"Arabian Street Artists" Bomb Homeland: Why We Hacked an Award-Winning Series
By Heba Amin / hebaamin.com

Alwatan3onsori
Homeland is racist (photo courtesy of Showtime)

What’s wrong with Homeland’s political message? The very first season of “Homeland” explained to the American public that Al Qaida is actually an Iranian venture. According to the storyline, they are not only closely tied to Hezbollah, but Al Qaida even sought revenge against the US on behalf of Iran. This dangerous phantasm has become mainstream ‘knowledge’ in the US and has been repeated as fact by many mass media outlets. Five seasons later, the plot has come a long way, but the thinly veiled propaganda is no less blatant. Now the target is freedom of information and privacy neatly packaged as the threat posed by Whistleblowers, the Islamic State and the rest of Shia Islam.

In the summer of 2015, the American television serial “Homeland” was shot in Berlin. June and July saw parts of the city dedicated to capturing the doings of former CIA Agent Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) in her new role as security advisor to a German humanitarian oligarch, Otto Düring (Sebastian Koch). Amidst hints of a hacker conspiracy and secret agreements between the US and Germany, the show attempts to mirror real-life events with an Edward Snowden-style leak revealing a joint project by the CIA and the BND (German Federal Intelligence Service) illegally spying on German citizens. But unlike real life, this leak forced Germany to release all arrested ISIS terrorists.

The series has garnered the reputation of being the most bigoted show on television for its inaccurate, undifferentiated and highly biased depiction of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans, as well as its gross misrepresentations of the cities of Beirut, Islamabad- and the so-called Muslim world in general. For four seasons, and entering its fifth, “Homeland” has maintained the dichotomy of the photogenic, mainly white, mostly American protector versus the evil and backwards Muslim threat. The Washington Post reacts to the racist horror of their season four promotional poster by describing it as “white Red Riding Hood lost in a forest of faceless Muslim wolves”. In this forest, Red Riding Hood is permitted to display many shades of grey – bribery, drone strikes, torture, and covert assassination- to achieve her targets. She points her weapon of choice at the monochrome bad guys, who do all the things that the good guys do, but with nefarious intent.

It cannot be disputed that the show looks good and is well acted and produced, as its many awards prove. But you would think that a series dealing so intensively with contemporary topics including the war on terrorism, ISIS, and ideological clashes between the US and the Middle East would not, for example, name a key terrorist character after the former real-life Pakistani ambassador to the United States. Granted, the show gets high praise from the American audience for its criticism of American government ethics, but not without dangerously feeding into the racism of the hysterical moment we find ourselves in today. Joseph Massad, Associate Professor of Modern Arab Politics and Intellectual History at Columbia University, addresses this deep-seeded racism of American media towards the Middle East: “‘Homeland’ hardly deviates from this formula [of racist programming], except to add that Arabs are so dangerous that even all-American White men can be corrupted by them and become equally dangerous to America”.

At the beginning of June 2015, we received a phone call from a friend who has been active in the Graffiti and Street art scene in Germany for the past 30 years and has researched graffiti in the Middle East extensively. He had been contacted by “Homeland’s” set production company who were looking for “Arabian street artists” to lend graffiti authenticity to a film set of a Syrian refugee camp on the Lebanese/Syrian border for their new season. Given the series’ reputation we were not easily convinced, until we considered what a moment of intervention could relay about our own and many others’ political discontent with the series. It was our moment to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself.

ArabianStreetArtists1 

Homeland is NOT a series (al watan mesh mosalsal)

ArabianStreetArtists2
Top: we didn’t resist, so he conquered us riding on a donkey;

bottom: The situation is not to be trusted;

left: This show does not represent the views of the artists (photos courtesy of the artists)

ArabianStreetArtists3 

Freedom (horeya)..now in 3-D!

ArabianStreetArtists4
Homeland is watermelon (al watan bateekh) (watermelon is a word often used to indicate that something is a sham or not to be taken seriously)(photos courtesy of the artists)

ArabianStreetArtists5 

There is no Homeland (mafeesh Homeland)

ArabianStreetArtists6
#blacklivesmatter (photos courtesy of the artists)

ArabianStreetArtists7

Falafel and Alcohol: from the hands of Faiza
The falafel stand belongs to an elderly lady named Faiza, a Syrian Christian who has seen a lot of life, and lived in a multicultural society for much of it. She has understood that good food and an occasional drop of Arak solve many problems, and although she sells only falafel and hummus, she added alcohol as a visual reminder of the better times, an act of resistance to her current circumstances and a premonition of a return to the life she once knew and enjoyed, even through hardships. She is well-liked in the neighbourhood, and although her sign does mention Alcohol, it also brings smiles to the residents of the camp.

 ArabianStreetArtists8
right: against the red, blue and purple devil (A Muslim Brotherhood reference made by an Egyptian general on Television in 2013)

left: Homeland is a joke, and it didn’t make us laugh (photos courtesy of the artists)

ArabianStreetArtists9
Homeland is racist
#gasewsew (a reference to the Egyptian Abla Fahita puppet on spying) (photos courtesy of the artists)

In our initial meeting, we were given a set of images of pro-Assad graffiti- apparently natural in a Syrian refugee camp. Our instructions were: (1) the graffiti has to be apolitical (2) you cannot copy the images because of copyright infringement (3) writing “Mohamed is the greatest, is okay of course”. We would arm ourselves with slogans, with proverbs allowing for critical interpretation, and, if the chance presented itself, blatant criticism directed at the show. And so, it came to be.

The set decoration had to be completed in two days, for filming on the third. Set designers were too frantic to pay any attention to us; they were busy constructing a hyper-realistic set that addressed everything from the plastic laundry pins to the frayed edges of outdoor plastic curtains. It looked veryMiddle Eastern and the summer sun and heat helped heighten that illusion. The content of what was written on the walls, however, was of no concern. In their eyes, Arabic script is merely a supplementary visual that completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East, a poster image dehumanizing an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees. The show has thus created a chain of causality with Arabs at its beginning and as its outcome- their own victims and executioners at the same time. As was briefly written on the walls of a make-believe Syrian refugee camp in a former Futterphosphatfabrik (animal feed plant) in the outskirts of Berlin, the situation is not to be trusted- الموضوع فيه أن.

The Arabian Street Artists //
Heba Amin
Caram Kapp
Stone

* Our intervention was broadcast on October 11, 2015, “Homeland” Season 5, Episode 2.

1_Homeland_SE05E02_00
1001 calamities (Alf nila w’ nila)

5_Homeland_SE05E02_13
Repetition teaches Bashar (A play on Repetition teaches the Donkey, homar, which rhymes with Bashar)

4_Homeland_SE05E02_11
Ready to die (nemoot)

2_Homeland_SE05E02_04
Homeland is racist

4.0 ·
1
What's Next
Trending Today
Jane Sanders: Why Bernie Voters Shouldn't Get Over It
Tessa Stuart · 93,743 views today · Bernie's wife discusses her proudest and most difficult campaign moments, the DNC email leak and the future of his revolution
Donald and Hobbes Is Genius
Various · 24,142 views today · Some clever folk have been replacing precocious 6-year-old Calvin, from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips, with Donald Trump and the results are, well, take a look...
Don't Let Bernie Endorsing Hillary Distract You From What Matters
Tim Hjersted · 17,596 views today · There's been quite a lot of anger, disappointment and attention on Bernie's decision to endorse Clinton the last couple weeks. But I've started to believe this attention on...
2016 Presidential Election Reality Check
2 min · 15,624 views today · We're awake now. We're not going back to sleep.
This is One of the Most Powerful Music Videos Ever Made
5 min · 12,510 views today · Official video for Ahmed by Lowkey ft. Mai Khalil contains devastating truths about war, migration and the underlying systemic issues that surround them.
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 11,242 views today · A first year law school student wrote a complaint about her professor having worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt during class. The professor’s response is priceless. Scans of...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 8,914 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
This Video Dispels Every "Nature VS Nurture" Myth You've Ever Heard. The Implications are Profound.
31 min · 8,319 views today · If everyone watched this it could radically transform the world. This is a segment from Moving Forward (2011). Watch the full documentary online here.
Meet Some Sanders Delegates Who Plan to Turn Anger Into Positive Action
Isaiah Poole · 8,262 views today · Luz Sosa came to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia as a disappointed Bernie Sanders delegate. But she is leaving fired up to take on big political fights in...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 5,131 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Watch How Europeans Carved Up African Land They Never Owned
5 min · 4,998 views today · Watch how Europeans gave away African land they never owned, then expressed anger when Africans resisted.
Scorching Global Temps Astound Climate Scientists
Nika Knight · 4,028 views today · As wildfire rages in California, flooding affects millions in India and China, and eggs are fried on sidewalks in Iraq, scientists say global climate catastrophe is surpassing...
The Real Reason White People Say 'All Lives Matter'
John Halstead · 3,643 views today · Why “Black” Makes Us Uncomfortable Dear fellow white people, let’s have an honest talk about why we say “All Lives Matter.” First of all, notice that no one was saying “All...
She's With Them - But We've Got Us: a Movement Bigger Than Sanders
Jon Queally · 3,623 views today · The DNC and the Clinton campaign joined forces against the 'political revolution' for one simple reason: they knew it could win. And it still can.
Who Should Bernie Voters Support Now? Robert Reich Vs. Chris Hedges on Tackling the Neoliberal Order
37 min · 3,316 views today · The day after Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at the Democratic National Convention and urged his supporters to work to ensure his former rival wins the presidential race, we host...
42 Ways to Build a Liberated Society Beyond Capitalism
James Herod · 3,214 views today · It is time to try to describe, at first abstractly and later concretely, a strategy for destroying capitalism. At its most basic, this strategy calls for pulling time, energy...
13 Graphs Perfectly Demonstrate What Depression Feels Like
Sherrie · 3,055 views today · Sometimes, words just aren’t enough, but there are other ways to get ideas across. These images will help you understand what depression feels like.
Who Are You? This Breathtaking Video Might Change Your Life
2 min · 2,975 views today · "Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to a job that you need so you can...
History Tells Us What May Happen Next With Brexit and Trump
Tobias Stone · 2,840 views today · It seems we’re entering another of those stupid seasons humans impose on themselves at fairly regular intervals. I am sketching out here opinions based on information, they may...
The Need for Common Ground, and the Need to Do What You Do
Michael J. Dumas · 2,742 views today · Both Trump and Clinton are scary bad news. There's plenty of time to make a decision. You don't have to answer to anyone when you make it. Whichever decision you make, make it...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
"Arabian Street Artists" Bomb Homeland: Why We Hacked an Award-Winning Series