"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
This Painting Captures a Disturbing Truth about the History of Our Education System
2 min · 14,287 views today · The truth is chilling. But it is a history we should never forget. This is a clip from the feature documentary "Schooling the World." Thanks to the generosity of the...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 12,707 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Law Professor's Epic Response to Black Lives Matter Shirt Complaint
Social Design Notes · 10,081 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...
Brené Brown on How to Reckon with Emotion and Change Your Narrative
Brené Brown · 6,185 views today · The most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves, says Brené Brown. But beware—they're usually fiction.
When You Kill Ten Million Africans You Aren't Called 'Hitler'
Liam O'Ceallaigh · 5,686 views today · Take a look at this picture. Do you know who it is? Most people haven’t heard of him. But you should have. When you see his face or hear his name you should get as sick in...
How to Resist the Pressures of Conformity
10 min · 5,073 views today · The social psychology of conformity affects us all, but there are ways to maintain our independence, as explained in this animated short.
10 Quotes From an Oglala Lakota Chief That Will Make You Question Everything About Our Society
Wisdom Pills · 3,915 views today · Luther Standing Bear was an Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief who, among a few rare others such as Charles Eastman, Black Elk and Gertrude Bonnin occupied the rift between the way of...
What's Wrong With Being in Someone's "Friend Zone"?
Samuel Granger · 3,202 views today · I once read a Dear Abby column responding to a letter from a girl who, as I recall, was in middle school. She was asking for advice about an awkward incident that happened to...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,903 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 2,655 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...
Jill Stein Censored on PBS NewsHour
3 min · 2,474 views today · Jill Stein's criticism of the TPP and Hillary Clinton was cut from the PBS Newshour August 23, 2016. PBS cut out nearly two-thirds of Jill Steins answer to the last question!
Alan Watts: What If Money Was No Object?
3 min · 1,869 views today · How do you like to spend your life? What do you desire? What if money didn't matter? What if money was no object? What would you like to do if money were no object? Spoken...
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 1,190 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
North Dakota Gov Cuts Water Supply to Native Americans as DAPL Protest Swells in Number and Spirit
Lauren McCauley · 1,009 views today · Thousands join protest camp as supporters are holding a rally in Washington D.C. on Wednesday outside of Army Corps hearing
If You Want to Say Thank You, Don't Say Sorry - And 6 Other Examples of Beautiful Communication
Yao Xiao · 860 views today · Appreciate others for what they have done, don't apologise for simply existing.
A Thousand Rivers: What the Modern World has Forgotten about Children and Learning
Carol Black · 833 views today · The following statement somehow showed up on my Twitter feed the other day: “Spontaneous reading happens for a few kids. The vast majority need (and all can benefit from)...
Schooling the World (2010)
66 min · 805 views today · If you wanted to change an ancient culture in a generation, how would you do it? You would change the way it educates its children. The U.S. Government knew this in the 19th...
How Hunter-Gatherers Maintained Their Egalitarian Ways: Three Complementary Theories
Peter Gray · 796 views today · As regular readers of this blog know, I have in previous posts commented on hunter-gatherers' playfulness; their playful religious practices; their playful approach toward...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 635 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Understanding Patriarchy
bell hooks · 609 views today · Patriarchy is the single most life-threatening social disease assaulting the male body and spirit in our nation. Yet most men do not use the word “patriarchy” in everyday life...
Load More
Like us on Facebook?
"Arabian Street Artists" Bomb Homeland: Why We Hacked an Award-Winning Series