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Monday, 27 October 2008 15:55
by Dr. Paul J. Balles

Many people in America have their minds set against Arabs and Muslims. That's not simply because of the identification of Arab hijackers in the 9/11 attacks. Arabs have been vilified by Hollywood for more than half a century.

As Lee Bailey noted in The National (Abu Dhabi, Oct. 16, 2008), "Jack Shaheen, a Lebanese-American academic, has published two books documenting the representation of Muslims and Arabs in American film. One, Reel Bad Arabs, dealt with the period before September 11, and the second, Guilty, considered films made after the attacks."

Bailey added, "...Of approximately 1,000 films that depicted Muslims and Arabs before 2001, [Shaheen] estimated that only 65 portrayed them in a positive or even-handed manner...." In other words, Americans have been brainwashed by anti-Arab propaganda for decades. More than 9/10ths of Hollywood's productions involving Arabs have made them ugly in the minds of viewers.

On October 11, 2008, James Zogby was reported as saying, "We are disturbed by the degree to which 'Arab' has become the metaphorical mud to sling against your opponent. This week, for example the Republican Jewish Coalition released a document in which they use the term Pro-Arab as a pejorative accusation. For his part, Rush Limbaugh has joined in by declaring that Obama is in fact an Arab American. Then, on Friday, after a supporter called Senator Barack Obama 'an Arab', Senator John McCain came to the defence of his political opponent by saying, 'No, ma'am. He's a decent family man and citizen...' From this we are left to infer that an Arab man is less than a 'decent family man.'

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Zogby's right. It was the first thing that came to mind when I saw McCain remove the mike from the woman. However, Zogby missed my next thought: if McCain was the honourable maverick he claims to be, he would have said to the woman: "He doesn't have an Arabic heritage but so what if he had?"

But then McCain was brought up on more than half a century of Hollywood's vilification of Arabs, so the images of "rag heads", jihadists, Islamic extremists, terrorists and womanizing sheiks has been implanted as deep in his mind as in 250 million or more other mentally programmed Americans. Jack Shaheen's Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People and Guilty: Hollywood's verdict on Arabs after 9/11 should be required reading in the schools.

Another place where mindsets hold sway can be seen in two-party election campaigns like those going on in the US currently. Anyone following the commentators from either political party responding to moderators' questions must observe just how intractable party members are.

The malady, previously diagnosed as a case of “My mind is made up--don’t confuse me with the facts,” continues to affect our thinking. If someone like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez doesn’t bow down to his northern lords and masters and is unafraid to criticise the US government, he becomes the object of continuing disdain and mind-setting propaganda campaigns.

A moderator, like Keith Olbermann or Chris Matthews of MSNBC can ask a question about either McCain or Obama, and the answers can make a viewer wonder if there's anything that could make the supporter respond more objectively. In American politics, there's no such thing as objectivity. It's either "my way or no way!"

Impenetrable American mindsets inform American designation of terrorist organizations. To the blind supporters of Israel at all costs, Hamas isn’t comprehended as Palestinians helping other Palestinians and resisting occupation. To resist is tantamount to terrorizing. Americans never see the occupiers who terrorized millions of Palestinians as Israeli terrorists. Clear the mind! 
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