• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

SPRING FUNDRAISER

Is it time for our Spring fundraiser already? If you enjoy what we offer, and have the means, please consider donating. The sooner we reach our modest goal, the faster we can get back to business as (un)usual. Please, stay safe and we’ll see you down the road.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Why is Hollywood Rewarding Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin for Glamorizing the CIA?

The Screen Actors Guild has nominated Claire Danes of “Homeland” for its Best Actress Award.  It has also nominated Danes, Mandy Patinkin and the rest of the “Homeland” cast for the Outstanding Ensemble Award.

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated Danes for its Golden Globe Award.  Danes did not win, but the nomination was a valuable honor for her, and for “Homeland.”

In addition, “Homeland” will be a strong candidate for Emmy nominations, in several categories (Best Drama, writer, director, etc.) in June.

“Homeland” dramatizes the actions of a fictional Central Intelligence Agency.

The CIA is pleased with the way it is portrayed on “Homeland.”  The Agency invited the show’s cast and producers to come on a friendly visit to its headquarters in Virginia.  CIA Director John Brennan gave actor Mandy Patinkin (Brennan’s fictional counterpart) a tour of his office.  USA Today reported,  “Patinkin … was struck by the CIA director’s sincerity. ‘I thought he had a wonderful heart,’ [Patinkin] said.”

Later, CIA officials attended a screening of “Homeland”‘s third season premiere at D.C.’s Corcoran Gallery of Art.

The C.I.A. likes “Homeland.”

“Homeland” likes the C.I.A.

The problem is that the C.I.A. has a long history of incompetence and, what is more disturbing, a long history of criminal activity.

I believe that most creative endeavors in film and television have a moral dimension.

Specifically, I believe there can be a powerful connection between real-world government criminality and the mass entertainment which we, the people, consume.

Well-crafted dramas can promote our tolerance of immoral behavior.

danes

Actors physically embody the moral implications of the story they help to tell.  For two years, beginning in 2001, I acted in a CBS series, “The Agency.”  It showed glimpses of the darker side of the CIA, but each episode implied that the Agency’s morally questionable actions were necessary to safeguard the American people, and therefore, not immoral.  Not evil.  Taking money for spreading that lie plagued my conscience.

The greatest shame of my career was a  fall 2002 episode which dramatized, convincingly, the proposition that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein was actively engaged in the development of nuclear weapons.  The Bush Administration was warning Americans that the WMD “smoking-gun” could appear in the form of “a mushroom cloud.”  And on “The Agency,” we were confirming Bush’s lies in the minds of viewers in at least 13 million households.   Members of Congress were nervously contemplating a resolution giving Bush the power to invade Iraq, and more than 13 million of their constituents were seeing persuasive dramatic “proof” that an invasion was indeed necessary.  That hour of television drama was one effective salvo in the larger propaganda war.  We all know what followed.  I’ll always regret that I didn’t have the courage to quit “The Agency.”

The dismissive cliché, “It’s just a TV show,” just isn’t true.

“Homeland” is more popular and highly esteemed than “The Agency” was.   “Homeland” is produced by Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa.  The show is a continuation of the flattering posture which they adopted toward the CIA, as producers of Fox’s “24.”  Gordon and Gansa are masterful at playing on the audience’s post-9/11 paranoia.  They employ outstanding skills to keep us in suspense, and our fears incline us to tolerate crimes we’d ordinarily find inexcusable.

As the recent Senate Intelligence Committee Report makes clear, one of the C.I.A.’s most atrocious crimes has been the routine torture of detainees.  Kiefer Sutherland and the producers of “24” succeeded where Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld struggled:  they made torture morally acceptable in Bush’s America.  And, thanks to the Senate Report, we now have some idea of how wantonly the C.I.A. exploited that popular tolerance.

In Gordon and Gansa’s new show, Claire Danes follows in Sutherland’s footsteps, as C.I.A. officer Carrie Mathison, and “Homeland” is even more openly friendly to the C.I.A. than “24” was.

“Homeland” makes  a hero of Mathison who orders Predator drone attacks from her new post in Pakistan.  It shows that she is guilty of the murder of innocents, but, in the end, “Homeland” justifies and condones the real-life CIA practice of murder-by-drone, and its horrific “collateral damage.”  Despite her crimes, Danes’s Mathison remains sympathetic and admirable.

Under Barack Obama, the CIA has dramatically expanded its drone-homicide program, the perfect expression of malice and cowardice.  Obama has revealed that “Homeland” is one of his favorite television shows.

It’s troubling to me that The Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated Danes for a Golden Globe, and that the Screen Actors Guild, has nominated her and the cast of “Homeland,” including Patinkin, for SAG Actor Awards.

I can only express the hope that SAG and Emmy voters will consider the voice of their consciences, as well as their personal artistic standards, when they cast their ballots.  Whatever their final conclusions may be, I hope they will allow the moral dimension to have a place in their own, private evaluations.

I myself would expect to be judged, not only on my performance in a project, but also on the moral values of the film or TV program in which I choose to exercise my skills.  I received favorable reviews for my performances on “The Agency,” but the last thing I would have expected was any kind of award for the use of my craft in a deceitful project that condoned grievous crimes, including a catastrophic war of aggression.

The goodness or evil of a fictional character is not the issue.  The moral stance of the movie or TV program is what matters.  “Homeland”‘s Mandy Patinkin skillfully portrays a sympathetic and upright C.I.A. chief, Saul Berenson, who tries to discourage the misdeeds of his subordinates.  Unfortunately, Patinkin’s Good Guy contributes to “Homeland”‘s false portrayal of the CIA as a benevolent, self-correcting institution.

I believe that writers, directors and actors all share responsibility for the world-view and the moral values a film or TV show promotes.

In my opinion, giving members of the “Homeland” cast a Screen Actors Guild Award would be tantamount to rewarding them, and their show, for promoting the C.I.A. and its criminal practices.

I do not advocate censorship.  I just don’t think the legitimization of torture, disinformation, drone-killings, and other crimes should be rewarded.

Dave Clennon is a long-time actor and political agitator, probably best known for portraying the advertising mogul Miles Drentell on ABC’s thirtysomething. His more recent projects include: Syriana, Grey’s Anatomy, Prison Break, Weeds, and The Mentalist.

 

More articles by:
June 03, 2020
Anthony DiMaggio
Revolution, Not Riots: Prospects for Radical Transformation in the Covid-19 Era
Jennifer Loewenstein
From Mississippi to Minneapolis: Leaving the ‘Abyss of Despair’
Kenneth Surin
The UK Compared With Other Countries on the Pandemic
Paul Street
“Total Domination”: Popular Rebellion in the Shadow of Trumpism-Fascism
Kenn Orphan
The Sadism of American Power
John Pilger
The Coup Against ‘The Most Loyal Ally’
Eric Murphy
The Police Are The Out-Of-Towners Provoking Violence
Melvin Goodman
How the Washington Post Accommodates Disinformation
Rev. William Alberts
It’s the Worshippers Who Are “Essential”
Georgina Downs
No, the Public Fury Will Not “Move On” Prime Minister!
George V. Wright
It is Happening Here
M. G. Piety
Tales from the Dark Side of Customer Service, or “Christians” Giving Christians a Bad Name
Chandra Muzaffar
A Superpower in Chaos
Thomas Knapp
Time to Stop Messing Around and Strike at the Root of Police Violence
Thomas M. Hanna
The Oligopoly That Controls Our Digital Infrastructure Has Deepened Economic and Racial Divides
Andrew Stewart
The Ethics of Police Murder Video Exhibition: Democratizing The News Feed, Re-Traumatizing The Survivors, Or Both?
Binoy Kampmark
Death, Protest and George Floyd
David Rovics
Who’s Trashing Downtown Every Night and Why?
Harvey Wasserman
Trump Is No Accident
Behrooz Ghamari Tabrizi
Biden and the Common Sense Voter
Timothy Ingalsbee
Ecosystems, Logging and the Definition of Insanity
Elliot Sperber
The Birds of Brooklyn
June 02, 2020
Zoltan Grossman
Deploying Federal Troops in a War at Home Would Make a Bad Situation Worse
Nicholas Buccola
Amy Cooper is Christian Cooper’s Lost, Younger Sister 
Manuel García, Jr.
Global Warming is Nuclear War
Patrick Cockburn
An Unavoidable Recognition of Failure: Trump’s Withdrawal From Afghanistan
John Feffer
Is It Time to Boycott the USA?
Kathy Kelly
Beating Swords to Plowshares
Lawrence Davidson
U.S. Urban Riots Revisited
Sam Pizzigati
“Failed State” Status Here We Come
Ron Jacobs
In Defense of Antifa
Cesar Chelala
Bolsonaro and Trump: Separated at Birth
George Wuerthner
The BLM’s License to Destroy Sagebrush Ecosystems
Danny Antonelli
The Absurdity of Hope
Binoy Kampmark
Sinister Flatulence: Trump Versus Twitter
John Stanton
How Much Violence and Destruction is Enough for Depraved American Leaders and Their Subjects?
Richard C. Gross
The Enemy Within
Thomas Knapp
Trump’s “Free Speech:” Doctrine: Never, Ever, Ever Mention He’s a Liar
John W. Whitehead
This Is Not a Revolution. It’s a Blueprint for Locking Down the Nation
June 01, 2020
Joshua Frank
It’s a Class War Now Too
Richard D. Wolff
Why the Neoliberal Agenda is a Failure at Fighting Coronavirus
Henry Giroux
Racial Domestic Terrorism and the Legacy of State Violence
Ron Jacobs
The Second Longest War in the United States
Kanishka Chowdhury
The Return of the “Outside Agitator”
Lee Hall
“You Loot; We Shoot”
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail