[Marxism] Street Artists Infiltrate ‘Homeland’ With Subversive Graffiti

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Oct 16 11:29:05 MDT 2015


NY Times, Oct. 16 2015
Street Artists Infiltrate ‘Homeland’ With Subversive Graffiti
By DAN BILEFSKY and MONA BOSHNAQ

LONDON — In a recent episode of Showtime’s hit series “Homeland,” the 
former C.I.A. officer Carrie Mathison is escorted by a Hezbollah 
militant past a wall in a fictional Syrian refugee camp covered with 
Arabic graffiti.

Attentive viewers who read Arabic, however, might have noticed something 
awry. Among the messages spray-painted on the walls: “ ‘Homeland’ is 
racist,” “There is no ‘Homeland’ ” and “ ‘Homeland’ is not a show.”

The subversive messages seemingly escaped the notice of the producers of 
the television series.

On Wednesday, an Egyptian artist, Heba Y. Amin, and two other artists, 
Caram Kapp and Stone, took credit for the graffiti, saying it was a 
subtle protest of false and misleading stereotypes in the series, which 
has been heavily criticized for its portrayals of Muslims.

Ms. Amin said producers hired her and her colleagues to add authenticity 
to the camp depicted in the episode — Season 5, Episode 2 — which was 
broadcast in the United States on Sunday and was filmed on the outskirts 
of Berlin.

The three, who call themselves Arabian Street Artists, said they had 
used the opportunity to vent their “political discontent” with the show.

“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,” the artists said in their statement 
on Ms. Amin’s website, asserting that they had “hacked” the series. “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.”

Alex Gansa, co-creator of “Homeland,” acknowledged the ruse. “We wish 
we’d caught these images before they made it to air,” he said in a 
statement. “However, as ‘Homeland’ always strives to be subversive in 
its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can’t help but admire 
this act of artistic sabotage.”

Claire Danes has won two Emmys and two Golden Globe awards for her 
portrayal of Ms. Mathison, an intelligence officer who struggles with 
bipolar disorder. But the series itself has been consistently criticized 
for inaccurate and inconsistent portrayals.

The three artists criticized the first season for suggesting that Al 
Qaeda was an “Iranian venture” that had sought revenge against the 
United States on behalf of Iran. Al Qaeda is a Sunni Muslim extremist 
network, which Shiite Iran and its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, have in 
recent years treated as, in some ways, a more imminent danger than Israel.

In October 2012, Lebanon’s tourism minister at the time, Fadi Abboud, 
threatened to sue the makers of the series for their depiction of 
Beirut, the Lebanese capital. The program’s portrayal showed a group of 
terrorists meeting on Hamra Street, which was depicted as a center for 
militia violence; in real life, the street is a cosmopolitan road with a 
Starbucks, outdoor cafes and women in outfits ranging from skimpy to 
fully veiled. Mr. Abboud was particularly angry that the episode had 
been filmed in Israel, which is officially at war with Lebanon.

Ms. Amin and her colleagues said the show demonstrated its insensitivity 
by “naming a key terrorist character after the former real-life 
Pakistani ambassador to the United States.” (The character is Haissam 
Haqqani; the ambassador, Husain Haqqani, who served from 2008 to 2011, 
is a scholar who has written frequently — and highly critically of the 
Pakistan government — for The New York Times and other publications.)

In a phone interview, Ms. Amin said she was particularly aggrieved by 
what she called the show’s distortions of reality in the Middle East. 
“The framing of events and brainwashing about the region has a real 
impact on foreign policy because millions of people are getting their 
information from the show and can’t differentiate between facts and 
fiction,” she said. “No doubt that it looks good and is well acted, but 
I had boycotted the show as it is so frustrating and insulting to watch it.”

The artists said they were first contacted in June by a friend who was 
active in the street art scene in Berlin. It was then that their plan 
took root. “It was our moment to make our point by subverting the 
message using the show itself,” they wrote. Ms. Amin said that the 
series was easy to dupe, as there did not seem to be stringent 
fact-checking, and that she had noticed many linguistic Arabic 
inaccuracies in the past.

The three said that they had been given a set of images of graffiti 
supporting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to emulate at the set of a 
fictional camp on the Lebanese-Syrian border, and they were instructed 
to make theirs apolitical. They said they were given two days to 
complete the task, and speculated that the set designers were too busy 
to notice what they had written or did not understand Arabic.



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