President Obama: Are You Watching “24”?

Originally posted at Stop Genocide.

As I have been occasionally blogging, genocide prevention is a major storyline of this season of the popular Fox show “24”.

While in most cases our real government officials shouldn’t look to “24” for guidance on foreign policy, last week’s episode of the show made a compelling argument for why the US should fight genocide.

In a rousing speech that should inspire each and every one of us to encourage our government to make fighting genocide a priority, 24’s President Taylor explains why she believes the US needs to be a leader in stopping violence in Sangala:

“When I took the oath of office I swore…that this country would continue to be a force for good in the world.  We are a nation founded on ideals.  And those ideals are being challenged today.  Now how we respond will not only define this administration, but an an entire generation.  Not just Americans, but Sangalans and anyone else who looks to us for guidance and strength.  I won’t fail them.  And neither will you.  We’re in for some tough times ahead.  Let’s make sure we’re ready.”

However, one thing I hope that Obama and Clinton don’t take from 24 is the impression that they are going out ahead of the American public on the issue of fighting genocide.  In 24, the only person other than the president passionately advocating for the end to genocide in Sanagla is the deposed Sangalese leader.  In the US, as Michelle has eloquently expressed in her two defenses of the Darfur advocacy movement, millions of Americans have called for peace in Darfur.

You can show that you think Darfur should be a priority for our real-world new administration by clicking on the “Get Involved in Darfur from Day One” action at right.

For a more abrasive analysis of the role this story line plays in our collective pop culture consciousness, we turn to Geek Pie:

18) Sangala… Sangala Sangala. OK, three points about this African nation with military civil war and evil general genocides. First, this new ‘enemy’ is just a device to show how horrible those Africans are, cos we can’t talk about Arabs anymore cos everyone complains so instead, Africa… hmmm… they can’t keep their countries in check. They hate democracy. They’re uncivilised. They can be bad guys for a bit.
19) Sangala is a metaphor for Sudan and Darfur, that liberal cause du jour for lefty celebrities. Essentially, 24 is saying this is how it should be dealt with. Invade and keep the peace. Sod the benefits and the heartpouring and the fundraisers for aid to Africa. They don’t work. Force is needed, you wimpy communists. Sangala is sadly resigned to the same African default stereotype reserved for all celluloid experiences with African politics.
20) But thank god for the American peace-keepers. Policing the world. This is the crux of 24’s political focus this season. This is an apologist, an excuser for America going into other countries, invading them, replacing the regime and starting their own martial law. Cos these nations need America’s intervention. The subplot of America invading Sangala to restore ‘perfect democracy’ to their streets is symbolic of their work all over the world, because, and this is mentioned a few times in snitty asides, the UN isn’t working. So, Sangala, you representative of Africa on film- prepare for the military smackdown.

Personally, I agree that this “American troops or nothing” choice is a false – and destructive – one.  However, the broader questions of American leadership in the face of genocide are ones I hope we all (including President Obama and Secretary Clinton) are pondering.

Image from LA Times Blogs.

About Martha Heinemann Bixby

Advocacy. Politics. Life. Martha Heinemann Bixby.
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2 Responses to President Obama: Are You Watching “24”?

  1. Sean Jacobs says:

    You refer to Geek Pie’s post as “a more abrasive analysis.” Perhaps it is clumsy word choice on your part, but I Geek Pie is correct. I made the same arguments over on my blog. Nice site.

  2. Wade Tisthammer says:

    Geek Pie’s analysis was a bit TOO abrasive, and a bit misleading if not inaccurate. Contrary to the impression Geek Pie might be giving, the African leaders of Sangala were civilized leaders of democracy–the good guys. The invasion wasn’t to topple a dictatorship and replace the regime with American martial law, but—with the African democracy’s consent—to fight against the genocidal rebel threatening the country.

    “Sod the benefits and the heartpouring and the fundraisers for aid to Africa. They don’t work. Force is needed, you wimpy communists.” I’m not sure the show’s saying that financial charity doesn’t work, but to be sure throwing dollar bills at the rebel army probably wouldn’t be enough to stop them here any more than it would have stopped Hitler’s military actions.

    Sometimes I wonder if the writers of 24 feel like they’re running out of acceptable targets. Arab terrorists? Politically incorrect even with frequent disclaimers that not all Muslims are like that (portraying Islamo-phobes in a negative light, having various good Muslim characters denouncing the terrorist actions, President Wayne Palmer saying the American Muslim community is the best line of defense etc.). Africans? Apparently that didn’t work perfectly either, even in the background of an African democratic nation.

    What about white guys as villains? Maybe a white American that’s willing to start a war for oil? Or a white guy attacking America with numerous threats for political purposes? Or a corrupt white male President? Or a big name actor like Jon Voight playing a major white male American villain in the same season as the Sangala one? Problem is, they’ve actually done all that, and entities like Geek Pie don’t seem to notice.

    Many are so bent on seeing 24 as show for conservatives that they don’t appreciate the diversity of its villains–or heroes for that matter (anyone remember David Palmer? The upright black Democratic President?).

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