A great little “Homeland Hack” made the NYT this morning. Arabic readers watching an episode of Showtime’s “Homeland,” might have been able to discern criticism of the show in the graffiti decorating a set that was supposed to look like a Syrian refugee camp. “Homeland is a joke, and it didn’t make us laugh,” ”Homeland is NOT a series,” “Homeland is racist” and ”#blacklivesmatter” were among the spray painted slogans behind the actors.
To his credit, one of the co-creators of the show Alex Gansa issued a statement quoted in the NYT that said, “...we can’t help but admire this act of artistic sabotage.” Whether this experience will motivate the people who produce the show to improve their linguistic, political, and cultural literacy remains to be seen. A lot of the surprising good criticism of the saboteurs in the NYT online comments can be summed up in the fact that they are based in Berlin and not their native countries.
Interestingly, the NYT writers quoted one of the perpetrators, Egyptian artist Heba Y. Amim, in her criticism of the shows bigoted depiction of Muslims but omitted mention of her characterization of the show as “thinly veiled propaganda” targeting “freedom of information and privacy neatly packaged as the threat posed by Whistleblowers” and what she terms as a “dangerous phantasm” conflating Shia Islam with Sunni Al Qaida and Islamic State groups. You can read her statement and see some of the graffiti here.
In all parts of the media business, sloppy fictions and lazy lies can easily outsell hard truths. Lies are cheap to produce and often sufficient to attract mass markets. Useful truths come dearly and often only address the interests of small, specialized markets. A lot of popular entertainment and what passes for news have an authenticity on par with Tonto and the Lone Ranger. But repeated lies influence mass belief and belief is a fundamental component of political-economics. Around the world we all suffer the consequences of these lies every day.
I can't personally judge Homeland because I don't think I have ever watched it but I still appreciate the hack!