Osama bin Laden Meets Will and Grace

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have just watched a tape of a show broadcast on July 14. That
video has forced me to re-evaluate the West’s timetable . .
. and also Osama bin Laden’s. The show was a documentary titled,
“The AMC Project: Hollywood and the Muslim World.”

AMC is
the American Movie Classics channel. It is a satellite TV channel.
It got its start by broadcasting classic American movies without
advertisements. It is broadening its audience.

The documentary
began with images of the Middle East. The grabber was a telephoto
shot of a mosque’s minaret prayer tower. In the foreground were
two commercial satellite reception dishes. Then these words
scrolled across the screen:

In 1990, there was one satellite channel in the Middle East.
Today, there are over a hundred.


$12 a month, an Egyptian can receive 70 channels.


cannot control these channels.

Click. Click.

and Grace
.” “Friends.”
and the City
.” It’s all there, in living color — all
the homosexuality, adultery, and fornication that Americans
have come to chuckle over. It’s a laugh a minute. And tens of
millions of Muslims are laughing.

For 50
minutes, the documentary took us around the Middle East’s TV
studios. We got to see an Egyptian female TV talk show host
who looks just like all of our female talk show hosts, from
her blonde hair right down to her dark roots. “Look, it’s Katie
Jessica Stahl!” We got to see a video store which was filled
with American movies. We heard interviews with a non-practicing
Muslim who went to college in the U.S. and came to Lebanon to
set up a satellite channel. He said that homosexuality and adultery
are part of the great values that America is bringing to the
Arab world. We also heard a professor at the American University
in Beirut describe it as American pollution.

What became
obvious is that the satellite networks have a problem. They
must broadcast 247. There are a hundred of them. Where can
a satellite network buy enough original entertainment programming
to fill its prime time slots? There is only one answer: Hollywood.

So, the
American cultural invasion that has enraged the French for two
decades has arrived in the Middle East. It is not going to go
away. There is too much money in it. “Add subtitles and broadcast”
is just too simple a recipe.

The interviewer
went to a video store in Cairo and asked pre-teens who their
favorite American actor was. Mel Gibson won the contest, but
Arnold was up there, too.

interviewed said the same thing: the American cultural presence
is now universal. They all praised American technical proficiency
in producing movies and TV shows. But most of them were worried.
The younger children of the middle class are growing up as firmly
addicted to the American materialist lifestyle as any pre-teen
is in New York City, rural Alabama, or Peoria. They want to
come to America.


One of
the more articulate respondents said what any student of revolutionary
movements should understand: the radicals are being driven to
violence by this cultural invasion. The interviewer responded,
“You’re not saying that America is causing Muslims to turn to
violence, are you?” Yes, he replied, that is exactly what I’m
saying. American culture is capturing the Middle East, and the
radicals are turning to extreme forms of Islam to maintain their
cultural identities. Does it take a Ph.D. to figure this out?
It is the story of violent resistance movements for thousands
of years.

window of opportunity is closing. The children in that video
store are clearly abandoning traditional Muslim values and clothing.
All over the world, everyone under 40 is wearing jeans and running

The promotional for the AMC documentary says:

satellite television and movies invade the homes of Muslims
in the Middle East, many perceive it as an insidious cultural
invasion by the U.S. — overt propaganda created to undermine
their religious and cultural identity. From the overt homosexuality
of Will & Grace, to the exaggerated violence of American action
films, these powerful images project a value system that can
inspire, as one Egyptian television executive states, “a kind
of shock and rejection and hatred.”

many Muslims can’t take their eyes off these images, as they’ve
become virtually impossible to ignore. In Kurdistan, students
say that American films reflect a people with greater freedom
of expression and choice. “Our youth are being affected by
these media products. They are enjoying it, they are consuming
it, and they are imitating what they see,” says Angy Ghannam,
a news editor for Islam Online in Cairo, Egypt.

Muslim critics overestimate Islam’s importance for Hollywood.
Hollywood’s overt propaganda is designed to undermine America’s
religious and cultural identity. Undermining Islam is merely
icing on the cake of anti-custom.

The interviewer
interviewed women with head dresses. There were a lot of these
women. But every one of them was wearing make-up. The mullahs
of Iran may preach about the necessity of full facial covering
— ski masks for desert women — but they have about as much
influence over Iranian women as preachers did in America who
used to preach against bathing suits that displayed women’s
“limbs.” It would make about as much sense to tell Muslim young
women to stop using mirrors, which I contend is the most culturally
transforming technological innovation in mankind’s history.
(The wheel? Compared to what the mirror has wrought? Are you


The TV
shows that Middle Eastern Muslims are watching are the same
ones that American Methodists are watching. The mullahs are
as outraged as Don Wildman is, and for the same reasons. The
debauchery of America is what sells on prime-time TV. It is
also what sells during the day: soap operas and Jerry Springer.

The West’s
enormous wealth was not created by the fictional creeps who
dominate the air waves. It was created by hard-working, future-oriented,
risk-taking men and women who had the freedom to make contracts,
plan for the future, and retain the fruits of their labor. That
world is under assault on prime-time TV and in many movies.
The best I can say for the Muslims interviewed is that one movie
kept being mentioned as a favorite: “Braveheart.”
Some messages cross borders better than others. That movie’s
message is one that I would like to see cross a lot of borders,
beginning with the one around Washington, D.C.

The onslaught
of American entertainment is irresistible. The satellite network,
the video, the DVD, and the Internet respect no borders. They
respect only profit and loss. As technology gets cheaper, it
penetrates lower economic strata like a bunker-busting bomb.
What the Hutterites and Amish understand, some mullahs may understand
but cannot enforce. If you don’t stop the zipper, you can’t
stop Madonna. Culture is a package deal.


That Osama
bin Laden will gain recruits for a time is obvious. This is
the last stand of traditional Islam. For 1,400 years, Islamic
authorities could close the borders to the West whenever they
were not crossing the borders on horseback. They could expand,
then lock down the territory they had conquered. The only territory
that Islam ever surrendered was Spain, which took 750 years
of resistance and war by Spaniards, and Greece, which took a
war in the early nineteenth century, when the Ottoman Empire
was collapsing.

But now
national borders are disappearing. Muslims are invading Europe.
They cross the borders once they have entered Spain or Italy.
Meanwhile, America is invading the Islamic world culturally
with TV, movies, and the Internet. Both sides are being forced
to surrender their cultures. Europeans are disappearing because
of falling birth rates. But Islamic authorities are losing their
hold on their people because the materialism of the West is
taking root in the Middle East.

If men
will not rule themselves, then others will rule over them. If
men will not turn away from evil on their own, then one of two
things will happen: they will be ruled by those who seek to
cut off evil on the supply side, or else evil will rule them.
“Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever
committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34).

has been struggling with the moral pollution of mass entertainment
for two generations. On the whole, Hollywood is like the Borg.
It announces, “Resistance is futile.” But over time, immunities
have developed. These immunities have been internally generated
from within the Christian community. Christian schools and home
schools have been the front line of defense. There has been
terrible erosion, but the defenses have begun to work. Also,
the effects of sexually transmitted diseases have become apparent.
The STD’s respect only one border: monogamy. Pagan sub-Sahara
Africa is dying off. Yet an unprecedented Christian revival
is taking place: from 9% of the population in 1900 to an estimated
46% today. Part of this percentage growth is the result of the AIDS death
rate suffered by the non-Christians.

has relied on coercion from the top to defend its borders. Those
borders are now collapsing. In 1990, it might have been possible
to control the electronic border. It no longer is.

I saw
a recent news report on the economy of Baghdad. The hot item
is TV satellite dishes. Saddam had kept them out. No longer.

has not developed the necessary cultural defenses, which begin
with self-restraint. It is facing a developed culture with an
unstoppable technology. That technology is electronic. There
is no doubt that Islamic alternatives will come — sitcoms as
dopey as the West’s — but the content will in the direction
of Hollywood’s. It has everywhere else. Why should Islam be

What had
worked for Islam for 1,400 years — border guards with weapons
— will no longer work. Neither will the police.

is now hated in the Middle East, but it’s too late for successful
resistance based on coercion. Islam will now have to develop
defenses based on self-government. The Islamic revolutionary
brotherhoods have this. What remains to be seen is whether the
broad mass of Muslims have it.


Bin Laden
and his peers are running out of time. Those children in that
video store like Mel Gibson. If bin Laden can re-package himself
as the Braveheart of Islam, he will gain recruits. I think he
is trying to do this. But the last word of the movie’s dying
William Wallace was “freedom!” That has not been one of Islam’s
catch phrases. “Islam” means “submission.”

God for Mel Gibson.

21, 2003

North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit http://www.freebooks.com.
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