'Homeland Security USA'

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On the one hand, it’s such obvious propaganda, such over-the-top and cartoonish evil, that denouncing it should be as unnecessary as denouncing smallpox. On the other hand…it just makes you wanna puke, doesn’t it?

Yes, ABC will actually, shamelessly broadcast the first episode in its new "reality" series, "Homeland Security USA," tonight. Its website touts this hour’s worth of indoctrination each week as "an unprecedented look at" the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the "men and women" who "safeguard our country and enforce our laws." (Twice in three sentences, we learn that "women" are right up there with the guys in safeguarding and enforcing. How endearing. One appreciates equal-opportunity thuggery in a race to the bottom.) "Every day," ABC breathlessly continues, these goons "patrol more than 100,000 miles of America’s borders. This territory includes airports, seaports, land borders, international mail centers, the open seas, mountains, deserts and even cyberspace." I’m sorta fuzzy on how Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio or the internet constitutes a "border," but that insult to our intelligence is the least of the offenses here.

The DHS is a bureaucracy’s bureaucracy: unwieldy, inflexible, absurd, gargantuan. It makes work for roughly 210,000 leeches and will cost us $50.5 billion in 2009 — over $375 per taxpayer (based on 134,362,678 income-tax returns filed in 2005). The monstrous George Bush established this behemoth in 2002 as "the most significant transformation of the U.S. government in over [a] half-century…” Finally: a bit of truth from this utterly mendacious White House.

Strangely, there was more truth when it came to naming the mess: "Homeland" conjures the Nazis and all their brutality. Almost as stunning as Bush’s transparency here is the easy acceptance Americans grant this despicable term. Companies sell gadgets for "homeland security," colleges offer majors in it, headlines casually twist it into an adjective, television programs swipe it for their title. Perhaps the phrase caught on because it captures the nuances of a ludicrously inept police-state that nevertheless takes itself very seriously. Our Masters may aspire to the Nazis’ ruthless efficiency and omniscient surveillance, but they’re essentially Barney Fife playing Gestapo.

Once spawned, the DHS sucked up such bureaucracies as the National Infrastructure Protection Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as fast as it did taxes. That didn’t sate the Administration’s lust for bigger government, so it manufactured extra spools of red tape, like the Transportation Security Administration. They glut the DHS as well. All told, this ber-bureaucracy boasts 32 divisions.

"Homeland Security USA’s" producer, Arnold Shapiro, is experienced enough to realize that bureaucrats pushing paper in the National Infrastructure Protection Center and similar "Department Components" doesn’t make for exciting television. He’ll concentrate his cameras instead on the "Components" whose ruffians accost, attack, and abduct taxpayers or would-be taxpayers; ABC-TV lists these as "CBP (Customs & Border Protection) including CBP’s Border Patrol; ICE (Immigration & Customs Enforcement); TSA (Transportation Security Administration); USCG (United States Coast Guard) and USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services)."

Tellingly, everyone associated with this propaganda insists that it isn’t. "Vicki Dummer, ABC’s executive in charge of alternative series" told AP that “u2018Homeland Security USA’ is intended as entertainment without a political point of view." Yo, Dummer: so was drawing and quartering in merry Olde England. But the spectacle quite forcefully knocked its audience to their knees before Leviathan.

Arnold Shapiro also argues that the show "doesn’t have a political point of view" because it focuses on "the average men and women on the front lines" rather than the "higher-ups" at the DHS. Hollywood’s moguls apparently consider "political points of view" a luxury for the elite. Meanwhile, Arnie recycles the DHS’s spin on the unconstitutional outrages those "average men and women" commit when he avers that they "[protect] our country from various things illegal and dangerous.” Yeah, right: the thing illegal and dangerous here is the DHS. Arnie next disgorged this whopper: “I don’t see how actually and factually documenting something that happens before our eyes, and editing it in a factual way — in other words, not manipulatively, can be considered propaganda." Is this disingenuous greed, or are Hollywood’s denizens really this stupid?

Perhaps someone at Variety or the DHS can enlighten Arnie: both know propaganda when they see it. Variety’s review mocks not only the series but the Customs & Border Protection an episode showcases: "The series…mostly skirts the irritation associated with customs screening…with predictable sympathy. … [P]roducer Arnold Shapiro dutifully chronicles the agencies’ commitment to keeping America safe, preventing contraband like cocaine and unlicensed belly dancers (yep, honest) from illegally entering the country." And the DHS happily admits that the show is propaganda and nothing but: spokesman Ed Fox says the agency considers its collaboration with ABC to be “a great opportunity to help the American public understand what their government does and what the Department of Homeland Security, the youngest department, does."

However infuriating, “Homeland Security USA” it isn’t breaking new ground. Americans will recognize its format from such kindred obscenity as "COPS": armed bruisers in cruisers whaling on smaller men, women, and kids; ordering supposedly free people about as if they are slaves; laughing at the suffering of their victims. Why Our Rulers’ documented abuse hasn’t provoked a mass uprising remains among the most baffling and mortifying mysteries of our day. Instead, "COPS" is "long-running" and "critically acclaimed." "Acclaim" is about what I’d expect from the general run of idiots masquerading as critics; what’s sobering is that over 6 million "viewers" watch Our Masters hammer their fellow serfs into submission. And apparently relish the hammering since they’ve tuned in for "20 seasons and over 700 episodes." It seems that when the government claims a man has bought or sold an illegal drug, Americans not only devoutly believe that allegation, they also agree that he thereby deserves all the indignities and beatings Leviathan’s legionnaires care to dish out. This is barbarous taste in entertainment, one shared with the ancient Romans. They, too, enjoyed watching the State’s beasts tear "illegal and dangerous" Christians to shreds.

Reality shows may have replaced scripted dramas, but American television has always dispensed huge doses of propaganda. In fact, perhaps it’s better for freedom to "actually and factually [document] something that happens before our eyes," as Smarmy Arnie put it. Better "COPS" thrashing the daylights out of citizens than the folksy humor of "The Andy Griffith Show": its wise and kindly widower polices the good people of Mayberry so gently that the town’s tippler voluntarily stumbles into a jail cell all on his own, sure of an understanding welcome from the sheriff. Better the hoodlums of "Homeland Security USA" "[drawing] guns…against a man trying to drive across the U.S.-Mexico border with his family, terrifying his wife and young children…[in] a case of mistaken identity" than the meticulous Sgt. Joe Friday seeking just the facts on thieves and murderers. Portraying thugs as savants who protect the hapless and helpless from genuine criminals is far more insidious than openly promoting the government’s agenda while its bullies bloody citizens for everyone to see. Indeed, Sgt. Friday’s creator, Jack Webb, "had tremendous respect for the people in law enforcement. He often mentioned in interviews that he was angry about the u2018ridiculous’ amount of abuse to which police were often subjected by the press and the public." The LAPD savored Webb’s bootlicking so much it not only collaborated with him, it named an auditorium at its police academy in his honor. And no wonder: "He said that he wanted to perform a service for the police by showing them as low-key working class heroes."

Not "Homeland Security USA." In the only truthful statement likely to escape the show, its website proclaims, "These [officers of the DHS] aren’t heroes."

No argument there.

Becky Akers [send her mail] writes primarily about the American Revolution.

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