The Fox-TV show “24” is giving a new twist to its old standby: anti-Arab and anti-Muslim themes. This time around, dark-complexioned Americans are the villains. Even the U.S. military is criticizing the show’s producers for the dangerous message it is sending to our troops.

Now in its sixth season, “24” has super agent Jack Bauer yet again bringing down Arab-American and Muslim-American bad guys and, in effect, justifying the torture and killing of scores of them.

Fox denies that its hit series singles out “any ethnic or religious group for blame,” saying in a January press release that the show’s “villains have included shadowy Western businessmen, Mexicans, Baltic Europeans, Germans, Russians, even the Anglo-American president of the United States.”

What the statement did not say is this: In three out of its six seasons, “24” has drilled home the same falsehoods about America’s Arabs and Muslims.

Conservative commentators have endorsed the series, saying that the show is patriotic, apolitical and harmless.


Brig. Gen. Patrick Finnegan, dean of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and three top U.S. interrogators recently visited the set in California to talk with the show’s creative team about the effect the torture scenes are having on U.S. soldiers abroad. Finnegan told The New Yorker magazine that the show’s graphic torture sequences were encouraging U.S. military personnel in Iraq to act illegally.

“They are damaging the image of the U.S. around the world,” he said. “I’d like them to stop.”

He encouraged the show’s producers to “do a show where torture backfires,” adding that in real life torture techniques never work.

“24” is not the first show to demonize Arab-Americans. Soon after 9/11, Arab- and Muslim-Americans suddenly materialized on TV screens as evil and untrustworthy. Since then, more than 50 TV shows have implied that Arabs and Arab-Americans are waging “holy wars” against our country. These shows have told millions of viewers that Arabs and Muslims run shadowy terrorist sleeper cells inside mosques and shacks, from Los Angeles to Washington. . .

Also since 9/11, there have been more than 2,000 hate crimes committed against Arab-Americans and Muslim-Americans, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. (MORE)

Jack G. Shaheen is the author of “Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People,” “Arab and Muslim Stereotypes in American Popular Culture” and “The TV Arab.” He wrote this for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary based in Madison.


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