Confessions of a former television lover.
Saturday night at a friend’s place, I caught myself sitting down to an episode of Law and Order SVU (Special Victims Unit). After laughing for a solid 30 seconds, acknowledging the presence of ex-rapper Ice-T as a legitimate character of ‘authority,’ I became immersed in the developing plot line.
The episode I watched was number 299, Acceptable Loss. Here’s a short breakdown of the plot:
A Muslim terrorist duo infiltrate the United States illegally, under the cover and protection of a sex-slave trafficking ring (also an illegal activity). Ice-T and company start investigating the disappearance and death of prostitutes within said ring. Homeland Security takes command of NYPD’s investigation, alleging there may a connection to the al-Qaeda terrorist network. The ‘theory’ floating around is that one of the secret al-Qaeda operatives within the illegal sex trafficking operation may be planning an elaborate and explosive attack on US soil.
Ice-T and his fellow detectives set up a sting operation to capture one of the prostitutes. In their interrogation they obtain the identity and whereabouts of the organization’s command. Of course, because national security is in jeopardy, they go in guns drawn without a warrant. They identify and capture the female al-Qaeda operative (an incredibly attractive terrorist), bust down the door to her cohort’s bomb making operation and engage in a very awkward stare down with the male Arab terrorist (who could likely double as a cologne model).
Eventually, they tackle the guy to the ground and take them both in for interrogation, what actually turns out to be the most interesting and entertaining segment of this poorly acted program. The female terrorist tells Ice-T and the gang that her father, who was a doctor in Pakistan, was killed by a US drone strike and this motivated her call to explosive action.
Among other gems in the episode were mention of ‘9/11’ and ‘rape’ in the same sentence, frequent disobedience of investigation and arrest protocol, terrible one liners, blankets and cocoa for all victims, and repeated references to al-Qaeda terror cells striking the vulnerable United States at any moment. Victims killed after being sodomized, corpses galore, bomb making radical extremists, hair pulling pimps, Ice T’s face, horrendous speculations by the detectives; total fear porn for the paranoid American citizen.
6.25 million people turned on their televisions to watch this crap. Allison Leotta of the Huffington Post added, “This episode was a creative mash-up of two important real-life issues: sex slavery in the U.S. and the radicalization of female terrorists abroad.” Leotta’s criticism was that “there’s no way — no way! — that Homeland Security would allow the local sex-offense police to raid the terrorist mastermind’s house.”
Someone give this lady a Pulitzer Prize! So the episode communicates real-life issues but fails in its presentation of the hierarchy of law enforcement agencies? What a criticism!
The real problem with shows like these are that they communicate the desired, not logical, reality of institutional authority to people unfamiliar with law and law enforcement. Better yet, to people unfamiliar with US foreign policy. For many, the romanticism attracts them to pursue this occupation. For others, it shapes their attitudes and behaviors surrounding domestic and foreign policy, right down to their interactions with institutional authorities. Plain and simple, this is propaganda. And it’s terrible propaganda, so it’s easy to read between the lines.
Removing yourself from this incredibly complicated and dramatic supermodel opera is fairly easy. Here’s what I retained:
- The welcome integration of NYPD and DHS
- al-Qaeda terror operatives are EVERYWHERE, even disguised as sex-traffic slaves
- Protocols of investigation, interrogation, and arrest are secondary to national security
- Obama’s escalation of drone attacks in Pakistan is the latest recruiting tool for al-Qaeda
- al-Qaeda is in Pakistan
- The popular 9/11 narrative that ‘they hate our freedom’ is still the safe-pass for military intervention in the Middle East
Now what can we debate on this list of inference? Damn near everything; and I’ll save you the pain of enduring my Law & Order analysis any further. Think I lend too much credit to the medium?
Think of your average six o clock news headlines and the juxtaposition of these brief narratives; ‘child killed by US drone strike’ put up against ‘Brad and Angelina fight over the children.’ You are left no time to pause and reflect, to remove contradiction, to weigh the analysis, to come to your own conclusions, nor to express empathy for the innocence of life.
But hell, if you’re a desensitized, apathetic fear-junkie, you’ll love this one!