In the wake of the events in Las Vegas, of the worst mass murders in modern history–a distinction that domestic terrorists seem to one-up with increasing regularity– we have learned that the perpetrator cannot possibly be called a terrorist because of his lack of melanin and love of tequila shooters. As the media uncovers more information on the elusive Stephen Paddock–a 64 year old accountant at defense contractor Lockheed Martin–the less this millionaire gambler fits the profile of a terrorist. Yet, the slow trickle of information regarding his research of possible venues for attacks in Las Vegas and at Chicago’s Lollapalooza, and his stockpiling of artillery, demonstrates that Paddock had been planning this event for quite some time. How does something so hideous and big go unnoticed by friends, family, and the government? Certainly, in the age of see-something-say-something, someone would have noticed a sudden mood change with the accompaniment of the purchase of multiple weapons.
Meanwhile, as we consider the implications of this particular white domestic terrorist planning attacks at music venues in Chicago and Las Vegas, nobody noticing his suspicious activities, mainstream media still drives home the idea of the evil-foreign-Arab-jihadi. It did not take long for the media to imply that this new nut job is somehow linked with ISIS. As Chicago reels at the possibility that it was a target by a real Big-Bad, the television show Chicago P.D. reminds us that our real threat is still Arab Muslim refugees.
The attention to detail Chicago P.D. uses is laudable. Not only did they imply that Arab Muslim Americans are infiltrating the police department and are suspicious just because of our background, the show insisted on using Arabs with strong accents, further differentiating us from the greater community. We have a woman in hijab smashing a computer. We have a man with a seriously cut beard as the mastermind, bending at the mention of his four year old daughter.
The show even made sure to highlight the neighborhoods and suburbs Arabs and Muslim frequent: Gage Park (most Chicago Arabs consider the old ‘hood) and Oak Lawn (an artery of what we affectionately call ‘Little Palestine’). Alas, even when Officer Toma “the good Arab” was proven to be a “good Arab”, public relations still found it necessary to allow the public to consider him a Big-Bad. Nevermind that we know from the beginning that he’s a homosexual being bullied by a real Big-Bad. Nevermind that the case was only solved because of his own diligent undercover work to police his own people. Instead, we, the audience, in a meta-moment that resonates so true, knows that the CPD and the media will allow this subtle manipulation. We see in that tiny window, the way the public is manipulated into being ever suspicious of a Arabs and Muslims, but even that is eclipsed by other identity politics.
Why do I watch this stuff? It’s a crime procedural that relies heavily on characters and the setting, and less so on plot and story. This show is so recycled and boring, I am pretty sure that the writers just photocopied this show from an old Law&Order episode. I watch it because the writers continue to vilify me, us, Arabs, Muslims. And unlike most people, Arab Americans are taught to look their enemy in the eye and shake his hand.
Perhaps…I know this is a stretch…but maybe, the reason we don’t see a Stephen Paddock sneaking a dozen weapons into a hotel is because we are looking for Tomas and Hasans in the backyard.
The effect of constant and consistent media conditioning can be seen in local officials like Palos Township Trustee Sharon Brannigan, who echos the xenophobic tenor found in shows like Chicago P.D. Nevermind that Arab refugees and immigrants are THE MOST vetted group entering the states. Nevermind that we have one of the highest rates of education, home ownership, business development, and live relatively conservative lifestyles. Nevermind that we would invite you to tea or dinner or argile than do any of the things you see us do on television. Media representation has convinced the nation that we are violent, antisocial fundamentalists. Like Trustee Brannigan, such anti-immigrant and refugee-hate-mongering is unimaginative and lacks any grounding in reality. Meanwhile, real Big-Bads, like Paddock, like any number of a melanin-challenged violent attackers, can mow down crowds in their hotel rooms and in their cars.
These incidents keep happening because the public-at-large would like to point at a Big-Bad that can be distinguished in a crowd: a beard, an accent, an Allahu Akbar moment. However, it’s almost impossible to consider the bad guy can look like your brother. It’s as possible as an asteroid hitting the house.
#ChicagoPD #CPD #RacialProfiling #StephenPaddock #SharonBrannigan