Tuesday, August 11, 2009

CRIKEY: On the perils of vilification - the warped logic of banning al-Manar ...

There are many good arguments for and against allowing the Lebanese Hezbollah-run TV station al-Manar to be broadcast in Australia. One good reason not to allow al-Manar to be broadcast is the possibility that programs inciting racial hatred or racist violence could be broadcast.

Hence Colin Rubenstein, Executive Director of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC), pointed out in The Age last week that

[t]he station broadcast a 30-part series in 2003 during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan based explicitly on the famous anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The broadcast of myths about ethno-religious groups is hardly a good idea.

Yet sadly, just as Jews are vilified in Arab media, similarly persons of Arab and/or Middle Eastern heritage are vilified in Hollywood and in television. As Dr Jack Shaheen illustrated in his book and documentary Reel Bad Arabs, for over a century American movie goers have been subjected to a barrage of images portraying Arabs as violent, ruthless, savage, evil. He says:

Arabs are the most maligned group in the history of Hollywood. They are portrayed basically as sub-humans.

Such stereotypes are repeated in print. Last week Andrew Bolt wrote on his blog:

The rise of yet another Islamist terror group suggests there is something in Muslim or Arabic culture peculiarly susceptible to the call to violence … While false, there is yet a grain of truth in the maxim that while not every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim.

And today that same ignorant stereotype is repeated by Bren Carlill, an analyst at Colin Rubenstein’s organisation. Writing in The Australian, Carlill claims:

…while a majority of Muslims aren’t terrorists, the majority of terrorists are Muslim, an uncomfortable fact that shouldn’t be ignored for the sake of political correctness. It is rare to find a Muslim terrorist who acts only for a secular, nationalist cause.

Yes it is if you’re selective about whom you label terrorists.

Like all stereotypes, Carlill’s analysis doesn’t quite make sense. Most Muslims aren’t terrorists. Most terrorists are Muslim. Most Muslim terrorists are terrorists because they are Muslim. The logic is too warped to be even considered circular. And so we have one AIJAC person telling us that we should ban al-Manar for promoting ethno-religious stereotypes while another AIJAC person tells us we should ban al-Manar on the basis of an ethno-religious stereotype. Go figure.

First published in Crikey on Tuesday 11 August 2009.


Anonymous said...

" persons of Arab and/or Middle Eastern heritage are vilified in Hollywood and in television." - You have got to have bad guys in the movies - It used to be the "barbaric Redskins", until it became politically incorrect; similarly black men were figures of fun until the likes of Sidney Poitier arrived on the screen and showed what real acting was all about.
Steve Martin

Peter said...

Firstly, Aladdin in an Arabic folk tale - so what is this guy saying, that Arabs have stereotypical views of Arabs? Shame!

Secondly, the guy says "Why slur Arabs about movies that have nothing to do with the Middle East?" yet the vision is of the movie 'Black Sunday' - which is about the Black September organisation making a terrorist attack on the US Superbowl. Fancy that! Who would ever have heard of an Arab organisation attacking a sporting event? Munich, anyone?

While we're on the subject of Superbowls, don't forget that Hollywood deliberately changed the 'bad guys' who nuked the Superbowl in "The Sum of All Fears" from Islamic militants (book) to neo-Nazi Russians (film). Sounds like modern Hollywood is more 'politically correct' than 'stereotypical' to me.

Finally, the dude says "This stereotyping can change" - and the next two shots are of terrorists on a plane and crowds screaming in the street.

Uh-huh. Just like what we saw in real life on 9/11; and in real life in the days after the Danish cartoons fiasco.

Perhaps the Arab world needs to think about why the portrayal of themselves as villainous stereotypes resonates so strongly in the West?

Irf said...

"Perhaps the Arab world needs to think about why the portrayal of themselves as villainous stereotypes resonates so strongly in the West?"

No, Peter. Perhaps you need to travel a bit. Drinking all that red wine in Canberra wine bars must be getting to your head.

If the vast majority of Arabs were blood-thirsty nasty goons, London's West End shopping district would be in flames. As would the Gold Coast.

Peter said...

Glad you raised the Saudi shoppers in the West End of London...

Of course, all those Rolls Royces and Mercs in the Saudi desert, abandonned when they ran out of fuel, wouldn't be a stereotype of Arabs being, as the dude says, "too rich and too stupid to know the value of money", would it?

Editor of The Atlas said...

Or better still, too stupid to work in the office of a certain Tasmanian Liberal Senator. Or too stupid to attend public meetings in Queanbeyan. How about that, Peter?

Peter said...

I thought the argument was about the value of money, so what is the value of this little missive above?

But let's look at who is villified in modern Holywood...

Seven: crazy Christian psychopath literally interprets deadly sins on his victims.

Contact: crazy Christian blows up interstellar communication device.

Da Vinci Code: crazy albino Christian goes around murdering people

There Will Be Blood: Christian preacher turns out to be money-grubber

Golden Compass: Christian oligarchy hides truth and experiments on kids

Sin City: evil Catholic cannibal Bishop

And on and on they go...