Hollywood stirs Middle East plot
The low budget movie that by ridiculing Islam triggered violent protests throughout the Middle East and the storming of US embassies raises the question of whether the explosive reactions to such insults are really caused by a few Mohammed Cartoons, as in 2006, and cheap movies, which very few in the West had even heard of before the protests they apparently create.
Is it blow-back to US foreign policy, or are the causes to be found in decades of Hollywood productions which vilify and denigrate Arabs and Muslims and stereotype them as sub-human?
How can one shoe string budget movie provoke what a decade of drone attacks has failed to produce?
The one who came close to expressing the root causes was the supreme leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenei.
Khamenei slammed the antagonistic policies of Zionism and the USA as root causes.
Others claimed that the now 11 year old war on terrorism has has produced strong anti western sentiments among Muslims.
Yet others blame responses to colonialism and neo-colonialism, and then there are those who claim that the violent protests are a ”blow back” to all of the above, and in particular to the USA´s cooperation with Islamist terrorist groups in the subversion of Libya and Syria.
None of the above answers one simple question.
Why have low quality cultural products like the Mohammed Cartoons and the anti-Islam movie the potential to explode masses into protests, where an entire decade of drone attacks has failed to provoke the rage of the masses.
Westerners and Non-Muslims are seemingly so used to the scapegoating, stereotyping and denigration of Muslims and in particular Arab Muslims in art and entertainment that they don´t realize the degree to which the western news and entertainment industry, and in particular Hollywood is depriving an entire people and Muslims from their humanity.
The Arab American scholar Dr. Jack Shaheen studied more than one thousand movies, from the oldest Hollywood productions to the greatest ”Blockbuster” movies up to 2001 before he wrote the book ”Real Bad Arabs, How Hollywood Vilifies a People”. (1)
Shaheen concluded that over 300 movies, more than 25 % of all Hollywood movies vilified Arabs and Muslims in one way or the other, comparing it to World War II Nazi propaganda against the Jewish people.
Shaheen concludes that both have caused unspeakable human suffering due to the fact that it would be difficult to have a population accept the brutal treatment of an entire people without first having deprived them from their humanity.
Shaheen uses the Disney Classic ”Aladdin” which has been seen by millions of people world wide as a classic example for how Hollywood is recycling anti Muslim and Arab stereotypes.
The song at the beginning of the movie, which is a ”must see family movie for children”, is setting the scene.
”Where they cut off your ear if they don´t like your face, it´s barbaric, but hey….., it´s home”.
People world wide, and in particular children are coached into believing that Arabland is a place where innocent women have their hands amputated for forgetting to pay at the bazaar.
In other movies Arab men are described as imbecilic super-rich, as sex addicted tyrants who mistreat their woman, and most importantly, American women. Women are kidnapped and sold of to sleazy Arabs at auctions.
While US drone strikes and military aggressions become increasingly controversial, the US Department of Defense (DoD) is providing high-tech military equipment, locations, troops and consultants for Hollywood producers.
The catch is that the DoD is keeping a watchful eye to see that only movies that portray the USA and the US military positively are supported.
Many of the most violent movies which glorify war crimes and mass slaughter of dehumanized Arabs or Muslims have been produced with support from the DoD.
According the US Army Community Relations website the main criteria for DoD support of Hollywood productions are that the production benefits the DoD or otherwise be in the national interest, that they portray the US military and foreign policy positively, help recruit, and that the productions are not contradicting US Government policy.(2)
A movie that realistically portrays a drone attack on a wedding party in Pakistan is of course not likely to be supported by the DoD.
The most plausible explanation for why a shoe-string budget anti-Islamic movie catalyzed the rage of the masses while Abu Ghraib and a decade of drone attacks failed to enrage the masses is that it is a response to decades of dehumanization by Hollywood which seemingly justifies the military aggressions.
The Mohamed Cartoons and the shoe string budget movie which nobody had heard of before an Arab journalist broke the news in main stream media are at best sparks that ignited a very dry powder keg.
Rather than fixating the discourse on the dialectics between freedom of expression and blasphemy it might be worth discussing whether Arabs and Muslims world wide should join westerners who have understood the role Hollywood is playing at dehumanizing Muslims and any other ”targeted group or people” and to systematically boycott Hollywood’s products which deprive entire people from their humanity and glorify violence against Arabs and Muslims.
Dr. Christof Lehmann
- Jack G. Shaheen (2001); REAL BAD ARABS, How Hollywood Vilifies A People” Olive Branch Press, New York, New Hampton.
- US Army Community Relations, Division West. http://www.army.mil/info/institution/publicAffairs/ocpa-west/faq.html