-authority attitude that is actually very authoritarian when it comes to enforcing their dogmas. The most visceral example of this line of thinking is the Klu Klux Klan and the White Power/Pride Movement. I realize that most potential Trump Voters are not Klansman or Aryan Nation adherents – in fact they take great offense when you compare them to these groups – but their refusal to see the connection does not make it go away. It is not a random coincidence that so many hate groups actively support Trump or that they have been so vile to honorable conservatives like David French at National Review for daring to stand up against madness.

I realize that critics on the left also agree that the fascist strain of “conservatism” is the true heart of the American Right, much like critics on the right pretend that the communist strain of “liberalism” is the true heart of the American Left, but I don’t buy into the rhetoric of either extreme. I also know that, “real conservatism,” is what we make of it and now is a time for choosing. Throughout this extremely long and painful election I have stood firm in opposition to Trump and all his racist, sexist, xenophobia, conspiratorial nonsense, and downright stupidity. I have blogged about this time and time again, but that’s not enough. I am sick of laying out the case for what I abhor and need to start talking more about what I stand for.

I believe Evan McMullin feels much the same way and despite the fact that he has no reasonable chance of winning this election we do have a shot at winning the future of the Republican Party, or whatever comes after it. We can strive for a Conservative Movement that appeals to the better angels of our nature and fights to make them manifest. An optimistic, inclusive, reasonable, intelligent, mature, and patriotic conservatism that knows America has never stopped being great.

“So, who is this Evan guy, anyway?” I know that’s probably what you are thinking since he hasn’t received the kind of coverage that Gary “what’s Aleppo?” Johnson and Jill “magic trick” Stein have. Evan is a former CIA Officer and investment banker who has also worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and served as an advisor to House Republicans. He has intimate knowledge of the War on Terror (or Islamic Extremism, or whatever you feel like calling it) both in terms of killing terrorists and helping refugees. In ever interview I have see of him, he comes across as very thoughtful and empathetic. You can check out his website for his official position on major issues but to me this is all about character; his character and the character of what we want America to be.

If you watch just one interview with Evan try this one:

I don’t think you can fake what he has and it is so markedly different from the rest of the pack. This isn’t a carnival barker, class clown, career politician, or ideological zealot. This is a genuine leader. Eighteenth century figure Joseph de Maistre once famously said, “Every nation gets the government it deserves.” I fear in our case he is right. Our hyperpolarized, conspiracy obsessed, self absorbed, opinion over facts, Reality TV Show, soundbite culture is stumbling around like a drunken idiot looking for his car keys. There may soon come a point at which we find them, get behind the wheel, and cross a line from which there is no coming back. Or we can chose to sober up, but it will take more than just a good night’s sleep. It will require us to actively engage in a new lifestyle. One in which we demand more of ourselves (“Ask not what your country can do for you?..“) and vote for people of substance. Men and women like Evan McMullin.