The Fox Broadcasting Company's new season of the action drama, 24, tells about an Islamist gang engaged in major terrorism in the United States. One component of the enemy infrastructure is a middle-class Muslim family that moved from Iran four years earlier and is living as sleepers, preparing for the fateful day of violence. The Council on American-Islamic Relations protested this representation and I, in an article titled "24 and Hollywood's Discovery of Radical Islam," lauded Fox for its courage to show the threat as it is, concluding with a wish: "hooray for Fox for portraying reality; and may it not cave to the Islamists."
Yesterday we learned that Fox has semi-caved. Yes, the program will go on as planned and apparently unchanged, but as recompense for the sin of pointing to Islamist enemies, Fox will, in Reuters' delicate phrasing, "provide its stations with TV spots that portray Muslims in a favourable way."
These spots are, in fact, none other than CAIR's self-serving public service announcements. (For another such CAIR ad, a print one, see "CAIR Promotes and Hosts William W. Baker, Neo-Nazi.") The Associated Press provides some details on them:
The PSAs were produced by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, with whom Fox representatives met Wednesday. The 30- and 60-second spots showcase a diverse group of individuals, who in turn share personal descriptions and identify themselves as American Muslims. Each PSA ends with the statement: "Muslims are part of the fabric of this great country and are working to build a better America." They were introduced by CAIR last summer as part of a nationwide public awareness campaign.
Fortunately, these public service announcements will not be aired nationally by Fox, nor are affiliate stations required to show them; the network is merely making spots available to local television stations without comment, and they then decide whether or not to use these.
Not content with this semi-cave, CAIR has spun the Fox concession to make it appear as greater than it was: WorldNetDaily.com's Art Moore exposes the "exaggerations" in its press release concerning changes in the storyline and showing the PSAs in proximity to 24. Fox spokesman Scott Grogin refused to comment on the former and explicitly denied the latter.
It will be interesting to see how many local affiliates actually do show the CAIR propaganda. I suspect few actually will, in which case the damage done is limited. The real problem is not the spots airing but Fox Broadcasting having recognized CAIR as a legitimate representative of American Muslims – making it yet another in a long list of important national institutions that have repeated this same mistake. (January 14, 2005)
Jan. 18, 2005 update: CAIR is clearly concerned that the local television stations will ignore the availability of its public service announcement and so is stirring its multitudes. An "action alert" went out today asking CAIRites to call
each of your local Fox television stations and ask to speak to the person who handles public service announcements and/or programming. … Explain to that person why it is important to help reduce anti-Muslim bias in our society and how this PSA could assist in that goal.
It sounds like a tough sell to me, given the vast absence of "anti-Muslim bias in our society."
Also noteworthy in this alert is CAIR's continuing inaccuracy about Fox having "encouraged local affiliates nationwide to place the PSA as close as possible to the airing" of 24. Art Moore established this is a falsehood and I publicized that fact in this entry, and yet CAIR perseveres in making the claim.
Jan. 20, 2005 update: A reader confirms that there won't be changes in the storyline. How does he know this?
I found out via a gimmick from the show. You may remember that when Debbie (the girlfriend) died, her Mom called looking for her. Fairuz (the boy) picked up the phone to see who was calling and for a moment or two the phone number is shown close up. That number (310-597-3781) was then turned by the producers of 24 into a line for fans to call in and talk to the crew. It's had lots of callers, as indicated by the very long thread on the 24 message board, where people have recorded their conversations with the crew members. You'll usually have to try a couple times.
When I called I asked if they were going to change the show because of CAIR and they said they have no such plans.
In addition, one can also read more details on the conversations, some of which pertain to CAIR. Here is one: "According to the guy I spoke to, they're not changing the show at all."
Further confirming the unchanged story, the Hartford Courant quotes 24's executive producer, Robert Cochran, saying, "We have a legitimate interest in telling stories that are grounded in reality, at least to a considerable extent grounded in reality," and then calling terrorists acts by extremist Muslim groups "part of the reality we face."
Feb. 7, 2005 update: Fox Broadcasting aired a disclaimer during 24 this evening. The star of the show suddenly appeared after the first block of ads and made the following inarticulate, ungrammatical statement, one that CAIR claims it was consulted about:
Hi, I'm Kiefer Sutherland. I play counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer on Fox's 24. I would like to take a moment to talk to you about something that I think is very important. Now, while terrorism is obviously one of the most critical challenges facing our nation and the world, it is important to recognize that the American Muslim community stands firmly beside their fellow Americans in denouncing and resisting all forms of terrorism. So, in watching 24, please bear that in mind.
Comments: (1) That semi-cave has now become a 3/4s cave.
(2) The Muslim Public Affairs Council is not satisfied with this, however, and dismisses tonight's disclaimer as "feeble" because its message is "far less powerful" than the story line. (But there is one piece of good news in the MPAC press release, namely its confirmation that at the January 13 meeting, Fox executives "rejected the suggestion that they alter the substance of the show.")
(3) MPAC has a point; indeed, there is something pathetic and ineffective about this disclaimer. Imagine if, in the middle of Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, an actor comes on stage to announce, "Jews stand firmly with their fellow Venetians to denounce greed." It would be more weird than convincing.
(4) Sutherland's stilted reading of the disclaimer gave the impression he was compelled to do so. In fact, one correspondent compares his performance with that of a hostage in an Iraqi jihad video who grimly makes a public statement while his captor's gun invisibly sticks into his ribs.
April 29, 2005 update: I have to admit having stopped watching 24, so it came as a pleasant surprise to read in the Washington Times today that what appeared to be a 3/4s cave sounds more like a ¼ cave. Here is Christian Toto writing on the subject:
Fox's "24" is pulling off the unthinkable this season. No, it's not that it's one-upping previous seasons with an electric blend of nightmare terrorist scenarios and bold twists. It's that it's dispensing with the politically correct evasions that pervade prime time episodic television. "24" identifies the terrorist enemy without flinching and lets the good guys fight to win — without apologies. In the process, the show is earning a conservative cult following. …
The sacrifice of political honesty in deference to the brittle political sensitivities of an ethnic lobby "would feel like a groaner," says Joel Surnow, show co-creator (with Robert Cochran) and executive producer. "It's what the audience is expecting." He makes no bones about where the show can, and often does, head. "For it to have any believability and resonance, we had to deal in the world we're living with, and the terrorists are the jihadists," Mr. Surnow says. "It wouldn't feel realistic if you did anything else." …
In recent weeks, the heroes in Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) have taken to torturing suspects to extract information about a looming nuclear attack. CTU agents were about to wring clues out of a key suspect with ties to the villainous Marwan (Arnold Vosloo in a doozy of a turn) last week when a group dubbed Amnesty Global stepped in with lawyers in tow. On a more typical show, the fictitious civil rights group would be depicted as brave, self-sacrificing humanitarians. On "24," Amnesty Global is the villain. …
Mr. Surnow wasn't surprised when CAIR protested after the season began, nor would it shock him if the current torture subplot raises hackles.
May 27, 2005 update: The season is over and Diana West pans the conclusion of 24 in a column titled "Hollywood knuckles under."
Phew — that was close. The creators of "24," Fox Television's thriller-diller starring Keifer Sutherland as counterterror super-agent Jack Bauer, almost put together a compelling TV series rooted in the onerous reality of the war on jihad terrorism. But thanks, apparently, to a few helpful suggestions from the Council of American Islamic Relations (CAIR), they managed to steer clear of all political and historical relevance.
This couldn't have been easy. After all, CAIR didn't even come to their rescue until after the show's season had begun with a couple of episodes that featured a typical Islamic sleeper cell embedded in a typical American sleepy suburb. After these and other obvious blunders — a terse exchange of "Allahu Akbar" between terrorists, for instance — the creative types behind the hit series managed to get their act together and save the world for political correctness.
How? Two things: They laid down a suitably distracting Chinese subplot, and cast a bunch of mid-Westerners, instead of Middle Easterners, to wear the key black hats. There was the ex-Air Force pilot — obviously blond, obviously disgruntled — who shot down Air Force One; a nefarious ex-Marine; and a Patty-Hearst-like commando who just shot whatever.
Whatever is right. By this week's season finale, Marwan, the head jihadist, had been comic-stripped of all religious identity and motivation, and cloaked in a heavy disguise of moral equivalence. … Marwan was ultimately overshadowed by Someone Worse — the President of the United States. Still, maybe the creators of "24" deserve a medal, considering the total silence of their fellow movie- and television-makers when it comes to the war on jihadist terror. War, what war?
Comment: How sad that a season that began so promisingly ended such a dud. That Hollywood finds it so hard to take notice if the radical Islamic threat symbolizes the blasé liberal attitude that constitutes the greatest obstacle to dealing with that threat.
May 28, 2005 update: Powerlineblog has an entry, "In defense of 24" that offers a three much more upbeat interpretations of the series than Diana West's.
Mar. 11, 2014 update: A summary of a two 2014 Hollywood end-runs around the obvious from "Hollywood and Islamic Terrorism" by William Kilpatrick:
The recently released film Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit depicts a terrorist sleeper cell in Dearborn, Michigan which aims to detonate a nuclear bomb under Wall Street. Dearborn, which is home to the largest mosque in North America, has the highest concentration of Muslims per capita of any U.S. city. It is jokingly referred to as "Dearbornistan." You would expect, therefore, that if there were a sleeper cell of terrorists in Dearborn, some of them might be Muslims. Uh-uh. In the film, the terrorists are Russian Orthodox Christians operating out of a Russian Orthodox Church.
Non-Stop is a newly released action-thriller about an unidentified terrorist on board a trans-Atlantic flight who begins to murder one passenger every twenty minutes. When the terrorist is finally identified and dispatched before he can blow up the plane, he turns out to be—are you ready?—an American combat veteran. Not only that, but an American vet who lost his father in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center and therefore has an urgent need to wake up Americans to the lack of security at airports. An interesting sidelight to the story is that one of the initial suspects is a Muslim doctor wearing Muslim garb and a full beard. As it turns out, he is one of the heroes.